A year from now, I know this list will evolve into something else because life is constantly teaching me something new. But, where I stand today, these are the first five things I had to let go of when I decided I wanted to continue writing and publishing books.
- EGO. Most of us don’t like to admit it, but the ego tends to stand in the way, sometimes hindering us or creating unnecessary obstacles. When I sat down to write my first publishable novel, I had high expectations – that is, until I wrote “THE END”. Suddenly, all of my confidence went out the window. My ego shrank. I felt vulnerable and naked. Then the sales came in… slowly. People who I just knew would buy the book, didn’t. People who I thought would read it, didn’t. My sales suffered. Then, the reviews came in. The great ones gave me courage, the bad ones put my ego in check. My ego took a beating. Now, it sits in the corner, sucking its thumb.
- FEAR. Fear ends most things before they even begin. I wrote my first book in the fifth grade, my first play in seventh grade. In a college creative writing course, I was told by my instructor that my works were “very sophisticated pieces of writing.” She asked if I’d ever considered writing for a living. I said “no.” She said, “You should.” I was twenty-three years old when she told me that. I published my first book a few months before my forty-ninth birthday. I call it a dream deferred. But really, it was fear that deferred my dream. I had to let it go.
- OBSTINACY. “I’m writing for me.” While I didn’t think that specifically, I did have the attitude that I’d write whatever I wanted, however I wanted. The truth of the matter is, if I want people to buy my books, then I’m writing for them. I’m writing for a particular audience who wants something very specific. In my genre, it’s a happy ending. They don’t necessarily care how I get them there, but that had better be where it ends, though. Writers write for an audience (whether we want to admit it or not).
- WAITING. I’m a daydreamer. I can dream up dreams all day long if given the opportunity. But life intrudes and forces me to do the things that need to be done. Basically, daydreaming can wake the muse and inspire a story, but that’s all it does. At some point, a writer has to write. Eventually, I came to realize, not only do I have to write – I have to write even when I don’t feel inspired. Even when I’m tired. Even when I’m discouraged. Even when my creative juices stop flowing. The beautiful thing about writing, when it’s ugly or if it fails, it can be revised, edited, rewritten.
- EXPECTATIONS. When I wrote my first novel, I expected my friends and family to flock to Amazon and one-click my book the moment it published. That’s not what happened. What happened was more like trickles. Some bought right away, some bought later, some not at all. I’m okay with it. But I had to adjust my expectations. Then I realized, adjusting my expectations wasn’t enough. I had to let them go. Here’s why. I’m not entitled to a reader’s purchase. Their purchase is a gift that says, “I’m intrigued.” Then when they leave a review (good or bad), it is yet another gift because their review isn’t an entitlement, it’s a privilege. I have learned to write the best that I can, publish and promote, and the rest is up to my audience.