The Christmas Eve candlelit service has turned out to be a moment of reflection and even raw emotion for me—which, if you knew me, is strange on about six levels. There’s usually so much activity leading up to the service that the service itself seems like a quiet pause, a long and slow exhalation before plunging back in again and actually “doing Christmas.”
Last year, it was during this service that I suddenly, forcefully became convinced that the book I had been revising for more than a year was going down to defeat. It was awful.
This year was different …
This past year has brought both good and bad. I was right about that book. It was rejected. Seven or eight months later, another one was rejected after another aggressive rewrite letter. So in all, the books I’ve spent three years working on were both shelved this year. And after several years of working with a very wonderful human being of an agent, I am agentless again.
Yet the year was much less than a total loss. My business rebounded strongly, so while I know many people who are struggling and many others who are worried, we cruised to the end of the year rapidly paying down debt, with money in savings, and we were able to provide a worry-free Christmas. I also started doing TV segments this year, which was a huge challenge for a guy who hates cameras, and I’ve been surprised by how much fun it is. I actually like doing TV, and I find myself looking forward to it. And, of course, my kids are healthy and happy, my marriage is strong, and my family is well.
After the service, after wrapping presents, my wife and I sat up and talked about the year that had just gone past. I realized that my attitude toward writing has changed a lot. This year has taught me that, truly, the journey itself can be rewarding, even in the worst moments. I went into this year putting so much pressure on myself to sell, and there were many nights I couldn’t sleep. When the books didn’t sell, I had to deal with the inevitable ugly questions: Should I quit? Am I just not very good after all? Why had I failed?
But one thing I’ve come to realize is that I didn’t fail. I just got very close to selling two books that ultimately didn’t sell. And I learned, too, that I am a writer through and through, that there’s no way I could stop writing because, well, I just like it an awful lot. So when my next project is done, I’ll query it and just move onto the next project. I’m freer than I was before, and even though I would have preferred to sell the books, I’m back to a place where I am writing simply for the pleasure of it. That’s not a bad thing.
And that brings me to the title of this post: tangerine mimosas. On Christmas morning, we woke up and opened presidents and then had tangerine mimosas. The tangerine juice was fresh-squeezed, naturally, and it was a wonderful way to wind down as we watched the kids enjoy their presents. Then after a bit, I went outside to harvest vegetables for dinner. Our meal this year included tomatoes, broccoli and herbs from our own garden. This trek outside has become familiar. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been making nightly trips to my herb garden to collect fresh thyme, oregano, basil, cilantro, chives, basil, or rosemary.
I find something ridiculously extravagant about throwing handfuls of fresh herbs in all of our meals, about cooking with fresh, organic ingredients I grew myself. So it’s funny. In a year in which I experienced the worst professional rejection I’ve ever experienced, I am ending the year feeling rich (although we’re obviously not) and enriched, fortunate and humbled and privileged beyond all measure.
I don’t know what the next year will bring, but I have my hopes and goals. Books are included in there, but not at the top. This year, I think my greatest hope to is that I remain open to the extravagances of life that can’t be bought, but must be earned.