Before I read these two inspirational and thought-provoking posts by Kristen Lamb (here and here), I had been doing some serious thinking about my life as a writer and as a person. Or, more specifically, I had been doing a lot of thinking about how I’d abandoned my own writing in order to make everyone and everything else a priority.
If you’re a follower of this blog, you’ve probably read my previous posts about balance and prioritizing writing. As I’ve said before, balance is always going to be an issue. Not just for me, but for everyone. We’ve all got families, day jobs, animals, and other responsibilities that take up a great deal of time. There’s always an illness or a crisis or something to derail our plans or offset our goals. For me, major depression often steals my motivation and robs me of the ability to prioritize anything at all. Getting out of bed and taking care of the bare essentials is all I have the strength to do, and so writing is often shoved to the back burner. Depression is the reason I’m constantly having to reset my goals and re-prioritize, but it’s not the only thing standing in the way of achieving my dreams.
I think for most of us, the roadblocks to writing success are numerous. For me, there’s a fear of failure that keeps me from plunging full-force ahead into my writing career. There’s the sneaking suspicion I’m not really that great of a writer and that all my good ideas have already been spent. And when it comes to actually marketing and selling my book, there’s the fear that I’ll annoy my lovely Facebook friends and family by posting book links. Is it bragging to post about my new release? Is it annoying? Do I look silly and delusional when I’m plugging my self-published book? I mean, is it really a ‘real’ book if I published it myself?
With my last book release, I posted a buying link to my blog and to my Facebook Author page. I shot out a couple of Tweets. And thanks to a couple of good author friends, I appeared on a few blogs. That was it. That was my book launch. It took me over four years to get this book published, but I gave it zero priority. I didn’t post a single link on my personal Facebook account. You know, because I didn’t want to bother anyone or make anyone thing I was trying to sell them something. I’m quite certain I spent more time commenting on pictures of what my Facebook friends had for dinner than I spent in promoting my own book.
I’ve liked and shared and commented on my friends’ posts. Wouldn’t they want to do the same for me? I suppose they would if they knew about the book in the first place. But since I didn’t treat myself and my writing as a priority, my friends didn’t realize it is one. It’s likely that some of my friends think I’ve stop writing altogether. Or that they’ve forgotten it was ever part of my life.
At my day job, people don’t know about my writing. I’ve chosen not to share that aspect of my life. I suppose if they decided to cyber-stalk me, they’d discover my ‘secret,’ but up until now, I’ve chosen to keep my writing life separate from my ‘real’ life. And I think this deliberate attempt to keep my writing separate, and to classify it as less than my ‘real’ life is a huge part of the problem. Hiding my writing has become a habit. When a new acquaintance asks what I do for a living, I tell them about the day job. It’s rare that I mention my writing and after all this time, it feels awkward to talk about it with ‘real’ people in my ‘real’ life.
I don’t remember making a conscious decision to put my writing into the hobby category. In fact, I’m sure I never made a deliberate decision to do so. But when I stopped treating my writing like a career or a priority, guess what? It became a hobby, something I indulge in when I’m being selfish or frivolous with my time. Any money I’ve made has been integrated into the family budget instead of reinvested in my career. To this day, I don’t own a paperback copy of my most recent book, even though it is available in that format. In fact, I don’t own paperback copies of many of my books (though I plan to rectify that as soon as I’m finished with this post). On Facebook, I’ve seen post after post from authors buying entire cases of their new releases. And I didn’t buy a single copy to put on my own shelf.
And that is so very sad.
It’s sad that I’ve pushed my writing to the side and that I treat my dream like it’s something annoying or shameful. It’s sad that I only allow myself to write AFTER I’ve done everything else for everyone else, and that by the time I have an opportunity to write, I’m too tired to do so. It’s sad that I downplay my own accomplishments because I’m a self-published author and that I often feel inferior because of it. And it’s sad that I’m a full grown adult who still cares so much about what other people might think and feel about what I do with my own time.
But do you know what is really, really sad? That there are other people like me out there who are experiencing the same thing. Not just writers. Anyone who has a dream. Anyone who wants to leave their 9-to-5 job to pursue their passions. Anyone who is feeling unfulfilled in life but doesn’t believe they are entitled to wanting more. It’s so incredibly sad. Sure, we all have to do things we don’t want to do. It’s part of life and being an adult. But the fact that there are people out there who don’t give themselves permission to dream? Well, that just breaks my heart.
So, today I am claiming it. I am claiming my title as an Author. I am claiming my desire to make writing a career. I’m claiming my books and I’m claiming my writing time as sacred. I’m setting goals and making my writing a priority instead of an afterthought. And I’m claiming my right to celebrate my accomplishments too. I’m ready to take risks and make personal investments in my future.
What about you?