Last Saturday I gave a self-publishing workshop at one of my favorite local libraries. They frequently invite me to be on panels and carry nearly my entire catalog of print books. I have become a patron favorite because of local librarian, Laurel Keller, who is also a published Young Adult Paranormal author working on Book 3 of her series. I helped Laurel get her first book published. Now paying it forward, Laurel hosts a writing group at the library. I visited them at one of their meetings and them promised them the workshop.
Her writing group is eclectic. There are retirees, a published author struggling to publish again, and a college student majoring in English. There is even a whole family of writers. Mother, father, and teenage son all write. Several of them—maybe even all of them—are up to their elbows in a story of some sort. Some have more than one. Their commonality is that all of them are writers in the best sense of the word. They have taken on divine inspiration as a writing partner.
Writing is indeed art, and in some cases like mine, it is also a beloved vocation. The only reason I feel the overwhelming need to make money with my writing is so I can continue writing full time. This is literally the best job I’ve ever had whether I’m having a good sales month or a dismal one like August proved to be. When I die I want there to be no stories left in me which means I really need to live to be 185 to get everything written. I didn’t start making money with writing until I was over 50. Since it is not likely that I will live so long, I often feel this imperative need to push my creativity along, like a full-term pregnant woman doing whatever she can to get the baby out of her.
In the need to hurry and hurry, I sometimes forget the most important thing… I am a writer. My job is to write. I’ve always been a writer. I will always be one… for richer or poorer. Writing is what I do best and how I share best. In my romance novel career, making a reader laugh has become my favorite way of putting some good back into the world. I sometimes think the real reason I write is so I can get those validating messages and emails. I don’t dwell on reviews—good or bad—but I confess it makes me feel enormously successful to know I made a person smile with what I created.
I feel gratefully indebted to author JA Konrath who shared the reasons why he chose to self-publish on his newbies blog, and to Mark Coker of Smashwords for what he taught me about how to actually go about self-publishing. There is a long list of people I could name who have helped me, but these two I mention here because they were the pivot points that took me from writer to being a published author.
You see, independent publishing—self-publishing—gave me an option that turned all those rejection letters I received into a blessing. I was able to do it myself, maybe not as perfectly as a traditional contract might have done, but readers did find my work. After I succeeded, I wanted success for every rejected writer I met, but I have learned that isn’t necessarily the right thing for them—or me. Nor can I help every writer follow my path, no matter how talented I find them. That’s simply a logistical impossibility. Plus, publishing is a really tough business. It’s not like wrestling words and battling with the characters in your head. You have to have the stamina to survive the marketing and accounting work as well. Who am I to decide if it will work out for anyone else? No one really. Most days I can barely stay solvent as a writer myself.
But I also know that each writer must make some publishing decision when they set getting published as a goal. This is why I do what I did on Saturday. I give a talk about my path and process. I share the story of my writing journey. It is my prosperity agreement with the universe to not withhold anything I know from anyone that would keep them from finding at least as much success as I have found in this work. However, I must also do my own writing and honor my own inspiration. The workshop on Saturday was the first time I’ve done something like that in a couple of years. I have learned the hard way not to preach to the masses. You will either get stoned or you will take on responsibility for the success of others at the galactic rate.
A long-time friend who had never witnessed this part of my life came to hear my talk because she is contemplating a book. We were technical writers together for 18 years. I know she is quite capable of producing one as witty and polished as any I have done. She remarked at lunch that it was obvious I had found my place in the world because I was so passionate about my vocation. She said it shone on my face and came out through my voice. I agreed with her about being passionate. And as I looked into the earnest gazes of those others listening to me talk, I saw my own earnestness about writing reflected back. We are all worthy of taking the creative journey—no matter what we do or don’t do with our writing after creating it.
Writers call everyday living their “real life”. I think it’s a way of protecting that sacred space where you go in your head, heart, and soul when you are writing. Well, my real life has interrupted my creativity all year, tossing up challenge after challenge, making me too weary in body and soul to even listen to my muse chastising me for not writing. My last release was in May, and in terms of the current genre fiction market, that’s like saying I haven’t published since last year.
Heading into the tenth month of 2015 now, I am finally admitting that I seem to be having a creative crisis. It is certainly not my first one in the five years I have been doing writing work full time. I am sure it will not be the last if I am fortunate enough to live to be 185… or 60 which is a more realistic goal not far down my chronological line.
So I have been reading a lot—looking for encouragement that this too shall pass. In 2012, I wrote and published seven novels of at least 75,000 words. Will I ever get that productive again? I don’t see how, but I would at least like to go back to my reasonable four or five that I should easily have finished by now. The stories were once in my head. Now they are stored away somewhere and waiting to be found again. I want to go back to that point where inspiration to write those stories ruled me. I want to be so caught up in writing them that I lose track of everything else. I want to give myself to my creative urges.
And that’s what I saw in the faces of those who came to hear me talk Saturday. In fact, I see that desire to create all the time in many people. Not everyone goes on to publish. Fewer still make the sales to make a decent living solely from it. But the writing itself truly is what matters. Why am I writing a blog post that rambles? I’m hoping it counts as keyboard punishment time with my muse. Sharing my thoughts about creating and talking to people about self-publishing is a no-brainer.
All of these things make up my writing life. I wouldn’t change a thing. In fact, I hope I never have to do anything else again to earn money. I am fairly sure I would suck at other jobs after having done this writing gig full-time for a living. Now if I could just get my muse to have a talk with the marketing gods, maybe I won’t have to get a numb butt to finish the books I’m working on. Anyone willing to put in a good word for me with their inspiring force? Thank you in advance.