What Exactly Is the Point?…
(I did this blog just over a year ago. I figured as part of getting ready for 2017, this might help some of you out there clear out some roadblocks.)
A couple people got angry at me in letters because I told them that following sales numbers (the number of books you are selling or what Amazon list you are on) is an addiction.
A deadly one to your writing and your career for the long term.
So what are the first signs you are into the deadly part of this addiction?
When you are sitting at your computer, your creative voice really, really wants to write a certain story or a new book in a certain series, and you hear yourself think, “What’s the point? It won’t sell.”
Tust me, folks, I am not immune from this in the slightest. When I realize that one of my books or series is selling better than others, and yet I am firing up a book that is in the poor-selling series, I hear myself ask that question.
How I get around it is tell that tiny part of my critical voice that is trying to stop me that maybe this book in this lower-selling series will be the one that explodes. That answers the question, “What’s the point.”
And makes the critical voice crawl away whimpering.
But realize, I’ve been doing this a very long time. I never read reviews of my work and I do not follow any sales numbers or bestseller lists. Yet this still creeps in at times because one of the wonderful things we have about this new world is immediate information on sales.
A real double-edged sword if I have ever seen one.
But it just isn’t choices of what to write next that this “What’s the Point?” question pops up. Let me list some of the major ones.
After each one say to yourself, “So what’s the point?” (See if any sound familiar to you.)
— Choice of next writing project that isn’t one of your top sellers. (So… )
— Comparison to others. (Speed or sales higher than yours, so…)
— Life event stops you. (You feel behind or lost so…)
— Imaginary lack of time to write in the future. (I hear this one all the time, so….)
— I’m too old to start now. (So…)
— No one makes a living with their fiction. (This one just makes my head shake sadly. So…)
— There is too much to learn. (So…)
— I’m no good in business. (So…)
There are many, many more. Sadly.
But many of these, if not all in one form or another, come from watching numbers or reading reviews.
And all of it is your critical voice trying to do its job and stop you.
And when you start hearing “What’s the point?” the critical voice is winning. It really is that simple.
So how exactly does this kill your writing and career?
A thousand ways with a thousand cuts, actually.
If you listen and act on the question, you won’t learn, you won’t write anything except stuff that you think will sell and chances are it won’t, or at least not for long.
And the first time you write a couple things you don’t like just because you think they will sell and they don’t live up to some made-up expectation your critical voice has put on the project, the “What’s the Point?” question gets so loud, you can’t hear yourself think, let alone write.
Coming back from a life event is never easy, and you feel behind, so what’s the point of even starting? So you don’t do anything, because something might happen again to stop you.
You are too old (by some made-up yardstick in your head…I heard a 28 year old say this once) so it’s better to not start.
And so on and so on.
This question, when you hear it, is your critical voice trying to stop you. It is mostly triggered by watching your own numbers, reading your own reviews, or comparing yourself to someone else’s numbers or success.
It is also triggered by an attitude of dread instead of excitement.
For example, I get excited when I look at how much more I have to learn in the craft of telling a story. That excites me.
If you look at the same thing with dread, that there is too much to deal with, and here comes the question, “What’s the Point?”
Indie publishing has a lot of learning curves, from covers to interiors to decisions on where to sell your books. Not even counting learning the business and money aspects. I love the ever-changing nature of this new world and thrive on it.
But if you stand back and look at it and shut down and think there is too much, you can’t learn it all, here comes the question… “What’s the Point?”
In my last few years of traditional publishing books, I had grown to hate what I was doing, hated writing, hated the idiots in New York, hated the stupidity of baby copyeditors and editors, hated the bad contracts. And I got to the point where I said clearly numbers of times and out loud, “What’s the point?”
And for me, at that moment in time, there was no point.
So I quit writing, quit the business. I was headed to play poker for a living for the second time in my life when the indie world fired up.
Suddenly I could see a way again where I would be challenged with writing and publishing. I wouldn’t have to deal with the stupidity of a baby editor who thought she knew everything, even though I had been selling books before she was born.
I could see a way I could control my own life, my own writing, my own problems in publishing.
And I got excited at the massiveness of numbers of things I needed to learn.
I was challenged by that.
And so, at the age of 62, I fired up my writing and my own magazine, and have been learning ever since. At that point I had one backlist book to publish and that was it. I was going to have to write all new.
I told Kris that I felt like the most experienced beginning writer in the world.
To me, that’s a challenge and except for the few times when sales numbers creep into my office, I never ask the question… “What’s the Point?”
If you can get past what is stopping you and switch your focus, stay away from watching reviews and book sales numbers, and have fun writing, you might be surprised at what will happen.
And the best way to find your trouble spots in your business and writing is listen for that one nasty question… “What’s the Point?”
Because if you hear it, you are headed the wrong way.
— Figure out the Problem.
— Change Attitude.
— Change Practices.
And go back to having fun telling stories.
Because honestly, that is the point of all of this.