Tag Archive for: attitude

Remembering the Dream

by Linda Rodriguez
I had a dream for many decades, a dream
that I would write novels that would be published by a major
publisher to great reviews and win many honors and, most of all, find
readers who loved them. And for many years I had to put that dream on
hold for lack of time as I worked a demanding and fulfilling job
while raising a family. I still wrote whenever I could and still had
my dream.

Poetry was shorter so I started writing
poetry in those bits and pieces of time I could steal, and eventually
some was published and then more. Finally, I had two books of poetry
published to good reviews and even some awards. I was happy, but… I
wanted to write novels, too.

Ultimately, I had to leave my job for
health reasons. After a period of getting my health stabilized, I had
time to write, and I wrote a novel. This novel won a major
competition and was published by a major Big Five publisher. It got
tons of great reviews and won some national honors. I was happy with
my editor and publicist and loved my book cover.

My publishers were happy with the
sales—for a first book. It didn’t put me in line for the New York
Times bestseller list any time in the near future. And my publishers
even wanted more books, but they didn’t want to pay much in the way
of an advance for them. The whole industry had gone this way of
drastically smaller advances, it seemed. I began to fret about sales,
following the BookScan numbers and Amazon rankings all the time. Even
as everything in my dream came true, I became depressed and stressed
about my sales and my future.

A good friend, a literary fiction
writer who runs a prestigious MFA program, came to town on book tour,
and my husband and I took him to dinner. As usual, we spent the night
talking writing and the state of publishing. This is what writers
tend to do, I’m afraid. He asked me about my book, and I told him
about the Barnes & Noble Pick of the Month and the national book
club selection and the reviews. But, I added, not wanting him to
think I was bragging or that I was more successful than I was, it
wasn’t translating into real money. My friend looked at me and
gently said, “Linda, what you’ve got is what every MFA student in
America wants—and most of the faculty, too.”

And he was right, of course. I had been
phenomenally lucky. Instead of celebrating and enjoying all that
wonderful good fortune, a dream come true, I had allowed myself to
fall into the trap of moving the finish line until it was once more
out of reach. I wasted all the goodness of a large part of that year
with such silliness.

So I determined to do no more of that.
I decided to change my attitude. I’m living the dream I always
wanted—my books in stores with great reviews, up for awards, and
other great bonuses, including enthusiastic, loyal readers and
opportunities to read and speak at national venues. I decided I no
longer cared what the BookScan numbers were. After researching it, I
found that the BookScan numbers are not much of an accurate picture
of how your sales are doing anymore. I decided to enjoy the fact that
I was living my dream come true and that I wasn’t going to
immediately move the goalposts further down the field.

I’ve since decided that my focus in
my professional life needs to be on writing the books I want read,
the highest-quality books I can create, and on doing all I can to see
that they connect with readers. The rest is out of my control, so I
can’t waste my energy worrying about it. I’m just going to be
happy living the dream.

Have you ever found yourself moving the
goalposts as you accomplish some desired goal or make some
long-desired dream come true? Have you ever let the things you can’t
control mess with your emotions to the detriment of the things you
can? What have you learned in these kinds of situations?

Linda Rodriguez’s Plotting the
Character-Driven Novel,
based on her popular workshop, and The
World Is One Place: Native American Poets Visit the Middle East
an anthology she co-edited, are her newest books. Dark Sister:
will be published in May, 2018. Every Family Doubt,
her fourth mystery novel featuring Cherokee campus police chief,
Skeet Bannion, will appear in August, 2018, and Revising the
Character-Driven Novel
will be published in November, 2018. Her
three earlier Skeet novels—Every Hidden Fear, Every
Broken Trust
, and Every Last Secret—and
her books of poetry—Skin Hunger
and Heart’s Migration—have
received critical recognition and awards, such as St. Martin’s
Press/Malice Domestic Best First Novel, International
Latino Book Award, Latina Book Club Best Book of 2014, Midwest Voices
& Visions, Elvira Cordero Cisneros Award, Thorpe Menn Award, and
Ragdale and Macondo fellowships. Her short story, “The Good
Neighbor,” published in the anthology, Kansas City Noir, has
been optioned for film.

Rodriguez is past chair of the AWP
Indigenous Writer’s Caucus, past president of Border Crimes chapter
of Sisters in Crime, founding board member of Latino Writers
Collective and The Writers Place, and a member of International
Thriller Writers, Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and
Storytellers, and Kansas City Cherokee Community. Visit her at