Monday, 15 April 2013

A short break is needed...

I came to a decision last night. As I watched Gok Wan's epic fail on the celebrity edition of Davina McCall's new game show 'Five Minutes to a Fortune' (never mind, Gok, I still think you're fabulous) I realised that what my husband had pointed out a week or so ago was true. And it's not often he's right when it comes to anything concerning my writing, but this time he is, which proves he's obviously far more observant where my writing is concerned than I give him credit for.

I'm having one of those "up and down" months this month. I always knew this was going to be one roller-coaster of a journey but sometimes you're just not prepared for how utterly draining and confidence-denting the lows can be, and I honestly thought I was managing to hide how down I was feeling. But I obviously wasn't, because my husband pointed out the other day that he can see how I've let things affect me over the past few weeks. He's noticed how I've actually deliberately been looking for ways in which to distract myself from writing, from doing anything other than sitting down at my desk, and whilst this now means we have a squeaky-clean bathroom and spotless skirting boards, there's not been much in the way of any creative writing going on. And what he said to me has taken a couple of weeks to sink in - he said I was losing sight of why I started writing in the first place - but he's absolutely right. I have lost sight of why I started writing in the first place. And I know why that is, too.

I've let myself get too bogged down with promotion, sales figures, worrying about not being good enough or not putting myself out there enough. I've worried about whether I'm writing the kind of books people actually want to read and I've let myself become obsessed, almost, with trying to be like other independent authors who seem to be constantly on the go at events and book signings - and here am I just sitting in my little office, writing books, but is that enough? Shouldn't I be out there, too, getting my face known, plugging my books, looking for a publisher? Well, that's easier said than done, in reality. And deep down I know that. 

I can't be like other authors, and it's a bad idea to even try and emulate others anyway. I was quite happy being myself before, and that's what I need to concentrate on. Being myself, knowing my limits, knowing what I'm capable of in terms of promoting my books and myself as an author, and being happy with that. It's pointless setting the bar any higher than it can realistically go, but in trying to do just that I've lost a lot of the enthusiasm I had for writing. I've let everything else get in the way, so much so that I lost sight of the reasons why I love doing this - because I do love writing. More than I can ever explain to anyone, really. It's in my blood, it's all I've ever wanted to do, but just because I can't be out and about at book fairs and conferences, just because I'm not featuring on local radio or in the local newspapers (mainly because none of them will give you the time of day unless you're attached to a publisher) does that mean I can't call myself an author? No, of course it doesn't. It's just a hang-up I need to get over.
I've never been someone who can put themselves in the limelight comfortably, but there are times when I regret not doing so when I actually had something to brag about. This time last year my books were selling well - very well. There were even a couple of months when I sold over a thousand books. But I didn't really mention that fact. I didn't shout loud enough when Bon Voyage got to number 53 in the Paid Kindle Top 100, or when No Matter What became a Bestseller in Contemporary Romance. In fact, every one of my books has been a Bestseller in one category or another at one time or another, but I stayed quiet about it because I still find it very hard to shout about myself, or my books, even though I'm proud of every single one of them. Do I regret that? Yes. I regret it. I regret staying quiet about my achievements, letting people know that I'd actually made a success of something. 

This book hit the Kindle Top 100 charts at #53 last May
I regret that more than anything, but at the time I was too nervous of blowing my own trumpet, of annoying people on Facebook or Twitter with too many mentions of myself and my books - my skin wasn't as thick back then as it is now. I've learnt a lot over the past year, but I think I'm letting that regret of keeping myself in the shadows get to me way too much now. What I need to do is forget everything I didn't do, and concentrate on what I can do. And I think I can write a decent story. Things may not be quite as fast and frantic as they were this time last year, and sales may not be anywhere the heady heights of last spring/summer, but I have to stop obsessing about that, stop worrying about what everyone else is doing and whether I should be doing something different - thinking like that is actually stopping me from doing what I want to do, the way I want to do it.

A one-time bestseller in contemporary romance and sagas...

I'm never going to be an "out-there" author - it isn't in me, and I don't think it ever was. I've always been a bit of a loner, always spent a lot of time on my own, which is why I love writing so much - so maybe I should make the most of that, celebrate who I am, and just get back to doing what I love to do. And I love to write.

So, in order for me to get right back on track, I'm making some rules for myself this week. And those rules consist of me switching off the internet, keeping away from Facebook/Twitter or any other form of social networking so that I can concentrate fully on getting back to where I need to be. I need to find me, I suppose - I need to find that author inside me again. And for me to be able to do that I need to really force myself to have at least a few days of doing nothing but writing

It might work, it might not. And this isn't a post designed to be full of self-pity, that's not how I want this to come across at all. I want it to serve as the kick up the backside I badly need. Call it cathartic, if you like. Getting it all down in a blog post makes me realise just what it is I need to do. And I know now that in terms of getting the word out about my books, well, I've got an uphill struggle as I compete with some incredibly talented, hard-working indie authors that are currently out there. But I can only do what I know I can do, and it's ridiculous to try and aim higher than I can realistically go. But that doesn't mean to say that I'm not aiming high, of course I want to be the best I can be, and I will continue to work as hard as I possibly can. I just need to concentrate on myself for a few days. I need to concentrate on my writing, because my husband really was right - I had lost sight of my reasons for doing this, and it never was about making money or becoming some kind of celebrity, although those perks would be great, of course they would. I write because I love to create stories that people want to read - simple as that. And I know there are people out there who love what I do, and that means the world to me. That in itself means I've achieved my dream. Anything else is one hell of a bonus. 

And another thing I also want to be able to concentrate on is helping other indie authors like myself - help to give them a little more exposure, because we all need as much of that as we can get. Trying to do it all on your own on a permanent basis is possible, but it really is very, very hard. I've learnt so much on my writing journey so far, and I'm still learning every day, so I'd love to be able to help those that are just starting out with help and advice. But I can't get my head around any of that until I've sorted myself out.

So, I shall be keeping away from social networking for the next few days, at least. It'll be hard, in fact, I don't know how I'm going to manage it, but sometimes I'll use the likes of Facebook as a way to distract myself from writing, and in doing that I know I've spent days just wasting time when I could have been working on my latest book, days I've now lost, and I need to get them back. So, just one week of doing nothing but writing, and I know it won't be easy, but I think it's necessary. I'm extremely lucky in that I can get up every day, do the short commute to my little office in the back bedroom and spend hours doing what I love, so I'm not going to waste those hours by worrying or obsessing about things I can't control, when I have the ability and the time to work on what I can.

Does any of this make sense? I hope so. And I hope other authors out there can understand where I'm coming from, that sometimes we do just need to lock ourselves away and concentrate on that thing we love doing - writing. And I know I may not be the next JK Rowling or Jackie Collins, but I can be the first Michelle Betham. ;-)


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