Essays, Misc

Final Thoughts on the Real Writer’s Life

I’m back! I’ve been out of commission a few weeks but that doesn’t mean the old brain has stopped thinking about writing or blogging. Spending days alone in a hospital room—by some miracle, I lucked out and was given a private room—I had PLENTY of time to think. And to think some more. So, what conclusions did I come to during this time?

from www.genevieveng.com
from http://www.genevieveng.com

Well, I decided it was time to close the book on my ponderings about the writing life for the moment, and that this last post should do it. Like anything new, understanding the writing business and my place in it took time but I think I finally came to grips with something important.

Brace yourselves.

I concluded that it’s entirely possible that this dream of making it as a successful writer could end up being little more than an expensive hobby.

Gasp!

Somewhere in the backs of our minds we already know this but hope, passion, and drive shoves the possibility aside. Only, once you get your feet wet, once you start putting in the real elbow grease to sell your books, that’s when reality really hits. This is really hard!

It’s aggravating. When I think back over these last few years and what they involved, it was the hope of success that pushed me through each challenge—I climbed those mountains because of the carrot dangling at the end of a rope. And that’s not to say that I have failed, nor is this sour grapes. I achieved my life-long dream of writing and self-publishing a book (The Purple Morrow) and I am proud of it. I’ve gone ahead and written the sequel and started the last book of the series. I plan to write and publish those and the other books I’ve got brewing in my head. I’m blessed that Morrow is selling, and, thanks to you all, my blog is doing well, and people like my stories. It’s just that the business part of this writing gig involves so much time and effort (and money!) and it doesn’t always pay us back in kind—in other words, we don’t always receive according to what we’ve put in. Or worse, more is required before we begin to see any form of meaningful return.

Do you see where I’m headed? I don’t know about you but I’ve got a fulltime job and a family to support. Luckily, I’ve made back the investment to produce my book but therein lies the truth we keep hearing all over the web: writing is also a business. In order to make money, you have to spend money. Which involves risk. Realizing that any further investment in time and money might not bring in a decent return gave me pause. How far do I want to go? How far can I go? These are some of the questions that every serious writer should be asking themselves.

I’m not at all saying that we should only write to make money. But there is a difference between writing as a hobby because we love it and writing because we want to publish so we can reach larger numbers of readers and earn something for our efforts. Most of us write because we love it. So much so that we lock ourselves away from our own families and the rest of the world to ‘live’ in another, made-up world. And that’s the way it should be, at its heart. We do what we love because we love to do it. I just think it’s important to know why we write so that we can know what to expect before jumping in with both feet.

So…is this post all about discouraging people from wanting to publish their books? Not at all. As usual, my goal is to share of my own experience for the benefit of someone else. If even one person comes away from this with a clearer and more realistic picture of what awaits them, then I’m good.

If you are thinking about writing seriously, here are some things to consider:

Writing is competitive: There is a ton of competition out there. Anyone can publish a book these days, and for reasons unknown, even poorly written books suddenly strike it rich. Does that mean quality doesn’t matter? No, it definitely does. Putting your name on a book will associate you with it until the end of time. Write your book but write it well; your reputation is at stake. Also, success or failure aside, it’s important to do your best to produce something you can be proud of. Just know that no matter how well-written your book is it might not sell as well as you’d hoped. Reality check number 1.

Writing is time consuming: It takes time to produce something of quality. This is true whether you write part-time or full-time. You will write, rewrite, edit and re-edit until you can’t stand you story anymore, but these processes are essential. I think readers can tell when a story has been thrown together versus one where the author took time to nurture and develop the world and its characters. I think any reader who lays down money for a book expects to be treated to a well-told story, so be certain you put in the time needed to properly craft your tale.

Writing is expensive: There are many ways to publish books. There’s doing it for free on a site like CreateSpace, there’s hiring a company to help with editing, book covers and formatting, or the traditional way of going through an agent to maybe one day get a deal. In any of those cases, a quality edit is needed—again, regardless of the format chosen, it’s important to have a manuscript that is as clean and free of plot holes and content errors as possible. IMO, this means paying a qualified person to do the work. Friends and family might be okay for a beta read and to build the morale, but if you are asking readers to lay down their hard-earned money to buy your book, do them a favor and get a good edit. Again, your rep is on the line, and after all the hard work you put into the story, you deserve to have your manuscript shine in the best light possible.

Writing is full of disappointments: As high as we can feel after creating a piece we love, there are some intense lows that come hand in hand with writing. Rejection after rejection letter from agents, publishers, magazines, are some examples. A story that didn’t get the attention or reaction you wanted, or a book that didn’t sell as well as expected, are others. There are no guarantees in any venture we undertake, but knowing that the road ahead is not all sunshine and rainbows can help us better prepare mentally and emotionally for the ups and downs.

Writing is taxing: We all know this. Not only do we have to write well, we have to market well, we have to find and connect with the new markets, we have to connect with our readers, we have to…the list goes on. And on. And on. There is never ANY end to the number of things we have to do. And those who have more time to dedicate to it all naturally have a leg up on those who don’t. They say that writing should be considered as a second job, and in a lot of ways, it is. If you add up the hours spent writing, platform building, and in social media I’m sure you’d be surprised at how much it added up to. And we wonder why we are always tired!

So what is a writer to do?

www.picstopin.com
http://www.picstopin.com

That’s what I have been struggling to figure out these last few months through my posts. I have been slowly coming to the conclusion that perhaps writing just might become an expensive hobby. Or, that it might take a lot longer than expected before there are important returns on the investments I have made and will continue to make. It’s sobering, but as far as I can tell, it’s the truth. I haven’t yet decided on what to do next, or how to handle this possibility, but I am taking the time to re-evaluate my priorities and expectations. I think, for the moment, that’s the best I can do.

How about you? What do you think? Where are you on your publishing or self-publishing road?

Essays, Misc

I Got My Mojo Back: Writing Growing Pains

I’m excited! It’s been a while since I’ve felt this pumped about editing a manuscript. Don’t get me wrong. I love writing, except I think all the hours of writing, networking, keeping up with friends on social media, participating in any and all writing challenges I could to hone my skills, etc., were finally taking their toll. Burn-out and fatigue were creeping in and writing began to feel like a chore. Even sifting through my G+ stream to touch base with people and to check out new sites sent thrills of anxiety through me. “Am I doing enough?” “Am I working hard enough?” “What am I missing? What new site can I visit to help me get better?” When that nonsense went on long enough, I said, “Enough’s enough, girl. This is supposed to be fun!” I mean, yes, there’s a whole part to writing that involves not so fun things like marketing and trying to get your work out there, but the core of it all, the passion for writing, has to be maintained. And for a while there, it wasn’t.

Why? I dunno. I think I got too competitive with myself and started second guessing my creative choices, trying too hard to figure out what people expected or wanted from me. And a part of that is normal. We strive to improve at the craft, and we write blogs and maintain websites to make ourselves accessible to readers, as well as to get feedback from them. And I really dig all that. But there’s always the danger that the desire to please can become a burden and, I think, lead to burning out, or at least, to diminishing our passion for writing.

doll

So, what changed? A mental slap in the face to refocus, for one. Also, reminding myself that it’s important to be aware of what people like and expect but to keep that in perspective. A writer can’t please everyone at all times; it’s possible (likely) to write something no one will like. Egads! What did she say??? Yes, it’s true, and I had to accept that, too, lol But the idea is freeing; learning through one’s failures is often the best of teachers, and so giving myself the freedom to fail shed the burden of always wanting/needing to be perfect.

In the end, I remembered that my job as a writer is to write, to be true to the stories bubbling around inside me and to do it to the best of my ability. Once I reminded myself of these simple things, I got my mojo back. Regular Show says, “Ye-ah!” (For those who don’t know the show, just smile and nod.)

Like everything in life, writing is a journey. Our skills grow and develop with us, just as we have the ability to stunt or release our creativity and ability by how we approach it.

Please drop me a line and tell me what you think or about your experiences/challenges with growing with writing. 

Happy writing everyone! 

Essays

Self-Confidence: How do you feel about your writing?

A few weeks ago as I was perusing my G+ stream, I came across a post by a young writer who basically said her work was crap and that nothing she created was worth a damn. Of course I stopped, read the post through and then added my two cents worth of support to the others, hoping to help boost her spirits, if even temporarily. It’s important to reach out for support when our confidence is wavering, and I’m glad she did. Still, it’s not the first time I have seen posts like that, nor do I think it will be the last.

Probably the reason that post resonated with me is because maintaining a healthy level of self-confidence in regards to writing is something I regularly deal (struggle) with. I love to write and I love to share, but that doesn’t mean I never wonder if a new piece is as good as the last one. Thinking about not being able to meet people’s expectations in terms of quality or entertainment is a dirty specter that frequently lurks in my head.

So why am I writing this, then? I think anyone who reads my blog posts can see that I write them with my heart on my sleeve, and that I don’t shy away from talking about my mistakes and the tough lessons I’ve learned. I do this partly because sharing those experiences validates the challenges I have faced and reminds me of the strength/courage I developed as a result. When I feel less confident in my abilities, thinking about those things actually encourages me which helps rebuild my self-confidence.

Basically, one thing I’ve learned is that confidence is shaped and it is strengthened or weakened depending on how we handle the challenges that cross our paths. So how does this relate to riding the crazy emotional rollercoaster of ‘Damn! I’m the biggest, baddest writing SOB out there!’ to ‘I totally suck! Nothing I write means anything! Where are my sack-cloth and ashes??!!’ I’ve listed a few suggestions that might help anyone struggling with this issue:

1)      Check your perceptions: It is so easy to count our mistakes, isn’t it? If I sat down with you over coffee and asked you to list me your faults, I’m sure within 1 minute I’d have 5 pages of scribbled notes to read. But if I asked you to write down 15 positive things? Sure it can be done, but it would likely take much longer to fill out the second list than the first. It’s important to learn to think positively about ourselves and to appreciate the good things we do. I’m a good mom. I’m a great dad. I work hard. I finish tasks I set my mind to accomplish. Think about these, write them down and post them on a mirror or fridge, if you have to. Once you can do that with relative ease in your everyday life, then apply them to writing: (start small) ‘I wrote 50 words of my manuscript today’, ‘I received a compliment from someone about my work without minimizing it’, ‘I wrote two pages today!’ and so on. How you think about yourself often affects how you feel about yourself, so why not try improving your self-perception? 

2)      Try not to compare. I was terrible at this. When I started on G+ and other writing sites, I was intimidated by people who had published books, had articles in magazines, had a gazillion people following their blogs, had friends up the wazoo…blah, blah. I’d look at myself and go, ‘There’s no way I can compete with that!’ I literally had to force myself to stop comparing myself to them. Those people probably worked their butts off to get where they are and so deserve their success. Instead, I decided to be happy for them and to support them when I could. That took care of the comparing and taught me to rejoice with others when they found success. 

Also, I had to consider my own situation: I have a family, a fulltime emotionally taxing job, and so I write and blog when I can squeeze them in. I had to learn to appreciate what I was able to do with the time and resources I had and be satisfied with that. 

3) Write for yourself first. This is the best suggestion I can make for anyone who is struggling with self-confidence in regards to their writing. Writing is personal and it comes from the core of who we are, so it should be meaningful to and resonate with us first before anyone else. I believe that when we do that, the piece is infused with a part of our soul anyway, and somewhere, someone is bound to connect with that. But even if they don’t, the point is to relish and cherish your creation simply because it came from you.

 In sum, everyone has their own level of self-confidence which is based on different things, such as social, psychological and sometimes, mental health issues, amongst others. More specifically, life experience, successes and failures, what we’ve been told about ourselves and consequently, what we choose to believe about ourselves. But confidence is not static. It can fluctuate from day to day! The good news is that as much as confidence can be weakened, it can also be strengthened.

I may have opened a can of worms with this post but I’d still love to hear from you  Readers. Thoughts? Comments?