The following section may sound a bit strange…like a stream-of-consciousness piece (albeit edited for readability), but that’s because I took a rambling, journal-like approach to searching for an answer to my problem. That problem was my enthusiasm for writing and my goal of making a living out of this. As you’ll see, I start by writing down my frustrations, but abruptly come to a solution. As a writer, I should have known that writing would be the best way to really explore my thoughts and feelings.
What’s the Plan, Jarrod?
I’ve been wondering for a while whether being an author is really what I’m meant to be doing. Or whether it’s really something I can achieve. I guess that’s not the best way to frame this because, technically, I am an author. I’ve written and published one book, wrote and published two short stories, and am in the process of completing two novellas now. But for some reason the fire that was there when I wrote the first book and then tried to market it is not there anymore. I don’t really know what happened. I can’t seem to find the same excitement and drive that I had a year ago. I’m trying to force myself to write and just let the ideas flow, but there’s a lot of friction with my fiction (ha!). Maybe that’s how it is for a lot of people. Maybe I should ask Twitter and see what writers do to overcome that feeling. How do they keep writing? How do they keep that same fire? And does it always feel like a damn job?
I wanted to be a self-published, independent author because of the freedom it seemed to supply. Freedom of time, the ability to be completely creative, get paid for it, and to live a life that was truly your own. And I still would prefer that over going into work every day and reporting to a boss. But, would I be able to maintain that lifestyle? If it’s so hard for me to spend time writing now, how do I expect to do it full time? What do I need to do to get to that level of “stickwithitness”? What happened that my fire was drained?
Was it the fact that my book didn’t become a multi-million dollar hit? I was always prepared for the reality that I might not sell much, so I don’t think that’s it.
Is it the fact that my book wasn’t completely perfect when I released it? Some people have noted errors and one person was not so fond of the pace – could that be it? I don’t think so.
Was it the marketing – the business side of it that I found so hard to wrap my head around that it killed my enthusiasm? I think it was, now that I think about it. I had an idea of myself that I’d be able to learn all about the business side of things as I went along. I thought I had a good enough grasp already on what it took to grab attention. But I found out that I don’t.
I’ve done a blog, social media, video, and even a podcast to try to crack the code on branding, but none of it feels right. I can’t get a system down. Despite how much I’ve researched and learned, there’s this insurmountable wall on the business side of things that tells me “regardless of how many books you write, hardly anyone will care because you can’t do this”. And I think that may be what’s blocking me.
It’s funny. I don’t think my problem is a creative one at all. It’s a business problem. It’s a marketing problem. My inability to engage people like I used to when I was doing my fashion blog is killing my big picture – and without that big picture it’s hard for me to focus on writing. Without all the steps lined up and a proven system in place to grab attention, get email sign-ups, and generate sales that feels right, I can’t write. Without an end goal in sight, what’s the point? Selling 12 books? Really? And I’m fine with only selling 12 books if I know with my next one I can sell 13, and the next I can sell 14, but the growth just doesn’t seem to be there. And it’s so frustrating.
When I talk about this businessy stuff “feeling right” I mean that what I do outside of writing in order to get attention has to be something I could do for the rest of my life. Can I host a YouTube show interviewing other Black LGBTQ authors for the rest of my life? No. Can I post premium Instagram videos or beautiful pictures by myself for the rest of my life? No. Podcast about my mundane life for the rest of my life? No. And I can’t keep hitting my head against the wall in Twitter and Facebook trying to get enough interaction with every tweet like a lot of people are seemingly able to do.
What feels right is my website, email list, and going to conventions and events to sell my book and sign people up for emails. And really, that doesn’t sound like a bad thing. Perhaps that’s my solution. If I focus on those few things, and use social media to broadcast what I’ve blogged or my trip to a convention, then I can see that as growth.
I had to pull away from everything after trying everything to see what worked and what didn’t. And while being social media savvy sounds exciting, it’s not me. And I’m okay with that. Outside of writing, this will be my business plan until I grow it out to be bigger and better. I think I’ve found my fire. Whew! See what writing it out can do?