Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Long Road to Sunday Night

I did something on Sunday that was six years in the making. I finally saw Lifehouse in concert, and it was freaking amazing.

I know going to a concert isn't a big deal to most people. But when you love a band as much as I love Lifehouse, and when you've been trying to see said band in concert for six years, have TWICE had tickets to shows that were ultimately cancelled, and have been a fan for more than 15 years... well, it *is* a big deal.

I remember hearing Hanging by a Moment for the first time in college, and loving it. I loved Jason Wade's gravelly voice. I loved the unique sound of their music. But I think what really made me fall into no-turning-back love with Lifehouse, to the surprise of absolutely no one who knows anything about me, is my association of their music with some of my favorite heart-melting moments on Smallville.

Like this one, which started a years-long obsession with the song Everything:

Or this one, where Lifehouse actually appeared ON THE SHOW and I still cry watching Lana put her head on Clark's chest and the look of complete happiness on Clark's face because he is just so in love with her and SHUT UP I DON'T KNOW WHY IT AFFECTS ME LIKE THIS BUT IT DOES OKAY?

So, back in 2011, when I was living in Connecticut, Lifehouse was scheduled to play an outdoor concert at Old Mine Park, and I was ECSTATIC to score tickets.

But then That Bitch Irene came alone, damaged the venue, and the concert was canceled.

Fast forward through another couple of missed opportunities to 2015. I'm now living in Georgia, and my husband buys tickets to Lifehouse and Nickelback at the Verizon Amphitheater for my birthday. Except two months later, the show is cancelled on account of Chad Kroeger needing vocal surgery.

I was seriously starting to think the universe had it out for me, and it was never going to happen.

But then, 2 years later, on April 21st, 2017, I was scrolling through my Twitter feed, and saw this:


Or, you know, something along those lines. At any rate, I texted a screenshot of the tweet to my husband and I'm pretty sure I included a not-so-subtle reminder that my birthday was less than a month away, and an even less subtle hint that these tickets were the ONLY gift I wanted.

He got the hint, guys. My husband surprised me with the tickets for my birthday, and even took care of securing a babysitter for the night. I was beyond psyched.

I was also a nervous wreck. After all, I had a history of getting thisclose to seeing Lifehouse concerts, only to have the universe pull one of these:

I was terrified that my son would get sick, that the show would be cancelled again, that *I* would get sick... I angstily turned over hundreds of imaginary scenarios in my mind.

But then the day came. The weather was beautiful. My son, my husband, and I were all healthy. The babysitter showed up. I left the house with a huge smile on my face.

I was also wearing the Smallville shirt I'd bought specifically for the occasion.

And even though the smile didn't leave my face the entire night, there were two moments in particular when I thought I might just implode and drift off into the air as a euphoric wisp of Gina-shaped smoke.

The first was when Switchfoot's (who took the stage first) front man, Jon Foreman (which, BTW, you freaking rocked, Jon, and you have a brand-new die-hard fan in me) started to play Dare You to Move. I was already psyched, because I love this song. But then.

But then.

This happened:


That voice! Just listen to that voice! How I didn't melt faster than a Popsicle in the sun is nothing short of a miracle. Maybe it's because I was too busy screaming my head off, which you can hear in the video.

I've watched it about a hundred times since.

So, you get the point that I was happy. But my husband started to get restless. Lifehouse didn't take the stage until 9:45, and he had told the babysitter we'd be home by 10:30. She, and he, both had to be at work the next morning. Not only that, we had a 30-minute drive back to our house, and the babysitter had a 30-minute drive home from our house. After only a few songs, he told me we needed to leave.

"I'm not leaving," I said. "Not until I hear Everything."

Of course, I had no idea if they'd actually play it. But I'd waited way too long to be at that concert, and I was not about to go out like that. So I stayed right where I was, and watched Lifehouse perform Halfway Gone.

When the song was over, my husband looked at me and said, "Babe, we REALLY need to go." So I begrudgingly gathered our stuff and started to weave through the crowd.

And just as we reached the sidewalk surrounding the lawn where we'd been seated, Jason Wade asked, "So do you guys want to hear some older Lifehouse?"

I froze in place. He started to play Broken. It's part of my "soundtrack" for Last Year's Mistake, and it's one of my favorites.

My husband dutifully waited for the song to finish. But just as it did, the notes melted into the familiar sounds of another song. THE song.


And then my phone ran out of storage.

I almost died. So I switched to taking a live Instagram video, thinking I'd figure out a way to save it later. (Which I did, via a bootleg recording with my husband's cell phone.) Here is the link:

And with that, my entire life was made, and I skipped out of the concert while singing along to Whatever It Takes. I happy-cried myself to sleep that night.

I can't even explain what it is about Lifehouse's music that makes me so happy, but that's just it - it makes me happy. When you struggle with anxiety and depression, feeling happy can be a challenge. Even in moments when you know you *should* be happy, sometimes you're just not. But on Sunday night?

I felt happier than I have in a very long time.

It might sound dramatic, but hearing those songs that I've loved for so long, it was like a little piece of my soul had found its way home.

 It was a beautiful night that's become a beautiful memory, and I will cherish it forever.

Have you ever felt this way about something? Feel free to share!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Why Authors Don't "Just Want to be Published"

As I was lying awake at 3:30 a.m. this morning, as I often do, I started thinking about a phrase that my husband sometimes utters to me when I get stressed out or disappointed about the goings-on in my writing career:

I thought you just wanted to be published.

I cringe whenever he says this, but I also can't really fault him for his ignorance. He has a career in which the expectations of him and his work are fairly cut-and-dried. He gets a reliable, bi-weekly paycheck that hinges on his work being done, not on how well he was able to sell it.

And if there's one thing I've learned, it's that people who've never walked in a writer's shoes have no concept of how much hard work and uncertainty are involved in the quest to make a living as a published author.

After all, we:
- write with no guarantee of publication
- wait anywhere from months to years for contracts, and therefore advance money
- get royalty statements only twice a year, and have no idea how much (if any) money we've made until the moment they arrive (and then immediately kiss 40% goodbye for taxes)
- are responsible for a good chunk of our own marketing
- are provided no health insurance
- have no guarantee that current publications will lead to future publications
- I could go on and on, but you get the point, so I'll stop there

I suppose it makes sense that there are a lot of misconceptions about what happens when a person gets published, because a) it's not the most common job in the world and b) when it comes to books, many people are only familiar with whichever titles are in-your-face popular. Therefore, they assume that everyone who gets a book deal is automatically the next JK Rowling.

Or, you know, they watched Sex and the City, and are under the impression that writing a weekly newspaper column affords you a Manhattan apartment and a never-ending supply of designer shoes. (Spoiler alert: NOPE.)

I don't think most people realize that just "getting published" is not the end goal. Sure, when you're writing with no guarantee that anyone except your mom will ever read your work, and when you're facing rejection left and right, or when others get book deals on their first try after you've just shelved your third manuscript, there probably came a point where you ground your teeth and pulled at your hair and let out a primal,

"I just want to be published!"

But the struggle doesn't end with publication. I know that when I first set out on my quest to get published, I had no idea that not all traditionally published books were treated equally. I honestly thought that titles on the NYT best seller list arrived there atop a wave of reader-generated love. Call it naivete, but here's the real story: when it comes to commercially successful books, in most cases, the winners are called before anyone has set foot out of the gate. Publishers decide in advance which titles they're putting their money behind, and the rest more or less fill space in the catalog. Now, that's not saying reader love and word of mouth can never elevate a novel off the midlist - sometimes they can. Nor is it saying that big marketing bucks always means big commercial success - sometimes it doesn't. The whole thing is a crapshoot.

So for those confused about why just getting published might not be enough, let me clarify. You hear, I just want to be published.

What we mean is, I want other people to love my stories as much as I do.

No author has ever used I want to be published as code for I want my novel to be an indistinguishable drop in a vast ocean of books.

Because honestly? Unless you are JK Rowling, that's how it can feel sometimes.

You don't want to annoy people by talking constantly about your books, but you also need to make people aware of them. Unfortunately, self-promo usually feels a lot like this:

Sometimes it seems like no matter what you do, you just can not make people care. You worked your ass off writing, deleting, editing, rewriting, polishing, editing, copy editing, proofreading, promoting, promoting, and promoting some more, and yet, you still feel stagnant.

You know that comparing yourself to other authors is the WORST thing you can possibly do, and yet you can't help but feel defective when they single-handedly tackle goals that feel so out of reach for you. Or when they're talking about how behind they are on their Twitter mentions, or apologizing for not being able to answer the fan mail that comes at them in droves while you check your inbox/mentions like

So yes, even when you've ultimately succeeded *at* your goal, it can still be difficult to feel like you're succeeding *within* your goal. Especially when you're always wondering if your smaller successes will lead to bigger ones, or if every hurrah will be your last.

For the non-writer types, let me break it down further.

Let's say you've been pining for a vacation for a really long time. You try for quite a while to make it happen, but for whatever multitude of reasons, it doesn't. Then, at last, you book your dream vacation to **insert beautiful, exotic spot of your choice here** And you are thrilled.

But when you finally get there, you're sick as a dog, the weather sucks, and the airline has lost your luggage. You have no idea when or if you'll ever make it back to this place again for a do-over.

When you tell this to other people, they respond: But I thought you just wanted to take a vacation?

See what I did there?

And I'm not saying that the WHOLE vacation sucked, that there were zero redeeming moments.Or that being able to call yourself a published author sucks in any way, shape, or form. I'm saying that you can achieve your big-picture goal, and still have moments of disappointment or disenchantment.

Authors don't "just want to be published." They want to succeed at being published.

And while those moments of disenchantment can be brutal, they don't take away from the fact that you've done something kickass by just putting forth the effort. They don't change the fact that complete strangers fell in love with something you wrote, with a world you created entirely in your mind. Those awful, doubt-filled moments, no matter what your brain tells you, are not a harbinger of feeling like crap forever. And they sure as hell don't mean that you've blown your chance to do better.

Because every day is a new chance.

Because, really, you have already succeeded. Even if it doesn't always feel that way.

Think about it. If people who aren't in the publishing "know" automatically equate you to JK Rowling just for getting a book deal, it's because they are IMPRESSED. You did something they could never do. And for that, they think you are the shit.

And I think, honestly, that this - "you've already succeeded" - is what my husband actually means when he says, "I thought you just wanted to be published."

So the next time you're frustrated and someone says this to you, be the published author in their life who helped them find a better way to say it. (Or let me do it for you.)

Then, let them know exactly how they can help by directing them here, here, and here, and tell them to let everyone else and their mother know too.

And how is your publishing journey going today?