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Lusty Lady

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Monday, May 26, 2014

The silver lining to a possible career change

Change is always scary for me, positive or negative, but I often forget that changes that start from a dark, uncertain place often lead to paths I never would have encountered, so in a backwards way, I have to be grateful for them. This year started off pretty awfully; I simply wasn’t prepared, mentally or emotionally, for the sad reality of my royalty statement. I’d done that thing you are never supposed to do—assume—and it came back to bite me in the ass. Over the course of a year, my royalty check dropped 90%, and while I’d expected perhaps a gradual demise, that drastic of a change threw me.

I wasn’t ready and was panicked because I didn’t see myself getting a full-time job in my county, and while I applied for some in New York, a three-hour daily commute would cost time and money that I hoped could be better spent. So we looked at ways to reduce expenses and lo and behold, found a fabulous house that I think I can safely say my boyfriend and I are much happier in than we were in our lovely but yuppie overpriced apartment. We didn’t know the old place wasn’t the perfect fit until this unexpected bad news.

Since then the one statement I’ve received has been a little better, and I hope that with the audiobook success of Gotta Have It and The Big Book of Orgasms plus whatever luck and mojo and whatever else goes into people’s erotica buying decisions, I am on track to have a much better 2014 sales track. But I learned that I can’t rely on those books, no matter how hard I’ve worked on them, how sexy the covers, how many readings or events I do or reviews the books get, to pay my rent. That is too risky and dangerous. So instead I buckled down and tried to be a better freelance writer, to follow up on leads, to push myself, to pursue topics that have nothing to do with sex, because I want to be a writer, not just a “sex writer” (I don’t mind being called a sex writer, but I’m tremendously grateful for editors who assign me stories that aren’t about sex too).

That panic itself and resulting realization that I need to carve new career paths and always be seeking new work and never being complacent was the silver lining. It let me be okay with the fact that these latest anthologies I’ve edited and have slated to come out this year and in 2015 may be my last. Would I miss the rhythm of the process if that’s the case? Of course. I’ve been editing anthologies steadily for the last decade. I’d like to think I have a handle on how it all works. But maybe the lesson is that that’s just hubris. Maybe I have no idea how the hell to launch a book and was tricking myself into thinking I do. Or maybe it was just a momentary blip and my books will come back and sell better than ever.

There are so many parts of the process, possibly all of them, that are out of my control, that I’ve had to step back and only try to control the things that are in my control. Whatever the future brings, I want to be as creatively fulfilled as I can and learn how to be a better businesswoman. I used to say yes to any and every reading, which was fine when I had a full time job and could afford it. Now I’m far more selective because any money spent traveling is money I have to account for more closely. Maybe it’s worth it if the event is special (and I do have free readings coming up July 14 in Alexandria, Virginia at Lotus Blooms, link coming soon, and September 3 at The Foundation for Sex Positive Culture in Seattle), but maybe that money would be better used for bills or another form of promotion. There’s no magic way to know in advance what’s the best way to approach all of this and I am learning every day. That is also a silver lining lesson: don’t get cocky. Don’t think you know more now than you did with book one. Beginner’s mind, always.

Today I got to sit in my backyard while our landlord set up a tent for a party we’re having. I got to sit on my swing and read a book I’m hoping to write about. I got to take a day off to spend with my boyfriend. This week I’ll get to go to Book Expo America not to do a signing, but to interview an author. I feel so lucky to get to do all the varied things I do, and I know that if I have to give up one aspect of what I do, it’s only because there’s something better waiting for me around the corner.

Maybe I shouldn’t be writing this (then again, probably all my best writing someone will think I “shouldn’t” have written it”) but I’m not sad at all. I cried that day I sat at my desk and saw that abysmal statement, because it felt like everything I’d worked for all these post-law school years was for nothing. But now I see that it wasn’t a reflection on me as a person or even me as an editor. It was the marketplace, and it was a lesson I needed, a kick in the pants to get out there and not make assumptions and push forward no matter what. It was a lesson I’d been ignoring the past few years, content to float by on the so-so status quo, and this year forced me out of that mindset, and into a new beautiful home. It’s let me travel to cover events in San Francisco and New Orleans and has kept me on my toes hunting for the next story, and the next and the next and for that, Nothing is permanent in this business, at least, in my experience, and while there are times when that unnerves me, I truly believe that all that means is it's up to me to keep figuring out what the next thing I should be doing is. Maybe it means some time away from editing anthologies to focus on writing longer work, maybe it means finding better ways to get my books into readers' hands, maybe it means a part-time job. Right now, it means tackling the work at hand one day at a time and being away that whatever the next step is, I can handle it. I don't need to panic because I've landed on my feet after leaving law school, after getting laid off from my first and so far only magazine job, after various columns and freelance gigs ended. Each has made room for the next project or assignment. I can only smile and be ready for whatever kind of creative work the future brings, whether it’s something I’ve done before or not.



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