I’m not sure if this is something unique to Los Angeles, or if it moves insidiously through everyone, everywhere. It could simply be a facet of who we are as humans, or it could be something nurtured within us over time, until we become so hungry for it that we forget others and our promises to them.
This thing is hauntingly subtle. Before coming out here, I’d heard stories from victims about how it took them in, promised them all the stars in the night sky, and then stole everything they had. But I’d always figured that was a part of the Hollywood scene; the actors and singers and other entertainers who all tried to scream their own names loudest in hopes of being heard.
I’d never imagined it would take me in. But it’s a tricky creature, I guess, because here I am, at the end of 2015, with a broken resolution and shreds of stories that could have been so much more.
I’m not sure there’s a single word for what this thing is. It might be described as the dark underbelly of goals and dreams, but people use it for so many purposes, and in so many ways, that I think it’s impossible to adequately name.
I can, however, tell you what this thing did to me: It took away a year of my life. It gave me overwhelming anxiety. It came in the form of over a half-dozen groups, projects, and people who all wanted my time with the ferocity of starving bears. And no matter how many weekends I gave away, how many meetings I ran back and forth to and how much (unpaid) work I did on websites, promotions, social media, it was never enough. Almost every call, every email I got from these projects had me mentally preparing myself to be chewed out for missing an event because I’d already committed myself to another.
You’re probably asking why I bothered with them. But that’s the tricky part. These projects and groups were wonderful at first — shiny and new, with enthusiasm exploding like fireworks, all promising me my stars: book publications, fans, editors, everything I’d need to become a great writer. They all told me with such straight faces that they’d be the ones to lead me to the next level in my career. All they wanted was my time.
So I gave it freely and without restraint. I jumped on every opportunity (because isn’t that what you’re supposed to do?), working harder than I ever had before in order to prove myself — show them how committed I was, how good I was at organizing and advertising and anything else they might need on a whim. Never writing, though. That wasn’t what they needed.
What they did need was simply a person’s time. Any person with a young face and a smile. They didn’t want or need Sarah Long, future author.
So when the time came for them to fulfill their promises to me, they disappeared. Forgot I existed. One even sent out a mass email unofficially booting me from a cherished position.
I’m not saying that any of them knew consciously what they were doing, or that it was out of selfish malice. I think that they, too, are victims to this unnamed thing, this overwhelming desire to catch all the stars regardless of the price.
I’m also not saying that it was a mistake to join any of them. I still have faith in the power of networking, especially in my field, and appreciate the people who have a genuine interest in my career. In fact, I wish I’d helped them more.
So you’re probably thinking, “Ok, fine, then what does this have to do with your 2015 Resolution?”
I promised myself that this year I’d either self-publish (pretty doable) or find an agent (much less likely, but the preference). That was my goal. But all these other things that were supposed to help my career blinded me, took me up into the sky and swung me around until I was drunk and giddy and had forgotten everything I’d planned. Then they dropped me hard on the concrete, and I woke up and it was December.
It’s my fault. I know that painfully well. So I have to remedy it.
My goal for 2016:
Drop projects that are taking away from my career. This includes groups that cause unnecessary stress, because that bleeds in to my sparse writing time. It also includes avoiding project leaders who don’t respect the fact that I can’t be everywhere all at once. It means choosing new opportunities carefully and making sure that they will compensate, in some way, for my time.
It’ll be slow going at first because I’ve already made commitments, but hopefully by this time next year I’ll look back, see stories that sparkle brighter than those far-off stars and be able to smile, because in 2016, I honored myself and my writing.