I post daily confessions on my FB page. This one turned into a rant and required more space.
Confession: I have a Bachelors of Science in Sociology, a Masters in Public Administration, and a Juris Doctor degree. I took the Texas 3-day bar exam in 2005 and passed. Throughout this educational attainment, I worked more jobs than I could possibly list (3-4 at a time) in order to pay for all that education and maintain a living. I still had to earn grants–no, I did not qualify for income-based assistance because of my parents’ income, and that STILL pisses me off to this day, since I did not receive consistent help from them until my last year of law school. Why did their income need to be a factor!–and I had to accept student loans. While I’m on it–another thing that pisses me off is that I never qualified for in-state tuition from my law school even though I worked in the state of Texas and met all the other criteria for being an in-state student post my 1L year. In case you didn’t know, college is expensive. Being an out-of-state student is even more expensive. [insert angry face]
Okay. Whatever. Back to…oh, yes. I also volunteered more time than I can even conceive, when I look back on it, and actively participated in many organizations. I mean, I held offices in some of these organizations, and still managed to party whenever I could. Hell, partying was a must to unwind from the stress of my busy life.
So, my resume is full of credentials and awards and impressive busy work, along with some awesome references from bosses and associates who can attest to my hard work ethic and reliable character. Unfortunately, there are many who can also attest to my low tolerance for alcohol. Gotta take the bad with the good, I suppose, and I have nothing to hide.
That wasn’t the confession. Those were just facts.
The dirty little secret I want to share with you all today is that after ALL that, the devil must have jumped in me, and made me decide to spend more time writing and being a published author than continuing to pursue the professional career I prepared for. Disgusting, isn’t it? Truth of the matter is that I always wanted to pursue liberal arts. I wanted to be in the entertainment industry, something to do with my passion for movies, TV and books. Really. I wouldn’t lie to you.
But I didn’t want to be a broke artist. In addition to all the jokes about unethical lawyers (stop all that, will ya???), we’ve all heard the ones about artists being impoverished. It goes with the territory…unless you’re part of the small percentage that gets a big break.
So guess what this genius did? Well, I already told you. I spent way too much time and way too much money and way too much effort going the educational route. To do what? Be a broke artist. And a supportive wife. And an exhausted mother. I certainly didn’t need to go through all that just to end up being THIS. Ah-mazing.
I may not be as smart as I thought.
You know what’s more amazing? I thought, well, maybe I would have a little respect in the industry. I earned it, didn’t I? WRONG. Maybe if I wrote nonfiction. But now that I know what I do about the perception of folks with lots of qualifications (and potential, I’ve been told) deciding to do something as “meaningless” as write books instead of becoming a notable attorney at a notable law firm–I’m doubting that too. The only way you can be a respected writer is if you become Stephen King, J.K. Rowlings, Nicholas Sparks, or the like. Maybe not quite that large, but I’m exaggerating it a bit by listing names I know you know to make the point that only a handful care…until you’ve already made a name for yourself. Not many will help you get there in the meantime. They’ll just sit back and wonder what’s wrong with you for choosing this path when you could be doing something else.
My own mother, bless her soul, was so proud of me when I got sworn in as an attorney. I’m the only one in the family. Well, I was, until I married my husband, who became an intellectual property attorney. Then there was my sister-in-law, who became one as well. Should we count them? Okay. Fine. Let’s do…but they weren’t attorneys then, dammit. It was just moi.
My dad was proud too, I suppose, though you never can tell with that one. He didn’t even come to my graduation. I mean, how often does one graduate from LAW SCHOOL? Whatever. Let’s stick with my mom, because I’m positive she has always been supportive of my endeavors…until it comes to throwing away a legal career on writing filthy books she can’t even make it through. Ah, the shame. My point is–my mom doesn’t understand that I die a little inside every time she asks me about my legal case load, but not about my recent author event.
I’ve been reducing the number of legal cases I work ever since I released my first book in 2011. Guess what–I have SEVEN books now, four of which are full-length novels. That’s something I tolled over for months or years. Something where I created an imaginary world with characters I made come alive. Something that a handful of people actually enjoy. Isn’t that impressive? Guess not. My mother never asks me about my next book release or current book sales. Instead, she tells me, “Oh, you can still become a judge one day.” A JUDGE??? Darling, I was just letting you know that my friends are running for judicial seats, or So-and-So just won an election. I’m proud of them. I didn’t bring that up to say my ambition is to BE them. My mother’s comments let me know she’s hoping writing is a hobby. She was okay when it was a book or two. Hey, good job…but it’s time to get back to serious work, isn’t it? I’ve told her it isn’t a hobby. It’s my passion. She said I should keep my bar card active. Oh, I am, Mom. I am. I still pay my bar dues, occupational tax, and licensing fees, and I keep current with my CLEs, if I do nothing else. I wouldn’t want this author thing to collapse and I have nothing to fall back on, right? Heaven forbid.
She’s not the only one. Happens all the time. I can see the judgment on other professionals’ faces when I mention being an author before I say anything about being an attorney. “What kind of law do you practice?” But, but…I want to talk about my books. Ha! They don’t care about that. An older female attorney that I respect a great deal, told me she needed to get me back in the practice. She said I needed to stop that fiction nonsense and make a difference in the world. She meant no harm. Honestly. Her heart was in the right place. She’s used to mentoring young black female attorneys. There aren’t that many of us as it is. And she may be right. Believe me, I have my moments of self-doubt. Every other hour, in fact. How would I feel if my children went the exact route I did? Wouldn’t I think–what a waste. Maybe. So, I’m doing my best to listen to them now and foster their natural talents and abilities. Hopefully, they’ll get it right the first time, without mortgage-size student loan debt by the time they settle into their dreams.
Which brings me to those moments when I need to prove to myself and everyone else that I can do this. I’m good at this. Writing books, I mean. Being a parent? Not so much, but I get by. Being a wife is sketchy every now and then too, but I work at it. I also want to continue working at being a better writer. Everyone who became a successful author had to start somewhere. And I’m getting better at this.
Am I a dummy for going all around my thumb to get to my pinky? Yes. But I can’t undo the past. What’s done is done. I can only hope I’ve accumulated some good material and transferable skills along the way that will help me develop interesting stories. If I’m lucky–I can also shape my future by doing what I love now. It’s best for me to follow my passion, right? Better late than never, right? I should keep at it until Dicey Grenor is a household name, right?
Ha! Yeah, we’ll see.
By the way, those times when friends and family ask me about my books or what it’s like being an author–GOLDEN.