Advice From the Now Writer Me…to the Then Writer Me.

By Laura Munson (in several incarnations)

Published in Author Magazine

Okay.  You know those words that you fling into the ocean and the sinking sun every time you’re standing on an eastern facing beach?  Those sometimes spoken, sometimes thought words that come out like a beggar’s prayer?  I know you’re kind of embarrassed by them, but let’s just fess up.  As an exercise.  Please help me be published to wide acclaim.

Well guess what?  After 20 years and 14 books…it happens.  And I’m here to tell you…it’s not the story you think it is.  Your writer friend was right when he said “The only difference between being published and not being published is being published.”

Really?

Really.

But don’t I feel magnetic and energized and fabulous?  Isn’t it the most fun of my entire life?  Don’t I jump up and down? Doesn’t it feel like Christmas?

I’m a bit afraid to tell you.  But I feel that I must.  It was fun.  For one entire second, when your agent called and told you there was an offer on your book.  You were on your treadmill, and you took your feet off the conveyor belt and you stood quiet and said, “Hang on.  I just need a moment.”  And she waited.  And you cried.  And that was it.  You went back to your fast walk and your agent went back to business.  The fun moment wasn’t so fun.  You took it and you wept.

What about all the readings and the fans, and the media and the limos, and seeing all my old friends?  What about going to all those cities and speaking in all those beautiful rooms and meeting all those amazingly inspiring people?  Wasn’t that fun?

Wasn’t I happy?

Not exactly.  You felt like you’d ditched the part of you that you knew and trusted and loved and had worked so hard to build inside yourself.  The writer.  You felt out of balance and you missed writing.  You missed the work.  There wasn’t time for the work.  You were so set on the idea that you had one shot at it.  One shot at putting yourself on the map as a published, successful author.  And if it meant that you packed on 10 pounds and went loose in the gut, and didn’t eat breakfast, or even lunch sometimes, or play with your kids, or if you lost out on weekends and sleep and social engagements…it was a small price to pay for being a country on that map.  Plus you needed the money.  But it was always about more than the money.  It was about living a myth.  Keeping it alive.  Because surely the myth would somehow save you.

That’s really fucking sad.

Ah…but here’s the secret, and it’s good news if you look at it properly:  Ready?

I’m not so sure.

Tough.  Repeat after me:  There is no such thing as success.  I’m here to tell you.  It’s a lie.  An illusion.  An interpretation of events that feels mostly like total shit, because the self behind the ego knows the truth.

I feel like throwing up.  If this is true…how on earth did I finally understand it?

Glad you asked.

One day you were lying in bed on a Saturday morning, at home, before the family woke up. You hadn’t been awake more than three minutes when you realized you had a grimace on your face like you were being pinched, and your shoulders were up by your ears, tight and braced.  You were worrying about a reading in Connecticut that was at a private club where 150 women had pre-paid $75.00 which included a signed copy of your book, and lunch.  You were worrying that they’d be disappointed that they spent all that money just to see you.  You were worrying about the ten pounds you’d gained and what you’d wear—what looked authorly and had success written all over it.  You were sure that you’d be the worst dressed woman there.  And what if you found one of your books in the Ladies room afterwards on the back of a toilet like someone had decided they didn’t want it after all, after seeing you speak in that horrible outfit?  And geez—don’t published authors have enough money to hire a personal trainer? What a let down you were.  Who did you think you were?

And then you started to smile.  And to laugh.  That event already happened!  Almost a year ago!!!  People loved you.  They told you so.  They bought extra books for friends and family and their book groups.  And yes, you did find a book on the back of a toilet in the Ladies room, but you gave it to the woman at the front desk and she wept she was so thankful.  She’d heard about your book and wanted desperately to read it but couldn’t afford a $24.95 hardback.  So there.  You were worrying about something that was not only ancient history, but was also a smashing success.  And you realized you were holding all those speaking engagements in you still.  Hoarding them like you’d need them for later should the end of the world come, aka the end of your career, and you needed ammo, fuel, cover, proof.

And so you decided to re-live each one of your readings.  Starting right at the beginning.  All 50 some odd of them.  You needed to go through them and remember what there was to remember, without judgment, but with a seeking mind and an open heart—yeah, I probably shouldn’t wear a long sleeve shirt and a long skirt if it’s going to be 94 degrees with 100% humidity and the reading is outside under a tent!   Ya live and learn.  Maybe it’s okay to omit the swear word in your book the next time your reading is in a CHURCH, but oh well.  I’m pretty sure God’s heard it before. You needed to unpack that suitcase you’d been hauling around with you all over creation, hot little roller wheels and all, and put it to rest.  Even if it took you all morning.  And it nearly did.

And for the first time in a long time, you breathed a fresh free unencumbered sigh of relief.

Wow.  That sounds exhausting.

Maybe so.  But you’re at the beginning of this adventure.  You have time to change your story.  You don’t have to spend years tormenting yourself, unpublished or published, telling yourself that you need to prove yourself.  Because you proved what you thought there was to prove, and it didn’t solve anything.  It didn’t heal anything.  It didn’t erase anything.  It didn’t change anything about how you feel and how you fear and how you love.  All that proving—yes, that is exhausting.  And you need energy to live your life the way you want to live it.

All that happened is this:  you wrote something.  Somebody liked it enough to put cardboard on each side of it and let a lot of people know about it.  And you got paid for it.  And you are known for it.  Otherwise, it’s just the same as ever:  getting back to work on what you know and trust best.  The writing.

A hearty  p.s.

I am about to go back out on the road for the better part of April and May (schedule is here–come say hi!)…and I have decided that the real reason it’s not all the fun the child in you had hoped for, is because of the attachment to having it be that mythic success.  So it is in letting go, that I journey out on the road this time.  The same philosophy and practice that I write about in my book, but have only recently understood how to put to practice in my post-published life.  And something tells me…IT’S GONNA BE A BLAST!!!)

22 Comments

Filed under A Place For Writers To Share, My book: This Is Not The Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness, My Posts

22 Responses to Advice From the Now Writer Me…to the Then Writer Me.

  1. Thank you for the wisdom! Wish I could make it to one of your readings…

    • lauramunson

      Me too. Where do you live? I’ll be out on the road again in October… Thanks for saying hi here, Elie. yrs. Laura

  2. Jen

    I really love this post. So amazing that you wrote it and shared it. It’s real and beautiful and sad and inspiring, and sometimes that kind of honesty is sort of tucked under the cushions a little.
    Success is defined in so many ways – I think true success comes when we realize what we truly want (not what we are told to want) and realize we already have it. ; )

  3. kirsten

    Thanks for this post, Laura, and helping me remember that it’s about the journey, not the destination. Life’s a little strange right now as I make, or at least try to make some big changes. I catch myself wishing the days away until I can physically be where I want to be. It’s been almost a year since I read your book and I plan to read it again in a few weeks on the plane. Someone posted something about rereading it as emotional spring cleaning…brilliant.

    My drive to town from my house up near the border takes me past Bobbi’s. For years, every time I pass her place I get a little jolt of strength and encouragement, even though I’ve spent only hours in her presence. You know what I mean. I just wanted you to know that now I get a similar shot of power as I drive up the last hill into Whitefish, past the herd of horses you wrote about a few months ago. I lost a horse this fall who looked just like the little buckskin Paint and I always scan the pasture for him as I roll by. Thanks for helping me remember to slow down and appreciate every moment. Happy Spring :D

    • lauramunson

      Hi, Kirsten! Bobbi’s place is truly blessed and vibrant. I intend to spend as much time as possible there this summer. I’m sorry you lost your horse! Sending you healing love from hwy. 93 on up. yrs. Laura p.s. THE BIRDS ARE BACK! I’m waiting to see the first Mountain Bluebird. Usually they come to Bobbi’s first. No surprise, yes!

      • kirsten

        how cool was that today?! i love when things happen just like that…and to think if i hadn’t stopped to buy a bottle of JD.

  4. Kathy

    “Be careful what you wish for you just may get it.” How many times in our lives have we been told this? Perception and reality. How large the distance between the two opposing experiences will dictate our level of happiness or discord.

    While reading about your upcoming book tour I could not help wonder how difficult it must be to be away from your “life” for weeks on end. It is so apparent from reading your book that your family is paramount, your center, comfort and strength. So as you venture out once again remember your epiphany ” happiness has been right here, within all along”. You knew this before you were published so go out and just be you……and have some fun…..oh and by the way, if someone who read your book and really “got it” they would not be interested in your clothes, weight or any other physical attribute.. It is your beautiful spirit that they would want to meet.

    • Stephanie Wrightsman

      Just totally agree with all paragraphs!
      The honesty with which Laura writes is
      so generous, kind and giving, depends on
      who is listening, only for me it is amazing.
      I am thankful.

    • lauramunson

      You are such a dazzling spirit, Kathy. As ever, thank you. That’s the beauty of memoir– you can’t not be yourself. And sometimes it’s nauseating hearing yourself talk about yourself over and over, but I’m so proud of this book’s message, so it makes it all worthwhile. My favorite part is getting off the topic of me and bridging into the message which is so universal. I always think beforehand “How can I be of service to these people” and that really helps. I’m looking forward to being on the road in a week. It’s so invigorating, especially after a LONG Montana winter. It’s really hard being away from my family– you’re right. But I have been so hands on for so many years, that in a way, I think it’s good for all of us to rearrange things a bit. Springtime is a perfect time to be waking up to all the beauty out there. That’s what I’m focusing on as I embark on this tour. Thanks for the reminder, Kathy. yrs. Laura

  5. Hi Laura! We were just having a discussion at the dinner table about the price of fame. I am an introvert wrapped in a thin layer of extroversion. I can understand the price of fame and glad that you are getting your arms around the good side of it and not chewing on the down side. It’s all about flow, baby. Plus you and I can retreat back under the radar to hearth and home. Thank you for this piece. It’s all a journey.

    • lauramunson

      Fame is such a relative term. So is success. I think what is most interesting and profound when I go out and do readings, is all the energy. I’m learning what to do with all that energy, and will have a LOT of practice in the next few months of being on the road promoting my paperback. Thanks for saying hi, Mary. The birds are back over here in Montana! You? yrs. Laura

  6. I totally love your honesty – it is why I make reading your articles a priority when I am on break from school. Mary, you are right. It is “all about the flow”. Life is a journey, life is a journey, life is a journey – as I click my heels, I am reminded I am not in control.
    Enjoy your devoted fans and keep it real.

    PS There are those of us in the South who would LOVE to meet you. I’m an hour and a half from Atlanta, GA…. :)

    • lauramunson

      p.s. I’m planning on hitting Philly, DC and down the east coast in the fall so stay tuned. Would love to meet in person!

  7. Heather Schultz

    I ditto, ditto Kathy’s remark: “oh and by the way, if someone who read your book and really “got it” they would not be interested in your clothes, weight or any other physical attribute.. It is your beautiful spirit that they would want to meet.” What a breath of fresh air to read your book and posts, Laura! Can’t tell you how many women I’ve recommended your book to! And I’ve forwarded on some of your blog posts, as well. The one about your crampons had me laughing hysterically! All the best on your travels! If you ever get down to Jackson Hole I would LOVE to meet you! All the best and blessings! Heather

    • lauramunson

      Heather– it’s people like you out there, championing my book’s message, that keep me going! Thank you! Glad you liked the crampon epic driveway debacle. Makes me laugh now that it has me not shivering. I love Jackson– Whitefish is very similar, and I get down there every few years. The drive down through Montana and the Paradise Valley, Yellowstone and into the Tetons is total brain clearing. Is there an author series down there? What a fun excuse to take that drive…and meet you! Thanks for all your kind words! yrs. Laura

  8. I love that you write about all that stuff inside that sounds almost horrible when it comes out. I promised myself to do that in my blog too. But it’s very hard not to self-censor. appreciate it.

  9. Laura,
    One again you have blown me away with your frank and refreshing writing. I will be spending a few weeks in Whitefish this summer and look forward to how that slice of heaven soothes my soul, much like your words. I feel like writing to the “then mother me” and the “then actress me” from the now me. Thanks so much for sharing your gift.

  10. Okay Laura,
    Once again you’ve inspired me to tears. I know that your next book is slotted to be fiction, but why not write a book to writers/authors who desperately need to hear what you have to say?

    On another note, I would love to send you a copy of my book, The Energy Cure: How to Recharge Your Life 30 Seconds at a Time, as a balancing companion on your journeys. Just let me know where to send it and it’s done! (kk@kimberlykingsley.com)

    Many Blessings,
    Kimberly

    • lauramunson

      Thanks, Kimberly! I actually am working on a book for writers as a side project to the novel I’m writing. I have a LOT to say to writers after so many years hard at it. Your vote of confidence helps remind me to put my energy there. To that end, I’d love to read your book and I’d love to have it when I’m on the road. I’ve really been aware of my energy and other people’s energy and even the energy in a whole city as I’ve been travelling around the country this year. It’s really intense and sometimes I don’t know how to deal with it. Your book will be a wonderful gift. Thank you. yrs. Laura I’ll email you my address.

  11. Great Post, have been following your blog for a while and excited to “Meet” you tonight in Cincinnati. Funny talking about a full circle, I used to work at Joseph Beth and would spend many of breaks hovering over one great book or another, glad that you are here in town.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>