As a successful epic fantasy writer who quit his day job and got picked up by Penguin, Anthony Ryan definitely attracted my eyeballs. It was also heartening to see that he was not 16, but rather was a middle aged person with a former real day job – totally real life stuff. Plus he’s really dryly funny.
Why reading this post makes me better:
1. He took 6 years to write his one book, Blood Song.
At that rate I’m still ahead as I’ve never spent 6 years on any book. That said, I’ve spent like 20 years writing and yet to finish even 1 book. Much less publish.
2. Sales started off slow.
In his 5 first months of publishing Blood Song he sold 2000 copies, most of them in month 5.
He writes the old fashioned way, concentrating on plot and language and all that instead of just churning out stuff for the sake of stuff.
All things for us aspiring writers to remember.
Yes, it’s one of those days.
My kids are sick and deadlines are looming, but I know that the thing that has pitched me into writing darkness is this: I posted the first few chapters on Wattpad as an experiments and got no more than 7 reads and 1 comment (admittedly, in 3 days). Which in turn made me realize how hard it is to get traction.
It also makes me wonder whether I have the gumption to keep trying.
But then, the moment I just started thinking about the actual novel and finishing, the sheer calming effect of my practice suddenly kicked in. The horrible cycle of addictively checking my Wattpad stats (hell, the thing doesn’t even earn you money!) and coming up empty handed stopped or at least quieted down.
It’s discomforting to think writing fiction may never earn me money. But maybe, at the end of the day, it’s just my practice. My Zen thing. The way a bird sings, so I should write: freely. Generously. For the love of the schtick.
According to the ever awesome Lindsay Buroker, I’ve been doing it all wrong. Forget blogging to attract an audience (although I do that anyway out of the need to whinge, keep notes on important stuff, and save my husband’s ears) – etc. What works? According to her, samples of your work. So post them. On your website, if possible.
As a very worried newbie who’s freaked my book will sink like a stone forevermore in the murky waters of the e-publishing ocean (yeah, like I’m even close to finishing?), this moved me. Read the full post here!
Resistance was strong today as I sought to make progress on my novel. It didn’t help that I realized that the last third, which I haven’t really tackled, needs substantial deepening. Days like this, when the goalpost inches farther away, my determination burns a little lower. Worst of all is the headwind of writing against the inner voice that says gosh, this is dumb; the Voice of Fear, a voice that draws strengths from little setbacks like today’s. Even though it’s not really a setback because hey, my end is now going to be stronger and more awesome. (Positive thinking. Positive thinking.)
Maybe the best way to just deal with The Voice is to say, my goal at this point is just to finish something I’m satisfied with, not to be great. So that on my tombstone they can engrave, SHE DID IT!
Gratitude, like writing, is a process, an art. I think of Julia Cameron’s famous advice to write 3 hours of longhand each morning to jumpstart the creative process, which I could make time for but typically prefer to spend cuddling the baby – helping oldest daughter put on socks – checking fridge contents for grocery errands post-work – checking email; these and innumerable other tasks. But unlike writing, one can be grateful as one does these things.
Why does it matter? At its core, writing is an act of generosity, of nurturing, of giving. I’ve learned the hard way that one must be filled with something in order to give. Lately I’ve been feeling burned out, blue and hollow and hollow following a high performance streak of give – give – give — giving to family, to clients, to the Muse. Now I’m running low, coasting towards empty. I want days of lounging, slow living, moving at the uncertain pace of my four-year-old sometimes quick and sometimes slow, but always in the moment.
That’s not happening.
We’ve got a startup happening, bills to pay, kids to nurture. Taxes to pay, socks to be mended, family dinners to attend.
But as a friend sharing her considerable burdens reminded me, I have time to be grateful. And in that moment, when we remember and give thanks for what blessings we have, the inner well starts to fill; not completely, but enough to see a sheen of moisture on those dry rocks, enough to oil the gears, resolve the block and let me flow onwards.
Some people fantasize about sex. Some people fantasize about being thin, or winning the lottery, or having a great kitchen. For years, my fallback fantasy is that of being a writer – or more precisely, since I am a copywriter and communications consultant by trade, to make a gazillion bucks by writing fiction, quitting my day job, and living in luxury.
Time has fortuitously tempered by expectations, and I’ve adjusted my ambitious from living in luxury to a comfortable living (and even that can be a stretch, I know). I realize that a combination of hard work, zeitgeist, good luck and perseverance is necessary especially if one wants to try the self publishing route – it seems that the most successful authors are virtual machines of productivity.
Hard work doesn’t daunt me; I worked a full time job while nursing and taking care of my daughter, typing at all hours with my baby on the boob to make income. But as I come closer to finishing my first decent novel, I suddenly realized: wow, this has been a marathon. Would I be able to do this – and enjoy this – every day?
In place of the familiar fantasy of freedom and financial comfort, I suddenly think of writing under pressure (something I’m familiar with), but upped: instead of a company profile or annual report, which needs to be incisive and clear but not necessarily creatively inspiring, I imagine trying to pin down that elusive muse under stress and fear that I won’t make enough money to eat and/or that my self pubbed writing career will shortly implode. Ugh. In a moment the golden vision turned to dross.
A quick skim of other writer sites turned up the same issue right up. One woman said that after 10 years of abusing her muse it left and she burned out. I like to eat; I like not to live in fear. Maybe I need to readjust my fantasy and make it more specific.
How’s this for a new vision? A four hour work day concentrating on my fiction with some time for marketing and promotion, with good stable income and the rest of my day to take care of m kids and handle craftsy projects to refresh my muse and spirit.
How about you, any experiences of burnout?
Fantastic post! Includes royalty rates and capabilities.
Here’s a sample (verbatim from the post):
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To view the whole post, visit:
This is one resource I’ll be referring to again.