Results As An Addiction
Over the decades I have watched a certain problem stop writer after writer from having a career. The problem is a focus on results. See below.
Made it to the WMG meeting by a little after 2 p.m., then spent an hour or so up at the WMG offices, leaving around 5 p.m. to combine grocery shopping with getting my 10,000 steps for the day.
Since all the stuff over the last few days, I didn’t expect to get much writing done and I didn’t. I cooked dinner, took a very long nap, watched some television, then watched more television.
Then made it in here around 3:30 a.m. to finish up a little e-mail I had worked on off and on all day.
Spent about 70 minutes on the novel and got 1,450 words done. More than I expected. I should be back up to pace on this book over the next few days.
And I got my 10,000 steps. First day of the new focus there.
TOPIC OF THE NIGHT: Results Focus
The worst addiction that hurts writers I have seen is being results focused. This is nothing new to the indie world, but it sure is nasty now and more out-front because writers can get instant results on a lot of things.
Back in the old traditional days, a writer with this problem would write a book, then wait until it sold and then wait until the numbers came in to find out if he wanted to write another book.
Of course, the writer never did write another book and those of us writing regularly would snicker at that stupidity. But in reality, we shouldn’t have snickered because the writer had an addiction.
The writer was addicted to results and the actual storytelling didn’t matter, only the results mattered.
Forward to 2015.
I have watched many, many great writers go down this hole, never to return. I watched one fantastically-talented writer produce a hundred or more short stories and novels, all were good and some were great.
He just stopped one day because the results in sales were not living up to some myth in his mind, or some dollar amount.
You saw hundreds of writers vanish because of results after each of the Kindle Unlimited changes. Suddenly their system didn’t work to game readers anymore and writing looked like work.
This also happens with writers who are having life issues and trying to come back to writing. The fear of not getting instant results stops writers who haven’t been writing from even starting up again. I see this one more times than I want to admit and came close myself at one point.
This also hits writers with fear of not putting out a “perfect” product, so no product is better. The thinking goes like this: I can’t do a perfect cover and I can’t afford to hire a cover done, so I’m not putting my book out.
Results are everything to this mind-set.
And why this results addistion is almost impossible to fix is because all the reasons a writer can come up with sound great. And often fit in the myths English teachers have filled our heads with.
Obsessive rewriting is a symptom of results addiction. Can’t let it go because the results if you did might hurt you in some imaginary way, so better to have a workshop or another reader read it to make sure and then fix it again and then start the cycle again.
You see this with all the people writing sloppy first-draft novels in November and then never doing anything with them. Fear of the result if they did.
And then there are the obvious results-addicted writers in the new world. The writers who check numbers all the time, often dozens of times every day.
But… but… but… It’s okay that I do that because I am… (plug in the wonderful-sounding excuse right here.)
Or even the most funny one… But… but… but… I use numbers to drive my writing forward and help me figure out what to write next. (Wave goodbye.)
And then there are those even more pathetically-addicted results writers who must read and react to reviews.
The results addiction craves feedback.
So the major signs of this addiction problem are these:
—Watching numbers every day
— Reading your own reviews
— Obsessive rewriting
— Fear of publishing something not perfect.
All are signs of an addiction that only takes a writer one way, and that’s out of writing and away from publishing.
If you are focused on your writing, on learning to tell better stories, on having fun being a storyteller, then you won’t care about or even notice any of the addiction triggers.
But if you are results addicted, seek help. Go cold turkey. Whatever you can do to keep your writing moving forward.
But first call it as it really is: An addiction.
And if you really must be addicted to something, be addicted to telling great stories as often as you can.
The Writing of GRAPEVINE SPRINGS: A Thunder Mountain Novel
Day 1…. 2,450 words. Total words so far… 2,450 words.
Day 2….5,300 words. Total words so far… 7,750 words.
Day 3….7,100 words. Total words so far… 14,850 words.
Day 4….2,250 words. Total words so far… 17,100 words.
Day 5….6,300 words. Total words so far… 23,400 words.
Day 6….2,450 words. Total words so far… 25,850 words.
Day 7….2,700 words. Total words so far… 28,550 words.
Day 8….2,100 words. Total words so far… 30,650 words.
Day 9….1,450 words. Total words so far… 32,100 words.
Totals For Year 3, Month 4, Day 11
Writing in Public blog streak… Day 822
— Daily Fiction: 1,450 original words. Fiction month-to-date: 37,000 words
— Nonfiction: 00 new words. Nonfiction month-to-date total: 00 words
— Blog Posts: 800 new words. Blog month-to-date word count: 7,800 words
— E-mail: 12 e-mails. Approx. 400 original words. E-mails month-to date: 247 e-mails. Approx. 14,800 words
— Covers Designed and Finished: 0. Covers finished month-to-date: 1 Covers
You can support this ongoing blog at Patreon on a monthly basis. Not per post. Just click on the Patreon image. Extra stuff for different levels of support and I will be adding in more as time goes on. Thanks for your support.
Or you can just toss a tip into the tip jar with a single donation at PayPal. Either way, your support keeps me going at these crazy posts.
My name is Dane, and I’m a results addict. *Sigh*
Yep, ya got me again. I wonder how much this is stalling me right now? I don’t think this is the stall at the moment, but I know this has been a stall in the past. I don’t know how many times it’s gotten in my way though. Now that I have a little bit of a checklist to look over, I’ll be able to gauge it better, I think.
So thank you for that.
And, I realize the totals are “low” volume days for you, Dean, but I’m a lamoid, and still think 32K words in less than 10 days is awesome. AWESOME.
I need some Dramamine because my paradigm just shifted under my feet!
I’m going to reread this one a few times. Thank you.
David Anthony Brown
Writing is such a damn lonely profession, with little outside validation and everything we do happening between our ears, it’s logical to go look at sales numbers, etc for encouragement. I’m glad I didn’t have an early blockbuster success. I learned quickly that each indie publication might garner a sale here or there, and then flatline. I want this career bad enough, that I went about learning how to write better stories, instead of focusing on my older stuff and how to goose sales (I also recognize my craft needs work).
On addiction… If you read about musicians who worked past their troubles, you see some patterns. The ones who survive addiction, stay ridiculously busy. They take up martial arts, write books, play in multiple bands, etc. They don’t give the addiction time. Drugs permanently alter brain chemistry, which is why it’s so easy to slip and so freakin’ hard to stay clean. I think writers can learn from this: fill your time with learning craft and business, always write the next book, study things you love, then you don’t have a lot of time to “check KDP again”.
Yes about keeping busy – it ties to Dean’s reminder to keep physically active. And, “check KDP again” is one of those horrid things. KDP and six other venues. Staying clean ins the hardest thing at times, thank you for the useful analogy.
It can’t be said often enough … and I suppose, now and then it’s good to remind to again.
Oh, Dean. You’ve been peeking over my shoulder, haven’t you? This is the time I stand up and say, “Hi, my name is Kate and I’m a results addict.” I’ve been thinking where this results-addiction comes from, and some of it’s Critical Voice, no doubt. The voice that holds us back, saying, “This book is shit, it’s full of tropes and the pacing’s probably too slow…” You know, that voice.
If I didn’t have to run writing as a business, and if I didn’t have to follow which strategies work and don’t work, I would find it a lot easier to detach myself from the numbers. A reviewer who liked this August’s book had a thing to say about a number of typos, and that told me that my indie books don’t get the same level of proofing as my small-press book. I took corrective action, true, but now I feel like I really should go over the Book 1 in a trilogy again. (I desperately don’t want to. But I feel like I should.)
So what does the Gospel of St. Dean say about the balance of results addiction vs. observing legitimate market feedback? I’m really torn about it. On one hand, I’d like to say “Oh just screw it,” do a spell check, and kick it out there so I can move on to write the next fun thing. OTOH, I’ve certainly noticed a difference in quality between a nicely presented, clean story and something less professional, and I want to be in the first category.
You just make sure you have a good copyeditor. Nothing more.
“Legitimate market feedback”????????? What in the world is that besides a one of those really fancy ways to try to justify an addiction.
As I have said a ton of times here, I love writing, I write for myself. If other people like what I do or hate what I do, that’s not my issue.
But I do know I need a first reader to find mistakes, and a good copyeditor to make sure my books are as clean as they can be in reality. Past that, why would I want some reviewer sitting along in a basement telling me how to write?
Okay, okay 🙂 I won’t sweat the old typos. I’ll focus on preventing future typos instead! (And I did find copyeditors, finally. Yey!)
Yep. It drives me crazy.
For me it takes the form of long term goals. It sounds counter intuitive but you can’t focus on long term goals so much.
It’s the day to day that needs your focus. Building the good habits. Working out, writing, beating bad habits. It has be be part of your day, day to day.
Speaking of addiction, I used to drink at night to de-stress. I can’t drink and write, my mind shuts off. As soon as I started writing at the end of the day to de-stress I felt much less need to drink.
So writing is what helped me quit drinking. So many writers it’s sort of the opposite, writing and drinking are related.
Man do I hate that little myth.
I don’t know. If that writer above (Ms. Short Story) decided that the income they were making (or could predictably expect to earn) was not what they wanted for that time in their life (maybe they are earning 25% of life costs and want to travel the world – that takes money, obviously, and a straight up salary or by the hour gig pays that) then they’ve got my support. These kind of life choices need to be made and it’s a value judgement that isn’t wrong to make at the end of the day, in my opinion.
The interesting point I want to make is that I check my sales daily. Yep, daily. Sometimes if I’m bored more often. I also write over 1.5 million words a year and, if I can just get the dang routine right (and have less focuses – I’m on a diet too) then I’ll hit 2 million+ and be… well, quite prolific by Star Trek standards. It’s all in the individual context, isn’t it?
Also, here’s what I worked out after reading the above post.
1) If I had 5 million to 10 million US dollars (given my lifestyle and the fact it’s definitely going to continue that way) then I’d quit. Today. Right now. Right at that moment I saw 10 million, I’d be out and never look back once.
2) As I’m not going to get 10 million in cash funds any time soon (hell, if ever), I’ll continue with the only job I can do and like. It’s a choice between doing some sucky, boring job and doing writing, which I like, not love.
3) This is a job. I see it as a job. I work it like a job. And I put the time in to learning how (and will continue to do so) because it’s a job. A craftsman hones his craft. 5 years and change of honing and I’m still at the grindstone. There’s more there. that said, I only put about 10-20 minutes of learning in a day (on average), but, then again, I read more than a 1000 books as a kid. (You know, I think of it how that guy [you mentioned him awhile ago, very prolific, sci-fi, etc.] did in an interview, I believe Salvatore said the same, that once you’ve read enough, you only read what you really like. I’m like that. Total understanding there.)
4) The reason I write so much is that it’s a job. I recently hit 1111 short stories, novels, and novellas (mostly shorts around 3000 words because that’s what I do well). It was a mile stone, but not like 1000 was. You only get one 1000 in life then it’s all more stuff. I wrote all those books because I saw it as a job. A job with a return I expected. I started with that in mind. I want 100% of life costs then I want, say, 120%. I want that in less than 2 years. I’m close, but close isn’t 100%. !20% would be sweet.
It’s about money, liking my job, and knowing that any kind of other job would suck.
Lol, and, my friend, I do get a little rush when I see my Barnes and Noble paid sales go up 1%. I think of it as 1% closer to my goal.
*Note: I think that Dean is really talking about people who are just starting out. 5 years ago I did check and it wasn’t good. It’s a desensitization to dips that hardens one. Hardness is needed in an industry where dips, curves and wobbles are the name of the game.
As always, thanks, Dean. Just wanted to add my .2c because you made me think and realize that where I am, what I’m doing and where I’m going is right on track.
Brad, great to have another perspective. Sadly, most writers don’t have your ability to hold off the ups and downs of following numbers. I sure don’t. WMG Publishing did a couple of experiments with one of my books last week and kept telling me I had hit #1 on some bestseller list or another and they were all happy. It was everything I could do to not let that in.
I look hard, act hard, but have no real core shields when it comes to that sort of stuff. So I ignore it, brush it off, don’t look, and thus can stay focused on the writing.
And I considered my writing a job for a few decades. Loved the job, then hated the job. I hope you never get to that second part. Now I write, it is not a job, it is play, and I make a ton more money at it than when I considered it a job and ran all over chasing the work.
So I do appreciate the perspective, and I’m sure a bunch of people reading it will say, “That’s me!” I hope they have your drive and determination. Otherwise, this business and the deadly feedback loops will chew them apart.
Thanks for the reply, Dean.
It’s interesting because I have hated it and done it anyway. It comes a lot down to not quitting, which I think is one of the core messages of your blog (aside from learning, lol). I also think that it took me more time to come to terms with the statement “I like my job” than any thing else in writing, even “I must learn”. I worked at it industriously with the thought “This is only a job and I’m not supposed to enjoy it.” After thinking a lot on what you’ve said over the past, I believe, 2 years about making it fun, I have come to being able to admit liking writing ‘somewhat’. Someday I’ll probably admit that it’s fun. Weird things to say, but I haven’t liked a job since I was born, lol. Writing is something I like. Probably what keeps me from loving it is what I said, I”d get out if I had the money, or it didn’t pay compared to my desired lifestyle.
Anyway, I will add that I’ve never broke even (close but no cigar) and that is why when I see these numbers, they keep me writing. I started out hard and I’ve bore with it because if I did finally get my $$$ and .c then this would actually be the most awesome lifestyle/job ever. Being aware of what could be, from a perspective of what is, makes sticking to it and never stopping desired.
Now, if I could only get 5500 words a day (in two stories) done and publish those words (2 stories a day, 365 days a year) then I’d be about as happy as one could be.
*Seriously, it’s only 5500 words… I have 14 hours a day… Lol. Inconsistency is the killer of many careers. Maybe that’d be a good topic, by the way, “For those that write at Warp Speed X, the inconsistency is the killer.” Back to writing.
P.s., If someone told me, aside from myself, that I had to hit some target (particularly a best seller list – NY Times? Amazon?) then I’d laugh my ass off and say, “Are you kidding me?” It’s better, in Indie Publishing, I feel, to set your own. You have it hard!
(Oh yeah, have you considered getting one of those treadmill or cycling desks. I have a cycle desk and, given I do about 3-4 hours on the PC a day, at 5 calories a minute at a slow and easy pace, I hit about 900 calories a day. You write, what, 1-2 hours a day, so that’s 300-600. Maybe half of a steak dinner, which is not too bad considering things.)
I am set in my writing chair and computer. Helps me get at it. Some younger people can do that sort of thing, but at my age, sitting down is a wonderful thing. (grin)
Oh man. If I had ten million dollars I’d be like, “Woo-hoo! Now I don’t have to worry about all this other crap and can focus on writing!”