I've had a number of careers. In one, I was a professional speaker for eleven years. At age 5, I determined I was going to be a speaker. The only thing that stood in my way was my knee-knocking, throat-locking, I-had-rather-die fear of speaking in public. It took thirty-three years to whip that one, but I did – how I did it will be the topic of another blog. This post is about something else.
In November, 1986, I was scheduled to speak at the Unity Church in Missoula, Montana. I arrived a day early, checked into the Red Lion Inn, which was perched on the west bank of the Clark Fork River, and spent the rest of the afternoon exploring downtown Missoula and the campus of the University of Montana.
Normally, I’m not a morning runner. I’m the guy who runs late at night, the one you see and think, that’s what drinking will do to you. However, I knew I had to run early because I was leaving for Santa Barbara after the day’s speaking engagement, and there would be no other time to run.
As I crawled out of the warm bed, I considered crawling back in, more than once, before I finished dressing and headed out into the chilly Missoula morning. I jogged north, a couple of blocks to the footbridge that crossed the river, and landed on the campus. As I pounded over the bridge, thoughts of the bed finally faded, and I settled seriously into the run. On the campus, I turned back south and began skirting the edge of the UM Grizzlies’ practice football field.
Without notice, the wind stopped blowing, there was a moment of hushed expectation, and then the sky was filled with the largest snowflakes this southern boy had ever seen.
I stopped at the edge of the field, the only person in the world, and a story sprang full blown into my mind. I saw a Vietnam Vet, a retired helicopter pilot; enroll, with his son, at the University of Montana. Then I saw the two of them on the practice field, throwing a football, kicking, catching, and trying to forget the loss of the woman they both loved. I saw the Grizzlies’ head coach watching them, and I saw him recruit both of them to play for the Grizzlies. I saw, Josh Edwards, at age forty-four, become the starting quarterback for the University of Montana Grizzlies. I saw all of that as I stood there in the first snowfall of the year. Finally, I shook my head and started running again.
I spoke that day in Missoula, the following day in Santa Barbara, and I wound up the week in Spokane. In spite of my schedule, I couldn’t shake what I had seen, so I started writing it, first on a legal pad, later on my computer. Though I was just writing for myself, I gave the story a title. I called it Fourth and Forever. When I finished it, I determined that it was good. Convinced that everyone would feel the same way, I began sending query letters to agents and publishers. I soon found that everyone didn’t share my enthusiasm for the story. The bottom line is, I accumulated 412 rejections.
I learned my lesson. I kept writing, but I stopped sending query letters. I wrote three more novels, and they all joined Fourth and Forever in my desk drawer. There they stayed until Jeff Bezos hadn’t sold me a Kindle. A year later it dawned on me that I could publish my books on Kindle, and Jeff would not send me a rejection letter – in fact, he would pay me 70% of everything he got for my books.
A couple of months after I published my second book, I realized that I knew the name of everyone who had bought one of my books, and I’m no memory wizard. That’s when I realized that I needed help, so I began looking for it. That’s when I found Joe Konrath and A Newbies Guide to Self Publishing. I devoured it and wanted more. It didn’t take long to find Joe’s blog, and I was hooked.
If you are an indie writer or want to be an indie writer, next to writing, reading Joe Konrath is the single best thing you can do for yourself. However, I hasten to point out that you won’t meet Joe Konrath by reading $100,000, the blog he posted last Wednesday. You’ll meet Joe and you’ll discover why I said “…reading Joe Konrath is the single best thing you do for yourself,” when you read Reality Check, the blog he posted this morning, Friday the 13th, 2012. Read that, reread it, and make a point of reading it at least once a month for the rest of the year. Look for this passage in the post, and brand it in your head and your heart:
“Yes, I've worked hard. I still do. But no one deserves success…”
When you’re not reading Reality Check and A Newbies Guide to Self Publishing, write, write, write…. Then, to borrow a phrase from Zig Ziglar, “I’ll see you, at the top.”