Four years ago today, I took a leap of faith and self-published the novel I wrote at age 16, Can’t Beat the Heart of a Carolina Girl. With the click of a button, my life changed forever. At 23, I never anticipated how much stress, work, and dashes of joy would come from building this career. Now at 27, and on the cusp of marriage, I’ve compiled somewhat unorthodox advice during my fourth year as a published author.
If you haven’t yet read about years one to three, check them out below:
- My First Year as a Published Author
- My Second Year as a Published Author
- My Third Year as a Published Author
Lesson One: Comparison Can Kill Careers and Creativity
While this lesson in particular isn’t unorthodox, I want to harp on this for a bit, because it has hit me hard over the past year. Warning: This is about to get vulnerable.
Like I’ve said above, I’ve been an indie author for four years now. In those four years, I’ve published three books. By now, I was hoping sales would pick up momentum, or just get consistent. But honestly, they’re nowhere near that.
Because of this, I had become extremely hard on myself about trying to sell more books and reach new readers, especially after learning that a couple indie authors who write in secular contemporary YA, achieved massive sales on their debut books. It didn’t help one bit that both of these authors are years younger than me. Nor that their social media posts were perfectly pristine and constantly touted their success, while I was crying in my car on my lunchbreak every other day, mad at God, asking Him why I couldn’t reach that level of success. After all, I was writing books honoring Him, and they weren’t.
Behind the Posts
Social media is a constant comparison trap. However, sometimes when people post about their behind-the-scenes experiences, it can reveal truths we don’t initially catch through their normal, aesthetically pleasing content. Over the past few months, I’ve learned that those authors I’ve been comparing myself to have completely different life situations than myself. They’re able to devote more time to writing and marketing because they work mostly at-home and work part-time hours when they can elsewhere, while I work away from home 40 hours a week. They’re both single (as in unmarried; not engaged) and therefore have the financial freedom to spend their money as they please on marketing and publication materials, whereas I’ve chosen to save most of my income to help my fiancé pay off our house once we’re married, hopefully cutting our mortgage payback time in half. I have been very conservative on marketing and publication expenditures thus far in my career, while according to their posts, they’ve outspent my combined budget for all three books on their debuts.
Their methods are vastly different than mine, and that’s okay. That’s what works for them, and it doesn’t mean I can’t find success in my own way. It may take me much longer because I do not have the option of working from home or taking a part-time position during this season of life, but eventually God may open doors I don’t yet see coming.
Yes, I still get upset with myself from time to time because I desperately want to reach that level where I can make this author career a full-time job and provide financial stability for Josh and I along with his income, but I’ve been doing myself absolutely no good–a great disservice, really–by comparing my results to theirs. Yes, it’s discouraging that my career hasn’t taken off after all this time, but if and when it does take off, I’ll have a stronger appreciation for it and a deeper reliance on God, knowing He had a reason for all these years of hard work and struggle. That reliance, to end this long story, has grown exponentially over the last few months. I’m no longer mad at God, and it was dumb of me to ever have been.
Lesson Two: To Thrive, I Need Hobbies Outside of Writing
I had heard so man indie authors preach that we must work on writing, or take steps to build up our author careers each day, that I pretty much threw all the other hobbies I loved out the window to give writing top priority. Well, everything except reading. I stopped playing The Sims 2. I stopped playing guitar and writing song lyrics. I stopped reading the Bible, which, being a Christian author, was a stupid choice.
During my hiatus after releasing The Crush, I worked to incorporate better habits and hobbies back into my life outside of writing. For Christmas, my fiancé got me a recurve bow so I could learn archery–something I’ve always dreamed of doing (I mean, look at this website’s name 😉 ), but never thought I’d have time for. And now I make sure to use archery as a destressing activity throughout the week, and I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT. I’ve also started waking up at 5:15 each weekday morning to read the Bible and workout first thing before getting ready for work. I’m really enjoying learning how to cook with Josh, and watching recipe videos on Pinterest. As mentioned in a previous post, I’ve started a Christian bullet journal, and I’m head-over-heels in love with developing stronger artistic abilities through it.
Granted, at the time of drafting this post (January 23, 2021), I’ve strayed from writing The Dream and marketing via Instagram, but the time away from both has been therapeutic. In time, I’ll make it back to both, and hopefully learn to balance work and fun.
Please know that you don’t need to hustle 24/7 to achieve happiness. We have to learn to be content with what we have now, or else we’ll always be looking ahead and never enjoy the journey today offers.
Lesson Three: I’m a Long-Hand, Long-Term Writer, and There’s No Changing That
Piggybacking on the previous lessons, I’ve learned through finishing The Fall and starting The Dream that I’m a long-hand, long-term writing, and that fast-drafting and rapid release is not possible for me. And that’s perfectly okay.
When I finished The Fall as quick as I did (7 months is the fastest first-draft for me) I found it to be waaaay underdeveloped and quite possibly the second-worst first-draft I’ve ever written, behind Can’t Beat the Heart of a Carolina Girl, which was my first attempt at a novel. And, due to all the overhauling I’m having to do on The Fall to even think about working on The Dream again, I’m never going to force myself to finish a book as soon as humanly possible again. I know I sound like a hypocrite, especially after posting the achievable word count goals post, but this past year has shown me I’d rather write the best first-draft I can than have to endure adding 10+ more scenes in like I’m doing now. I hate writing out of order, and that’s why I’ve procrastinated so much on working on either project. Once I finally get back to writing The Dream, I’m not going to force myself to write; instead, like with Speak Your Mind, I’m going to immerse myself in who the characters are more and see where free-flowing writing takes the story.
So, Those are My Lessons Learned this Past Year… But, Wait! There’s More!
In honor of Can’t Beat the Heart of a Carolina Girl‘s fourth birthday, it’s eBook is currently on sale for $0.99 at all available retailers, and the paperback is on sale for $9.99, both $3.00 off their original prices! Be sure to snag these deals while they last: from now until Friday, February 26th!
Talk to Me, Arrowheads!
If you’re an author, what lessons have you learned throughout your career? I hope I didn’t sound too whiney in this post; I just had to get some of the things I’ve been self-reflecting on for the past several months off my chest. ❤
Aim high, stay strong, and always hit your mark.