One year on…

It’s not quite a year since Shepherd in Residence was published. I received my first royalty cheque this week, and sales, while not what we’d hoped (sell it all out! Have to print another thousand!) were, in my view, respectable. Even Laurence Steven, my publisher, said “not great, but not bad”. We sold about a quarter of the run. Of course, Shepherd has been entered in the Leacock competition for humour, so my fingers are crossed that it will shortlist or even (gasp! Hallelujah!) win. That’s gotta help sales, not to mention putting me in some quite exalted company.

This was a writing week in the mail – I got the royalty cheque, and payment for last month’s columns from two sources, and a polite little note from Canada Council saying, “thanks for entering, but no money for you this year”. That’s okay – I’ll have another go on the next round. I have one more grant to hear from, the Ontario Arts Council’s Northern Writers’ Works in Progress, and my fingers are crossed there, too.

Getting that grant would give me a few months’ leave of absence from the call centre, and the freedom to write a la Stephen King, two thousand words a day, come hell or high water. I could definitely finish my first draft of The Last Black Swan in that time, and maybe start the third book, too. If, however, that doesn’t happen, then I’ll soldier on with my hour-a-day in the car and finish a little later. And, of course, try again for a grant.

It’s taken me some time to settle to this routine. I resented having to go to work for someone else again. I haven’t done that full-time since 1995. I’m still not thrilled about it, but I’ve come to a few realizations. One is that maybe a relentless pursuit of excellence doesn’t always serve my best interests. I’ve been stressing about doing the best job possible at work, and lately I’ve come to realize that the financial rewards for doing so are capricious and not worth the stress. I can make the same money much more certainly, and much more pleasantly, by writing.

While that attitude won’t free me any more time, it certainly saves me effort and energy, both mental and emotional. It feels weird to make a commitment not to do my absolute best. I’ve always wanted to be the best, or at least really good, at what I do. For the sake of my sanity, my happiness and my energy level for writing, however, I think I can settle for just doing my basic job at work and saving the “best effort” effort for my writing and my art.

I think it’s a good decision. It’s taken me a year – well, a little over – to come to it, but it’s made now. I feel so much better!

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