As I’m writing this, I’m sitting in bed with my net book and relaxing while I blog. After working an 11 hour day yesterday, doing almost all the laundry in the house, sending off a manuscript to a beta-reader, making dinner, and getting groceries…my body is like, “Today, L.M.? You’re chillin’ while you work.” Sound familiar? Authors are busy folk in general, but for those of us who are independent (“indie”) authors, not only do we have normal-author levels of busyness, but we have ultra-turbo-charged busyness. Most of us work two jobs (or more), have families and homes to take care of, and extra-curricular activities that are important to us. On top of that, we have to market our own work, maintain our own websites, format our own ebooks and print editions (or secure someone who can), send out our own ARCs and beta copies, maintain all our own social media, and be generally “ON” almost all the time. When life fills up with lots and lots of exciting, wonderful things…your time can become hugely fragmented and compartmentalized.
It’s easy when that happens to let your writing time become ALL about the productivity. There’s nothing wrong with meeting your word count goals, deadlines, and checking off every item on your to-do list. Nothing at all wrong with that! BUT! If that is all your workday is filled with all day, every day, something needs to change. I had an epiphany recently. I had been holding back on publishing some of my old stories because I was terrified they “weren’t good enough” or that “people wouldn’t like them”. All I could focus on with them were the numbers. Would they sell? Then I realized a better question: When did my writing become all about the numbers?
We writers have to eat and put a roof over our heads, yes. Most of us have husbands, wives, and/or children to support. But once upon a time…writing was all about one thing for me: FUN. The Dark Ship was a novella I wrote a little over a year and a half ago (surely it hasn’t been 2 years…). Once I started focusing on prepping Night Bells and finishing the Tales from Niflheim series, I swept manuscripts like The Dark Ship under the rug because “they probably weren’t good enough”. You know what happened though? I recently went back and reread and started polishing up The Dark Ship and I felt an odd sensation: “Say now…I had a lot of fun writing this.”
Was it the best novella to come out of America in history? No. Was it my most stunning piece of fiction I’d ever created? No. Was it fun and unique? YES. Not all our novels have to be carved out of polished marble. Some of them we should write simply because we enjoyed writing them. Now, sure, that doesn’t mean that we need to publish every single story we write, but we definitely shouldn’t hold back on publishing something just because we’re not sure it can be the next Oliver Twist.
Now, don’t put words in my mouth here. I’m not saying we should just throw out any piece of fiction we write without taking the proper time to polish it up, get it properly beta-read and edited. No, no, no. If you had fun on a story and you love it to pieces, take the time to really go through it with a fine-toothed comb and polish the HECK out of it. Then, throw it up on Wattpad to see if people enjoy it (as a beta-phase) and see what sorts of feedback you get. If you’re not on Wattpad (and even if you are), find critique partners who can give you good recommendations for improvement. Send it off to beta-readers. Let your editor shred it to pieces if it will make it better.
There will always be a moment of apprehension before publishing that whispers, “What if no one likes it?” You know what? Even if that happens and it never gets reviewed, you’ll know in your heart that you loved it….that you created the story from the dusts of your mind and that you accomplished something many people never attempt. But I tend to think that you’ll be surprised. More people will enjoy it than you might have thought. My philosophy is this: it’s enough if only one person loves your book. Sure it might not be enough to pay the bills (which is why you should keep writing, writing, writing), but if that person read your story and derived immense joy, comfort, and entertainment from it…shouldn’t that bless you tremendously? Yes. Yes it should.
Don’t let the numbers, your sales ranking, your downloads, your quarterly report, and your marketing efforts keep you from finding joy in one reader’s delight. Don’t let your busyness keep you from savoring the writing experience. Don’t let your fear of obscurity keep you from publishing wacky, outlandish stories your marvelous little mind created. Be brave. Put the fun back into your writing and temper it with the wisdom of your experience. Let your efforts come back into balance.
What are some of the ways you keep writing fun in the midst of all the work aspects of the author’s job?