Friday, April 25, 2014
After a hectic two weeks of two conferences, 2500 miles of car travel, and intense demand to be on my game in crowds, I sat down to decompress, review my notes, digest the business cards collected, and write about the new revelations I've had about being an authorpreneur.
Authorpreneurship was the title of my panel at PubSmart Con in Charleston, South Carolina. Cute name, and there was a degree of humor cast about regarding the made-up moniker for a writer earning a living, but I rather liked it. As a preacher of common sense, let's-earn-money-at-this-stuff, and a bootstrap mentality, I thought they pegged me pretty close to right in terms of what I could contribute to the conference. The panel went fabulously well for my having only about 15 minutes of talk time.
But something happened by the last night of the event I never expected.
Almost like a revival moment. Amazingly coincidental for Easter week.
I had a complete cathartic awareness about my abilities as an author and my capability to make a dollar using those abilities. In fact, I've never been as excited about being a writer in my entire writing life. I get a chill as I write this.
Hugh Howey, Jane Friedman, CJ Lyons, and Porter Anderson. They cracked that self-pub egg wide open, letting it run into every session, allowing freedom of speech about how self-publishing isn't what you settle for, but instead, insert proactively into your writing toolbox. After all, who can't stand in awe of the self-publishing prowess of Hugh Howey and CJ Lyons? I came away with a much higher respect for self-publishing, but more importantly, I came away with an urgent sense of motivation.
We all know that writing a good story is key. That's why I tire of conferences that focus on craft and gloss over the business when it takes way more than a weekend conference to improve your writing talent. Writing well is a given. It takes discipline and investment of time. But marketing, organization and branding isn't as organic, and they are faster paced lessons than learning how to master POV or character development.
Ok, ok, but what did you learn, Hope?
The Internet screams with options, and all too often we freeze with indecision because of too many choices. We have to learn focus, to tune out the noise of this best practice, or that best practice. Too many writers read and read and read about what's the best way to write, publish and promote in hope that they'll have a lightning moment that clearly points them to what's right for their situation. And they read for months, if not years, when they ought to decide what the heck it is they want to write. Life is too precious to stumble around indefinitely, as we wait for someone else to tell us what to do.
The very successful authors make life changes. Hugh Howey downsized his life and committed to two years of writing to see if he could cut it. He immersed himself in the effort. CJ Lyons decided writers wanted more stories from her than social media chatter. She wrote 8 books before she earned enough to call it making a living so she's learned that every spare moment of hers must be spent on writing a story. Since traditional publishing moved too slowly for their tastes, they self-pubbed. Their goals were to write more and promote less, remaining dedicated to their craft. Note, however, that writing also meant publishing. They are prolific as a result of this dedication, writing more books than you or I probably think we can handle. Why can't we handle it, though?
With dedication and focus comes a massive degree of simplification. Streamlining. We tend to get strung out in all directions, and in that tug-of-war, we lose sight of our focus, and our dedication slips out of our grasp. Say no to requests. Say no to what's not important. Even say no to some important things because your writing goal is more important. But simplification allows you keep your eye on the ball. For instance, I'm looking at altering my blogging to something simpler. I intend to keep just two newsletters from now on: FundsforWriters and TOTAL FundsforWriters. Small Markets and WritingKid are being moth-balled. I'll focus on Facebook and Twitter, but back off of Pinterest. I'll reign in my freelancing. All of these changes are in the name of simplification, and commitment to more time writing chapters.
4) Daily Commitment.
I've never been a NaNoWriMo fan because I felt I was too overwhelmed in multiple directions to write that fast. However, what NaNoWriMo does do is make you commit to daily writing to reach 50,000 words in a month. In hindsight, when I'm under deadline, I can write as many words as I need to write. I heard Southern novelist Karen White speak a few weeks ago, and someone in the audience asked her how long it takes to write a book. Her answer: "Depends on when my next deadline is." She's cranked out a book in four months. How? She relocated to the beach, or another room, or another town, and she wrote hard sun-up to sundown, even forgetting to bathe or eat.
At dinner in Charleston, a professional in the business asked me how many words per day I could write. I reached back to when I had deadlines and realized the number was 2,500 to 3,000 words. I've done it innumerable times without much sacrifice. My answer surprised myself. Why did I wait until deadlines to write such a word count? What's wrong with making it routine, like Howey and Lyons?
Throughout the conference, I stepped outside of myself, analyzing what might be considered wasted effort, studying what could change in my routine to improve my writing prolificness (yes, that's a word - I looked it up). As a hybrid author already, I pondered all my writing and publishing options. As an authorpreneur, I sifted through my day-to-day accomplishments and began culling.
As if Fate were guiding my hand, when I arrived home on Friday, I had Jeff Goins' blog in my inbox. Three Keys to Keep You From Feeling Like a Failure at the End of the Day. While I don't feel like a failure, I wanted to feel like more of a success, so I read the post with eagerness. As a minimum, I wanted to see if my readers could glean motivation from it.
OMG. As if a higher power wanted to endorse my thought processes, the piece did nothing but anchor my thoughts as being spot-on in the right direction.
1) You have to be definitive.
Busy work might feel good for a while, but when you have nothing to show for it in the end, you eventually feel despondent. It's why so many writers quit. Define your goal(s). What do you hope to accomplish? It's not just the outcome that matters, either. It's the process in getting there.
2) You have to be specific.
If you don't pinpoint what success is for you, you'll never feel satisfied or productive. If your goal is to write more, you can't tell what success is since there's no measure assigned to it. This type goal will make you dissatisfied with your writing journey. A first draft in three months? Two thousand words a day? That's more like it. Just saying you'll write a book this year without the details of when, why and how means you're probably sabotaging yourself because you can't sense your progress until you've reached December 31 and see you've failed.
3) You have to be realistic.
If you can write 2,000 words a day under a deadline, why can't you write that five days a week? That's 10,000 words a week, which means you can't skip days then play catch-up. If five days are impossible, set four. We feel energized at the beginning of our new-found plan but that enthusiasm will wane. It's human nature. That's why your goals must be realistic. Challenging, but realistic. Stretch . . . don't break.
Now maybe you see why I felt simplification was a necessary part of my plan. If we have three key missions in our day, we have a keen understanding of our obligation. Instead of having a to-do list of twelve items, keep it at three. With too many, we tend to lapse into doing some of the smaller, easier tasks to feel more accomplished as we check off more items. Then before we know it, the day is gone and we've piddled it away. Trust me, I can preach this sermon.
I'm streamlining. I'm defining. I'm simplifying.
And it has me giddy with what I see as potential to step up my game. My husband listened to me prattle on over the phone while I was still out of town. "I wish I was twenty years younger," I said. "So I could have more time to do everything I want to do."
He chuckled. "The point is to have fun and enjoy yourself," he said. "And it sounds like you're doing that."
Yes, I'm already having fun. What I want, and what you probably want, is to enjoy being acutely aware of your potential . . . then modify your life to enable you to graze your maximum potential . . . and see just what it is you are really capable of. Now that's really fun.
(If you are reading this on Blogger, this is the last post on Blogger as I streamline. I'm moving all my blogging to my website at www.chopeclark.com. Come on over and sign up. I want to keep you on board.)