Another birthday has come and gone but I’m not the least bit bothered. I am doing things and age can’t and won’t get in the way. Three years ago, I took the plunge into self-publishing and even though I haven’t hit a best seller list, and may never do so, I can’t complain because I love what I do and I have earned the right to do it.
I still get the occasional niggling question – why not a traditional publisher? Or my favourite, why did you give your character that name? I still cringe at the words (internally), but I choose silence (externally). In any case, what could I say?
Of course, I would love a publisher to find me, but it’s not like I decide I want it to happen and magically someone offers me a contract. And to be honest, I like not stressing over query letters, a synopsis or an outline, or that awful wait for someone to get back to you. And I may have to do a lot alone, but at least I dance to the beat of my own drum. (I didn’t pick the names of my characters, they introduced themselves and I had to lump it, just in case you wanted to know.)
There is an insane belief that we can question the actions of a self-published author in a very personal way. I am beginning to believe it is because we explain ourselves. I know I have, and frankly I have done it far too often. At first, I did it because I wanted to share the process. It helped me clarify what I was doing. Secondly, I wanted to encourage others out there to have a go at whatever they felt they wanted to do. Both were and are great reasons but somewhere in there I found myself sharing too much and wondering if I was undermining the necessary belief in the self that keeps us going. I decided I wanted to re-think and re-process.
One of the perks with self-publishing is being able to re-evaluate based on input, and then re-edit and re-publish. Controlling what we do is amazing. We pick when and where. So as I said, I documented the journey, all of it – the first publication, the re-edit, publishing again and so forth. I can truly say I did it in good faith, wanting readers to understand I knew changes were needed.
But I wonder if it wasn’t also way of excusing myself, showing myself in a positive light. I mean, it would demonstrate how thoughtful I was, how self-aware, wouldn’t it? Emotional blackmail of sorts? I don’t think that’s true, at least not intentionally, but I have decided perhaps an element of this existed and exists, and perhaps sharing needs limits. Readers need their illusions as well, and it seems wrong to pull them into our mistakes. And it also feeds the writer a constant diet of subconscious self-doubt.
The truth is good or bad, independent authors rock. Putting ourselves out there to fulfil a potential in our lives is brave given normal avenues for whatever reasons are not open to us, and we stand alone. Being a wordsmith (working with words), a fellow Australian author Jill Staunton would say, is incredibly satisfying. I also think it a little dangerous. Words are fuelled by thoughts. And sometimes there is a clashing between life and the manuscript we need to be wary of. This quote from Frank Outlaw (his background appeared complicated but I like the quote Mareo McCraken chose in his post and went with it) says it all.
“Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
These words led me back to re-read three posts I had written fail early, fail often and fail forward not so long ago. The posts shed a light I didn’t want. I discovered that without meaning to, a part of me was documenting far too often not to be seeking to validate my less than perfect outcomes. But, validation is a means of gratifying the moment, and then what? My destiny was becoming more re-write blow-by-blow orientated instead of new project orientated. I forgot to fail forward. Acceptance of errors is the way we improve. I don’t need to explain. I need to improve.
Kelsie Engen in a recent post says she has learned three valuable lessons as a writer.
- Most obviously, I’ve learned to be a better writer. With complete honesty she tells us that looking back on her earliest writing she shudders until she sees how far she has come.
- Writing takes you beyond writing. One of her examples was writing about a horse jockey when she had never spent time on a track. I know what she means. As readers we see this all the time. I have had to learn to research in ways I never dreamed of for just one word. I am Italian, my characters are Italian but that is not enough to ensure correctness. Kelsie says, “There needs to be a vein of truth.” She’s right; readers connect to truth.
- Writing taught me to accept who I am. In agreement. Writing brings out the truth in us and we can’t run from it. We can learn.
My mind lives in the spin of a never-ending washing machine cycle of words but you know what, that’s okay to share.
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See you next time,