By Ashley Davis Bush, LICSW
Honestly, I never set out to become an author. In fact, as I sit here eighteen years after my first book was published, I’m still not sure how it all happened. One thing led to another and the rest, as they say, is history.
But let me start at the beginning. It was 1992 and I was thirty years old, living in New York City. For some reason, I got the idea to write a book about grief. I can assure you that this made absolutely no sense; I had no personal experience with grief nor personal experience with formal writing (unless you count chronic journaling since the age of eight). I was a young therapist with little experience.
Nevertheless, I had conceived this idea and I couldn’t let it go. Or more accurately, it wouldn’t let me go. I’d wake up in the night jotting down notes and began carrying a small notebook with me to record the ideas that came at all hours. The momentum to write was fierce and I was along for the ride. Next step: I took a course on nonfiction writing and publishing to learn about the nuts and bolts.
In retrospect, all I can say is that some undeniable and unavoidable force wanted me to write that book. The Muse blew through me and I just had to cooperate and do the work. Within two years I had an agent; within three years I had a contract; and within five years, in 1997, Transcending Loss was born.
Shortly after that publication, a second book snuck into the world. But it shall remain nameless, as it was in and out of print before anyone noticed. I even wrote a novel during that time period, but no one was particularly interested in it. Still, I was uplifted by the belief that only a real writer had an unpublished novel in her desk drawer.
Sadly, after that brief period of two published books, the well ran dry. Or rather the publishing well ran dry. I continued to come up with book ideas but they didn’t go anywhere. Year after year, I spun ideas into compelling book proposals but year after year my agent could not sell a single one. It was as if, no matter what I did, I simply couldn’t get invited to the prom. My agent and I amicably parted ways. The option of self-publishing felt too overwhelming at the time, so I fell into what turned out to be a decade long ‘dark ages’ of my writing career.
I concluded that it had been a fun run but, clearly, my relationship with the writing and publishing world was over. I busied myself with the tasks of raising my children, building my private practice, ending one marriage and beginning another.
Then, in 2009, something unexpected happened. The Muse visited me again. An idea came through so forcefully that I just had to grab a pen and take dictation. Within a few months of writing on nights, weekends, and even in between clients, I had a proposal and much of a manuscript for a book that came to be called Shortcuts to Inner Peace.
My husband helped me find a new agent who sold the book within two months. I couldn’t believe it! I was on the dance floor, an author again. Inspiration was flowing and soon another book idea followed (along with a contract), making its presence undeniably known until the whole of it filled the pages of 75 Habits for a Happy Marriage. Those two books were like pesky mosquitos that wouldn’t stop buzzing in my ears. In fact, with each, I was driven to write those books and get them out to the world, either by self-publishing or traditional publishing.
Ahhhhh, then I felt done. Really done. The pipeline from creativity to writing and editing to marketing and promotion (book signings, radio shows, social media, conferences, sometimes even a television gig) is long indeed. It had been a terrific journey, but with three inspired books in print, I was happily hanging up my dancing shoes. Or was I?
In May of 2013, something unexpected happened (again). I received a letter in the mail from an editor at W.W. Norton. She had heard a workshop that I had offered through goodtherapy.org (on therapist self-care) and wondered if there might be a book in it.
I was stunned. I knew what it was like to have my editor shop around my proposals, facing rejection after rejection only to occasionally get a ‘yes’. But this, this was something altogether different. A publisher was contacting me to write a book? Suddenly I was being asked to the prom rather than begging to go.
I had a problem. I wasn’t sure I could actually write the book. Sure, I had material for a two hour workshop . . . but for a 60,000 word manuscript? I only knew how to write books that blew through me like a summer storm, books that refused to take no for an answer. Could I force a book? I honestly didn’t know.
Could I draft an outline and proposal that would simultaneously satisfy the publishing house’s requirements and convince myself that I could write the book?
To learn how Ashley met those requirements, be sure to join the SPT Community. You will receive notice the last week of June where you can download our free Special Summer Book Review issue.
For more information: www.ashleydavisbush.com