A Time for Re-evaluation


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.

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24 Responses to A Time for Re-evaluation

  1. Beth says:

    I hear you. I’m sort of in that place myself, and have decided to go with what I get the most pleasure and energy from. So I’m cutting out the committees, boards, and other creativity drowners. I feel that I should commit time to organizations I belong to, and now I have. No more (for a while at least). I. Must. Create. Writing, painting, or forging precious metal–it has to be creative now. (Oh yeah. And I still have to cook occasionally. -sigh-)

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  2. cmflet says:

    I wish I had wisdom on how to simplify. I don’t think anyone knows exactly what works, and even if they did, it varies from author to author and book to book, as you point out. Probably the best advice I ever heard was to do what you really enjoy and forget the rest. But I know the drive to do as much as you can, all the time… Good idea to take a step back and re-evaluate. I hope you get both rest and perspective on your stay-cation!

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    • Lisa Nowak says:

      Chris, so far I’ve gotten a lot done on the new book and come up with some ideas for the direction to take my blog and website, but I don’t really feel rested. I think I need to get out in the woods for that, or take a day at the coast or something.

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  3. N.M. Martinez says:

    Just reading about all you do wears me out! 😉

    Seems a lot of people have been having this similar feeling of burn out when it comes to marketing and even twittet in general. I like you plan to do what you enjoy. Yes, that’s a good one and easy to stick to.

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    • Lisa Nowak says:

      Nina, I definitely hear a lot about burnout among writers, particularly when it comes to social networking. I want to try to stick to the stuff I enjoy, but I’m not sure how successful I’ll be at it.

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  4. Lisa…you are one of the hardest working writers I know! I think sometimes you need to take a little time to yourself (even if that means disconnecting and writing!) or you are going to get burned out. Relax a bit and focus on you…I am sure that time will translate into your writing because you are able to just focus on what you want.

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  5. Glad to hear Wee Cat is doing well these days. Can’t say I blame you for canceling your annual camping trip given your past experiences.

    Sure hope you can find the time to relax and smell the proverbial roses once in a while, though.

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  6. Alice Lynn says:

    It’s hard to stop running when you’ve been stuck in over-drive as long as you have. But I’m relieved to know you’re taking for a breather. It’s time to fill the well.

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    • Lisa Nowak says:

      Alice, filling the well is exactly right. I’m not sure that’s what I’ve accomplished with this break, but at least I’m halfway through my revisions of Dead Heat. I can’t wait to release this book.

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  7. Carol Riggs says:

    Whew, you’re making me tired, reading about your busy-ness. I’m glad you decided to have a staycation, and I hope you can set some good priorities and get some balance back to your life! Hugs to you!

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  8. Rose Lefebvre says:

    I have been in awe of you. You have several books written, and I cannot even get 2 chapters written. I do think you need to always find time for yourself to be “down,” not working on a book or helping someone with a book. Time to just lay on the grass and listen to it grow. Time to close your eyes and feel the breeze caressing you. Time to stand in the middle of nowhere in particular (a field, a park, a forest) and scream your lungs our or laugh like you’ve gone insane. We all need that!

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    • Lisa Nowak says:

      Rose, I wish I could send you some positive energy that would help inspire you to work on your mystery novel, because that is one fun book. Maybe I’ll take you up on lying in the grass and listening to it grow. That sounds very relaxing.

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  9. Roxie Matthews says:

    I am getting to be a slothmaster and gold-medal layabout. It takes practice, though. You have to ignore that nagging voice that tells you to get something accomplished. Hanging out and petting Wee Cat for a couple of hours is a worthy thing to accomplish. Reading a fluff book and ignoring the unfolded laundry would be good practice for you. New mantra for you: “I’ll get to it later.”

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    • Lisa Nowak says:

      Roxie, I should apprentice myself to you, for most certainly you are the Master of relaxing. 🙂 I would do well to listen to your wisdom and tell that nagging voice to shut up once in a while.

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  10. Robin Koontz says:

    *They say* that if you don’t take breaks and give yourself time for you, what you produce will not be up to your potential and you won’t be happy with it even if it is, because you’re too tired to care. I think it’s called burn out…When the landscaping business goes into hibernation, things will be better, then next spring here you go again. It does sound like time to reassess things, glad you are doing that. Hope Wee Cat continues to heal, you too.

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    • Lisa Nowak says:

      Yup, I’ve heard that “they” say that, too. In fact I wrote a blog post about it several years ago that I’d completely forgotten about until I was poking around in the archives yesterday looking for something else. Isn’t it funny how we have to keep re-learning the same lesson?

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  11. Barb says:

    The key to balance is a good beer and a good book. Now both of us will work on turning off the phone, TV and computer. Good luck.

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  12. Todd McCann says:

    Why is it so freaking hard to slow down and so easy to get too busy? I’m experiencing the same thing myself, only I don’t have near as much going on as you do. I’m only on one social network (Twitter) and I’m not even on there as much as I used to be. Yet I still find it to be a burden sometimes. And I’m not even actively promoting anything except an occasional blog post. I don’t know how you do it. Good luck with finding a way to slow down. If you figure it out, bottle it up, put it on the shelves, and sit back and enjoy your millions!

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