I had a lightbulb moment the other day. I was having coffee with a new-to-me tennis player and she said something like ‘You approach tennis with such passion and purpose of will’. Of course, I responded with ‘I do that with everything in my life. I’m passionate about everything I do. It’s kind of exhausting.’ She laughed and the conversation moved on, but while I was stuck in traffic driving home (why are there so many cars on the road before 5 p.m.?), I got to thinking about this whole approach to life I have and it made me realize something. I have approached every project, every endeavor in my life with an absolute determination to succeed. Except writing. Oh my god, I thought, am I sabotaging myself? Whoa! I cannot possibly be sabotaging myself. That’s just utter ridiculousness. Isn’t it?
By sabotaging myself I don’t mean writing crappy stories, I do put my best foot forward with writing and developing my craft. No, I’m talking about that part of being a writer that every indie author absolutely abhors – marketing myself. Oh sure, I work on marketing on a nearly daily basis. I’m on social media every damn day and I try to blog three times a week. But wait! That’s only my author platform. Marketing itself? If I’m really honest, I’m not very consistent with that. I’ll have some grand idea about selling more of my books and go absolutely crazy about it. For a few days, maybe a week, if I’m really excited. And then I’ll get back into writing my book and put marketing on the back burner – until the next grand idea hits.
But being a success as a writer is all about the long game. You might say that getting a college education and law degree is as well. After all, that takes seven years of your life. But you’d be wrong. With an education, you know what you’re up against. It’s going to take around seven years and that’s that. As long as you put in the work, you’ll graduate. Not so with being a successful writer. First of all, the time required is unknown. You may hit the bestseller list with your first book. Or it may be your tenth book. Who knows? And there’s no guarantee that you’ll ever even hit that bestseller list. (I realize I’m using bestseller as the measure of success whereas that’s highly debatable.)
If being a success as a writer is a long game, my stop and go attitude towards marketing is not the way to go. So yeah, I guess you could say that I’m sabotaging myself. Except sabotage is defined as deliberately destroy[ing], damage[ing], or obstruct[ing] (something). It would be easy to take myself off the hook because I didn’t deliberately sabotage myself. Unfortunately, I have the nasty habit of always being honest with myself. And this is one those moments when being honest with myself comes with a whole bunch of pain. I may not be sabotaging myself because I’m not causing destruction or obstruction – those are scary words. But damn it, I am sabotaging myself in the sense that I’m deliberately damaging my success as an author by approaching marketing with a half-ass attitude.
I decided I’d do something about this lackadaisical attitude in 2017. I deliberately (there’s that word again) cut myself off from the world for the first weeks of the year and wrote my butt off in the mornings and worked on marketing in the afternoons. It took two weeks for me to get sick. Two weeks later, I’m back at my computer for the first time. Maybe going 100 miles per hour isn’t the answer to a lackadaisical attitude. Maybe I can’t have it all. Then again, maybe the Dutch winter just caught me by a surprise. Stay tuned …