I have been a writer for over a decade but an author for a short span. Making the transition was relatively seamless. I believe having no clue of what I was getting into helped in that department. Ignorance is certainly bliss when it comes to sharing work on a grand scale and to the general public. That being said, I am a student of life and embrace the chance to learn something, anything new about the world. As I reflect on the past few years, I am wistful, as if I might somehow travel back in time and coach my newbie-author-self on the following:
HAVE A PLAN
I did not self-publish my first book Still Life with business in mind. The intent was simple: leap out of my comfort zone, share my story with people I love, and leave a legacy (of some sort) for my son. Once done, my book would be a happy little blip and life would move on as usual. But of course, everything changed. I wanted to create more stories. Doing so meant stepping up the level of effort. I needed to budget, schedule, and strategize. Over the years, I have created a manageable plan, but I wish I had one to follow from the very start.
IGNORE THE PLAN
Now that I appreciate the value and importance of a business plan, I also understand the need to completely throw it out the proverbial window. Some days simply require an open mind and heart to whatever writing brings. Go with the flow. Allow the process to be organic. Often the greatest things come when I am the least prepared.
ACT LIKE AN AUTHOR
Too many times I down-played the fact that I have published five books. When people asked what I did, I either failed to tell them I was an author or offered it with little enthusiasm, as if my work was not worthy of full disclosure. Now, I state my job with pride. I enjoy talking about what I do and how I got here. I have earned the title. I am an author.
WORK LIKE A WRITER
An author is only as good as their last book. And although I may have poured months or years into my work, people forget about any effort seemingly overnight. I have learned to relish in the glorious moment when a book is published. The announcement. Its newness. They are deserving of celebration. However, in the end those feelings are fleeting. They do not endure. Fulfillment leads to emptiness. The only thing that keeps me satisfied is to begin the process over, tell a new story. Creation keeps me grounded and realistic.
FOCUS ON THE BIG STUFF
As stated above, I now direct my energy on my craft. In the beginning, I performed heavy research to learn how to format, publish, market, and network. I had lists of things to do but their completion left no time to write. The passage of time has taught me to pause, reflect, and dedicate any limited time to the tasks which move me closer to my goals.
CELEBRATE THE LITTLE THINGS
While keeping my eye on the big picture, I also enjoy the small, day-to-day victories. Private notes from readers. Favorable online reviews. Another book sold. Interactions with friends, family, and strangers do wonders. Knowing someone appreciates my writing motivates me to create more, reminds me to keep moving forward, and inspires like nothing else can.
LEARN FROM OTHERS
I love teaching myself new things, and the challenge of learning excites me. In the beginning I spent countless hours on research and taking notes. While I admit it was a necessary step, I have now perfected much of the process. I know who to trust for credible information and advice. The sites I visit are tried and true, compatible with my vision. I no longer read every blog post, click each link, or conduct endless searches. I remain open to new ideas but the bulk of my new sources come from places and people I already use.
BE TRUE TO YOURSELF
Despite an onslaught of suggestions and experience available on the web and elsewhere, I must stay true to who I am. As an author. As a person. These years have proven that the only way for me to succeed is to do what works for me and my family. Attempting to emulate another will not sustain me. As Chris Brogan says: Be yourself, not the echo of someone else.
Even with everything I have learned, I have no idea what my author-self will be like in another 3, 5, 10, or 20 years. But of this I am sure: I will do it my way, on my terms, and pave my own trail as I go along. And though the path may become bumpy, I am buckled in and ready for the ride.
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