I tweeted a couple of times how I use the Freedom software to block my ability to check email and social media when I’m writing. Freedom saw my tweets and asked to interview me as an author who uses their product. If you’re interested, you can read the interview here.
I’ve been reading this book on happiness. One of the things it mentioned was doing things for yourself. Intrinsic motivations instead of extrinsic ones. My psychologist (whom I discussed this with today) has been trying to get me to focus on this for months; I feel like I disappointed her when I told her that this book (which she pointed out wasn’t written by a psychologist) struck a chord with me. I think I understood what she was saying in the months before, but I think now something finally sunk in. When I think about book sales, number of downloads, reviews, email subscribers, social media followers, and needing a day job, I feel bad about myself. But today, while sitting in my car, drinking chai, I realized that if I stripped everything away but the books themselves, and just imagined myself sitting with them all alone, I’m already happy.
I’ve said before that when I look back at my work I always find things I’d like to rewrite, but on a whole, with Orly’s two books, I’m pleased with how they turned out and feel I accomplished what I wanted in writing them. And with Orly’s third book, I already feel happy with it, even though it’s not even half written, because I like how the story is building, where it is going, and where I believe it will end up. It’s when I’m not writing that I start thinking about external validations, like the ones I listed above. I have to learn to stop going there and instead run to that place where it’s just me and my books.
(For some reason, today, that imaginary place is red and barren, like what I remember of a Thomas Ligotti story I read so many years ago.)
I’ve heard back from eight beta readers so far for The Last Midnight. I’m still waiting to hear back from many more. I’m still not sure I’m going to publish this story. It feels risky. It feels revealing. I don’t feel confident. Of the eight beta readers I’ve heard from, five of them told me they cried. A sixth said the last sentence made him teary. These reactions boost my confidence, making me think that what I was trying to express may strike a chord with readers.
I haven’t written anything since writing the last sentence of this novella. I’ve been spending my time reading and trying to build my author platform. After 120 days of staying off social media, I’ve returned. It’s caused some anxiety, Facebook especially, so I’m only engaging in small doses. But as I continue to wait for feedback from the remaining beta readers, I’ve decided I should go back to Orly because I still have a lot of writing to do there and not writing is making me focus too much on the waiting which makes me feel impatient.
Work at my day job has been inordinately stressful lately. The work from home status due to Covid-19 isn’t it making it any easier either. For the first time in a long time, I had a panic attack over the weekend that took me over three hours to recover from.
It hasn’t been all bad though. I continue to write in the mornings, before working, and that does improve my mood. Because of this commitment, I finally finished writing Chapter Three. It took four months, over a span of seven months, to write. (I began writing it in October but didn’t write in November, December, or January, because of depression.) It felt great to finish it as I think it’s been the most challenging chapter for me to write in the series. I’ve begun Chapter Four, and hope it won’t take nearly as long to finish. I’ve had two beta readers ask when they can expect new chapters and I plan to send them something after Chapter Four is complete.
I began this post talking about my day job because it’s really been wearing me down, and if something doesn’t change, I think there’s the likelihood of burnout. I talked with my psychologist about it today. She thinks I should consider leaving. I really wish I could; it’s my dream to be able to write for a living, but right now I don’t sell enough books to do that, and I need a paycheck. I could potentially find a job that would be less stressful, but it’s hard to leave what I have because I’ve been there for fifteen years and have a pension and health benefits to consider, including behavioral health benefits that I especially rely on.
The best answer would be to sell more books. I need to reach more readers to do that. There is so much advice out there on how to grow your readership, with social networking and advertising strategies being at the top of the list. I’ve yet to be successful at either. It’s so hard to make your books stand apart from all the other books out there, because there are so many good writers trying to accomplish the same thing I am. And then of course, with a writer’s natural instinct to be hypercritical of one’s own work, I have to wonder if maybe my books just aren’t good enough.
This post probably comes across as negative, but that’s not what I’m trying to express. My psychologist also suggested I consider changing my goal to be able to write for a living. But I will never do that. I will never give up chasing my dream. I have hopes that someday I’ll be able to look back at this post and see that it was about struggles I overcame.
I’ve mentioned that I try to stay off social media as it is generally not good for my self-esteem, and so staying off is something I actually work on with my psychologist. Social media can also take up a lot of time, time that I should spend writing. Anyhow, I had been doing well with staying off, having deleted multiple apps on my phone, but I consciously decided to come back on recently in order to promote an eBook giveaway. I’ve had to come back on social media for reasons like this before, and it’s always been easy for me to get back off once my purpose is complete. But this time it wasn’t, and I think that’s because of the current quarantine situation we are living under.
I regularly text with many friends, but now I make an effort to text with even more, just to stay connected and feel that people are there and to let them know I’m there for them as well. But I realized I need to see faces, and in quarantine this just doesn’t happen. So I think that’s why it was harder to walk away from Facebook and Instagram this time. I need to see my friends beyond just their text messages.
My psychologist suggested video chatting, but that’s not easy for me, being shy and self-conscious (even though I have to do it during my day job and my therapy sessions are now via video chat). I don’t know why it’s so much harder for me to video chat when it’s personal, but it is. But I promised my psychologist that I would video call someone after our session, and I did, and that day I saw the faces of three friends while talking to them. It was a very good thing to do, and I’m going to try to do it more.
But even with embracing video chat, I’m still on social media and am not ready to leave it. And now that I’m there, I realize how poorly I use it to promote my books and myself as an author. A lot of that is due to shyness and not wanting everything I post to feel like an advertisement. But I took a step forward and made a video post on my Instagram where I’m actually talking and showing my face. (I did use a filter though.)
I have an author Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, but now that doesn’t feel like enough. So I reinstalled Snapchat today and finally got on Tiktok. And dammit, now I feel overwhelmed. I want to promote my books, but honestly, I just don’t know how to do it well. I’ve read that I should focus on just one platform, but I don’t know which. Twitter is the easiest for me to post to, but I get the most interaction from readers on Instagram, despite not having any sexy pics.
I wish writing books was enough, but it’s so hard to make the books you’ve written stand out amongst all the other books out there and compete against all the other authors who are trying to do the same thing you’re doing. But beside social media and paid advertising, I don’t know what else authors can do besides hope someone famous will love their book and post about it.
I’ve been back on social media for sixteen days now. I don’t know how much longer I’ll stay. I should leave already as I’ve already felt some effects on my self-esteem, but right now, I still need to see faces. I guess that means I need to do more video chats in order to escape the social networks.
After staying off social media for over two months because of the negative impact it has on my self-esteem, I finally went back on last Wednesday to announce the release of Scribbling the Eternal. The book had actually released on November 6, but because of all the anxiety I was experiencing regarding its release I put off announcing it. I saw my psychiatrist on Monday and talking about the anxiety with her and having my monthly Klonopin quantity increased helped me to finally gather the courage to announce it.
It’s on Amazon as a paperback, eBook, and audiobook. If you read it, I hope you love it, as I loved writing it.
My depression persists. I believe it’s actually gotten worse. Down the spiral I go. Every day it’s a struggle to get out of bed. Yet somehow, with my new daily writing goal of just ten minutes, I’ve been able to make myself write every day this past week. My daily word count is minimal, but that’s not the point.
Yesterday I watched three videos posted on the Patreon page of an artist whose work I admire a lot—Elly Smallwood. She talked about doing your own thing as an artist and the importance of not comparing yourself to others. It helped to be reminded of those things, as I’ve been feeling like a failure as a writer. For some time I’ve been measuring my success by number of readers—something Elly would refer to as external validation. I need to relearn that the success is in the doing—in the writing and in the completion of work. Everything else comes second or not in any place at all. I think I often forget this because I spend too much time looking at social media, where it’s easy to compare myself to others and subsequently put myself down.
I need to stop looking around me and pay more attention to what I’m working on. Later this month I’m going to spend a week in a cabin I rented in Idyllwild for a writing retreat. I hope by then I have a better handle on my depression so that I make use of all that quiet time by writing my new book and not sleeping the days away.