Just about a year ago, I had a setback in my career that made me wonder if I was doing the right thing with my life. I was preparing to head out to Los Angeles, to write about Hello Kitty Con and teach an erotica writing class. About a week before the scheduled class, despite having been sent a contract, the organization that had booked me abruptly cancelled my workshop. They were the ones who approached me, and I had been counting on their fee to help cover some of my expenses.
I was shocked at this turn of events, appalled by the unprofessionalism of a group I had thought I could trust, but worst of all, it made me question my own instincts in terms of who I'd chosen to do business with and wonder if, since they'd cancelled because of low enrollment, I had a future in teaching erotica. Teaching had been one part of my creative business, alongside freelance writing, anthology editing and consulting, that I'd developed as part of my income stream, one that I'd been honing and improving at the more I did it. Last year, I also added an online teaching component via LitReactor.com, which opened up my teaching skills and breadth of my offerings. I had been feeling good about myself, and this utterly threw me for a loop.
After that LA fiasco, I had a choice to make: go big or go home. Well, I did literally go home to New Jersey, but figuratively, I decided to "go big," but in my own way. I realized I had to do better due diligence when it came to partnering with other businesses or groups, rather than simply relying on whether a group looked impressive based on what they said about themselves. I had to start getting contracts in place that I was willing to go to bat to enforce, and to take myself seriously as both a teacher and a businesswoman.
I also came to the realization that one failed event does not make me a failure, and doesn't mean I don't know what I'm doing. It means I'm growing and learning. It means I, like any small business, has ups and downs, and the downs are opportunities to assess where I've gone wrong and correct course, to figure out what to do differently next time.
2015 has been, far and away, what I'd consider the best year of my career. Yes, in 2014 I left a soulless job I despised to become a full-time magazine editor and became a columnist for a newspaper I'd read since my teen years, The Village Voice, thus leading me toward the career I have today, but I'd say 2015 tops that. I've written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, O, The Oprah Magazine and Marie Claire, and many other new to me publications, taught online and in person workshops and, as I prepare to enter my forties, am trying to figure out how I can top this year by going deeper into my passions next year.
The past few weeks have brought numerous signs from the universe that, unlike what I'd thought in my most pessimistic moments a year ago, I'm indeed supposed to be doing exactly what I'm doing. My job is not to second guess that I've found my groove, but to hone and refine it. One is a mere vague, wispy possibility, that if it comes to fruition, would be amazing, and if that happens, I will shout it from the rooftops.
As for the other: on Wednesday night, after an incredibly long day in Portland, Maine, where I'd written three articles and was utterly exhausted, I opened iTunes and found a new episode of my new podcast obsession, Raise Your Hand. Say Yes. by Tiffany Han, was ready for my ears. I was excited that a friend, Kate McCombs, was on to talk about pleasure. I Tweeted about how cool that was. Then, as I lay there listening, I heard her single out my erotica books for praise. I can't stress enough how thrilled that made me. It truly felt like some kind of divine sign, especially because I had a phone interview scheduled with Han the next day for an article I'm writing.
I'll be sharing more about my upcoming LitReactor class, and am planning a new slate of writing class offerings for 2016. Most of all, during the last few months of this year, I'll be assessing what's gone right and what's gone wrong, and working hard to embrace these signs and live up to their promise.
For more information about my next monthlong LitReactor class, which runs November 3-December 3, click here. And whatever your passion is, I hope you're out there making it happen, and looking for signs to help you along your path. Don't listen to the naysayers or believe that one blip is a reason to veer off course. Your job is to make your own course.
Rachel Kramer Bussel writes widely about sex, dating, books and pop culture. She's the author of Sex & Cupcakes: A Juicy Collection of Essays and edited of over 50 anthologies, including Dirty Dates: Erotic Fantasies for Couples, Come Again: Sex Toy Erotica, The Big Book of Orgasms, among others. She Tweets @raquelita.