Hello, dear readers, and welcome!
If you missed the first two parts of this blog series, you can find them here: part 1, and part 2.
So, as I sit here this morning (listening to a mixture of "Let It Be" and "Let It Go", ironically), I am contemplating exactly what it means to a be modern writer.
If you've followed these posts, you know that in the first post I talked about how I would still like to be traditionally published at some point (or be a hybrid author, I suppose, as I don't see me giving up self-publishing any time soon, since I enjoy it, and it's especially good for smaller projects), and in the second post I spoke about some of the challenges of being a writer while living with Epilepsy. Also, though it's not part of this blog post series, I will also be tying in my last blog post about Social Writing (sites such as Wattpad, and others, where writers can share drafts).
So I'll simply dive in: what does it mean to be a modern writer? What does this look like? How can one be successful?
I've been worrying over these precise questions for at least a few months (though they are always on the back burner in my mind), and especially within the last few weeks. I first started re-analyzing my writing habits, publishing, and everything connected back in November when I opted out of NaNoWriMo, and I haven't stopped. It's been a long process, looking at where I am and where I would like to be.
I sent out quite a few queries for one of my stories back in December, and some later on. As of now, I have heard back from all but one of the agents -- with positive comments, but nothing further; and believe me, I am entirely grateful for the positive comments. I attended a writing workshop in February, which I talked a bit about in previous posts. I have a new release coming out tomorrow. I have been trying to set the groundwork for something new in my life...and it has been frustrating.
My 5 year publishing anniversary will be in October, and with that looming date, I suppose I'm feeling both nervous and excited. But looking back over the past almost five years, I have discovered something: somewhere, assumably within the first year, I became unhappy with writing and my journey. I've talked about this before, but there are moments where things click in our minds fully. That doesn't mean I haven't written some books that I enjoyed immensely (the upcoming release and my newer Snowflake Triplet books are definitely some of my favorites written overall), it's just that I haven't been in a very fulfilling place when it comes to writing and work...and if you're not feeling fulfilled, then why are you writing? There will of course be many bad days, but I was overcome with sadness and frustration every time I even thought of sitting down and staring at the blank screen or page.
So, why was this? At the risk of repeating myself, or sounding contrary (though Mrs. L'Engle, my favorite author, said "to be contrary is to be alive", and certainly hoped that she was contrary, and therefore learning): I truly believe that it was the publishing that was bringing me down.
I'm sure there are plenty of people wanting to burn the torches right now, but let me clarify:
I truly believe that it was the model of publishing, the focus on making a profit, that really brought me down.
Again with the torches. I'll explain further:
I am in no way pointing to the fact that authors shouldn't be paid for their hard work, because I certainly believe that they should, just as anyone should be paid for working hard; I cannot repeat this enough. It's simply that, for me, focusing on monetary gain was crushing my creative spirit.
We writers must wear many, many hats, especially if we are in the business of self-publishing (or any type of publishing, really). There is marketing to do, costs to consider, tours and the like. It's very expensive, even for a small-time author, and it's very time consuming. What you gain back doesn't always cover the cost, unfortunately. And even if it does, it's hard to separate the business mind of making money from the creative mind, and if you're not careful, the two will meld, and the entire time you're writing, you will be thinking of how this book will sell, how the media will accept what you are trying to say, and how you can market it -- and believe me, I've been there, and it's one of the most horrific places an author can find themselves.
Is marketing, etc., important? Certainly it is, but that isn't really the point I'm trying to get at. I'm not a terrible businesswoman, and there are many things about business that I enjoy, but with nothing but profit in my mind, I felt both exhausted and unhappy.
I've been trying to find a way around this for years, and especially within the last few months, and thanks to a few sources, I have finally reached a plateau:
Let it go and let it be. Or maybe the reverse; both work wonders.
Last post's content about Social Writing really got me thinking about the industry right now, and in the future. It's very frustrating, with so many options and ways to go -- just as frustrating as it is great. I am definitely an OCD person, and would rather have things in a nice, neat, tiny order, where I have a clear, defined path to tread, but that really isn't an option in this field, or many others (arguably most). I'm not certain it has ever been, but it feels as though things used to be a bit more straightforward. And certainly there are "easy", defined ways to success...but they don't work for everyone, especially when everyone may be trying them.
I lamented my frustrations, and sense of hopelessness in a too-big world, to family members the other day, and received loving support and feedback; I can never stress the importance of family, friends, and those who care about you and your work enough. I spoke with my beloved sister-in-law particularly about how I was frustrated over there being so many avenues to success, and how none of them were really "wrong" to try or take, because in practically every one there have been successes for authors. But I told her how I didn't want to ruin my chances of achieving my goals, how I didn't want to do the "wrong" thing, to fail, and she gave me some sage advice: with so many options, you really can't fail so long as you keep trying; the real failure is when you stop trying anything.
I knew this, but sometimes you need a good slap in the face.
I've tried a lot of things in my near 5 years in publishing. Many of them were the "norm" at the time, and quite a few of them were crazy ideas I had, all of which I learned something from; I can never say how blessed I am for that wisdom and experience. There were many times I felt as though I had made a mistake, and it's quite possible that I did, but from mistakes we learn to make better, wiser choices. I have also grown very much as a person, and have learned a lot about how I operate as both a human being and author, and what type of books I would like to write in the future, what interests me most.
Is there one path to "success"? No, not anymore, possibly never. As I said, there are so many options, so many ways to get your writing out there, so many ways you could potentially make it big, or as big as you want to go. Not all of them are looked well upon by everyone, but I definitely believe that the things -- and people -- that are meant for you (and your stories) will find you, so long as you keep doing what you know needs to be done. Timing isn't something we can ever predict accurately, but it's that way for a reason; we simply have to keep working and believing, and doing our best to make our work amazing.
My family's advice was very sound and helpful, but I still felt as though I was missing something, especially since none of them are involved at all in the publishing industry. I had discovered that I couldn't really ruin my chances, so long as I kept trying and doing my best, because what I needed would eventually appear, but there was still more to learn, still a gap to fill. The gap ended up being filled as I read Fast Company, a business magazine, at my local bookstore.
In their March issue, there is a section on the late Steve Jobs, and on the Apple company. I personally love Apple, and thought that Mr. Jobs was (and is) quite inspiring. The article(s) was very good, and I definitely recommend reading it, and I learned quite a few things from it, but the biggest thing that stuck with me (my wording, not theirs) is the idea that it's the innovation, the creativity, and the impact we have on the world that really matters and should drive us...and not the money. Business is of course fueled my money, as is life (lamentably; I personally hate the stuff), but I definitely feel that what I read was correct, and it really resonated with me.
As an author, a creator, and a person, I honestly, truly, deeply, care most about making a positive impact on the people who read my stories, who see my art; I care most about being creative, setting my vision free; I care most about delving into a good creation, about making something beautiful. Money is necessary, yes, and authors should be paid for their hard work (in one way or another; there are so many options, as I said), but first and foremost, the business should be about impact and creativity. Once I realized that this is what I really cared about, I felt as though a weight had been lifted off of me, and writing has been going amazingly ever since.
Don't lose sight of your vision, and what matters most to you as a person.
The last key: let it be and let it go. I can't listen to either song (especially "Let It Be") without feeling inspired.
Take time to make your decisions, to see what is important to you, to allow things to pan out, for what needs to find you to find you; keep working, but don't try and force the universe to give you what you want right now -- it's not often what you need anyway, and there's something better around the corner waiting for you. If something doesn't fit in with your vision, if it's not working for you, then let it go and move on; don't be weighted down by other's opinions, by what you're not accomplishing.
Be proud of your accomplishments, big and small, and keep working towards the future, enjoying the now, rather than lamenting over what you don't have.
The world is a big place, just as it is a small place, and there are so, so many options. We have to try things out, to make new decisions, to see what we can do, and be all the better for it. What works for one person may not work for another, but don't be afraid to experiment, and see what you can uniquely bring to the world. And when you get stuck, don't plow into something new, but let it be and see what comes out of it.
And most of all: don't stop.
I don't know what I'll be doing next, because there are more options than ever now, but I know that staying true to yourself and your vision is extremely important. Success isn't defined by the amount of numbers in your bank account, but by the amount of change you put forth, and the amount of happiness you give to others and to yourself. If you're unhappy, change your attitude, and you'll see what amazing things come from it.