I am not a Buddhist. But I have great affection for the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan people, and Buddhists everywhere who practice this gentle and wise religion. They manage to combine a dogged pursuit of lofty, even transcendent goals, with near otherworldly patience. And they do so with a scientific mindset of attending to what works and what does not, while still being patient for the outcome.
I have a high reverence for people who have it, because I’m possibly the least patient person on the planet.
I was reminded of my lack of this virtue once again during the launch of Third Daughter, my steampunk fantasy romance, just before Christmas.
The Good Stuff
- The launch party was wonderful.
- I had great fun handing out Third Daughter themed prizes.
- I reveled in the love for Steven Novak’s gorgeous cover
- The early reviews are fantastic.
- I loved hearing people snap up a copy before running off to their (much more important) family holiday celebrations.
- I got a late Christmas present when my local librarian nominated Third Daughter for the “Soon to be Famous Author Project” wherein Illinois librarians “hope to discover an unknown, self-published author whose work will jump off the page for readers.”
All good, yes?
The Bad Stuff
That voice inside my brain that insists Third Daughter should be selling as well as the trilogy-who-shall-not-be-named-that-I-also-wrote (i.e. Mindjack). As if Third Daughter should immediately jump to the NY Times bestseller list the second it’s released.
I’m not the only one who hears that voice. I have friends who release the first book in a new series and are disappointed. Or sales overall have dropped, even though they’re putting out new books. The voice insists that they are failing. Or that they’re doing something wrong.
The voice tells me that selling books should be easy… and if it’s not, then I’m at fault.
Why the Voice is Crazy Pants
- I intentionally released Third Daughter right before Christmas as a “soft launch.”
- I haven’t even begun to market this book. I’m just now putting together a plan.
- Everyone who has actually read the book is loving hard on it.
- The-book-who-shall-not-be-named took seven months of work, and a second book in the trilogy, before it took off.
All that rationality has to fight against the voice that whispers in my ear, wanting stellar sales for this particular book now, now, now.
This voice is evil for two reasons: 1) it distracts me from writing, and 2) it whispers give up instead of saying keep working hard.
This business is hard.
You have to work like crazy, be smart, somehow invest every particle of emotion into the book itself, but then fling it out in the world and be ruthlessly pragmatic about how to sell it.
But we’re tougher.
You see, we’re writers. We’re the kind of people who create worlds and characters that move hearts and minds. We wield our imaginations like scythes through the fabric of possibility, creating stories that entertain and enthrall. We are fulfilling one of the higher purposes of humanity: to bring something new into the world.
So do that. Write like you are on fire. Burn bright with the love of your work. As it consumes you, renews you, and makes you shine even more, remember this – this act of creation – is why you were put here. Why you do what you do. Why you return again and again to the blank page.
- It takes time for readers to find your work. Time for people to review. That’s okay. I have time. My books will be around forever. (Third Daughter is teaching me this.)
- Write it first. Figure out when (and how) to publish later. (A lesson from Debt Collector.)
- What seems crazy now is exactly what you should be doing. (Another lesson from Debt Collector.)
- Protect your creative time like a jealous lover. (A hard won lesson from tracking my work.)
- It’s okay to be ruthless and let go of things that take time, but have minimal benefit. (This one is so hard for me.)
- It’s okay to spend time on something that has minimal benefit, just because you love it. (Faery Swap taught me this.)
- Be patient. (I’m trying.)
I’ll leave you with a lovely quote from comedian Louis CK:
“Young musicians believe they should be able to throw a band together and be famous, and anything that’s in their way is unfair and evil. What are you, in your 20s, you picked up a guitar? Give it a minute.”