Quitting, Tantrums and Asking Questions
How to progress your self publishing author career?
This week my ten-year-old daughter mangled a sheet of paper as she tried to erase the offensive lines from the page. She had found a video on YouTube that showed you how to draw a cat, but somehow her cat did not look like the one on the screen. The frustration had reduced her to tears, and she declared she hated the drawing. It took a fair bit of skill to get her to try again, but I knew my biggest challenge was helping her through her fear that she was never going to get it right.
If you hang around children for long enough, you know they are prone to tantrums. But progress rage is not unique to kids. Many authors have battled a fear of failure along their journey of “How to publish a book?”
We all have some sort of mission, and when we meet opposition or obstacles, how do we react and progress? My daughter learned her knee-jerk reactions from me. Part of it is genetic profiling and part comes from my highly artistic temperament. In the past, when I could see the vision, but had not yet mastered the skills to implement my plan, I freaked out a little… Or maybe a bit more than just a little. I had gained a lot of traction in my earlier career by bulldozing forward and hacking away at a problem until I had solved it. Then came my writing adventure.
I must admit that after two weeks of writing, I too was ready to quit. In fact, there were several times that the Quitting Monster slipped quietly under my bed at night, whispering doubts of what I was capable of. Sometimes the Quitting Monster dressed up as a well-meaning friend or team member and then BAM; the monster dropped the sheep’s clothing and jumped up on the edge of the bed, terrifying my author’s dream right out of me. Sometimes the monster would steal a chapter or two that I forgot to save. I wrestled that monster a lot, but I gathered a few of my own weapons along the way.
Make no mistake, there is a definite war in your mind. Being an author is fraught with challenges and landmines. For a new, self-published author, it almost seems as if this journey is too hard for our fragile dream. Somehow, we must marry our childlike innocence that first birthed our dream with the expectations of our audience.
We can learn a lot from children. When kids are very young, they scribble. They don’t colour in the lines and they do not understand what “art” really is. But they produce masses of drawings that as parents we try to guess what the meaning is.
“Why this is a lovely four legged stick,” we declare, only to be confronted with an annoyed “No mom, can’t you see it is a Rhinoceros Fairy?”
We mould their self-confidence with our expectations of what a Rhino fairy is. We ask, “Doesn’t it have to have a horn?” or “To be anatomically correct, should it have much bigger wings than those sticks?”or “Shouldn’t it have four limbs and then the wings? But wait, there is no such thing as a Rhino fairy.”
Or is there?
This is when kids learn to fear failure. And this fear of failure is something that will haunt them all the way through their adult life. But how does this apply to the self-published author? As authors, we get so stuck on the rules of our new chosen career that we quit on the dream.
What really helped me in my author career was to ask better questions when I faced obstacles. So here are some questions I found helpful in managing my mindset and making progress in my self-published career.
What is Unique to me?
The subject of your story, whether it is a Romance, helping families live with a parent who has dementia, or cake decorating techniques, is unique to you. Even if the topic has been covered before, you will bring your own unique flavour to it.
In my fiction career I write young adult, Chistian Medieval fantasy and my books have dragons in them. A sort of hybrid between Game of Thrones and Francine Rivers. The combination certainly raised a few eyebrows in my community. But I don’t need to write for all fantasy readers, I must just find MY tribe.
Now back to the Rhinoceros Fairy. Getting your book to market is about making other people believe there really could be a Rhino fairy and that you are the best person to show them it really exists.
So instead of freaking out about your lack of progress in your writing career and walking off into the sunset with the Quitting Monster, ask yourself these questions.
What is working right now?
If you are the inventor of the Rhino Fairy, then you are seriously creative and you are brave enough to challenge the belief that there is no such thing. There are some things which are working for you right now and part of your journey is celebrating the success you have already achieved to help fortify you on the road ahead.
So, what are your wins today?
How can I improve?
Thomas Edison’s teachers said he was “too stupid to learn anything.” and he was fired from his first two jobs for being “non-productive.” As an inventor, Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. While there is some debate about whether he invented it or refined techniques which lead to improvements, the fact is that he was a man bent on improving things and it earned him a place in history.
Now I have to say that mentioning his 1 000 attempts is not a lesson for putting off publishing until you feel everything is perfect, rather it means looking for ways to improve as you publish.
What are the areas you know you can improve on?
Why am I doing this?
If you have not already asked yourself why you are writing, do so today. Authors who have a higher sense of purpose face obstacles differently.
Roald Dahl, the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, wrote for his children and grandchildren and some of them popped up as characters in his books. When I started writing, my daughter was full of adventure and most of it seemed extremely dangerous. After realising I spent a fair amount of time scolding her for her terrifying feats, I wrote a fantasy book based on her personality, which celebrated her fierce spirit. My thought process was that when I die, she will see that despite my fears for her, I celebrated her uniqueness. I wanted her to know that she is special and is loved.
Why are you writing?
Who do I know?
When we let our “fear of failure” control us, we don’t reach out. There may be someone who has an answer to a problem you have. Theodor Geisel published 60 books and sold millions of copies. Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, was on his way home to burn his manuscript when his life changed. Twenty-seven publishers had already rejected him and he had chosen to quit and go home and burn his manuscript. Burning the manuscript, well, there is certainly a lot of symbolic drama in that progress tantrum.
On the way home, he bumped into an old acquaintance, Mike McClintock. This contact revealed he was an editor of children’s books at a publishing house and insisted on reading the manuscript. He bought Dr Seuss’s “Mulberry Street” the same day.
Somewhere in your circle of influence, there is someone who can help you in your self publishing career.
Who is that person?
What can I learn?
When I was about to finish my first book in my series, someone who offered to help me let me down at a crucial time. I was devastated, and I spent a lot of my time and energy moaning about the disappointment I had experienced. But I reached out to an online community, and one self-published author answered my call for help. That author revolutionized my thinking and exposed me to several techniques that I still use in my publishing career to this day. My disappointment could have made me quit there and then. Yet, here I am, still writing, still building my dream and creating a legacy for my family.
So today, I encourage you to rethink your writing career. It may not be where you want it to be right now, but rest assured you can battle that Quitting Monster and learn techniques that will help you progress in your career.
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Hello, I am Kim Vermaak
I spent most of my adult life helping other companies build their dream and their brands.
After I turned 40, I wondered if there was more to life than taking
care of children and slaving away to earn a living.
I wanted to create a legacy for my children and the next generation. I found that through my books I could celebrate who I am as well as teach others to earn a living through their writing.
Being an author is not a hobby. It is a business, and it is my passion to teach authors how to thrive in that business. I look forward to seeing your book business grow.
Your Book Whisperer