I’ve been thinking a lot about regret lately—about what it means, both personally and professionally. The truth is that, over the past several years, I have had many wondrous successes, and a handful of failures (which I’ll simply refer to as ‘shortcomings.’)
The one I think about most is when I had an agent.
Now, you might be wondering: didn't you decided to stay self-published a while ago?
Yes. For the most part. However, there has always been the allure of what a bigger publisher could do, what more reach and larger sums of money could mean.
Let me explain:
When I was in my late teens/early twenties, I wrote a novel with my friend Rhiannon Frater called The Midnight Spell. At the time, we were writing it primarily for fun, with the intent to self-publish it. But as things progressed with Rhiannon’s career, her agent started working to sell The Midnight Spell to a publisher. As a result, this agent took me under their wing.
Now… this is where the story becomes a bit tricky.
At the time I was picked up by this agent, I was deep in the throes of mental illness. While I was being treated, the medication combination was wrong—and as a result, I was prone to rapid cycling (a symptom of Bipolar Disorder.) This caused me to have unpredictable symptoms and moods, which left me at the mercy of my illness, both personally and creatively.
Shortly after I acquired this agent, I spoke with them about a few projects that I wanted to write. One of them was a novel called UTOPIA, which would become Utopia Falls ten years later. They told me, at the time I pitched several ideas (which included the first Plague Bloom novel,) to write UTOPIA.
Unfortunately, that never happened for a variety of reasons, one of which included my inability to properly grasp the story.
Fast forward a few months later:
The agent leaves the agency they’re at to work in another field. I’m in the throes of medication adjustment, self-doubt, and worry. I move to Fort Worth, and though things are rough, I continue writing.
Fast forward from 2018 to 2021 and I still sometimes feel guilt over not taking that opportunity to write UTOPIA as I originally envisioned it.
However—I’m not sure if doubt, or regret, should even be considered at this point.
I am at a position in my life where I realize that my writing career is supplementary to my future aspirations to teach. It’s helping me pay my bills, and it’s going to eventually get me through school, but right now, I realize that my ability to keep writing consistently wholly depends on my ability to produce content, which means that I might not ever feel comfortable ‘letting go’ of a project to not only find an agent, but to pitch it to publishers.
Do I feel mad at myself sometimes? Yes. I do.
Do I understand that I was not in a position to put myself through the rigorous submission, revision, and editing process? Yes. I do.
And that, I feel, is what regret is: the knowledge that a shortcoming, as minor or severe as it happens to have been, likely changed your life.
Is there any guarantee that UTOPIA would have sold at its state at the time? No. Is there any guarantee that it would have brought me enough money to make me comfortable? No. Most writers don’t get large advances, especially not without pre-established fanbases.
So, as I write this—and as I consider everything I’ve gone through, professionally and not—I realize that the so-called shortcoming actually led me to where I am now.
And, quite honestly? I’m pretty happy with it. Not one hundred percent, but yes. I’m happy.