I came home from an early morning workout and decided to sit in the backyard with a cup of coffee and read for a while. Yesterday I had started reading Pretty Mess by Erika Jayne (Aka Erika Girardi) and was eager to dive back in.
If you are a committed fan of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills like I am, you know who Erika Jayne is. And if you don’t, you should because this girl knows what she wants and goes after her desires with no apology.
For those who don’t watch the show, Erika is married to Tom Girardi, a highly successful trial attorney who is thirty-three years her senior. Based on these facts alone, it would be easy to make assumptions about her. But as I wrote about here,
assumptions never give you the full story and are often completely untrue.
Erika is so much more than those facts alone, and I respect her tremendously for her commitment to hard work, tenacity, strong sense of self, and honesty about it all.
On the show, she doesn’t reveal much about her childhood and personal life. As such, when I heard she was writing a memoir, I knew I had to get my hands on it.
I expected to be entertained by her stories (if you’ve watched the show, I think it’s clear that she probably has some interesting ones) and learn more about her history and personal life, including her childhood and her relationship with Tom. What I didn’t expect was to find myself relating to what she was sharing so much that I set the book down to write this article.
In the book, Erika talks a lot about her relentless pursuit of opportunities to become a performer. At one point, she talks about how she went on “a million auditions and a million dance calls, and then some other girl would get the part.” She says that this made her feel “frustrated all over again.”
I can relate to this big time. To date, I’ve written five fiction manuscripts. I’ve tried to find an agent for each one of them and have been rejected across the board. As I have continued to plug away at my craft, I’ve become a much better writer and have gotten more responses to my initial query letters. I’ve had quite a lot of requests for the full manuscripts but no bites to represent me. Despite the feedback that I’m a great writer, no one has seemed to love my stories enough to take a chance on me.
In short, it’s been disappointing.
Still, I know I have talent, and I believe in myself. But publishing, like show business, is a brutal industry, filled with an insane amount of rejection. I’ve grown a much thicker skin than when I started, and I’m proud of that.
Erika goes on to say, “I had to continuously remind myself why I chose my art and why I loved it. Why I chose to navigate this incredibly difficult and brutal business. I did it because I loved the work, the artistic process, the connection. I loved doing it so much that when I didn’t get to do it, my spirit was slightly crushed.”
About four years ago, I left the practice of law to write full-time. I feel about writing the way Erika feels about performing:
when I don’t write, my spirit feels slightly crushed.
While I felt extremely joyful to have the privilege to work on my novel every day, I also put a lot of pressure on myself to write a book that would sell.
This led to an internal conflict where I struggled with wanting to make sure I was being true to myself but also wanting get my story published.
With my goal of landing an agent who would in turn secure me a publisher, I was not seeking fame. Long before this blog existed, I had the desire to connect with others by sharing stories of love and loss, friendship and sisterhood, adventure and mental illness. That was my goal with every story I told. To connect with someone through my story.
While I was writing full-time, I also did some freelance writing. It was tough, much like what Erika described in terms of applying for jobs and getting rejected or being offered very little money in exchange for the work. But unlike Erika, I didn’t enjoy the kinds of jobs I was applying for.
What I really wanted to do was write about relationships and connection and all of the things I mentioned above.
During those two years, I finished a novel, tried to find an agent, and was rejected again. I decided that I couldn’t continue on like this. I was living at my parents’ house (after buying and selling my own condo), and I knew I needed to start making money to sustain myself. Like Erika when she moved to the West Coast to fight for the life she wanted for her and her son, I knew I need to make a change to set myself up for future success.
Erika got this advice from a veteran music manager, “I just feel like when you’re in a situation like this, you should pivot.”
That’s what I did.
After much debate and deliberation, I decided to enroll in a master’s program for marriage and family therapy. Though I had not previously imagined myself as a therapist, I knew it would be a way for me to be able to talk about connection within relationships and engage in a dialogue about personal growth. And I would be able to have my own business which has always been a goal of mine.
During school breaks, I continued to write. I wrote a novel that was inspired, in part, by my graduate studies. This book is the closest I’ve ever come to getting signed by an agent. I got requests to read the full manuscript from several well-known and respected agents, though I didn’t get any offers for representation (yet…I still have a couple agents reading it). This book was also a departure for me in terms of genre, and I had hopes that this change was the tweak I needed to land an agent.
Unfortunately, that’s not been the path for me so far.
But then, through a series of conversations and an impulsive decision to pull the trigger, Logan and I started this site which has been a wonderful creative outlet for me. I find myself writing articles every chance I get. I am very passionate about all of the topics I write about, and I love that I write about what I want, when I want. Yes, it’s for all of you (is anyone actually reading this?), but it’s really for me, too.
I love to write; it feeds my soul. It makes me an all-around better person.
I don’t know that I would have met Logan and we would have started this site if I hadn’t made the decision to go back to school for my master’s degree. Those two years of school have increased my emotional intelligence, provided me with a vocabulary for human behavior, and brought to my attention the deep human need for connection with others. This pivot also gave me the courage to be vulnerable in sharing my stories and lessons learned with the world on this site.
I don’t know if I’ll ever write novels for a living. I don’t know if I’ll ever see my name on the New York Times Bestseller List.
But I know how to work hard, and I know that I need to follow my passion, even if it’s only as a hobby.
Careers often aren’t linear. I believe this is because there is no one right path to follow. We create our own paths, like Erika has done. Every decision we make influences our ultimate destination.
And sometimes we end up places we never dreamed of.