And how it’s nearly killed the Lissa Matthews brand.
See, I used to make money writing bad boys with tattoos, one night stands, hook-ups with promise, kink here and there, and women who were learning to embrace themselves and not apologize for it. That was my brand. No nonsense novellas with heat and tenderness that could melt the reader. My writing was filled with passion and emotion.
I no longer make money writing those stories. But others do.
I barely make money at all from writing anymore. And the give up line has edged my toes a lot. I’m still here, though. I would say I’m still fighting, but that wouldn’t be true. I wasn’t fighting before. I was blaming. All sorts of things. But I wasn’t fighting. At least not in the right way.
I’ve done a lot of soul searching and I’ve done a lot of thinking and researching and looking into what happened. It’s not pretty. It’s not pretty because it’s personal. It’s personal because it’s something I did. It’s personal because it’s my fault.
And I’m going to clue you in on how and then next week I’ll clue you in on what I’m doing about it. That’s the key. I did this. It’s my fault I’m in this hole…and what I’m doing about it.
First, though… This is vulnerable shit. This isn’t written and shared lightly. This isn’t oh woe is me and feel sorry for me, either. But it is full of vulnerability and that’s part of owning it.
One of my publishers didn’t embrace the changes in the publishing industry either and they found themselves fighting an uphill battle that eventually put them out of business. it’s taken some time for me to realize I’ve been doing the same exact fucking thing for years now.
Resistance to change often equals a fear of change. They leave us (ME) paralyzed. And I am so damn guilty.
Fear of the Unknown… When self publishing began to take over in earnest, I resisted it while wanting to embrace it. My fear was stronger than anything else. It led to skepticism. Side eye glances. And a whole ‘let’s wait and see’ attitude. While others were embracing it and running with it, writing new books quickly or re-releasing tons of older titles in rapid succession and making money and best seller lists… I was over here both envious and fearful. And a part of me wanted the old ways to come back. I paid it lip service, but I was scared out of my mind to take that same leap of faith everyone else was gleefully taking. At least, it looked gleeful from my side of the fence. By sitting on the sidelines, pretending I was scoping it out, I was really fucking scared…
Not only was I scared of the unknown, I was also scared of falling flat on my face…
Fear of Failure… This one is huge. For me, it goes hand in hand with Self-Doubt. I had received in my early publishing years some pretty scathing reviews on a couple of my most personal and favorite novellas. They rendered me motionless and fearful of writing anything else. They weren’t just about the content of the stories. There were personal jabs in them that cut deep, personal jabs from people who didn’t know my life, my experiences, and that I didn’t fit into the same box as others. I never wanted to fit, but at the same time, I desperately did. Being different in this business isn’t always the best thing. Being like everyone else, writing what everyone else was writing, marketing the same way everyone else was marketing… that’s how you get noticed. Your name linked to someone similar. I wanted to stand on my own but I didn’t believe in myself enough, I didn’t believe I could, I wasn’t strong enough and it made me doubt every word I wrote. I had a whole host of devils whispering in one ear that I sucked, and a handful of readers and editors telling me I didn’t. Guess which ones I listened to most? Yep. My writing wasn’t good enough to stand on it’s own without a publisher behind it. If a publisher signed me, then that meant I still had some credibility. But did it? Did it really? No. I was scared to fail. Because if I put myself out there and fell flat on my face, there was no one to take up for me anymore. There was only me. And I wasn’t about to risk it. I let self doubt eat away at me until I was nothing more than a shell of the writer I had been.
And being in the realm of scathing self-doubt and fear of failure, I was also in the land of self-sabotage…
Fear of Success… I never really understood what this meant. How could anyone be fearful of being successful? It’s a complex thing. Success means you’ve done a thing. Now there’s pressure to do the thing again, but better. The fear can lead to perfectionism and the perfectionism can lead to never doing the thing at all. Or getting so close to the finish line that… You just stop. You find everything wrong with the thing. You re-write. You start over. You walk away. You talk yourself out of it. It was a stupid idea anyway. It was a dumb book. Besides, who am I, the one they’ve said doesn’t know shit about what she’s talking about, to think I can be successful in this business? Who am I to think I deserve it? I mean, ME? Deserve success? A best seller status? A big royalty check? Someone to notice me? Other writers wanting to learn from me? Talk to me? Be my friend? Yeah, right. And if, by some miracle, any or all of that happened and I became successful…? What if I can’t do again? What if I drop the ball huge the next time? Nope. I’ll just stay here in this spot. I may not be getting anywhere, but at least I’m safe in my fear, dammit! No one expects anything of me anymore, therefore I can’t disappoint them.
All of that is a big steaming pile of BULLSHIT!
Fear of Discomfort… This is a big one. We like comfort zones. We like this space we inhabit. We don’t want to move away from it into the scary void. In this box or circle or whatever your shape of comfort is, it’s yours. It was mine. Beyond it was a lot of stuff I didn’t know and that I didn’t know how to do. Market myself, my books. I didn’t have a lot of financial resources at the time, but I had a little and I could have invested in learning, taking a few calculated risks, asking for some help. But I didn’t. I didn’t want to look stupid. Everyone else seemed to be figuring the machine of self-publishing out, but I didn’t know anything about it and fear of looking like the dumb kid in the smart class kept me from stepping out of my comfort zone. It kept me looking beyond it with more of that skepticism and resistance to laying money out for advertising that I didn’t understand, for covers I couldn’t fathom affording, for list building, for giveaways, for conferences, for workshops, for everything I saw everyone else doing. And now? I can’t afford any of it at all. And that is one gigantic, fucking uncomfortable place to admit to being. Staying in my comfort zone, being scared, being judgmental, being skeptical has led me exactly nowhere in my career. It’s led me to being broke and safe and damn near close to losing everything I’d worked so hard at the first couple years I was writing and signing contacts.
And because I have come so close to losing Lissa Matthews, we come to the last fear on my list…
Fear of Loss… You might wonder what on earth there was to lose, but there was and is a lot. Losing time and money by making or not making a decision, a choice. Losing the respect of friends and/or family. Losing our routine and I do love a routine no matter how much I may protest. Losing freedom to choose something else or nothing at all. Losing the comfort of staying in the same place. Losing the safety net. Losing who we’ve always been to become who we were born to be. Losing the old in favor of the new. Losing control over our lives, our content, our voice. Losing the known and steady for the unknown and unproven.We’re scared, or I was scared to try because if I grasped the thing I wanted… success as an author, I could lose it, too. And wouldn’t it be better if I never had it in the first place, than to have it and lose it? But, it happened anyway, whether I realized it at the time or not. I was so scared to embrace the changes happening in the publishing industry, learn the things I needed to learn, pushed others away because they were going to realize I was a fraud and sucked at writing, stayed in my comfort zone… I lost readers, credibility, sales, respect, friends… Everything I was afraid of losing, I lost by not doing anything.
These last few years have been awful for me as a writer. But they have allowed me to observe. To watch other writers. To watch readers. To see what is happening and what isn’t happening. It has allowed me to keep the edge of my toe in while standing outside a community I was once almost in the middle of. I’ve gained some insights that have helped others with starting their self publishing careers. I’ve helped others forge a path of their own and see where they could go with their writing. I’ve learned that not being successful in the writing arena and all this fear and resistance to change, has taught me better observation skills and allowed me to see things from a different perspective.
But I’ve also begun to look at how my resistance and fear have held me suspended in a sort of quicksand. Neither sinking nor grabbing a limb and pulling myself out. It’s left me in limbo. This has not been a good thing and like I promised, I’ll share with you next week what I’m doing about it.
Thanks for listening…