Writer's Workbook: A Few Thoughts on Gratitude

October 1, 2015

Point Pinos lighthouse at sunset.

My husband and I, we just love road trips. We map out a route, load up the dogs, and hit the blacktop. We've taken road trips ever since we were friends in college. (We were friends for a long time before we started dating...a goofy story, if you're curious.) We should've known then we'd be good together. You can tell a lot about a relationship by how well each person complements the other on the road.

Tide pools at Lovers' Point.
 This was a quickie trip for us, just a short drive up the 101 to California's Central Coast. We stayed in a small dog-friendly motel in Pacific Grove, not far from the very ritzy mansions of Pebble Beach and 17-Mile Drive. This area is known for its rocky shoreline rich with sea life (the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium is just up the road), its forests of pine and cypress, and its grove of monarch butterflies. The weather was cool, in the 50s and 60s, a welcome change from the SoCal kiln of recent weeks.

We walked the dogs, explored the beaches, talked to locals, and browsed the village shops winding down from summer tourist season. We read books and scouted out coffee shops for wifi and lattes. I got lots of writing done. We goofed off, ate crazy-delicious local food and slept like rocks on the bottom of the ocean.

My pal Frances at Hendry's Beach in Santa Barbara.
On the ride home, watching the sunset over the Pacific, I realized with a sense of pathetic gratitude...this is my new life. A weekday trip with my husband and our dogs, and I still got my work done. What would've once been impossible is now our reality.

Because I'm a writer.  

So weird to say that. 

Farmer's Market in Pacific Grove.

I've now been writing full-time for a year and three months.

Don't get me wrong. This way of life isn't free.

Most significantly, we're no longer a two-income household.  I'm writing as much as I can, but it will be a while before I can make significant contributions again. Even though making the switch was my husband's idea, and he's a dreamboat and I'm lucky beyond words, not bringing home a paycheck has been a big pill to swallow. I never anticipated how much my sense of self-worth was tied up with my salary. I am still working on that, particularly since I've given up a 13-year teaching career, and because of the erotica I've written, will most likely never work with minors again.

To many of my friends, family, and acquaintances, teaching is a real profession. Writing (particularly romance) is not. I've given up trying to convince them that my job is valid and difficult, requiring hours of keyboard abuse plus hours of research, networking, and promotion. Trying to defend my work makes me feel like a petulant child. So I've stopped trying.

Mental toughness is required not just to keep writing through shitstorms of rejections and bad reviews, but through flat sales and endless days of silence, self-doubt and isolation. I rely on my routines to keep me marginally human. Make the bed. Take a shower. Drink a mug of tea. Write.

A pot of jasmine tea at Crema in Pacific Grove.

But in exchange for all of this, what have I gained? So. Freakin'. Much.

The freedom to take a trip in the middle of the week simply because my husband wants to.

A brand new network of friends...writers, editors, publishers and readers who live by the written word and love it as much as I do.

The satisfaction of building my own business, one book and one relationship at a time.

The ability to contribute to the changing face of romance. Because #weneeddiverseromance.

The liberating feeling that the voices in my head now have names and gainful employment as characters in my next book.

And most of all, a breathtaking sense of gratitude that I can do this job.

Because seriously, it is the best job in the world.

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