I’m nearing the end of another self-published book project! Okay, I actually have months of work ahead of me, but the book is nearing completion which provides a teeny little glimmer of happiness. Each time I complete one, I can’t help but reflect on what I’ve learned and-more importantly-what I have yet to learn. Though it would appear to be a cut and dried process by now, I’m continually amazed at everything I don’t understand. For today, however, I choose to focus on the priceless gems I’ve uncovered this time around the publishing vortex.
1) I have learned…one book per year is plenty. My first book took 4 months start to finish. The second book required 5 months. This third one is on a path to demand more than 6 months. Sense a trend here? I certainly do, and it’s an ironic one at that. The more knowledgeable I become on the process and industry, the longer it takes to see a finished product. Chalk it up to eager-beaver enthusiasm and naivete in the beginning. It’s true I had no idea what self-publishing entailed in terms of formatting or marketing, but I also had an intent to simply ‘gift’ Still Life as a legacy for my family. Now, I not only know better, I want to do better. And with every tip, trick, and how-to I’ve discovered, I feel extreme guilt ignoring anything which might aid the self-publishing process, encourage me to become a better writer, and ultimately broaden my access to readers who would enjoy my work.
2) I have learned…writing is hard work. Please don’t get me wrong-it has never been easy nor have I ever believed it to be a simple skill. But unlike the past, I now attempt to write and share my work with friends, family, and complete strangers. And surprisingly, the more I create, the more challenging it becomes. Practice doesn’t make it perfect-or easier, but it does make me pickier. I want each story to outshine the last and that is a tough order to fill. On the upside though, I believe my first drafts (you know the rough ones with typos, grammatical errors, and glaring inconsistencies) come out smoother and more complete. Outlines form faster, dialogue flows freer, and plot holes are fewer. These are encouraging since I tend to worry about my ability to craft an entire novel rather than the short ones I used to write.
3) I have learned…what I’m attempting to accomplish is akin to an honest-to-goodness job. There are many 7-hour work days while my son attends school and numerous hours after he goes to bed (even sometimes when he is awake-gasp!). Of course, a more vigorous schedule occurs while in the frenzied throes of writing and editing more so than any other time. It’s during these phases when there is too much to do and not enough time to do it. I hate to fall out of a creative zone or risk a total loss of motivation. But as a sweet benefit, there are also moments of great flexibility for myself and my family. Sometimes I ignore the task of writing for days (even weeks) and focus instead on research or marketing-two things which can be done randomly and with less concentration.
4) I have learned…I am an author. In the past, I’d skim over what I do and categorize it in the realm of something to fill my days as a stay-at-home mother. Being a writer is a difficult thing to explain. It’s often perceived either as a side job people do when they aren’t working their ‘real’ job or as a highly-publicized, well-paid career (which occurs rarely). And somewhere in the middle of the spectrum are a great number who eke out a fairly good living doing full-time, freelance work. Though what I do is currently along the lines of an incredibly awesome hobby, I also take it quite seriously. My intention is to write as long as the stories flow while simultaneously building a small business foundation. I want my love of writing and publishing to have substance, gain momentum, and provide long lasting enjoyment. It is fun…it is frustrating…and it is the most exhilarating experience of my adult working life.
So, how do I convert what I’ve learned into concrete change?
First: I’m going to finish Muse, market the hell out of it, and then dedicate the remainder of 2011 to spending quality, dearly-missed time with my family. I’ll also study, research, and hone my craft in the hope the next book will be even better than my last.
Second: I’ll buckle down and trudge through any and all infuriating challenges because the reward is so unbelievably grand (when it finally does come around). And whenever I feel like tossing my work in progress into a blazing fireplace and washing my ink-stained hands of the entire agonizing and dirty struggle, I’ll try to recall the easy parts (all 2 of them) and the fun parts (of which there are many) and the total sense of satisfaction and relief that accompanies yet another completed work.
Third: I’ll continue to view my writing as a job. This last round of writing was less daunting-in part because I approached my week (Monday through Friday) like a true work week and kept fairly regular hours.This schedule allowed me to loosen up on weekends and enjoy home without placing unrealistic and isolating demands on myself.
And lastly: The next time someone asks where I work, rather than shrugging in embarrassment and meekly murmuring ‘I am a writer,’ I will instead push my shoulders back, raise my head high, and proudly proclaim I AM AN AUTHOR.