I’m not one of those people who knew from the age of three that they wanted to be a writer. In fact, my mother had told me since the age of five that I should be a lawyer because I liked to argue [with her] so much. But I didn’t buy into that philosophy until much later.
When I graduated from the University of Florida with a B.A. in English/Film Studies I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do with my life. So I became a professional lifeguard. I had health insurance, a killer tan, got paid to work out, and my hair was actually turning blond naturally. It was a great job.
But then one day Mom and Dad came to visit and gave me the we-didn’t-send-you-to-college-so-you-could-be-a-professional-lifeguard speech. Although my parents swear to this day that they never encouraged me to be a lawyer, they did pay for me to take the LSAT prep class. (You can draw your own conclusions.) Somehow I managed to score in the top 1% on the exam and instead of attributing it to the fact that I’m a good standardized test-taker, I decided it meant the law was My Calling. Since I loved movies and was at that time dating a screenwriter wannabe, I decided to move to California, enroll in USC Law School, and pursue my newly acquired dream of being an entertainment lawyer.
Shockingly, things did go as planned. For a while, at least. Although the first book I purchased after finishing the torturous three-day-long California Bar Exam was titled “How to Write a Novel.” That should’ve been my first clue that perhaps the law was not My True Calling.
Fast forward seven years. I was a regular attendee at UCLA Extension Writers Program workshops and working as an entertainment lawyer at a major motion picture studio when I decided to quit my job so I could finally write that novel.
Now, if this was fiction1, my first novel would’ve been a huge bestseller and I’d be a rich and famous author who never worked as a lawyer again. But that’s not what happened. Exactly one year and two weeks after I quit my first movie studio job to write my first novel, I started my second movie studio job while I tried to sell that first novel. Because I lead a partially charmed life, that first novel eventually sold to a major publisher and became “Romantically Challenged.”
But since my life is only partially charmed2, the chick lit market imploded six months before my first novel was published and sales were, charitably speaking, lackluster. Not surprisingly, the publisher didn’t want to buy my second book. I wrote a third book, switched agents, and came really close to selling book three, but it didn’t happen. It was while my third agent was shopping my fourth book that I began self-publishing. And all of a sudden, almost five years after its initial publication date, “Romantically Challenged” became a bestseller. And the rest, as they say, is history.
1 Or my name was Emily Giffin.
2 I work hard, but I never underestimate the importance of luck in accounting for success.