What is the photo? It’s a shot taken somewhere in San Gimignano, back in the halcyon days of 2014, when the 2016 election season wasn’t on anyone’s radar… It has nothing, however, to do with balance …
Balance. In short, I have none. This is a result of my inability to focus on several things at once. And multi-tasking is a fallacy anyway, the classic example being driving while yapping on a phone.
But I’m talking specifically about balance and writing. Here’s what I mean.
About this time last year, I was getting ready to launch the final draft of my first novel into the hands of an editor. I lived and breathed that draft. Polishing it and prepping for publication were my focus of effort. And in mid-January, after recovering from the standard holiday season overeating/overdrinking extravaganza, it was ready. The point is, all of my attention was on getting VENDETTA into the world. And it was brought forth on 20 March of this year, after a certain amount of soul-searching, ‘hey, what the hell why not’ reasoning, and no small amount of ‘damn the torpedoes’ recklessness. And it was good. Happiness. Sort of. Because 2016 has been an emotional ballbuster of a year, filled with devastating loss for me and my family.
Balance. As an indie author, I spend a lot of time weighing the advice and web content of other writers. And at some point this summer, I lost my balance. Got fixated on shiny things. Got caught up in the websites of about fifteen different writers (all of whom seem to be making fistfuls of money) of the, ‘how to be successful at *fill in the blank*’ school of thought.
But I wasn’t writing.
After getting starry-eyed with visions of a mailing list numbering in the thousands (because VENDETTA was such an awesome book and why WOULDN’T thousands of people want to read it … even if my sales only numbered in the dozens), I scrambled to clean up my website. Got MailChimp up and running. Connected it to my website. Became fixated on building that oh so important subscriber list. And to say I’m hopeless when it comes to IT stuff is an understatement. One look at my website confirms it. That, and the fact I still can’t figure out why MailChimp and my website refuse to communicate with each other. Know how much writing I got done while jacking around with this silliness? None.
So, my enthusiasm for the mailing list idea waned. Oh! And how could I forget the YouTube channel I wanted to start? That idea was before the mailing list and fell just as flat. And I still wasn’t writing. Much, anyway. Certainly not the way I could crank out a few thousand words when VENDETTA was under development. I decided what I really needed (after consulting a few fellow writers and not heeding a word of their advice) was a Facebook author page. Because Facebook!
Well, you can see where this is going. I slapped together an author page, generated some content, ‘boosted’ a couple of posts, and got sucked into watching how many people my posts had reached. And while fascinated with watching the numbers rise, and the ‘likes’ accrue, I did ABSOLUTELY NO WRITING. Of consequence. The only real accomplishment I had was a copyright kerfuffle with a very nice man named William Quartier in either Belgium or France after someone pointed out I had cropped his signature from the photograph used as the post’s featured image. And, as an aside, William Quartier takes excellent medieval-themed photographs. I highly recommend his work. See some of it here: https://www.facebook.com/pg/ModernMedievalist/photos/?tab=album&album_id=650380664990643
The point being, when I was writing VENDETTA, I didn’t have an author page on Facebook. I wasn’t focused on creating a mailing list. Or my website. I wasn’t worried about ‘building my brand,’ or getting my first 10,000 readers (which, admittedly, would be awesome particularly since my readers number about … well … not in the thousands). I wrote, and plotted, and revised, and edited, and tried to create the best story I could. And I was a helluva lot happier.
There are peaks and valleys while writing … just like with everything else, of course. But when things have been at their nadir, I’ll get encouragement from a friend or a family member. Or a fellow writer. And sure enough, someone has found a way to perk me up despite the gut-wrenchingness of this year’s events.
No more worrying about my brand. No more figuring out subscriber’s lists. No more Facebook tunnel vision. No more searching for my readership. No more sweating over market trends in my genre. And no more focusing on what has worked for other people …
Thank you, Aaron Michael Ritchey, for delivering the existential face-slap I so desperately needed. Your recently shared blog post from the good old days of 2013 was my call to action! Find out more about AMR here: http://aaronmritchey.com
Now, if you’ll excuse me … I have a sequel to finish.