Seventeen years ago I was sitting in my college dorm, fuming at the world because I thought I could write a better book than the one I had just finished reading for class (FYI – I couldn’t. Trust me. That first novel of mine is pure stink). A seed had been planted a few months earlier by a true crime show I’d caught on cable – college was my first experience outside of network TV – so I said, “Screw it, Mindy. Write the damn book already.”
Fifteen years ago I was working part time in retail (at a Hallmark, if you can picture it), reading Euripides on my lunch break and jotting down notes on the Furies as sidebars to a project I’d been reworking, revising, and revamping since my sophomore year in college, titled THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES.
Thirteen years ago I took a job at a high school library, having amassed literally hundreds of rejections for that novel, a handful for the second novel I’d finished, and a deep familiarity with the guy at the Post Office who had patience with me while he weighed my sample pages and put the right postage on my SASE (you old dogs will know what that means).
At the time I didn’t know if I would be able to work forty a week and still write, but I wanted to. When I moved into my new office I printed out a copy of the Rudyard Kipling poem “The Female Of The Species,” from which I’d taken the title of my first novel, and hung it on the wall facing my desk. It was a reminder to persevere, that even though work was done at three I might not be, and that there was something more I wanted to do with my life.
Over time little notes started decorating that wall as well, things I’d jotted down to remind me how to run certain reports, where the I Spy books were on the Dewey, little notes from students, senior pictures, and random things smaller kids would gift me that they found on the floor. My Kipling poem wasn’t the only thing on the wall anymore – in fact, it was becoming an overshadowed lower layer. But it was still there, and I still saw it.
Last week the dust jackets for my next release showed up at my house. THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES releases on September 20th, 2016, seventeen years after the idea first occurred to me. The manuscript that you’ll see on the shelves bears little to no resemblance to that first draft – and that’s a good thing – but the concept and characters have been true to themselves.
So whatever the book of your heart is find a way to put it in your line of sight every day, as a reminder that there’s something more you aspire to.
Then make time for it.