Reality Check

Life Is a Journey - EmersonSometimes we all need a reality check. I know I do.

This novel-writing, self-publishing ride has been a huge learning curve from start to finish. Each step along the way, from the commencement of the writing, to the rewriting and revising, submitting drafts to beta readers for comments, revising again, submitting for copy-editing, polishing, formatting for e-books, formatting for print books, and submitting to the POD service, I’ve found myself saying something like “This is me flying by the seat of my pants.” Each step has been both exhilarating and a little terrifying. And, in most cases, that slight zing of terror was part of the fun, like a dash of cayenne in the brownies.

Until the marketing. That I find just terrifying, and exhausting, and potentially life threatening—like sucking the cayenne directly from the spice jar.

I’m a complete unknown, who made the “newbie mistake” of actually finishing the novel and putting it out there before creating my online presence or “social media platform” (except for my website and my Facebook page). My novel is no longer a new release—never mind the fact that few people have heard of it—so where’s the cause for excitement? How to create “buzz”?

I’m also at a point in my life when I’m trying to live more authentically, really look at the things that matter to me—as opposed to the things that others try to convince me should matter to me—and make conscious decisions about how I choose to spend the moments that make up the days that make up my life.

And sometimes I find those two impulses—the desire to market my work and the desire to live a life I love—butting directly into one another. That probably sounds insane—and maybe it is. I love the writing, so shouldn’t marketing the work I’ve written help create a life I love? Well, yes, on the one hand. If my intention is one day to make a living from my creative writing (I’ve been making a living as a technical writer for years), then selling my work is an important part of that. But, on the other hand, if the marketing efforts and the slow trickle of sales, or decline in sales, make me feel like a complete and utter failure, then I’m not exactly in a position of loving my life.

Which brings me back around to a point I made in an earlier post about living “as if.” I have to live “as if” my efforts to move the book will result in actual sales, but I also must be able to pick myself up and try again if they don’t.

So, last week as I was stressing about all this, I asked myself, “If I never sell another copy of my book does that make my life bad?” And the answer was “No.” It wouldn’t be an ideal situation, but my life is still my life with all the other joys it holds. When I related this conversation with myself to a friend over lunch, he responded with another equally important question, the flip-side of mine: “And would selling a million copies make you happy?” Well, of course, you might think. That’s the goal, right? But I thought about my friend’s question, and again I realized the answer is “No.” Sure, I’d be giddy for a while, floating up at the ceiling like a helium balloon. Then my monkey mind would say “Okay, done that. Now what?” And there would be a new goal to meet, a new “happiness-giver” to chase.

So, what’s the upshot? Well, it really is all about the journey and not the destination. Because in terms of destination, there is no there there. When we get there, there has moved on to somewhere else.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t want my books to sell. Of course, I do. But I write because I love the writing, the experience of putting words on a page and bringing characters and their stories to life. This writing life is a journey full of lessons and learning curves and joy and terror—and brownies. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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17 Responses to Reality Check

  1. L. Marie says:

    Oh my word!! I so know what you mean! I love this post!!!!! I do the same thing–live life “as if” something has to happen to make it worthwhile.

    • sstamm625 says:

      Thanks, L. Marie. I have to keep reminding myself of this all the time–but I think the time between reminders is stretching a little each time! 🙂

  2. Tom Willadsen says:

    Steph, I feel similarly: love the writing, hate the marketing. Last week I travelled to Iowa for a Presbyterian Women’s Gathering and presented about my book. Then I went to Mankato, MN, site of my first call, and presented about it again. Love the presentations. Hate setting them up, getting to them, publicizing them. Still, I remember the first month after my book came out, waking up and thinking, “I wrote a book!” Tomw

    • sstamm625 says:

      Thanks, Tom. It’s good to know others have similar feelings. And it’s true of anything really. There are parts we love and parts we hate, but they’re all rolled up in the same ball.

  3. Yep, marketing can be tricky, but if you know what your goals are it should make it that little bit easier. Of course, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t sell another book, but, then again, you don’t want that to happen.
    If writing makes your life worthwhile, then that’s great. It should also make marketing that little easier, too.

    • sstamm625 says:

      Thanks, Cassandra. You’re right. Instead of letting the parts we don’t love get us down, we need to focus on the parts we do, which can make the parts we don’t bearable.

  4. Robynn Gabel says:

    Here’s a little bit of hope. I did the same thing. Then I wrote a second book and did things differently. Created the buzz because by now I did have an online presence. Good news! It helped bump the sales of my first book. You can do this! You will see results. Hang in there.

    • sstamm625 says:

      Thanks, Robynn! That’s good to hear. I’m trying to focus my efforts on writing that second book, so, yes, I can do this! Thanks for the encouragement. And congratulations to you, too!

  5. TamrahJo says:

    I feel the same way – I write because I must in order to fully enjoy/experience life – if I sell any books, that’s just icing on the cake! 😀

  6. Thanks for stopping by my blog earlier. I hopped over to see what you’re up to here, and I love, love, love this post! Part of my day was spent thinking these very thoughts. Life is so precious and we need to live authentically. If I never publish another essay or finish my memoir, will live end less happily? Definitely not! I have been so blessed in so many ways. I am content with my life. That’s all I need.

    • sstamm625 says:

      Thank you! I’m glad the post spoke to you. It’s so easy to get caught up in the ego-chatter that tells us that we need to achieve something else in order to be okay with our lives or ourselves. When those ego-voices start dominating, I get very unhappy and stressed. But I’m slowly learning to say “thanks for sharing” and go back to more reasonable thoughts. 🙂

  7. I can so relate to this! Why is the marketing so much harder? I guess it goes against the normal insular bahaviour of a writer. I am also working on writing more books, but I still don’t know how I’m going to create a buzz without being annoying!

    • sstamm625 says:

      Yes! It feels crazy. I do just want to climb back into my writer cave and ignore the marketing. Alas, it doesn’t work that way… (sigh)

      • Even with traditional publishing I guess there is still the expectation to do your own marketing. The hard part of self-publishing is knowing where to focus the effort. Different things seem to work for different people/genres

      • sstamm625 says:

        Yeah, I have a friend who is traditionally published and she is having to do her own marketing. This is all new to me, so I just keep reminding myself that this is a learning experience!

      • Absolutely. Just like learning to write although at least with marketing you have some idea what works and what doesn’t by the results!

  8. Pingback: Being Happy and Enough | Reading, Writing, and Rambling

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