The Road to Publication
“See, it's a couple things time really reveals Like, who is just playing and who is really for real." - Nipsey Hussle
By now, it’s no secret that I want to be great. But if you would have told me it would be because of writing ten years ago - I wouldn’t have believed you. Since a child, I have been an avid reader, but I never thought of it as a potential career path. I honestly never even thought of “writing” as a job. I simply loved books for the joy of reading.
After graduating college, it grew harder to find new reads. So I found myself getting my books based on the New York Times Bestsellers list or books that have recently been acquired for film or television rights. For nearly two years, it felt like every book that I read left me disappointed. Eventually, it got to the point where I figured: how hard could it be to write a good book? I told myself that I would write the book that the industry so depressingly needed. It would inspire other writers to be better and get people excited about reading again. The more I thought about it- the more excited I grew. I thought: when was the last time we had a book phenomenon? How hard could it be to create the next one? I have been humbled ever since.
First, I applaud anyone who can finish a book in this day in age. In the world of social media, instant gratification, and FOMO, there are distractions everywhere. Shakespeare should have been the most excellent writer of all time- because what else could he have been doing in 1609? But I digress. I told you all about the first draft. I told you how Kris (no Jenner) put the battery in my back. Shall we run through them?
In the first draft, I was just proud that I finished the story. But after reading it, I knew something was missing. That’s when it hit me: maybe I should research what I was trying to do. After the research, I was horrified that I was bragging about the first draft and trying to show it to people. I wished that I could physically crawl into people's inboxes and delete the copies—draft two. After reading the first draft, I realized that I didn't know much about the characters or what they were doing before the story started. I have learned since this is called backstory. So I wrote about it and got about halfway through before I realized while it helped me understand my characters. It did nothing for the actual story. So I started over again.
Draft three is when I started to feel like a real writer. After reading the second draft, I realized that one of my main characters- while I loved her- her storyline didn't flow with the story I was trying to tell. That's when I remember something that Kris first asked me: “Is this Part 1 or Book 1?” I took my favorite character out and turned it into a book series. But in turn, one of my characters began to “come to life. It's hard to describe, but it means my character started to make her own choices on the page, and I simply went along for the ride. It was one of the most magical and exhilarating feelings ever. I finished the draft and shipped it off to a book editor in New York for a manuscript critique.
This is the blessing in having a day job to fund your dreams. You can use your paycheck to find resources and tools to invest in yourself. My experience with the book editor was valuable and a critical turning point in my writing journey. For one, I learned that everything you think you are saying (or not saying) shows up on the page. I also learned that people could feel when you're forcing choices and not being true to yourself. Somehow my people-pleasing ways (and Momma issues) were affecting my drafts. Her advice was “write like no one is looking the first time around, then go back and edit yourself.” She told me that I had a clear voice for each character but pointed to the flaws in two of my character's storylines. She gave me the advice to write each character's storyline separately and then combine it. She finished her critique by saying she liked my voice and story. It gave me the fuel for draft number four.
Draft number four was three different drafts. (So technically seven) But the editor's advice helped me flesh out the stories. I wrote them, then treated myself to a massage at the MGM Spa. After the spa, I printed out the stories and began to read them one by one. I started with the character that I fell in love with draft three and cried because the writing was so bad. I went on to the second character, convinced that I would never become a writer. But when I got to the last character (the one I struggled with most), there was light at the end of the tunnel. I had hope.
I changed my method while writing this character. Instead of typing the scene on the computer, I had written it by hand and then typed it up. I knew that the process felt different, but now I could see it also gave me different results. The character story started slow and sloppy but ended strong. In this draft, it was starting to feel like a story. But being an avid reader, I knew something was missing. Obstacles reveal how bad you want something. If you give up on something quickly, can you honestly say you wanted it? I wiped my tears and enrolled in Skill-share. I started with the basics of grammar (verb, nouns) to sentence structure until I realized what was missing was sensory details. After doing a few more writing courses, I felt confident that I could make my manuscript feel like a story. I went back in for the fifth (or eighth) draft.
I was in the middle of working on my outline when Terry McMillian tweeted. "If you want to be a writer, write every day!" Me being me. I quoted the tweet and said, "Yes, I'm starting in April," and she simply said, "Why not start now?" She had a point. At the beginning of writing at the seat of my pants, it was easy and expected. I was writing to the outline in my head. (Remember this is my eighth draft.) But the more that I wrote, the more that the story verged. At first, I would stop and question it. But it was like my soul wouldn’t allow me to move on. Slowly I learned to stop questioning it and just trusted wherever the story was going. The “writer” (as I grew to call it) would give me a scene for the day. I would then write it and wait for the next one to come. The more that I showed up and surrendered to the process, the easier story flowed.
Then one day, out of nowhere, I was done. I didn’t even know I was writing the last scene. I just wrote it and knew I was at the end of the story. I did a mental run down on all the things I wanted to cover and realized I hit all the plot points plus so much more. At that moment, I realized, God wanted me to stop planning, thinking, and show up. God was teaching me about life in the process of writing this book. It was as though he was trying to show me how easy life could be if I just gave in, and I decided to do just that. This time after completing the fifth (or eighth) draft, I treated myself to a four-hand massage. But I honestly didn’t need it. I was proud of the time, effort, and attention that went into the process. People often call their books babies, but it feels like this book birthed the creative side of me.
The ideas, story structure, and language are just so poetic and other-worldly. The creation of this book completely transformed how I view creativity. With each draft, I was able to not only see the growth in my writing but myself. To me, this book isn't just a book. It's a living, breathing being, and I'm not being dramatic by saying it changed me. This story sank its teeth in my heart and demanded that it be told. With each draft, it demanded that I rose to the level of its greatness. If this story can transform me in creating it, I can only imagine what will happen to the readers. Hopefully, it will have a similar effect and multiple across the world. Creating a shift in consciousness.
Much like the shift that has begun to occur in my life. While I still desire to write the most remarkable book of all time, it's not from an ego space. It’s simply because I believe that is what I am supposed to do. In my Esther & Jerry Hicks Law of Attraction deck, there is a card that says, I Can Earn A Living Doing What I Love to Do. The card says: “As you practice your better-feeling story, in time, your pleasure will become the dominant vibration within you. As you couple your pleasure with your means of earning, the two will blend perfectly and enhance each other. There is no better way to earn money than to do the things you love to do. Money can flow into your experience through endless avenues. It is not the choice of the craft that limits the money that flows- but only your attitude towards money.”
Those drafts stripped me of my ego and transformed my attitude. It made me stop trying to “tell the best story ever” and simply tell the story that I was given. This has humbled me and the way I view other creators. I don’t care if it’s the worst shit ever; I praise anyone who’s able to bring their creations to life. Because it takes a lot of effort, time, and hard work to see a project to completion. My spiritual and writing journey has been a simultaneous one, much like the birthing process. It took knowing faith, openness, and a complete surrender to the process.
While I still want my moment in the spotlight and to achieve great success, I’m no longer tripping about when it will happen. Taking the advice of Ava DuVernay, I'm going to enjoy my time as an unknown because life will not always be this way. Most people don’t start a dream because they are worried about the “time” it will take. But when we were young, we didn’t complain that it would take twelve years to graduate high school. We assumed it was the natural progression for our education. Why don't we apply that same mindset to our goals and dreams?
Great things take time, and the truth is that time will pass no matter what you do. I have chosen to spend my time working towards the things that I love to do. How about you?
How do you spend the majority of your time?