The Wild Emotions of the Indie Author

I saw Lincoln last night in the theater. It was very good. This morning, contemplating my blog topic for today, a quote comes to me from the movie: “We are stepped out onto the world stage now.” It is true for us Indie Authors: We are stepped out onto the world stage, groping in the darkness, trying to command attention for our creations. This placing of ourselves out there, on the world stage, along with every other indie author, is a daunting and fearful process. But it’s also exciting. Hell, it’s a lot of emotions, all balled into one at times, and at other times, entirely singular and consuming. I want to discuss some of the fears, and other interesting emotions, that I have experienced, will experience more of, and should be expected of anyone seriously trying to make it on the world stage of indie publishing.

Today, I am riding a high, because my book Darkin was ranked number 10 on Amazon’s Best Sellers Top 100 for Epic Fantasy. Now, mind you, I am on the right side, for those of you don’t know (the side where the books are free to buy), but that doesn’t squash my excitement. As I’ve read over and over from other indie authors, such as Lindsay Buroker, just getting into the Best Seller list adds some momentum and staying power for sales, and gaining free sales means gaining (hopefully) a reader base for your series, saga, or whatever else you plan on building up. This is especially true for me, an indie fantasy author. My book’s sequel is coming out this month, and so I am truly hoping that readers will be ready to jump on with the Darkin Saga. But–with the (what I call personally) success of being in the top 10 of the best-sellers list, comes also quickly behind several fears: Will it taper off now, and never break the top 10? Will no one read the book–will they simply let it remain on their Kindles and never engage it? Will they read it, love it, but not review it, so that no one knows how great the story is? Will they try to review it, and have their review yanked down by Amazon’s new, stricter, review policy?

These fears lead into irrational (I hope), larger fears: As Lincoln fought to establish, I believe that all people are created equal. So when it comes to writers succeeding, I believe I possess the same stuff they do, and that with the proper hard work, discipline, drive, and humility, I can succeed also. BUT–that larger fear is always there: What if it is all for nought? What if I am wasting a ton of time (I write, edit, draw, color, format, promote) to never achieve my dream of becoming a widely-read author? I think all serious aspiring writers grapple with this fear. I know that I am a human being, and that having the fear is natural, but at the same time, I have to return to a sense of faith–everything will work out if it’s meant to; that is not to say that I don’t have to continue to put in the hard work to create that success. For certain, if I thought, as in the days of youth, that success would just happen because people would smell talent, then I would never accomplish anything. I am sure it is true that some people have the necessary connections, friends, or family to get them closer to a wider reading audience. I, however, along with countless thousands of aspiring authors, do not have that inborn luxury. So I must resort to faith over fear, and continue to do what I am passionate about.

Other, more bizarre fears come into my brain: Will I be able to successfully branch out from my fantasy series? Yes, fantasy, and most specifically Lord of the Rings and Star Wars made me want to be a story-teller myself (I always felt I had tales of such wonder to convey myself), but I also wish to write realistic fiction, and possibly, after this past summer, in which I engaged some amazing non-fiction (Into Thin Air and Endurance: Shackleton’s Voyage), even write something journalistic. But those fears are lesser, and more luxurious.

Another aspect of the wild emotions faced by indie authors is what I’ll call the Worlds Colliding Syndrome: In order to maintain proper drive, and discipline, one must become immersed in the creative process completely. This borders on obsession. Mind you, it isn’t a negative obsession, necessarily, for it is a creative outlet and it is productive, rather than detractive. But, when you have to transition from a world so self-involved (after all, we are nursing our babies, so to speak, with creative efforts) to a world where others rely upon you and require you to be present for them, it can be difficult. We know success takes consistent, long hours. But, we know that to go to that place for long stretches of time means that we can get stuck there, and not stop thinking about: Where can I promote next? When can I start writing the next book? What do I need to do research about? Which social media outlet have I yet to tap? How can I better tap them? And on, and on, and on. But we know the process will not happen by itself. We must make it happen. We must believe, and act as if, for it to come true. In other words, belief dictates reality–if I continue to write, and produce, and get better, then eventually I will achieve success. I am sometimes very good at staying grounded, and at other times, I have to remember the 4 Hs: Humility, Honesty, Humanity, and Humor.

If I can remember I am a human, and will make mistakes, and have ups and downs, even from the moment I wake up, I can relieve some of the pressure of perfection, or even of achieving lofty goals. If I can remember to have humility, and to accept the fact that I don’t know everything about my skills, and that I can learn from everyone I encounter, then I will have an easier time being open to the teachers that come into my life–whether they are in the writing game or not. If I can remember to have humor, and laugh at myself instead of having a nervous breakdown, then I will get more done, and I will enjoy myself more. And finally, if I can be honest, and not live in the irrational world of wild emotion, such as indie authors, or any artists for that matter, are subjected to, then I can better focus on being present on whatever I can actually accomplish in one day.

I somewhat believe that artists long to outlast their bodies–that they have a burning desire to be remembered for more than the next three generations to come. I don’t know if I believe that is the only reason though. I think some people are given natural drive, and we must grapple with the emotions that come along with pursuing the purpose of that drive, talent, and ability. Aside from the 4 Hs, I also recently read a book in professional development at my job, which I believe has some really useful ideas for indie writers. It’s called the Fish Philosophy. It boils down to four main principles, which I have been trying to keep in mind lately when I start my day:

1) Choose your attitude. Every day, as an indie author, and at your day job, choose to be happy, successful, positive, and optimistic. Again, it was Lincoln who said, “Most people are as happy as they make up their minds to be.” 2) Play. In other words, have fun while you work–enjoy it! You only live once, and if you’re always focused on the goal, you’ll miss life itself, for there is no such thing as later–in reality there is only now, and that’s all we will ever have. 3) Make their day. For me, this one just means being able to do something for someone else, and send some positive energy their way. 4) Be present. This means exactly what it says: Be in the moment–don’t be on your phone while someone is talking to you, or daydream while you’re with someone you really care about.

Again, no one can adhere perfectly to these principles, but we’re not supposed to–otherwise we’d be robots, and not human beings. But enduring the wild emotions that come the way of the indie author can be a little easier when we keep some of these positive affirmations in mind. Never before in my life have I had at the same time the drive, the discipline, and the desire to continually work on something so much as I do now with finding readers as an author. I think that’s true for many of us. In the movie, Lincoln, Lincoln lets his son go to war. His son’s argument, the one that caused his father to cave, was that he would never forgive himself if he didn’t fight, despite the risk. He just had to do it, for himself most of all. Many of us feel the same way about our writing, or any artistic endeavor for that matter: it’s not really about making it, but knowing in our hearts we did it. It wasn’t something we just “always wanted to do.” I sure am glad there are many other authors struggling to find their way in what I’ll call the Post Big Pub era. Together, we’ll do alright.

One Thought on “The Wild Emotions of the Indie Author

  1. Pingback: Joseph A. Turkot | Am I Allowed to Disagree with J.A. Konrath?

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