Monday, October 17, 2011

Plan Your Work, Work Your Plan

Sounds like solid advice, doesn't it? It's certainly the advice I follow when we're doing a construction project. But we haven't done a big job in a while so perhaps I've gotten a bit lazy with the concept.

What else could my excuse be?

Writer's Block? I'm not so sure I believe in writer's block. I believe more in a writer's lack of confidence and inability to focus more than an actual block. Sure, I've been stumbling with my word production lately, but is it a true block? *shurgs* Dunno.

Lack of ideas? My notebook and scribbled sheets of paper strewn about the house with one-liners and story concepts says different. Clearly, I could keep writing for a decade and still have ideas that are worthy to explore.

No direction? The book is almost completely plotted out, so I know where I'm going. And I physically know how to write…. although, I do admit the scenery is not as "clear" in my mind for book three. In compensation, I spent an hour this morning researching the Falkland Islands so I could get a good grasp on what my unchartered island off the coast of Argentina is supposed to look like.

Poor discipline? Ahh… I think we may have the winner for me. My writer friends are always so sweet telling me how much they admire all I get done, my tenacity, my work ethic…. and yet… they don't see the hours I spend not actually writing. Which, as it turns out, is most of my day.

Sure, marketing is important. Anyone who writes and expects to make a living off of it can tell you that. Social networking is a key component in reaching readers, and doing it properly takes a huge amount of time.

When do you take a step back and reevaluate your marketing efforts? When is enough enough? Is it when you reach 3k followers or 5k? Is it after you've done a month long virtual book tour and can't think of one more witty thing to write? Is it when the self-imposed looming deadline over your head makes you lose sleep?

I can't tell you how many times I've read the same piece of advice over and over, just said in slightly different ways. It goes something like this: You want to be successful as a writer, then you must first and foremost WRITE.

We all know that's how you get better. We all know it's how you build a following -- after all, the reader needs more than just one or two books to become a lifelong fan. And yet, a lot of us, including me, flounder at times and feel lost in our work.

When you don't write do you examine why? Do you turn that keen eye of observation inward and try to analyze why you aren't writing? Could there be something to this whole fear of success and self-sabotage I've read about?

I'm not consciously afraid of success, that's for damn sure. I'd say more accurately I'm acutely aware of failure. You see, for all the successes I've achieved a part of me still thinks I haven't quite "made it" yet.

My goal is to earn a steady reliable income, and until I get more titles out I don't think that will become a reality. I'm aware of what it takes to reach the success I dream of, so what pray tell, is holding me back?

How long can I blame my health and the daily care it requires? In all fairness, there are a lot of folks way worse off than me who handle far more, so I never feel right bitching about it. As my buddy Tre tells me time and time again, "be grateful you can afford the care and have access to it", and she is correct.

This past spring I visited my first writing partner, whom I dearly miss working with. She was very proud and excited about all I had achieved and our meeting was months before The Hunt was released. It was nice to hear her praise, and yet I didn't agree with her sentiment. She asked me flat out what would I agree was "success" and I equated it to earnings.

Our conversation ended with her journalism background coming to the forefront and she fired a question at me like a challenge. "What will you have to earn to make this all worth while and where do you think you'll be in a year?"

I told her by May 2012 I'd be earning 40k a year on my writing or it was time to make another career choice. She advised me against setting a goal like that because I was clearly building a readership, and reminded me a lot of authors don't make diddly even on a second book (at the time I was earning about a thousand a month). When you weigh the forty to sixty hour work weeks I put in, I think my goal was pretty conservative. Shockingly, here I am five months later and on track to earning that by May.

I have reached the dream of writing full time and earning a respectable income so that no one will treat me like this is a damn hobby anymore. I've surprised my doctors and my fellow patients with embarking on a new career when I became sick and not shriveling up and 'waiting' to get better before I work again.

And now, I need to do what all the successful writers are doing: I need to set my ass down and write. No excuses. This is a job, don't ever forget it. And if you don't treat it like an actual job with hours you invest, no Internet surfing during work hours, and no social networking when no one is looking, then you're on the track to failing.

I don't expect comments on this blog, you should be writing. But if you read it and want to share your goals with me, I'd love to hear them. And yes, if you write your plan out in a comment I will expect you to work it.

Be accountable to yourself and get past what is holding you back -- YOU.


  1. Great post. And I think it's great that you are on track to meeting your goal. Congrats!

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. J.D. -- nice! That's a start.

    Thanks, Cherie. Great hearing from you, appreciate you stopping by!