Today is August 20, one year, seven months, and sixteen days since I began to entertain the idea of self-publishing. One year, two months and eighteen days since I took the plunge by uploading my first book to Smashwords. I feel like I’ve been running wide open ever since (no pun intended). That’s a long time to be operating at full throttle, and let me tell you, it’s exhausting. I’m out of fuel and looking at ways to change things so I can slow down a little and do more of what I enjoy. Part of this process is looking back at the last year and a half and evaluating what I’ve learned and how I can do things differently now. I know some of what works and what doesn’t. I’ve set goals and achieved them.
Most of my goals over the past year had to do with teaching. I wanted to present at an SCBWI event and wrangled my way into two, the spring conference and the summer picnic. I wanted to teach at a community college and did so both winter and spring terms through Gladstone school, which operates under the Clackamas Community College continuing education program. I wanted to present at the Willamette Writers Conference, and submitted three potential workshops. The one on ebook formatting was selected. One of my main reasons for teaching was to become respected as a person of authority on the subject of indie publishing in the Portland area. I accomplished that.
But when I look back on all of this, it’s hard to feel any real sense of satisfaction. I think that’s a product of being so stressed and exhausted. There’s no room in my schedule for reflection or enjoyment. When one task is accomplished, it’s time to get onto the next thing because there’s absolutely no way to get everything done, even if I never take a break. I’ve always been known for trying to stuff ten pounds into a five pound bag, but since I started this indie thing, I feel like I have to cram an additional five pounds in there. It’s absolutely insane. That brings me to having to do things differently.
I started my indie voyage with research, and that research led me to believe that certain things are necessary, like marketing and platform building and networking. I did tons of this, both online and in person, and I really wore myself out, not to mention learned to resent just about all of it. But the number one thing I’ve discovered is that indie publishing is still a young industry that hasn’t shaken itself out. The collection of data we have to show whether or not something works is so small it’s not an accurate scientific sample. What we take for a cause and effect relationship may, in fact, be coincidence. Beyond that, what works for one person doesn’t work for another, and what’s successful for one book might not be for subsequent books. The people who’ve been doing this longer than I have all say the same thing: the best marketing you can do, the best use of your time, the best way to get noticed, is to write your next book.
But every time I try to evaluating my life, what’s working and what isn’t, what I want to do and what I don’t, I draw blank. I look at the things I’m doing and it doesn’t seem that there’s anything I can cut. I can’t ignore my landscaping clients, and if somebody new calls me, it would be irresponsible to turn them down. I can’t say no to the favors I’m doing, because even though I’m not getting paid for them, they’re trade, and later on I’m going to need the services those people have to offer. I can’t stop writing because—well that’s the whole point of this venture, not to mention, my passion. Where do I find time for the things I want to do—build a website, connect with my readers online, update my blog so it’s visually what I want it to be? And where do I find time for the things I’ve been neglecting the past year, like visiting other people’s blogs, socializing with my friends on Facebook—and most importantly—writing the kinds of funny or emotionally stirring blog posts I used to write. I feel like there’s so much noise in my life, I’ve neglected the things that truly matter to me. And I’m not sure how to get back to where I was.
Normally I take a break around this time that helps me reset myself. But this year, I canceled my usual four-day jaunt to Eugene and the camping trip I take in late August, because I’m afraid to be away from Wee Cat that long. He’s doing really well, for those of you who are wondering, but because he got sick so suddenly last time, and because, several years ago, my cat Newt died while I was on vacation, I just can’t bear to leave him overnight. So what I’ve done is given myself a staycation. I’m taking time off to write and reevaluate things. I’m not sure how it’s going to work out, since I’m already four days into my time off and still feel like I’ll never get caught up with all the things I’ve been neglecting over the summer, but at least I’m making progress on Dead Heat.