I’m Enough

I’m jumping off this crazy merry-go-round of publishing and promoting. Enough is never enough, but, you know, I am enough. #amwriting but #amdonepromoting

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

  1. aggressively promote themselves and their writing and have a talent for doing so
  2. began their publishing career decades ago when the field wasn’t so flooded and have a backlist of best sellers
  3. are already famous and/or have the right contacts
  4. 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.

Honored,

Cara

My latest novel, Blind Turn is a mother-daughter story of forgiveness in the aftermath of a fatal texting and driving accident. Learn more about it and find out how to get your copy here.

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.

And If you’re a dog lover, check out my other blog, Another Good Dog. And if you want to know what is really happening in the animal shelters in this country, visit, Who Will Let the Dogs Out.

I’d love to connect with you on Facebook, twitter, or Instagram, and I’m thrilled to get email from readers (and writers), you can reach me at carasueachterberg@gmail.com.

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.

Author: Cara Sue Achterberg

I am a writer, blogger, and dog rescuer. I live in the darling town of Woodstock, Virginia in the Shenandoah Valley with my husband and three rescue dogs (who rescue me on a daily basis). Find more information about my books, my dogs, and all my writing adventures at CaraWrites.com.

7 thoughts on “I’m Enough”

  1. You haven’t read my books, but I know that in another time (and possibly another place) they would have been published conventionally. After killing the chances for Martin of Gfenn (I did that) and learning that hard lesson, I went at writing a far wiser and better writer.

    Two “close calls,” looking at a work of historical fiction that was a best seller and seeing how incomparably stupid and poorly written — yet how accurately it hit the public pulse! and followed hard on a very popular non-fiction book this woman had written. Really scrutinizing the contact I’ve had with literary agents (hilarious in a dark way), time spent getting to know myself after that, well, I saw what a racket conventional publishing is — necessarily from the point of view of the people that work in it. It’s all a big gamble, so they are going to publish work (I use the term “work” loosely) written by people they KNOW the public wants to read — like Donald Trump’s former whatever. They need a guaranteed audience for what they publish.

    It wasn’t long before I realized that ALL the creative work I do matters most to ME. How many people today read Taylor Caldwell or even James Michner? And yet when I was a kid, those were THE names in historical fiction. Who reads Sir Walter Scott? Maybe in grad school lit classes. People in the tiny area of Switzerland where my historical novels are set love them and read them in English, not their first language. That’s informative, too. My books are not dull, dry, lacking in action or written like a PhD Dissertation. There’s plenty of interpersonal conflict, family life, sex, and danger, but all of that happens in a place most Americans don’t know or care about to people whose names are foreign and unfamiliar. And they’re set in the past. Back in the day, people read novels like mine for escape, but that ship sailed a long time ago.

    The important thing for ANY writer is to know him/herself and to be true to that person. Your book, Blind Turn, is VERY readable and conveys some important messages — but one of them — the danger of texting and driving — isn’t going to be relevant long. One of the others? To be careful who your friends are? That’s timeless and important. Humans will have to contend with betrayal as long as we wander this planet (except from our dogs).

    My non-fiction books? I just had to write them so I did and it was wonderful writing them. Two of them are out there for people to read; the rest never will be. But they (the two that are out there) have brought me wonderful experiences that no conventionally successful writer would ever have. And one of my novels? Martin of Gfenn that I shot in the foot so long ago? When I loaned it to my neighbor she brought it back, holding it against her heart and said, “I loved it.” Another woman? I met her in front of the library in the next small town. She climbed into my car. She handed me $16, I handed her the book. She said, “I can’t WAIT! I loved the chapter you read at the museum!” It felt like a drug deal. She set it up in front of the library because the library didn’t have my books and she thinks they should. The China book? A lot of great things, but the best was Christmas 2019 when I read a chapter at the local museum. A kid — 8 years old — came up and said, “Martha, I REALLY liked your story!” What’s better than that?

    Why write AT ALL if it doesn’t make us happy to do it and make a few people happy to read our words? That’s the whole point of it. There is no other point. As for promotion? We do it but we can’t — in this world with so much competition for attention — expect to have an enormous effect without the machine of the big 3 or 4 or whatever. Then the question becomes, “Do we want to be THAT writer?” I’d like the money, but I don’t want to be that writer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. All of this is so true – I’ve always admired your steady, consistent, near-daily posts. you are never afraid to be vulnerable and speak from an authentic heart. I’m with you – I’d like the money, but I don’t want to be THAT writer, either.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So bold to write from the heart, Cara! The advent of social media makes promotion a nightmare on a good day. I thought I was the only one with plates spinning plates, batons flaming, arms flailing. Not that I’m happy to see you’ve reached a similar frustration, but it is consoling to know I’m not crazy to wonder to what end this all leads. Best wishes on your journey of discovery. Many people will be waiting and wondering where you land.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the encouragement Cindy. I’m excited to see your journey unfold. I hope you’ll be mindful and not get sucked into the vortex of social media. Do what feels right for you and not what everyone says you have to do to get published.

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