LinkedIn reminded me of my work anniversary yesterday, and I nearly fell off my desk chair (which badly needs replacing) when I realized how many years I’ve been at this.
It’s my 19th year as a freelance writer and editor. Nineteen! In the last five years, I’ve moved into writing novels and poetry collections, working as a hybrid author with publishers, and on my own. I’ve never felt more work satisfaction than I do now. I love what I do. While it’s challenging, it’s usually energizing. I love writing and speaking about it with aspiring authors, and helping them chart their own independent course.
If I had a theme song for the last 19 years, it would be Frank’s “My Way,” except, of course, I’d change the line “for what is a man…” to “for what is a woman, what has she got, if not herself, then she has naught.”
The lines that struck me to be most like my story are these ones: “Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew/When I bit off more than I could chew/But through it all, when there was doubt/I ate it up and spit it out/I faced it all and I stood tall/And did it my way.”
I certainly have done most of this my way, but I’ve had a great deal of help and guidance from others along the way. Indie authors need to learn to do it their way, but they also have to keep their eyes and ears open to advice and warnings from those who have been in the industry longer.
You should be a student of the world, and listen to what advice instinctively feels like it can be of use to you, and set aside the rest of the information in your crammed news feeds and inboxes. There’s only so much time to watch self-help videos and to read “how-to” books. For the most part, you just have to get down to work. You have to leap, and figure everything out on your way to where you’re going.
So, that means you can disregard everything you read in this article, if you so choose. However, these tips have gotten me far in my 19 years as a writer, so I hope you’ll read on.
Prepare to Fail
I have had several setbacks in this career, and I know I’ll have more. That’s probably how I manage to keep at this challenging career. I am prepared to fail, because I know failing helps me learn. It helps me get better. So, when I’m faced with setbacks and rejections, sure, I still throw a little pity-party (a very small one because my family won’t allow for much more!), but then I move on. It’s like driving a car. You know there’s a small chance of it stalling, or that you could blow a tire. Drive as far as you can, and if the tire blows, fix it, and move on.
Rejections Are Stepping Stones To What You Want
Think of rejections not as a poor reflection on you or your work, but simply necessary steps that will get you closer to your goal (kind of like having bad dates and finding out what you don’t want in a mate). I submitted my children’s stories to over 40 agents and publishers, and then I did the same for my first novel, Strangely, Incredibly Good. I was at what I believe was my 22nd rejection when I got an acceptance letter from my publisher, Morning Rain Publishing. I have heard stories about people getting over 100 rejections before being published. I didn’t go that far with my second and third novels, because I decided to go indie with those, and I’m so glad I did. The Ticket is my bestselling Amazon book, and as if that didn’t blow me away enough, a large publisher of audio books approached me last fall to buy the worldwide rights to it as an audio book. I’m not sure any of that would have happened if I hadn’t done it my way, and kept all the rights.
I have kept most of my rejection letters dating back to 1999 in a file folder. I sometimes read them to remind me just how far I’ve come.
Do Nothing, and then Try Everything
That’s my very deep advice for dealing with a career setback (it’s probably not the best advice if you’ve just broken up with someone).
When I was waiting to hear back from an agent who had held onto The Ticket manuscript for three months, I did everything wrong. I didn’t write every day, working on the “next thing,” like I should have. I moped around a lot and spent too much time checking my Facebook feed. I’m exaggerating, I wasn’t that bad, but in hindsight, I should have been looking at tomorrow, at how I could better myself today and the next day, and not worry so much about what was going to happen to The Ticket in the next six months. I’ve learned from that lesson, especially because the agent ended up passing on the book, and I was a little heartbroken. I probably fell in love with the idea of having an agent more than anything, so I got over it, after doing a lot of nothing.
Give yourself permission to feel sad about the setback. Binge watch Netflix, or go on a solo camping trip –whatever floats your boat. Then, after some time, try everything you haven’t tried yet.
That is what’s worked for me. I tried a distribution technique and it worked at first and then very horribly didn’t work. It cost me $1,200 I didn’t expect to lose. Yes, this really happened to me, last year! Yikes, I’m getting cold sweats just typing about it again.
So, I crossed that idea off my list, spent the morning fixing what I could of the mistake, and danced in the kitchen to Adele that entire afternoon. Okay, I yelled a little bit at first about how unfair the whole thing was.
Then I tried something new. Something I’d never tried before. And guess what? It worked.
But that’s a tale for another time…
I’ll be talking about this topic tomorrow Friday January 19th at 3EST,
I’ll also pop onto my Facebook page to chat and take questions at 330 EST.
Keep on writing!