Laura Haley-McNeil

1/7/18, Breaking My Heart

 Hello, Everyone!

 The holidays have ended. They seem to go on forever. Many of my family members and friends start Christmas shopping in the summer, but the real push for me is Thanksgiving, even though I’m a procrastinator and don’t shop until the last minute, and then the next several weeks are frantic with Christmas plans and wrapping and baking, and it still seems to linger after Christmas as we plan a New Year’s party or vacation or a big nothing, which is my favorite way to spend New Year’s Eve. Whatever defines your holiday, I hope it was wonderful and filled with memories you can look back on. Some are wonderful, some not so wonderful. I hope yours are spectacular!

 With new year’s often comes goal setting. I’ve read that it’s best to write these down, though I haven’t done that in years. I still keep a list in my mind and think about what I want to accomplish or sometimes reiterate the list to my husband. He very patiently listens, at least I think he’s listening. He gives me that encouraging smile, so I think I’m on the right track and go merrily on my way.

 But sometimes the goals we set aren’t always pleasant, and I’m not talking about that diet we convince ourselves to start the day after New Year’s. I belong to a writers’ loop where authors email each other about anything. Most of the emails pertain to writing, but sometimes other subjects are included. A few days ago, an author sent an email that broke my heart. I wanted to comment on it, but I could think of nothing encouraging to say. I have been in this author’s situation more times than I care to count. This author was sharing that she would no longer write. That she posted this on a public email account seemed like a cry for help and I wanted to help her, but what could I say? Writing is difficult. Writers pour their hearts and souls into their creations never knowing if anyone except their mothers will appreciate what they have created. As a reader, I’m very particular about what I read. I work hard at a day job and if I spend that money on a book that I didn’t like, I almost feel betrayed. I know I’m not alone. I’m an avid reader of book reviews, for other authors, I hate reading my own reviews even when their good. I think, did that reviewer really mean to say something so nice? Somehow, I don’t think that when the review is negative. Don’t ask me why. I can’t begin to explain why I’d believe a negative review over a positive one. I know my mother would never have given me a negative review.

 The author who announced she would quit writing explained that she didn’t really write in a specific genre and that maybe that would explain why she hadn’t become a success. I know nothing about this woman. I only know that my heart broke for her. There could’ve been other reasons that she felt she should quit writing. I have had friends who were married to people who didn’t understand the writing process, not just sitting in the chair and writing, but that it takes a long time to become known, especially if this author had to work another job and take care of a family while trying find time to write. Writing is expensive. Not just that we spend time never knowing if we’ll receive payment for this endeavor, but then we pay the development editor, the copy editor and the proofreader, not to mention the cover designer and if you’re technophobe like me, you also pay a formatter. Then there’s the advertising and the courses offered to help you be a better and smarter author. The list is endless. The costs add up and you’re thinking when will this pay off? When will I start making an income to justify this investment of time and money?

 But there’s something else about writing. A writer can never stop writing, which this author indirectly addressed in her email. I don’t know if I should be happy or sad about this. Many times I’ve tried to walk away from writing, but the stories wouldn’t stop. They kept developing in my brain. The characters continued to roam inside my mind. This can be a blessing and a curse. And I’m sure this is something this author will learn. She will walk away from writing, but writing will never free her. It has its hooks in her and the call to write the stories forming in her mind will be subtle at first but then the calls will grow louder and more desperate until she realizes that she is a writer and the desire will never free her. She is a writer for life. She stepped in the story world and there is no turning back. I only pray she realizes this soon. And who knows? She may have been one book away from achieving success. She can only write one more book. Even after she completes that book, there will be one more book to write.

Whether this email came from a writer or an athlete or a musician or any area of life, it is your passion and passions can never be abandoned, because they won’t let you abandon them. I hope that if you are at such a crossroad, you will take this letter to heart and realize that you pursued something because it consumed you, and it will never free you. Don’t give up. (I’m channeling Winston Churchill here.) Please continue. You may be just around the corner from success. You may be years from success as so many of us are, but please don’t give up. You owe this to yourself. Be true to yourself and if you have a friend or a writers’ loop where you need to vent, please do so. The cheerleaders are out there, and we all want you to succeed.

 I wish you the best for 2018, much success, much love, much hope and much encouragement. I pray you will continue and that you achieve what you started out to do. The road is long and hard, but who knows what rewards wait for you if you never give up.