Monday, January 6, 2014

My Crazy Writing Life - Day 6: What I Really Want

Never am I at a loss for setting ridiculous, unobtainable goals:

I want to be the most prolific author in the world.

Heck, I want to be the most prolific author in literary history!

That was my goal, at least initially. As I put in the long hours, my love of writing began to wane. Something was wrong; I just couldn’t put my finger on it.

It’s taken awhile, due to my stubborn personality and incredibly hard head, to realize what’s truly important:
  • Enjoy what you are doing.
  • Be consistent.
  • And have the freedom to write whatever you want.
If I have all of these things—personal satisfaction, productivity and freedom—does the rest really matter? As long as I can pay my bills, I’ll be fine.

Still, I would like to be more proficient at my craft.

In July 2012, I produced 21 children’s picture books in a single month. Although these books were simple in nature, the experience gave me the feeling of being a prolific writer. But there was very little writing involved. I found myself writing more for the available artwork than the actual story, and soon began questioning my purpose. Months later, when people started posting positive reviews of Aveline and Taming Your Pet Monster: An Operational Guide, I decided to revisit everything that I had produced previously. To my surprise, the quality was good, and several titles would find success just a few months later.

Though I had begun to tire of writing children’s books, I was satisfied with each and every one of them. The effort was good, even though many had been produced in a short period of time, often a single day.

In hindsight, I shouldn’t have slowed down or stopped at all. I should have trusted my instincts and not doubted myself just because I was having difficulty selling. By being fixated on sales, I produced significantly less than I could have.

This time around, I won’t make the same mistake. I’ll ignore sales numbers and focus on productivity. As long as I create the best books that I am capable of, the sales will come. It’s inevitable.

And although I’ve said that I’ll take a break from children’s books to focus on my more “serious” works, I’ve had a change of heart. These books are helping children, notably my autistic seven-year-old son. All I needed was a time out, and now that I’ve had it, I’m ready to tackle the new challenges before me.

Eventually, I would like to get back to producing an original children’s book each week in addition to my normal writing. Although this appears to be a no-brainer, it’s actually a lot more difficult than it sounds. Tons of effort goes into producing children’s books, and as I get closer to the finishing one, I find that I can do little else. Sleep eludes me, and the need to finish pushes me through fatigue and exhaustion. This time, I’ll pace myself better so that I don’t burn out.

I would also like to make a significant change to my children’s books. While my picture books are typically a few hundred words (due to limited attention spans), instead I will produce stories at least 3,000 words in length. This shift from flash fiction to short stories increases the age range slightly from children 2-5 to children 3-6. A subtle, but significant difference.

Aside from publishing children’s books on a consistent basis, I’d also like to finish all of the languishing projects on my plate. For each new story I finish, I’ll alternate and wrap up a partially completed one. These all need to get out the door eventually, so now is the time to get them done.

I also need to follow up my successful works, distribute my books to all of the proper channels, and fix any errors that I come across. I would also like to focus on my website and sell directly to the reader.

But first things first. Let’s get some consistency in the writing process, starting with this journal. I will use it to chart my progress and keep myself writing every day. Even if I fall short of my goals, I will maintain this journal nonetheless.

I also need to be careful not to over commit myself while juggling friends, family and a full time job. That’s why I’m going to stagger these goals initially, and tackle them once I’m ready.

Here is an early list of my goals for 2014:
  1. Write consistently every day in your journal (minimum 1,000 words).
  2. Write one new children’s book per week starting in February (minimum 3,000 words).
  3. Finish all of your incomplete projects, alternating between old and new.
  4. Distribute all of your books to as many legitimate vendors as possible (Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, Omnilit, Teachers Pay Teachers, Lulu).
  5. Enjoy what you do. (That’s a must!)
  6. Strive to become a better writer by learning something new each day.
  7. Fix all problems that you encounter.
  8. Focus on productivity rather than sales or reviews.
  9. Invest time in your author store and develop original content for it.
  10. And most of all, have fun!
Although this isn’t a complete list by any means, it’s enough to get started. I also added an item or two that needs to be discussed in detail (more on that later). Of all of these, the most important is the last one.

Have fun with it, even if you never make millions of dollars off your craft. Nothing’s guaranteed, especially in this industry, so why not? Get personal fulfillment from your writing today. Money can’t be the only motivating factor, and if one truly genuinely enjoys their work, they’ll produce more content with fewer breaks.

Although I decided several years ago what I wanted to do with my life, I still need to remind myself to have fun every once in a while. Yes, it’s a business. I get that. And yes, it’s how I feed my family. But it’s more than that. My work affects people, causes positive change in the world, amuses some, helps others, and may ultimately lead to success. Don’t write aimlessly just to capitalize on a buck; otherwise, you may not want to do it anymore.

Last, I’d like to break 200 total products this year. Currently, I’m sitting at 117. It’s going to take quite a bit of effort to publish another 73 titles this year while working a full time job. And if this was my only job? Heck, I’d knock it out in three months. (Grr…)

I must step up to the plate and produce. There are no excuses. It’s now or never.

This is your path.

This is your calling.

This is what you will do every day until you die.

So get busy. There’s nothing that can stand in your way except yourself.

Day 1: 1,035 words
Day 2: 1,045 words
Day 3: 1,035 words
Day 4: 1,560 words
Day 5: 1,193 words
Day 6: 1,157 words
Total: 7,025 words

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