This winter it seems like #SelfHelpHell lately, especially for us writerly types who forever seek out a quick fix or the Golden Egg with the goose basting in the oven, perchance insight or a new approach, elucidation and enlightenment, or just a mental hug via endless lists assuring us we’re all in the same boat.
*Nods* Yes, yes we are, and it’s a very crowded boat, with limited seating and not nearly enough life vests to go around.
And, oh yeah… that boat is sinking.
There’s a surfeit of genuinely useful information to help you make efficient use of social media in all its guises (e.g. Twitter), articles holding up someone else’s mirror to reflect their own insights (inspirational), lists of hard truths about publishing, or don’t be like Bill exhortations. The lists go on and on and on.
Thing is… with many of those lists, toward the bottom of the post, is an offer you shouldn’t refuse, a guru’s promise and some sleight of hand click bait to get the writer to part with yet more of that elusive disposable income.
On a previous post, I hinted that I’m at the #LoveItOrListIt phase in an all too brief and not quite illustrious writing career. Translation: I’m on the precipice of burn-out. Part of the problem is that I came into this gig via being a publisher, a virtual one-woman band who spent 18-hour days, 7-days-a-week for nearly 5 years until good sense intervened and I made a choice. I listed it and moved on to be a combination editor and writer, wearing different hats on different days and having the luxury of choosing what to do when.
I enjoy editing. I groove on the partnership, on making a work shine, on knowing I had a role in helping an author grow professionally. But talk about a time sink! Especially with content edits when it might take hours to work through just a few chapters, ironing out inconsistencies in narrative flow, flagging POV issues, and acting as tutor in the complex process of learning to write. That draft-to-polished partnership often becomes a labor of love.
The problem with labors of love… you can’t generate enough income from the hours invested to pay the bills. Talk about hard truths.
I’m not smashingly good with balance in my life. I tend toward the all-or-nothing end of the spectrum, so when editing sucked up all my available time and energy, I had to make yet another choice. So I listed it.
And dove head first into the writing pool, the deep end. The one with signs warning… beyond this point there be dragons. For someone who gives good advice to others, the choice to try some experimental narrative forms in a set of genres and sub-genres not known for flexibility was perhaps misdirected. But hey ho, I write what I like to read and take with a grain of salt the observation I must be an intelligent writer because I use ‘big words.’ I also write raw and gritty and push some boundaries while I’m at it.
I’ve even earned some nasty GIFs on Goodreads, woohoo!
I don’t write to the market, but I do write to a limited subset who like a challenge, who appreciate stepping outside tropes, who find pleasure in traveling the path less taken—or better yet, who love to trail blaze. The readers who get me are my companions in a grand adventure and their unending support and enthusiasm are what drive my creative energy.
My favoritest thing is when a reviewer says they don’t usually read such ‘n such but they were surprised, pleasantly surprised, that the story spoke to them in unanticipated ways, that the characters had depth, that their journeys took them in new directions.
Success for me isn’t in rankings or numbers of titles sold, but rather in knowing that one person found merit in my work. They say you find your fan base one reader at a time, though that’s never been easy, and it’s becoming less so as the market changes in more ways than can be listed here. Chasing that subset becomes job one in a system that’s driven by economic imperatives.
As time went on writing, for me, became a chore, one I felt I must power through because a writer writes, it’s what we do, who we are, how we live. Then life interfered with Ro’s accident, and suddenly Mom was large and in charge of the entire Operation Hacienda with unending chores, weather that turned foul and caregiver duties for the injured Firstborn.
Even if I wanted to write, I couldn’t. There are only so many hours in the day and mine were full up. I blogged here and there, kept up with friends on Face Book, read and reviewed books for GGR-Reviews and book tour folks, but as for storytelling? Not happening.
And dayyum, that left book 2 in the Ranch to Market Chronicles stalled halfway, a YA Highlander fantasy well-started but grinding to a halt, and a half dozen other projects on hold and sinking fast.
I hated, hated, hated it.
Hated the fact I should write, no matter what. Hated the fact my self-worth seemed tied up with a daily word count or the number of titles sold or reviews garnered. Hated the burden of exposure and author branding. Hated the soul-sucking rat race. Hated the fact effectively everything else had been put on hold—barn chores, helping my daughter, putting off visits with friends, putting off taking a vacation, putting off other interests—and obsessing over finishing one story after another!
Talk about a 2×4 upside the head!
These last two months have been a game-changer. I re-discovered the satisfaction of seeing to the horses’ welfare, to fussing over the Hens from Hell and protecting them from marauding hawks and raccoons, to finding joy in the sometimes tough physical labor necessary to keep the farm running, to overcoming obstacles through force of will or a sledgehammer (it’s all about personal growth dontcha know). I rediscovered reading for (gasp) pleasure!
Long story short: I think I may have stumbled onto the one thing ever missing in my life. All those do’s ‘n don’t lists, all the self-help thou shalts, all the ways others filter their own experiences in service to selling yet another product, another concept, another road to success and personal fulfillment, none of it taps into the one thing I need in my own life.
You can see where this is going: is she going to love it or is she going to list it?
I am a writer. But it’s not all that I am.
If I never write another word, never tell another story, I am still me—caregiver, horsewoman, devotee of the culinary arts, advocate for my daughter’s transition, a champion for equal rights for everyone, friend, and rabid fan of others’ works that have touched me and changed my perceptions and my understanding of my place in this world. None of that changes if I don’t write, if I stop listening to the voices in my head.
So, the question is: love it or list it?
I think… Love it.