Over at nanreinhardt.com, I’ve been talking about letting stuff go—mostly letting the knot in my stomach go. Here’s the thing, I’ve had this knot inside me for the better part of two years, maybe longer and I decided I was going to give the damn thing up for Lent. I had big plans to release all the stress and worry that has dogged me since my friend, Dee, was diagnosed with terminal cancer three years ago.
Easier said than done. Now, don’t panic. I’m not going to lie down on the virtual couch and detail all my worries here in the round pen, but I am going to talk a little about the writing knot because part of the stress I carry around inside me is about my career as a writer.
It seems as if ever since I sent that first manuscript to an agent back in 2009, my writing has been alternately a source of untold joy and wrenching distress. When I’m actually doing it, tucking into a story that’s been banging around in my head, I’m full of joy. Writing—the actual act of creating a story and bringing it to life—makes me happy in a way that nothing else in my life does. I love inventing dialogue, building characters, setting scenes, dreaming up conflict and resolutions. I write when I clean, when I drive (but I pay attention to the road, honest!), when I fly, when I can’t go to sleep—the writer is always busy, observing, memorizing, inventing. For years, I did this without a thought to selling a book or ever seeing one published.
But, once you’ve put your work out there, there is a constant feeling of pressure to perform—butt-in-chair-hands-on-keyboard—as I’ve discussed here before. Know what? Some days, I flat don’t want to write or I have editing gigs that must take priority over my own writing or life stuff gets in the way. Retired husband means that we’re together more and often, doing something with him appeals way more than sitting in front of my computer, even though I do love to write.
And then there’s the book sales thing . . . yeah, there’s that. I have one traditionally published novel, but the other three are indie, which means I do all the work. I write them, I find an editor (fortunately, I’ve got a great one in Lani DianeRich, who also does my covers), I find a print formatter, I put them up at the various retail outlets, I do all the promotion. I find the blogs who’ll give me a day to shout out about my newest book, I send them to reviewers, I watch the sales dashboards and either weep or rejoice, depending on how things have gone—or not—as the case may be. I have to arrange for or find book signings. I have to design and buy swag, I . . . well, you get the picture.
When I first started writing, none of this stuff occurred to me—I just wanted to be a storyteller. But this year so far, I haven’t done much storytelling. Instead, I’ve been working hard at editing gigs, earning money to buy promotional materials for my books and do all the other stuff involved in producing a book . . .books, as well as to pay for my health insurance, which is another blog topic altogether. And all of this stuff—the detritus of being an indie author . . . of being any kind of an author at all really, does tighten the knot.
So, talk to me, authors. Do you stress over sales? Over promotion? Over whether or not you need a 7-foot banner or a simple 16-x-20 poster for your table at book signings, all the while wondering how the hell you’re going to pay for pens, rack cards, banners, magnets, and other swag if you’re not selling enough books? How do you make it work? How do you keep the writer knot under control?