There are so many things I wish I could tell you, So much I want to say: I love you. I miss you. I want you back. I wish you were here today. Life is not what it used to be, My wishes are nothing but air, The emptiness aches. The quietness moans. Shadows of you are everywhere. I weep with depth of longing, Miserable, lonely, bereft: I love you. I miss you. I want you back, And the memories are all I have left.
It’s one week today until Halloween. The shops are full of costumes, accessories, and big bags of treats to hand out.
Australians are once again protesting about it being an American thing (it’s not) while they gladly binge-watch American TV series on Foxtel and Netflix, listen to predominantly American music on commercial radio, and argue about whether Coke or Pepsi is better. (It’s definitely Coke.)
Despite the protestations of those Aussie nay-sayers, it’s a week that I quite enjoy. It reminds me of my first Halloween season in Canada, where I learned more about the background of the holiday and started to appreciate it in a different way. I like seeing kids and families out together, dressed up in costumes and walking around my small town, spending time together and having fun that doesn’t involve a screen.
It’s also a time when, like many other horror authors, I’m hoping to put my books in front of people and maybe get a sale or three.
I write spooky short stories, among other things. I work hard to build the right atmosphere, to lure the reader in, and then shock them with a macabre turn of events. I try to appeal to different senses so that they hold their breath while their skin crawls. It’s not splatter for splatter’s sake, and the monsters generally don’t hide under the beds or in the wardrobes of little kids. The monsters I write about are, more often than not, people who seem ordinary in most ways— until they prove they are not.
So, why not try a creepy story? You might enjoy it more than you think!
It seems that I haven’t just dropped the proverbial ball when it comes to blogging regularly, I’ve gone and lost the jolly thing. I last saw it a couple of weeks ago, when it bounced a couple of times before rolling away through some very prickly bushes and falling into a seemingly bottomless hole.
The thing is, life since that drafted virus unleashed itself on the world has been tumultuous.
I could tell you I haven’t written anything, but that’s not true. I have written some really great lessons and three entire new units because what I had planned (and written) previously wasn’t going to work in an online learning environment.
I could tell you I didn’t have a quarantine project, but that isn’t true either. I’ve had two, both of which happened by necessity rather than design.
Project One: reinventing my career Initial Observations: Teaching from home is a whole lot more work than it sounds. All that extra time online is very tiring. Final Observations: Challenging and exhausting, but enormously satisfying. Most students engaged really well. More positives than negatives. Verdict: Aced it.
Project Two: supporting my father as he spent a couple of weeks in hospital before transitioning into residential aged care. Initial observations: Lots of phone calls. Mountains of paperwork. Huge emotional adjustments. Further Observations: Decisions are hard, even when you actually have no choice. Emotions are hard. Being on one mental and emotional roller coaster while your dad is on a completely different one can only be dealt with by hanging on for dear life and completely faking any appearance of knowing what you are doing. Verdict: Aced it. Especially the part where I looked like I knew what I was doing.
It should also be mentioned that these two significant challenges occurred simultaneously. I didn’t have time to scratch myself, much less spend any more personal time online than I did.
So really, I’ve achieved far more since mid-March than is apparent from my nonexistent output of either blog posts or fiction.
I admit that I have seriously contemplated walking away from writing and/or blogging. Even while considering that, I knew that was the stuff of emotional and mental exhaustion, because I still have ideas and plans bubbling away in the back of my mind. I am not ready to quit, and I would be letting myself down if I did.
I will get my mojo back, even if I’m not sure when that might happen.
We’ve all heard the well-intentioned advice: Write every day. It always seems to be spewed by privileged people who have a flexible schedule or a stable income without a day job or who have somehow managed to eschew all other commitments. And while there’s truth to the advice–I certainly find that writing is easier when I’m doing it consistently–for most of us, the pressure only leads to a cycle of despair that actually reduces our creative output.
So if you’re not one of the privileged few, here are some tips for getting all that daily writing in:
Find yourself a wealthy significant other/sugar daddy/sugar mama/patron who will support your daily writing habit, and maybe buy you bonbons to munch on too.
Wake up three hours early and get your writing in before your day job. Then hope that no one notices that you’re sleeping at your desk or in front…
All writers get the same advice. Read the great writers; study the great works. Learn how seasoned, professional, and successful authors get the job done. All true, but I maintain that it’s also crucial for writers to read crap to learn what not to do.
Everything David Gittlin has written in this post sounds remarkably familiar to me, as my own experiences are very similar.
This is precisely one of the reasons that I developed some budget-friendly book promotion options for Indie authors via Book Squirrel – it costs a lot less per month to get your book seen by people than it cost me, or David Gittlin, or countless others for that matter, for the months of promotion paid for with very low return.
Of course, I don’t pretend that Book Squirrel is the entire solution. No one package ever is. But his options for book promotion definitely offer a few affordable opportunities, and provide some valuable parts of a good overall promotion plan.
The other thing to keep in mind that promotion will not always directly result in sales. It’s also about building familiarity with your book and brand, getting your name out there, developing some credibility and presenting opportunities for people to think about your book as well as to buy it. Realistically, very few people will immediately buy a book by someone they haven’t heard of: in fact, very few people immediately buy a book by someone they have heard of. Those readers who have a “one click” response to books and authors are worth their weight in gold.
Comparatively speaking, writing a novel is the fun, easy, first step of the self-publishing process. The second step, creating an attention-getting book cover, offers its own unique set of challenges. However, the most intimidating and difficult undertaking, to most authors, is the third step—marketing. The word strikes terror in many authors’ sensitive little hearts because they want as little to do with the outside world as possible.
I am a real sucker for posts that offer writing tips, publishing tips, and the experiences of other authors and bloggers. I’ve shared a number of them on this blog, because some people have genuinely good advice and share their experiences in a very positive and constructive way.
This response to those kind of posts is quite refreshing in its honesty and in its explanations of why those posts can actually be demotivating for some people. I can totally relate to the feeling of disappointment in myself that I haven’t adopted and implemented more of the great advice given by other Indie authors since beginning my own author journey, and to the sense of “exhaustion” at the number of “You Can Do This If You Follow My Formula” posts out there.
It’s true that those hints and tips for success aren’t “one size fits all”, and nor is success. There are many ways to measure success, and we all have individual goals that determine what our own standards or images of success might be.
It is also fair to say that there is so much advice, so many tips, so many things people tell us to do, that it’s simply not possible to try it all out, and we really do need to remain realistic about what advice we are going to take on at any given time.
I do like Daegan’s points about daily and weekly reviews of what has been done or achieved. I actually do this, and it helps me stay on track because I find achieving small goals and milestones along the way incredibly motivating.
I don’t meditate as such, but I do set time aside for quietness and reflection in my daily routine. I wear a lot of hats in my day-to-day life, so taking even just a few minutes when my brain has nothing to do is a vital means of refreshing and resetting my mind at various stages of the day. As an introvert who is often surrounded by people all day long and again at home, that quietness is also how I recharge my energy, so it’s a crucial thing for me to do.
My “takeaway” from this article is that it’s important for each of us to set our own goals, define what sort of “success” we are hoping to achieve, and find what works for us as individuals.
The one thing we should all do is keep striving to make it happen.
I have read so many articles that have a headline similar to:
“If you want to be successful, adopt these 5 habits right away!”
The problem is, the author is always telling me what I should do to be successful as if my success and their success looks exactly the same.
I get so many of these articles telling me about the habits that I should have or my life is clearly falling apart. I’ll admit, many are good and I have certainly tried them.
But what about the author? Are they using all of those tips? Do they really have all of those habits locked down when they had a post a month ago telling me 12 other success tips? I want to know the person behind the word and if it’s actually worth my time.
Maybe I’m small minded and not wired for success, but…
I’m always interested to see how different people react when I tell them I’m a published author. You can never really tell which way it’s going to go.
I’m accustomed to people saying, “Oh, that’s nice” or “Oh, interesting! I’ve never met an author before!”. Some people look at me with pity, others adopt an expression that suggests I have three heads.
I am, I confess, always puzzled by people who say, “I don’t read”. I have absolutely no idea what that kind of existence must be like, so I just smile and nod.
The response I find most confronting, though, is “Oh, you must be rich!”
I have two favourite responses for those people: I either say “Nobody gets rich writing poetry!” or “You don’t become a writer if you’re looking for an easy way to make a buck.” To write really well is hard work. It takes time, commitment, energy and attention to detail – and those things generally don’t see a vast return in cash.
My motivation as a writer doesn’t come from money – if it did, I’d have quit after the first book. Sure, I’d like to sell more books, and be able to quit my job and write full time. That would be great… but it’s not likely to happen anytime soon.
For me, writing is a passion, a drive that I find it almost impossible to resist. When I write something good, I feel fulfilled. When I refine it, edit it, craft it, polish it and finally publish it, it’s both exciting and immensely satisfying.
The real thrill comes when a reader responds positively to my work, especially my poetry. To know someone has enjoyed one of my stories or been touched by one of my poems is the best feeling because that doesn’t happen accidentally.
This post by Sara Wolf, which I found on Ryan Lanz’s blog, addresses the issue of the vast differences between what the majority and the minority of authors earn. It’s a well-written article with a message that comes as no surprise to me or any other Indie author.
Most authors aren’t rich. Some manage to make a living. Only a very small percentage make it into the big league and get rich and super famous.
It is a frequent occurrence in the news to hear about authors cutting multi-million (or even billion) dollar book or movie deals. Famous examples of ridiculously successful authors, such as J.K. Rowling, E. L. James, and Stephen King, often lead people to think that becoming an author will undoubtedly lead to an equally as lucrative outcome. However, it turns out that the average author makes much, much less.
They say having an email list is crucial for an author. It’s the one sure-fire way to reach your readers.
I am clearly the exception to that rule.
Either I really suck at creating newsletters, or my subscribers signed up for the wrong list. It’s why I am very reluctant to send out newsletters now.
When I send emails with other people’s books in them, my subscribers click through to those books.
Do they click through to mine? Nope.
And sadly, I get as many clicks to unsubscribe as I do on the links in my newsletter.
It really is quite depressing.
Yet I don’t do anything different than any of the dozens of authors whose newsletters I receive. Well, that part isn’t strictly true:
I don’t spam my books repeatedly. I don’t email every week, let alone every day or two, like some do. I don’t use high pressure sales pitches. I don’t beg, and I don’t whine. I don’t even include only my own content. I always share other books and bookish events that readers might be interested in.
I have observed all those things happening in various different authors’ newsletters at different times, and have always tried to avoid doing anything I have found off-putting.
Honestly? I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, but I appear to be doing it consistently.
I do suspect that maybe newsletter writing is not for me. I’ve given it a fair crack and it hasn’t been at all well received.
The reference to Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ in the title of ‘A Rose By Any Other Name’ is blatantly obvious.
The irony is that ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is probably my least favourite play from among Shakespeare’s works. As I often explain to my students who think it’s romantic and all about love, it’s really not. It’s a tragedy that demonstrates what happens when people do stupid things on impulse and don’t stop to think about the consequences of their actions.
They’re teenagers. They met on Sunday, and by Thursday, they’re dead.
And, as Shakespeare points out in the epilogue, they end up that way because their families both prioritise their stupid feud over the happiness and the future of their children. How much more like a badly plotted teenage soap opera could it be?
It’s more of an anti-Romance, if you ask me. They’re not in love, they’re infatuated. Romeo really is quite an idiot, and as for fickle… how quickly did he forget his passion for Rosaline the moment he met Juliet? If you ask me, Rosaline dodged a bullet – or a dagger, or a vial of poison, there.
To be fair, the fault isn’t Shakespeare’s. He based his play on an old story that was very popular back in the day, which was a brilliant marketing move. The other factor that made his play such a hit was the beauty of the language with which it is written. There’s nothing at all wrong with the writing: it’s magnificent. Nothing can convince me otherwise. If anyone could give a story about two silly teenagers from equally silly families another 600 years plus in terms of longevity, he was the man for the job.
So, is it odd that I’ve used ‘Romeo and Juliet’ as one of the starting points of my story? Not really, because I wanted my story to be something of an anti-Romance, too.
‘A Rose By Any Other Name’ draws on ‘Romeo and Juliet’, and on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale of ‘Rapunzel’ as starting points, then twists and tangles them together to create a mashup of the two stories with a very different ending. Romeo is still an idiot, it still ends in tragedy… but it’s a completely new story. It’s medieval fantasy, laced with faint traces of my subversive sense of humour.
I like to think of it as the story that Shakespeare and the Brothers Grimm never told. But I bet if they’d thought of it, they would have.