In the last few weeks I received so many messages and responses to parts 1 to 3 of my “How I wrote my first book” Blog post series and it’s been lovely to see such an interest from you, dear readers, for my publishing journey. I get truly excited over every “ping” I get on my phone and it reminds me that there are real people out there, reading my words and even caring enough to drop me a line. The last part of this Blog post series is about the lessons I learned so far while publishing and marketing my short story collection “Vienna in Short Stories”.
1. There is more time in a day than you think
This sounds like quite the opposite to what you usually get to hear from other people, right? Well, for me it is true, although it does come with some significant mindset changes and buckets of coffee. When I was young, I used to believe that in order to be able to call myself a writer I needed to take several courses and have weeks of free time for writing. That was when I used to think I never had enough time for myself, although that was the most free time I ever had and will ever have in my entire life. When we had our son, the feeling for time collapsed for me and suddenly one day felt like a week. That’s what sleep deprivation and bi-hourly breast feeds will do to you. During the first five months of his life I got a total of 5 hours sleep per day in total, spread over 3 sittings! I’ll put it mildly when I tell you that I wasn’t my best self. This was when I knew there was no use in waiting for the ideal time anymore, and clung to any free minute I could get – independent of the time of day or location. Because of the fact that my mind, body and soul were so pre-occupied with my dear little one, having this area of my life just for me was a beacon of light and often saved my sanity.
I’m not suggesting that we all should have a child to fully understand and appreciate time and life, but maybe you can find something in your life to hold on to if you are looking to change old habits or finally start working towards that dream of yours. External motivators in your life can often trigger a mindset change. Or how J.K. Rowling’s Newt Scamander describes Occumies, “They grow or shrink to fill the available space.” They adapt to the place they have at hand. And I truly believe we all have this capacity in us as well. When life gives us commitments or difficulties, we stretch. We cannot stretch endlessly, of course, but for me it was true that I did stretch with the challenges in my life. I learned that “Not enough time” had been an excuse for not pursuing my dreams for too long. I learned that writing a short story doesn’t have to happen sat at a computer for hours and hours. It can be messy and it might take you ten times as long, but time only runs in one direction and your writing does too. I hammered away on my stories whenever I had a minute on my own, because my mindset changed from “ideal time” to “this will do”. Because I’ve gotten used to less sleep or unusual hours of sleep, I can now cram in some time in the morning before I go to work, during the commute, in the lunch break or in my head while chasing my son across the apartment. This way, it often takes me half a day to write an Instagram caption or take a picture, and sometimes a week for a blog post, but in the end it gets done. Because I take the time as it comes, and pile it up slowly but steadily.
2. Tune down your expectations, and then tune them down some more
Even though I had very modest expectations and kept telling myself and my family that I didn’t have any expectations for the success of my first book launch, deep down I still fantasized about it. I hadn’t realized that until a month after my book launch when I looked at my KDP sales report and almost started to cry. I began doubting myself and my capability to write and market my book. Of course, I knew that it would be hard and constant work on my marketing. Still, that voice inside my head kept echoing across my brain constantly.
I had anticipated something like this because I started a new writerly project right after my book launch in September. It’s also a common advice by authors to have multiple projects in the pipeline when you submit your work or hit ‘publish’ in order to take your mind off the waiting period and keep your motivation up. My joy of having written and actually put a short story collection out there helped to get over this phase quicker. Also, the seemingly few but very committed and sweet reactions to my stories that I received from people on Instagram, my online friends, put a Cheshire Cat sized smile on my face every single time and built up my motivation and self-belief again.
The lesson I learned from this is that, like everything worthwhile, it is hard work and takes a long time to realistically build up an audience for my writing. I’ve become gentler with myself when I set new goals and to-dos because I want to write stories above all else. I hope to be better at managing my expectations next time from the start. In the end, my sales might be modest but they are regular, so that leaves me hoping.
3. You need to wear all hats at the same time
Being an indie writer is similar to any kind of (creative) entrepreneur. You are the CEO, accountant, marketer, producer, IT department and administrator of your company and you need to be them all at the same time. Marketing your book needs to be regular and consistent if it is to be effective, as do social media in general and creative writing. There are a few podcasts that helped me build up and stay in my author and entrepreneurial mindset, for example The Creative Penn, Grow With Soul Podcast or Cathy Heller’s Don’t Keep Your Day Job. They often have incredible guests and listening to them during the week helped me keep on all my hats. Still, I need to get more organized with my different areas and departments next year because there are definitely times when I’m struggling to keep up with Instagram if, for example, I’m writing on an essay or a story.
This is where the concept of batch making is very helpful but even this has to be done regularly. I tried experimenting with assigning each hat a weekday, like “CEO Monday”, or “Creative Tuesday” but it’s not very efficient if my time schedule depends on work, my husband’s calendar and my son’s bio-rhythm. At the moment I’m working with “weekly goals”. This lesson is still a work-in-progress, but I’ll keep you updated with my organizational trial-and-errors.
As I’m writing this I’m getting ready to wrap all the Christmas gifts and enjoy a few days off work. I hope you enjoyed this blog series, and reading a little bit about my behind the scenes. The next blog post will be out in early January 2019.