As much as I keep telling myself I won’t put up these kinds of posts anymore, I just can’t help it. And it’s my blog, anyway, so I have to keep reminding myself that I can do whatever I want here. So here goes some thoughts and rants and everything else in between – all colliding into a final realization that will change the way I think about the coming year and the rules we make for ourselves.
I took some needed time away from blogging and networking and when I came back yesterday morning, I had a panic attack. I looked at other author’s book stats on Amazon. I started comparing. I read blog posts about how well people are doing with their sales and such. I looked at what I’ve sold with my 99-cent sale this month on all of my books, and I got depressed in comparison to how I wanted the sale to go. And yes, I know 99-cent sales are not magical cure-alls, but no matter what I do, no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to catch up to everyone else I think I should be caught up with. Authors who have released later and fewer books are soaring past me in almost every way possible. For the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about how much I’ve screwed my career by not writing in one genre. I wonder if I’ll ever be bigger or if I’m doomed for the rest of my career to lackluster sales. In my pitiful self-wallowing, I threw a wad of tissues across the room.
Poor, poor me. My poor little ego being deflated so terribly. Over and over and over.
*insert eye roll here*
And if you’re rolling your eyes, too, because you think I have no reason or right to be depressed and feel sorry for myself, just read to the end of the post.
My little panic attack is all really just stupid and pointless because wallowing and crying isn’t going to fix a damn thing. Comparing isn’t going to fix anything or do anyone any good. Spending the little time I have on marketing to the pool of readers whom I’ve already reached isn’t going to do any good. Online marketing, period, doesn’t seem to do much good. At least not for me at this point in my career.
Yesterday was my nine-year wedding anniversary. NINE YEARS. I swear it was yesterday we got married. This made me stop and think. When I first married my husband, I had these morphine-drip-like dreams that the rest of my life was going to be perfect. The night before last we went to a movie and dinner, and between the two we stopped at Barnes & Noble where I went up and down the aisles touching all the book spines. I found books belonging to friends of mine. I found my friend Tess Hilmo’s book and took a picture because her writing path seems to have been more difficult than most, and I’m really proud of what she’s accomplished.
I’ll admit that while I’m thrilled for Tess, a part of my heart broke that my own books aren’t on the shelves of my own city’s large bookstore without me having to go in there and ask them if they’ll stock it. Which I doubt they would short of me giving them copies on commission. Then I thought of my nine-year marriage again, and I thought of everything we’ve been through together – how the years have been completely different than I thought they would be. We don’t have a house yet. My husband isn’t through school yet. We only have one child (which is all I want, but when I first married, I thought I’d want more). We’ve had stints of time where we can barely buy food. We’ve had our share of arguments and hard times. It seems in a lot of ways, though, we are behind a lot of others our age, but the point about all of that is that I’ve made peace with all of the things I thought would happen by now, and haven’t. I didn’t marry my husband on the condition that we had to reach certain milestones or own certain things to be happy. I married him because I love him. Period. And I’m lucky to have him and my daughter. So lucky it makes me humble just thinking about it.
So I stop and I think about my choices so far. I think about why I chose to go with a small press, and in a lot of ways, it’s like a marriage. I didn’t sign with them on the condition that I would only be happy with a certain amount of sales or marketing or fame or whatever. I knew going in that they are small and the pros and cons that go with it, just like pros and cons with any sized press. And for some stupid reason, I keep forgetting the reasons why I’m doing any of this. As a friend of mine made it very clear to me yesterday morning, I’ve been allowing everyone else to decide my rules. I’ve been ignoring my own wants and goals for so long that the only option left was to let other author’s dreams determine my own.
Writing stories and learning to tell them better. That’s it. Unlike many authors, my dream doesn’t include making a living from my writing. It doesn’t include impressing others or making a certain amount of sales or securing 5-star reviews or a huge advance or gaining a million followers or landing on that bookstore shelf where I thought my book should be or any of that. None of it. Like a marriage, I’ve entered into something that will be affected by how I think of it every single day. It will mold itself to the respect I give it. It will see ups and downs, and like any good marriage, it will grow richer and deeper every year if I work with it instead of against it. My dream is incredibly personal, private, and quiet, and that’s just how I want it.
It’s no wonder I’ve been miserable lately. First of all, I’ve been ungrateful, but mostly, I’ve been trying to live other people’s dreams. That’s impossible to do and stay sane. Nobody’s goals and rules are ever going to match up to my own on the unique path I’m on. Even if I met all those goals I see floating around online on so many blogs and Facebook statuses and Twitter feeds, I still wouldn’t be happy because I would not have met the deepest desires of my own heart – the ones I have been ignoring for so long.
I think we authors often forget what we really want. I think we often delude ourselves into thinking we want what everyone else wants, and it’s creating this insane sense of urgency in our heads. We pump out our work faster and harder and less carefully than we would otherwise. We feel pressured, more than anything else, to meet certain criteria, follow the lists and rules and advice others post, and it hurts us deeply when we can’t meet that criteria at breakneck speed. For me, at least, this urgency transformed itself into an energy-sucking, emotionally-draining need.
Until I realized that for me it was an illusion and unnecessary.
I’m not saying anybody’s advice or lists or advice are wrong. I’m just saying that when I opened my eyes, I was surprised at how easily I had let so many voices drown my own, and I’m wondering if others might be under the same spell. Maybe not. Maybe this is all just me. Either way, this year I vow to remember my OWN dreams. I vow to erase the foreign dreams I’ve painted on my walls. I vow to love my stories and hold them close to my heart until it’s time to let them go. I hope if you have dreams, you can hold onto them. Protect them. Because if you don’t, you might be on the path I have been on for awhile – left standing with nothing when you thought you knew exactly what you wanted.