I don’t know about you but much of my life has been dogged with indecision. There is an awful lot that I should have done that I just didn’t.
I don’t mean normal things. I have always been great at those. I keep food on the table, pay the bills, I raised my kids without seriously damaging them. No I mean the radical, out there things. Taking the chances that could change my life.
The knife-edges, the tightrope. The risky ones.
Back in the day, I lived and worked in North Wales. One day, I was offered the chance to go half-shares in a fish and chip shop at one end of Rhyl seafront. To my utter regret, I turned the chance down, afraid to hock everything I had to raise the few thousand pounds I needed. So life would have been tough for a year or two but those places are a licence to print money, aren’t they? Instead, a safe career in IT.
Several times later, I have been offered this opportunity, that job, the other investment and each time, something inside has warned me off. No doubt, some of those ventures would have proved too risky and I might have lost out, whilst others could have been the making of me. Of course, I have a million and one excuses. The timing isn’t right, I am too busy. What about the family? Something else might crop up then where will I be?
Well, something did crop up. Life. Six decades of it and as I look back at what I have achieved and sideways at my friends and family, I realise that, whilst I haven’t done badly, I could have done a whole lot better if I had risked a little more. I certainly could have been happier doing things that I may have enjoyed more.
Flying close to the sun may melt the wax from my wings but it could just as easily provide a thermal for me to soar.
And I guess a whole lot of us are like that – putting up with what we have instead of going for what we want. Myself, I regret that I did not start to write earlier in life.
So why don’t we just flippin’ do it?
Fear of failure. Whenever I worry that a plan won’t come off, or I might fail, some bright spark (sic) will remind me of Thomas Alva Edison or James Dyson or one of a million inventors who failed hard many times before they made it big. To be honest, this doesn’t help. Going bankrupt doesn’t appeal. I fold like a deck chair at the prospect of failure. Give me safety every time.
Also being honest, it is irrelevant. Writing doesn’t cost a lot so there is little to lose. No-one is reading your stuff now so if no-one reads it later nothing has changed. It’s not failure; it’s just not success. But it could be.
Fear of ridicule. This is a big one for many people. Their stories may be edgy or risqué or simply they are afraid they are just not good enough. Well, guess what? You probably aren’t. Most writers feel this way. However measuring yourself against another successful author demeans both of you. The other author because you don’t respect the effort they put in to be an overnight success, and yourself because you are not allowing yourself the opportunity to at least try. Every author thinks their stuff is mediocre at the start.
Today at work, a colleague had a laugh at my expense, asking if my crime novels contained any sex, comparing them to EL james or Jilly Cooper. Are they risqué? You know, titillating?
Well, firstly he hasn’t read them, so his view doesn’t count. Secondly, I am a far harsher critic than he could ever be…and I am proud of them. Thirdly, I get a royalty payment every month large enough to warrant a US Tax ID.
Believe me, the worst you will get is ambivalence. People, probably even your own family, wont care that you are a writer. But you care…and it’s for you, remember?
Not enough hours in the day. Busy busy, hurry hurry, work work ,rush rush. How can I find time to write a novel? The graveyards are full of burnt-out workers, whose nose was so hard on the grindstone, they couldn’t smell the coffee.
Well, guess what you can do both. You’re happy enough giving hours to stuff that is unimportant except that it brings in money. So why are you so reticent to give hours to something important to you?
What about all that time watching TV, falling asleep on the sofa, mindlessly walking around shops? A little R&R is necessary but why not make it useful?
Here’s a great article by Jeff Elkins about how you can work and still write. There really is no excuse.
So much competition. A new book is published on Amazon every five minutes. How will anyone ever find my book, especially with no kudos, no reviews, no track record?
I am not saying it will be easy. I have learned about marketing, Kindle Keywords, Amazon Adwords. I have started this website, this blog and lots of Facebook and Twitter hours but my books are read and I earn money, despite the competition. Also, don’t confuse marketing with good penmanship. People will buy a cover and blurb before they read the contents. People will buy the second if the penmanship is worthy.
No-one will ever read it. That’s absolutely true if you never get it out there! I thought that – why bother if no-one will read it anyway?
But also look at it this way. Most of the books being published are in a different genre, for a different audience. Aim for the less travelled road and you will meet fewer people but more of them will be going your way.
Two novels, five hundred sales, thousands of Kindle page reads. People read my work and they will read yours too. It’s not a matter of how good the work is. Lets face it, you are too critical to release rubbish. It’s a matter of making sure people see it…and that’s a whole new post.
I’ll never make enough money to justify the effort. But is that the object of the exercise? Like Edison or Dyson, or good ole JK Rowling (no post is complete without her), it was about the product. Edison had over two thousand patents. How many can you name? JKR would have been an unemployed single parent if a young sub editor’s assistant had not taken her ‘children’s book’ home for a weekend read. Edison enjoyed his work, JKR had a story to tell. They expected nothing but hoped for the best.
What about me? Has it been profitable? To date it has cost £777.13 to follow my dream and self-publish two novels and market them over 3 years. I have earned £557.47. The exercise has cost me £219.66 – which is £2.61 per week.
How much do you spend on coffee each week?
Far too hard. Takes too long, I am not good enough at grammar, spelling etc. My ideas are not good enough. Nobody loves me, I am a mess, yada yada yada.
If nothing changes, you just get more of the same.
So right now, go into the spare room and shut the door and the curtains. Then strip of all your clothes, spin in a circle with your arms outstretched singing “I will survive “ at the top of your voice. Now stop. Who noticed? Who cared? Who criticised? No-one.
Then tomorrow night, when the TV is shouting pap, go into the spare room, shut the curtains and start writing. No one will notice, care or criticise… and you have a few hundred words, the plan of a chapter, the germ of an idea. JFDI. If you get stuck, Mr Google, Facebook Groups, other authors (even me if I am feeling generous) will help.
You’ll learn some great skills, be racked with insecurity and self-doubt, wonder why you ever started. Then one day, you’ll look back and know it was worth it. Just as I did when I placed my novels on my bookcase. Just like me, you will look at them, smile and realise you have achieved something most other people haven’t. All for yourself.
When you do, please let me know. I would love to hear about your journey.