When I’m running or biking is when ideas for new work, or my work in progress, flows. It’s then that life seems to teach me what it wants me to learn, and when my thoughts are somewhat productive. Not only does running and biking exercise my body, but my mind as well. This morning I was listening to the audio book of Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.
Some of the words of wisdom that I heard while listening to this book I’ve heard before, but today I really heard them. And those words and thoughts took on a life of their own as I processed them. Here they are:
1.) “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” -E.L. Doctorow
I’ve used that analogy for other aspects of life, but when it pertains to writing, it makes me realize the importance of writing in scenes. Beginning a new writing project, especially a long one like a novel, can be intimidating and daunting. Especially when you look at the blank screen/piece of paper, and realize all the work that has to be done to complete the novel. That can be paralyzing to the point of making one want to give up before getting started. If we think of taking it one small piece at a time, writing just one scene, no matter how small that scene is, and then the next after that and the next after that, pretty soon you have several scenes to work with. By only focusing on one scene at a time, you can make the whole trip to the end of your novel without fear.
2.) “Life is 10 percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it.” -Lou Holtz
How do you respond when things don’t go the way you want them to? When I spend a lot of time on a piece of writing, or if a lot of time goes by without seeing any fruits of my labor, I begin to question my ability to produce something worthwhile. Last month I only sold four books and I have to admit I was feeling a little down and out. This quote by Lou Holtz boosted my mentality into another stratosphere. Selling four books last month means I reached four people I wouldn’t have had I not published the book. That in itself makes me grateful. And the fact that I published a book is an amazing feeling of accomplishment. (More on that below.) The reminder that I don’t write to sell books or quite honestly, even to make a living from it, but because I can’t not write. It’s as much a part of my existence as breathing. I’m a much better person when I write because then the rest of the world makes more sense to me.
3.) And though this next one didn’t come from what I was listening to, it snowballed from the others. As my thoughts and ideas frequently do when I’m running or biking. I realized the battle for writers, self publishing vs. traditional publishing, doesn’t have to be a battle at all. One of the books I read by James Scott Bell, and whose books on writing I would recommend to anyone and everyone, seemed to shame self-published books. What I know now is that his words held a ship load of truth, but the way I heard it at the time was a reflection of what I was feeling within myself. I self-published my first book, The Inheritance, and at the time was battling whether I was going to self-publish my Melanie Hogan Mystery Series or try the traditional route. How we perceive things is more often than not due to where we’re at within our own head, usually when we’re completely unaware of it. For instance, if everyone around you seems to be having a bad day it’s probably your perception based on the place you, yourself, are at in that moment. We hear what people say and how they react based on where we are in our own heart and mind.
That being said, when I read those parts in James Scott Bell’s book, I was insecure about self-publishing a book and if people would take that as a sign that I wasn’t successful at traditional publishing. That I wasn’t good enough. Good enough for whom or for what I didn’t even know and quite possibly it didn’t matter. Just plain ole’ writer’s insecurity of being good enough. The fact of the matter is, I had decided not to go the traditional route because I wanted my first novel to be done completely by me. I wanted to experience the entire process, and I have not a single regret. Not. One. In fact, I’ve decided to self-publish my Melanie Hogan Mystery Series as well, the first of which is expected to be released in July if all goes according to plan. The cover reveal will be coming in the next couple of weeks. 🙂
Now the revelation that came to me yesterday (drumroll….)
There are a lot of crappy traditionally published books out there, with missed typos and loose ends that were never tied up, with plot holes and poor character development, as well as with self-published books. The difference being that since e-books have become such a huge development and will only grow as time goes on, it makes it incredibly easy to self-publish work, and many are doing it without any editing, the goal being to just to get their work out there. What I’ve realized is as long as you’ve taken the time to make your work the best it can possibly be, without doubt, self publishing or traditional publishing is irrelevant. Whichever method you choose, you can hold your head up as the amazing author you are, regardless of what anyone else thinks. That, my friends, set me free from the insecurity that plagued me. And what a feeling that is. 🙂 If you’re out to please people, it will only lead to disappointment. If you’re out to touch people’s lives, to simply make a difference, by doing what you love to do, you can’t go wrong.
See you after Camp NaNo. I’m almost to the finish line.