Click here for an explanation of the The Ways We Struggle guest post series.
Today’s post comes from Jennifer Rush, whose her first two books are coming soon: the YA action-thriller Altered in Fall 2012, and then the science fiction MG Bot Wars in Spring 2013 (as J.V. Kade). She lives in Michigan with her husband and two kids, and loves office supplies (particularly pens), caffeine and bad boys in fiction. Her struggle illustrates the importance of enjoying what we have instead of always looking ahead to the next goal.
There are so many things I struggle with that when I first started brainstorming this post, I figured it’d be an easy one to write. Not so, because while I may struggle with basic writing things (like world-building) and getting on a consistent schedule (don’t even get me started on my atrocious sleeping habits), those are just surface things. And who doesn’t struggle with time management and writing? I feel like they are a given, especially in the publishing industry.
So I sat down and dug deeper and realized that what I truly struggle with is wanting what I don’t have.
When I first started in this business, I wanted nothing more than to sign with an agent and subsequently score a book deal. Preferably a multi-book deal in the high six figures. I couldn’t stand it when someone else got all the things I wanted. Why them? I asked. Why not me?
Once I finally did sign with an agent, I couldn’t wait to sell my first book. And once I sold my first book, I wanted to sell the next one. And now that I’ve accomplished all those things, I’ve already moved on to my next goal (which I have yet to admit to anyone).
That same need is not exclusive to my career. It’s part of my everyday life. I may have finally run a mile without stopping (running is another one of my struggles!) but now I want to run one more. And I may have lost ten pounds, but I want to lose five more. Like now. Like yesterday.
I suppose in some ways this drive to succeed could be seen as a positive thing, and I think in some ways it is. It’s hard to break into the publishing industry, and without that blind ambition, I might not have kept going. But sometimes it consumes my life. I will do whatever I can to get the things I want, but once I have them, the cycle starts over, and I set my sights on the next goal, never allowing myself the time to enjoy what I’ve accomplished.
That’s something I need to change. I don’t want to live my life feeling like I’m constantly trying to fill a bottomless hole (sometimes with chocolate cake)(chocolate cake makes everything better). There are so many great things happening in my life right now. I have two completely different books releasing in the next eighteen months that I’m excited about, that my editors are excited about. I’m finally writing full time! I have a loving, supportive family behind me. Amazing writer friends. I have nothing to complain about.
It was Eleanor Roosevelt who said, “Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product.” I think that quote sums up my struggle perfectly. Instead of reaching for the next big goal on my long list, it’s time to slow down and enjoy what I’ve already accomplished.