Every Winter Solstice, I set an intention for the solar year to come. This year, my intention was balance, and so far so good, I think, but there’s been another lesson/struggle that keeps coming up along with it. What I’ve figured out, is if you want balance, what you really need is ACCEPTANCE and PATIENCE. You have to be able to accept things as they are right now, and even in the act of striving for better balance, you have to be patient with how it comes about.
This is a universal truth applying to many aspects of my life lately, including writing. I had very specific goals at the outset of the year, and here it is not even February yet, and I’m already getting impatient about accomplishing them. But the more impatient I am, the more I try to take shortcuts or find workarounds or push too hard and sacrifice quality in some other area of my life. I go after that instant gratification, and guess what ends up happening? It throws things out of balance.
I want to lose weight and get in shape:
- Instant Gratification: Cut all carbs, work out twice a day, maintain for a week, get exhausted, give up.
- Patient Approach: Focus on maintaining healthy habits, workout daily, eat moderately, repeat for many months.
I want to build up savings:
- Instant Gratification: Strip all extra money out of budget and put in savings account, then spend it all when something I *must have* is on sale.
- Patient Approach: Set up a realistic budget and sock a little money away from each paycheck to slowly build up savings.
I want to finish a novel:
- Instant Gratification: Sit down once a week with the intent of banging out 10,000 words. Fall miserably short, consider chucking the whole endeavor.
- Patient Approach: Write 2,000 words a day, even if they suck, keep going, finish first draft in 45 days.
The lesson here is that the instant gratification path pretty much NEVER WORKS. The key to accomplishing anything worthwhile lies in patient acceptance.
In other words, you have to trust the process.
This is SO true with writing, in so many ways.
With drafting, all you have to do is get the words on the page. Sounds easy, but that requires that you (a) accept your book is a long way from finished, and (b) be patient as it forms…slowly. Sometimes painfully. Whether it’s 100 words or 2,000 words a day, every day, you have more words than the day before. They don’t have to be awesome words, either. It’s easy to get hung up on trying to make everything shine and sparkle on the first draft (I sometimes cannot move on until I feel like a certain area is as good as it can be), but that does not get the job done. You’re drafting – not editing. You have to trust the process.
Chuck Wendig has a great post “25 Things You Should Know About Writing a Novel” – pay close attention to 1-3 and #10 – Escape the Gravity of the Hate Spiral. This post is several years old, and yet still so valid. The motto of drafting a novel is KEEP PUTTING WORDS ON THE PAGE. Slow and steady really does win the race here.
I’ve found myself getting impatient lately when it comes to sales, promotions, and marketing too. An unbalanced approach is what I’ve been doing – going on posting binges, followed by long lulls of no activity, spreading myself out over every social media outlet I can, monitoring statistics and getting caught up in the numbers, and reading everything I can on HOW TO MARKET YOUR BOOK. Then I read a fabulous post by Delilah Dawson that set me free: “Please shut up: why self-promotion as an author doesn’t work.” If this is something you are struggling with, I highly recommend reading it.
That was a reality check and a half! There is no magic bullet, no special combination of pricing, guest-blogging, or prize drawings that will give your readership a huge boost. And contrary to what some may tell you, more “online presence” is not better. More is just more, and it’s usually too much. What matters is adding value, and I have seen a few authors (and other entrepeneurs I follow) do exactly that very successfully. Taking time to be thoughtful, purposeful, and authentic are the “slow and steady” path. If tweeting BUY MY BOOK fifty times a day really worked, more than half of the self-pubbed authors on Twitter would be millionaires.
Here’s a not so secret secret: every book on book marketing I’ve ever read has all said the same exact thing: WRITE ANOTHER BOOK. That is the only guaranteed way to build readership and sales. And… that only works if you trust the process. It may take YEARS to write enough books to find your niche and build a solid readership, or to write the RIGHT one to finally garner some attention and hit a Best Sellers List. There are no shortcuts or workarounds or ways to stack the odds.
Write the book. Publish the Book. Begin again.
Trust the process.