…Really Are Freakin’ Lost!
I was laying in bed this morning. It was warm and I didn’t want to get up yet so I broke my own rule and opened up Candy Crush. I usually don’t do that. I’ve been trying to revamp my mornings and help my brain function a little more clear and all, but… Best laid plans and shit.
Y’all know I’ve been lost for a really fucking long time. Like so fucking long. And I’m still lost, so don’t go getting all excited. I still have no idea what the hell I’m doing or where the hell I’m going. As tired as y’all are of me being lost and seemingly saying the same thing over and over and over again, believe me, I’m even more tired of feeling it. But… A lot of the mental work I’ve been doing, a lot of the searching myself, mainly asking What Do I Want To Write followed pretty closely by Do I Even Want To Write Anymore? is paying off. I’m shedding a lot of the crap that was built up over the last 48 years of my life.
There’ve been some real, hard truths that have come out in my journal lately and I’m kind of freaked out because I don’t quite know what they mean for me going forward in this business. Yesterday, loneliness grabbed me by the throat and wouldn’t let up. I’ve become the quintessential hermit writer… I journaled my hand off sitting outside in the sunshine, listening to some music that I don’t usually listen to. I jotted down some titles that came to me for possible stories. I stared at the sky and enjoyed the sun on my skin. I went through the rest of my day and night the way I always do, figuring that loneliness was going to follow me around for a while until it worked its way through. Then, I woke up this morning and some ideas began to snake their way through my mind in a way that they hadn’t in longer than I could remember. And as I stayed there, playing that stupid game, the more clear the ideas became. (Yes, I am still feeling the loneliness, that didn’t go away.)
One of things I used to try and do with my books was make some part of them part of me or maybe it’s more some part of me part of them and after some things happened, I didn’t think I fit inside my own books anymore, that none of the stories were any part of me. Everything I tried writing felt fake and forced and not only did I feel it, but you did, too. It’s a lonely place. It’s a hard and dark place to be. The messages and noises and shoulds and shouldn’ts are all around and they’re loud and drown out all whispering inside the heart and soul.
I couldn’t hear the whispers. I could only hear the noise of write this, no not that; jump on this trend because you don’t want to miss this chance; you know, just make your books funny and hot; gangsters, bullies, reverse harems, high schools and academies, mafia… They’re all the rage. Or… Why not try… Quick release; don’t do what anyone else is doing; why aren’t you doing what she or she or she is doing because it clearly works; rapid releases like, weekly or every two weeks at the most, okay maybe three but that’s it, etc…
When I started out, I didn’t pay attention to what anyone else did, but we’re supposed to be social and talking and sharing and supporting and doing and coming and going… And you can’t help but notice everyone else’s sandboxes and how full they are of writing and friends and fans. The noise was all I heard. My own voice wasn’t strong enough, wasn’t loud enough and I couldn’t hear it anymore. Except… Except when I heard the expectations that I had of myself and those of my readers, the expectations that I no longer knew how to meet.
The ideas I had this morning? They’re precious pieces of thoughts and pains and traumas and things I never thought I’d write about, but they’re me, they’re part of me and I’ve been trying so damn hard to get back to something, anything that felt like me, that felt like my voice, that felt like who I am now, that felt like who I am becoming, that felt authentic. I’m a little freaked out and a little scared, but I think I’ve found this year’s NaNoWriMo project.
I canceled the pre-order for The Billionaire’s Heiress. All of you know that by now. Some of you have emailed me about it and I appreciate your understanding.
The book wasn’t ready. The words were all wrong. I hated the characters. And I hated the circles I’d written, revised, edited, and re-written myself into. I wouldn’t put out a book that I hated.
There are penalties, of course. Loss of readers who might have wanted to try my work. The loss of pre-order privilege at Amazon for a year. Both hurt. Both I can do nothing about.
I scrapped the book and started over. It’s different, but the same. It’ll be more what I wanted it to be in the first place before I lost my way.
I tried to fix it. I couldn’t. I was in tears when I finally accepted the mess and disappointment and failure. I can on fix what I feel something for and I felt nothing for the book as it was. I had expectations that hadn’t been met. And you, my readers had expectations I couldn’t meet. Not your fault. Mine.
Self publishing is a hard thing and filled with realizations that I am just recently coming to understand. It’s harder now to be found, to be seen. It’s harder to up the ante and harder not to compare my lack of sales and income against those racking it all up in the thousands to ten thousands each month.
There’s the expectation to show work, to talk about it, to be on, to share, to giveaway, to create huge buzz… And that’s not me. Before this phase of my publishing career, I didn’t talk or share the books I worked on. It killed the love affair I had with the characters, the story to share it, to talk about it before it was done.
But it’s expected now, necessary even to make the reader salivate and push the buy button.
I set up pre-orders because there was an imposed deadline to meet and it would help me get to the end and offer buffer after the book was finished to start creating that buzz. It didn’t work this time.
I know how I work and I know it’s not going to turn out well when I deviate from it. Even if it is what I’m supposed to do now to get my name out there and start getting my books noticed by readers. Even if it is what everyone else is doing. Even if it is what I should be doing.
The thing is, I want to say those other things work for me. I want to say being on social media and talking about my book a lot works for me. I want to say all the buzz works. I want it so badly. But the truth is, we don’t all work the same and while we all say embrace your individuality, all we’re really doing is creating more boxes to try and fit ourselves or each other in. There dozens of ‘this worked for me and it can work for you too for only 9 payments of $90 courses’. Dozens of tips and tricks and just do it this way guides. The self publishing arm of the publishing industry is becoming a way for people to make money off those struggling to figure it out. It’s the next ‘just follow this one diet and you’ll lose 20lbs in 3 days’ fad. I see it in the newsletters I’m subscribed to, the books, the webinars. And it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
But the truth of the matter is, I work one way and it’s the way I wrote so many books in so little time, books that readers loved. And every now and then, I need a kick in the ass to be reminded of it.
I’m trying to be different by being the same, by wanting to be the same, do the same as those who are successful at this rather than spinning their wheels like I’m doing.
I wanted the Billionaire to be great and I tried too hard, so hard that I broke the book. We all had expectations of me and I failed.
I know what works for me and it’s not the same as what works for others. I know what works for me to finish a book I like and am proud of and it’s not what works for others.
And, that’s where I am now.
(Warning: This is a LONG post)
In the movie Say Anything, valedictorian Diane Cord delivered a commencement speech that ended with the words Go Back. It went over the heads of most of her classmates and in all honesty, it’s a hard concept to Go Back. But sometimes I think we have to do just that in order to move forward.
Over the weekend I watched The Masters golf tournament as I do every year. Several things stood out to me in the hours of commentary before I was allowed to see any actual golf being played…
The most disliked golfer it seems is the one that has taken his own route for the most part and is seen as the most standoffish… Bubba Watson. His fellow golfers answered a survey question that went something like If one of your peers was stranded in a parking lot and needed help, who would you not help? Bubba Watson was the answer. When he was told about this his feelings were naturally hurt and his response was that he needed to work on himself as a man. Now, whether the question and the answers were tongue in cheek is beside the point. He took it to heart. Maybe they simply meant that they viewed him as capable and wouldn’t need their help. Maybe it was meant as something more… But that he took it seriously and said he needed to work on himself as a man and set out to do so over the weekend, says something.
The next thing was a comment about Rickie Fowler. He’s young. Good looking. Has all the social media down. Has the product endorsements. The commercials. Talented. Plays mostly consistent golf. But has only won a single tournament in the six years since he turned pro. The announcers speculated on his popularity in the locker room among his peers. Did they view him with less than complete respect because he didn’t have more titles to his name? He was well liked in the press and among fans, but was his lack of accomplishment on the course cause for some dislike and disrespect in the locker room? I wouldn’t doubt it. I see it in the publishing world, so why wouldn’t it extend to other professions too?
The last thing was that Phil Mickelson was playing exceptional golf. It was the best I’d seen him play in the last couple of years. He simply kept getting better with each round. One thing that was said, and that is the most on point with this post, is that he’s gone back to basics. Gone back to the very beginning and started over. That was a theme of commentary throughout the weekend that going back was sometimes exactly what was needed in order to go forward and achieve potential.
So, what does all this have to do with me and why am I writing about it other than I love golf?
It has to do with me because that’s what I have landed on regarding what I need to do. I’ve been floundering, aimless in my writing lately. I haven’t enjoyed it. I’m sorry, but I haven’t. And I apologize because I’ve made you all think that I have. To a point, yes, of course, I have enjoyed what I’ve been writing. I love my characters. Jason and Alli. They were fun. And I’m enjoying Peg and Derek. Peg is a riot, at least in her head. But I’m enjoying them only to a point. That’s not fair to me as a writer and it’s not fair to you as a reader.
I have some awesome readers too. About 100. I say that because when I release a new book, that’s about how many people buy it. 100. That in and of itself needs re-evaluating, but I am grateful that those 100 people like my books and buy my books.
It came to me last night, laying in bed, wide awake, staring at the darkness above. Everyone was asleep but me. Even the zoo of cats was asleep. I thought about getting up and working on The Tattooed Barista. My heart wasn’t in it. I thought about working on the billionaire, or the next race car book, or one of the many paranormals I have promised to write over the next few months. But all those thoughts filled me with dread. That’s not a good feeling at any time or on any day, but really not a good one when one has been suffering through an episode of depression (diagnosed clinical depression going on 25 years) for weeks.
Then I read this. I know exactly how she feels.
And this. This is a reminder I was ripe to hear.
And this. Because this is at times exactly how depression feels, how this business of publishing feels, how life feels.
So, instead of writing on what I am expected to write on, I opened up Evernote, because you know, we’re having an affair…and wrote a blog post about Safety. Then I wrote one about Hurt Feelings. But those weren’t enough. So I opened up another text post and threw up everything I was feeling. I purged the words, the feelings, the thoughts, the vitriol, the shit that had been weighing me down. I typed it all out on my phone between 2 and 5 am. It felt good. It felt really, really good. I was going back to my roots of writing. I wasn’t thinking about anything other than getting the words out. No rules. No expectations. Just letting it all out.
It’s not romance.
Writing started for me in Jr. High. Writing things young teenage girls weren’t supposed to write or think about.
Writing continued for me in High School. Still, writing things teenage girls weren’t supposed to write or think about.
I wrote in College, something tame for English class that my professor told me should be a little freer and that I should consider a career in creative writing, in fiction, in romance because I had a voice that I should let others hear.
I stopped writing to marry and have kids but it was always there, festering beneath my skin. We were good Christian, church going people and I tried my hand at inspirational romance. That lasted all of a day. I kept wanting to cuss and write dirty sex.
I put the writing away again and it was several more years before I took it back out again. I wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote. I worked a day job and wrote well into the night, existing for years on 3 hours sleep at night. I got fatter because I drank soda and ate chocolate to give me the highs to stay awake so I could write or work. I have 2 novels, one contemporary, one historical, each about 75% complete just sitting in the closet.
I wanted to publish but didn’t know how to go about it back then. It all seemed daunting. There were rules to follow and I didn’t think I could follow them and still write what I enjoyed. So, I wrote what I wanted and published on free erotica and porn sites. My writing wasn’t always so tame. My writing was filled with edge, taboos, and dirty, dirty sex.
I got away from that. I didn’t see how to make a living with that. It made my spouse uncomfortable too. I learned a lot about myself writing and I still do, but it lead me to being more open minded than I ever imagined I could be given my upbringing and marital situation. He’s not open minded, but I am.
But the point is, I was free when I was writing back then. I didn’t have anything to conform to. I didn’t have any expectations of readers, friends, peers, publishers. I hadn’t written myself into a box or a corner because I was afraid of what others might think. Once I was published with publishers, I had to maintain a certain image, or so I was told. I couldn’t say or do or act any way that might reflect poorly. Then there were other writers and editors and cover artists…they wouldn’t want to work with me if I wrote certain things or certain ways or acted/reacted certain ways. There were reviewers who only liked this or that. Boxes and corners. Some were of my own making. Some were not. Some were willing concessions, some I made so I would still look favorable. And through it all, the writing suffered. My creativity suffered. My voice suffered.
The wall has been hit and I’m breaking, shattering. I am not finding love in what I’m writing and it fucking scares me. I want to please my readers, YOU, I want to please you and give you what you want, but what if it’s not the same as what I want all the time? Or right now? I don’t want to disappoint you, but I don’t want to put out crap either, trite crap that I wouldn’t want to read on my worst day.
I’m tired of breaking promises that make me look bad and unreliable.
Last night, raw emotional painful truthful writing happened. Last night, raw emotional dirty erotica happened. And that is dirty in a very good DIRTY way. Last night I went back. I went back to the beginning. I went back to where I started. I went back and it felt amazing, empowering. I just wrote without thinking what readers would think, without thinking what other authors or friends or publishers or anyone else would think. I kicked a hole in the expectations and rules box and I was so pumped and hyped I had a hard time even catching a few hours of desperately needed sleep.
Earlier this year I set up a writing and publishing schedule that I’m tearing up. You’ll get the books I’ve promised you and that I’ve promised others (those have deadlines), starting with The Tattooed Barista. I won’t say when you’ll get them because until I find the joy and love in them again, I can’t give my all. That’s not fair to either of us.
I wrote this post in January.
And this was my list of words for 2015…
They inspire me and they haven’t been referred to at all. They haven’t been ME yet.
I’m beating myself before I even start. I’m trying to keep up because let’s face it, keeping up is the name of the game and I’m not even out of the starting gate.
It’s time to be Brave and time to find the Pleasure and Bliss in writing again. It’s time to go back and find the Joy in being Open to the possibilities. It’s time to find my voice, my Signature. And it’s time to be Positive about where I’m going and stop stressing over the expectations and pressure I’m putting on myself. This is my life, my craft, my journey. You’re on it with me and I’m thrilled that you are.
Thank you for reading.