” Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry – all forms of fear – are caused by too much future, and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of nonforgiveness are caused by too much past and not enough presence.” – Eckhart Tolle
This is a sad story with a happy ending.
After nearly 30 books, I’m saying goodbye to the book publishing world. I don’t want to deal with the new corporate publishers, and they don’t wish to deal with me. The plans for publishing my last book – the story of Gus and Bud have been put on hold after three years of conflict and frustration, and probably for good.
My agent and the editor who won’t speak with me will work out the details, I’ve moved on already, I couldn’t quite admit it. I agree with it now. I was feeling like one of those people I always dreaded becoming; someone who fights to hang on, who can’t let go, who doesn’t grasp when he is no longer valued or wanted.
The thing is not to whine and cry; the idea is to get moving. I got moving.
I’ve had enough. It’s time to move on. I’m with Winston Churchill. Success is not final; failure is not fatal; it is the courage to move on that matters.
I have a closet in the farmhouse that was stacked with copies of each one of the 26 books I have written, five of them bestsellers. The shelf is emptying out.
My book launches were classic publishing events once, a high powered mix of media and classy book stores, almost all of which are gone.
I started on the most potent NPR shows. I then moved across the country doing newspaper and televisions interviews from Los Angeles to Ohio, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Chicago, New York, Boston, and a bunch of places in between.
My books sailed from one printing to another; there were scores of reviews, most generous and approving, and a wonderful editor who believed in my work and fought for it. He was laid off during the Great Recession, and my book career slowly disintegrated along with his presence in my life. It happens.
Publishing is (was) a kind of medieval world. Us writers were orphans and serfs, we depended entirely on the generosity and kindness of our editors. When they were gone, we usually went with them. I don’t hear of much generosity or kindness in publishing now.
It’s not a new story, but an old story, made worse by a massive recession that turned publishing upside down and made mid-list authors like me extremely dispensable.
I am lucky. Of all my friends and colleagues in publishing, I think I lasted the longest, but have been hanging on by my fingernails ever since 2008. I can’t say I’m proud to be a book writer any longer, only that I once was proud.
I sensed the future and started my blog in 2007. Bedlamfarm.com has more than four million hits a year now I am told, and is read all over the country and some of the world.
Please don’t be sorry for me and please don’t tell me you’re sorry for me. The blog is my book now, and it is the right place for me. If you like my writing, here it is every day and for free. When people ask me when my next book is coming out, I tell them it is right here, out every day.
I suppose it was more complicated than just losing my editor, perhaps I lost the book writing skill, or was so distracted by my breakdown and personal torments that my mind no longer worked in the right way. It is not really for me to say. No one is obliged to like my writing; no one is required to publish me.
I decided yesterday I was done with it when I learned my new publisher has no plans to publish the story of Gus and Bud after three years of hard work and waiting. No one bothered to tell me.
Honest people I trust who have read the book like it very much and no one has told me anything is wrong with it. Nobody has told me anything at all, which I gather is the new editing. I hear stories much worse than mine all the time.
I’ve been preparing for this for years now, I don’t stack all my books in the house anymore, I give them away to people I meet, and when they are gone, I won’t replace them. I rarely mention my books on my blog and don’t have the heart to promote them by myself. I’d rather work with the Army Of Good.
I think my books depress me now, and I don’t want that. They deserve to be loved by their creator.
I’m proud of them and want to feel good about how I spent so much of my life. Writing books was my dream and my identity. I think if I let go of book writing, I’ll love my books again. Today I read from Saving Simon to the residents at the Mansion, they say it’s their favorite book.
And I’ve never read it to them until today, and I thought as I read my own words, wow, this is good writing. I hadn’t looked at it since it was published. I didn’t recognize my words at first.
Writing books has become a battleground between me, the corporate marketers, the revolving door kids asked to edit their first books, timid editors who hide behind e-mail, corporate publishers who care about nothing but money.
I will not become bitter and discouraged, I will not speak poorly of my life, I have moved on. I don’t care how hard this is, or how disappointing or hurtful. I’m moving forward. I’m good at that. It’s how I survived.
My sense of well being surprises me, but it’s real. Somehow, in all of this, I’ve found myself. I’m doing what I ought to be doing, where I ought to be doing it. My success was not final; my failure is not fatal.
My blog, my photos, my animals, Maria, my farm, my work at the Mansion, and Bishop Maginn High School are where my heart is now, not waiting for other people to define me.
That part of my life is over, it ended today with a decision I have been fussing over for some years, and it’s time I made it and owned it.
I’m done with writing books. I won’t give up pieces of my heart to publishing anymore.
Even writing this makes me want to cry, but I don’t. Maybe in a day or so, forty years of book writing is worth a few tears.
Nobody wants to hear about my glory days; even my daughter knows little or nothing about those days, and I don’t care to fill her in.
Maria toured with me on my last book tours, and she saw something of the big crowds, four-star hotels, limousines, lush reviews, and one interview after another.
I don’t get called for interviews anymore; I have editors now who don’t speak to me or return messages, and books that seem to vanish the day they are published.
The world has changed; I’m changing with it, not holding on to dreams and memories. My boat isn’t sailing without me.
It’s my time, and I feel nothing but pity for the men and women who can’t accept their time. Older men need to give way and find new things to do, I can use my acquired wisdom and experience for good.
It’s not as if I have nothing important to do.
My blog is more successful than any book I ever wrote, I am finally liberated from corporate marketing departments and free to write what I want, I am up to my neck in good work with the elderly and refugee children.
I love every day of my life on the farm, and every minute with the wonderful person with whom I share it.
I have absolutely nothing to complain about or regret. If this is a failure, I’ll take it.
The problem is I am happy in my life; it is fulfilling, creative, peaceful, and full of meaning. This is the most joyful sad decision I have ever made; it is the saddest happy ending.
And you know what?
I’ve never written better in my whole life.
Truman Capote wrote that failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor. Disappointment and difficulty have been good for me; they have sweetened the precious life I now live.
So I want to thank the kind and loyal people who have read my books and write to me about them every day. I am nothing but grateful, and I hope you will find on my blog what you saw in my books.
I’m working hard at it. If you ask me when my next book is coming out, I will tell you that you are reading it right now.
Encountering defeats is not the same thing as being defeated. I have learned who I am, what I can rise from, and how I can find new triumphs.
I can tell you from the heart that no best-selling book is one half as sweet and as raising tuition money for a brilliant refugee child desperate to learn.
To the many good people who bet on me and have followed my blog for some years or recently: thanks for your support.
I will work hard to earn it and keep faith with you. I won’t say this isn’t hard; books have been so much a part of my identity. I’m not a tough guy. It hurts to write this.
Books will always be a part of me.
So this is a big deal for me, a big goodbye. I don’t have anything else to add. You can say what you want about me, but I don’t look back. I am learning to live in the present and make every hour count.
I loved being a book writer; it was a life-long dream fulfilled. Now I get to find another and another. I thank you all.