I’m losing my gumption for writing.
Or at least for publishing.
I can’t imagine myself ever not writing. The publishing part, though, it drains my soul.
As much as I want my stories to land on the hearts that need them, I am tired of how ‘less than’ publishing makes me feel.
It’s an incredibly competitive industry and one that is skewed towards the people who
- aggressively promote themselves and their writing and have a talent for doing so
- began their publishing career decades ago when the field wasn’t so flooded and have a backlist of best sellers
- are already famous and/or have the right contacts
- or the lucky few who land a book contract with one of the big four (soon to be three unless the Department of Justice stops the sale of Penguin-Random House to Simon & Schuster) publishing houses who dictate what gets on the best seller lists
Does this sound like sour grapes?
Probably it is.
And I really hate sour grapes. I’m possibly the most hopeful person you know. So, clearly, it took a lot to get me to this point.
I jumped into the NaNoWriMo craziness this week in the hopes that it would inspire me to get going on a new novel. I’ve spent the last year stewing over a rewrite on a manuscript my agent didn’t love when I sent it to her almost a year ago, only to come up empty.
And yet, I haven’t been able to start anything new either.
I wrote the rough draft of Blind Turn (Black Rose, January 2021) during NaNoWriMo 2012. So I thought maybe I could capture that magic again and signed up this year.
At first, I was excited. I liked my new main character, Billy (short for Willamina). I was curious about her story and thought she had a message to share. I set up my NaNoWriMo page, roughed out a very vague outline, did character interviews, set a goal (35K words), and started writing this past Monday morning, figuring I’d research as I went and figure out if it was a story I wanted to pursue.
But just over three thousand words in, I was overcome by one thought, “Why?”
Writing this new book will take thousands of hours at the laptop and thousands of hours walking streets and trails thinking it through. And if it follows the path of my previous books, I won’t make more than a few thousand dollars from it. And all of those dollars will go into promoting it, so the net profit will likely be little to nothing.
I don’t write for the money.
(And I don’t know any other authors who do either.)
If I did, I would have stopped five books ago.
But money is one measure of success. A shallow one, maybe, but also a very clear one.
Money aside, for me, writing fiction has been about the joy of crafting a story, of spinning an entire world out of the raw material of my heart and my head and my imagination. And then connecting with readers who enjoyed my story. Nothing made me happier than meeting with a book club or getting an email from a reader or signing a book for someone who loved my characters almost as much as I did.
But after the pandemic took away all the book tours, book clubs, and signings I had planned with my last two books, I tried my best at the online promoting. I toiled on Facebook lives and Zoom calls; I watched countless ‘online marketing’ webinars and then added an Instagram account, got busy on Goodreads, and scheduled posts on all my Facebook pages.
And slowly but surely over the last eighteen months, it ground down my soul.
I watched as other writers and ‘influencers’ thrived in this new world and felt that same familiar feeling I had in high school—not good enough, not popular enough, not smart enough, not talented enough, not beautiful enough. Just not enough.
And before you start with your kind reassurances, I will tell you that I do know that I AM enough. It’s taken decades to figure that out, and it was a hard-won belief.
I have a feeling that I’m not unique in this. Social media makes all of us feel less-than, even as we collect likes and friends and followers. Enough is never enough and the addicting pull of the scroll is hard to resist. Maybe this next post, this next picture, this next video will be the one that takes me viral.
I’m working on my plan, knowing I’ll have to wean myself away slowly. There are valuable connections I’ve made online, people who are more than just the label friend. This year, I’ve had the opportunity to meet several of them in person and that was a joyful experience. So, there’s good and bad.
The trick is finding the balance. My balance is way off. When I feel worse, not better each time I log on, then clearly there is a problem.
Thank God for my dogs, my husband, and the mountains. They heal me.
So, I’m rethinking things. Maybe I’ll find a platform where I can put out my stories quietly, maybe give them away free to people who want them. Or maybe I’ll stop writing stories and stick with saving dogs. I know I can’t step away completely because animal rescue runs on social media, for better or worse.
I’m going to get back to just doing me and stop trying to be more. I’m enough. You’re enough too. Oddly, it takes most of us all our lives to come to peace with that.
Have you found a way to balance what you do online with how you feel inside? If you’ve got any tips, I’d love to hear them.
Hey, thanks for reading. I know you’ve got lots of options, so thanks for sharing a few of your minutes with me.
If you’re curious about what else I’m up to, check out my website, CaraWrites.com.
If you’d like to subscribe to my (sometimes) monthly e-newsletter, click here.
My book, 100 Dogs & Counting: One Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and a Journey Into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues was released July 2020 from Pegasus books and is available anywhere books are sold, but if you’d like some help finding it (or want to read some lovely reviews), click here.