Ever since I made the decision to try to leave my position at the University of Colorado at the end of the coming academic year, in order to concentrate full time on my writing career, all the signs and portents sent to me by the universe have been extremely discouraging.
Negative signs and portents:
1. My spring royalty check (authors are paid royalties on their book sales twice a year, spring and fall) was the smallest I've received in over a decade: only 20 percent (!!!!) of what I'm used to receiving.
2. Reviews of my two June releases, , Kelsey Green, Reading Queen and Zero Tolerance, have been uniformly positive, but I haven't received a starred review on either title, so there is no reason to think that either one will be a breakout book that will launch me into the next level of greatness and glory.
3. I'm at my writing group retreat up in mountains right now, and I found out yesterday that one of my fellow authors, whom I respect enormously, strongly dislikes my cookie jar book. Of course, others in the group had much more appreciative responses, but I can hardly discount such a negative reaction from a brilliant critic to the book on which I've spent the past six months of my writing life.
4. Over the course of the past year I had to spend $22,000 on HOA-mandated repairs on my already well-maintained and attractive townhouse, so I now have $22,000 less to spend toward paying off my mortgage, a cornerstone of my retirement strategy - and all I ended up with for that $22,00 was a house that looked exactly like it did before.
5. I am going to have some new financial obligations coming from my family situation that will further compromise my ability to live off my writing income when I no longer have my teaching income from CU.
Positive signs and portents? None, so far. None at all.
But do you know what? I still have my heart set on doing this. And maybe in the end, that's the best sign and portent of all: to be willing to forge ahead despite all warnings. I've realized that I'd rather fail doing what I love than succeed at being someone I'm not. I'd rather lead an authentic life, even with financial limitations and lukewarm professional rewards, than live an inauthentic life with greater security and recognition.
And what's the worst-case scenario if I fail as a full-time writer? I sell my expensive house in Boulder, buy a lovely, comfortably run-down house in Indiana for a fraction of the price (and with no overbearing HOA), and move back to my beloved Greencastle, where I spent the two happiest years of my life. How bad is that?
In the end, what do signs and portents matter, when I can follow the compass of my heart?