Coming to the end of a book causes a special kind of anxiety in me. It’s like the rest of the time I am fine, smiling, getting on, doing my thing, rolling with the punches and above all else; looking on the bright side! Of course. You have to, don’t you? Only one life, and all that. Make the most of it, do your thing and be happy. I do this and I get this. But whenever I have a book finished, something weird happens to me. It’s like all the anxieties and all the panic that I manage to hold back the rest of the time, are suddenly let loose and permitted to run amok.
I’ll tell you what it feels like. Its a heavy sick feeling in my belly, right down in the pit, right down low. Its tight and knotted and it makes it hard to breathe. A breath is not just a breath anymore, something I don’t even notice. It;s something I have to think about. In, and out.
Finishing a book should be cause for relief and excitement, pride even. But even when I’ve drafted and re-written and edited a thousand times, that last bit, that last haul to the finish line, leaves me trembling with unspoken fears.
It’s this indie writers life. You might know what I mean. It’s ups and downs. Like real life, in fact. A rollercoaster of positives and negatives, of feeling on top of the world one minute and wondering why the hell you bother the next. If you let them, the fears come thick and fast. They knock you down and roll right over you. If you’re doing the whole indie thing, you might recognise some of them. The same ones rear up again and again, and never so violently as when there is a new book ready to go…
Financial fears…nightmares even. If your’re rich then you don’t need to worry about this one. You can throw as much money as you like at your books. You can hire a professional cover designer, you can hire a proofreader and an editor. You can pay out for promotional campaigns. You can buy likes and follows and boost posts and buy sponsored ads on facebook. The list is endless, I guess. But if you’re not, then the financial side can keep you awake at night. It does me. How much more money can I throw in? What is worth it? What’s a waste? What’s an investment? When will I see a return? Ever? I know for a fact I have spent more money on my books than I have made back in the two years I have been published. Sometimes I am okay with this, and sometimes this horrifies me. How can I justify it when I have a family to provide for? I’m reminded of my father’s words growing up. Don’t be a writer, he said. There’s no money in it. He wasn’t wrong.
Time. There’s not enough of it. Not in a day, not in a week. Not in a life. Life is too short for me to read all the books I want to read, to listen to all the music I want to listen to, and to write all of the books I have inside of me. Sometimes this is okay, and other times, like now, this pisses me off and panics me. I want to write faster. I need more time, but I don’t have it, not without letting something else slip. I feel like I am walking a tightrope all of the time. There are choices to be made when time shrinks so readily. I never feel like I am getting it right. I always feel like something or someone is not getting enough of me. And still the words pile up inside my head, drowning the real world out. These people, these voice, they all want to be heard, they all call out to have their turn, but I won’t ever be able to satisfy them all and keep my house and family on track too.
Promo panics. Ugh. I used to hate promo stuff, and then I got resigned to it, and then I got a bit smarter and then I quite liked it. The problem now is also time. I’ll skim through social media on my phone, (probably when I should be paying attention to something else) and I’ll see all these great posts from pages I have liked for the very reason that they post great things, helpful things, inspirational things. But then you need the time for these great things. Time to watch the video, time to read the article, time to find it again, or remember what it was. It shouldn’t panic me, but it does. What if I miss something really important? What if I forget to read something that could have really helped me? There just isn’t time to pay attention to everything. The same applies to finding an audience and building connections. I take this seriously, and have definitely made progress, but again, with everything else, time runs out. I know, take a deep breath you say, pick your battles, let some of them go. I know, I know. Just sometimes, it panics me.
Self-doubt. Well this must be the classic fear for us all. Not just writers either, but most of us as human beings. The first draft is always a horrible thing; messy, back to front, clunky drivel at times, but it’s also exciting. It’s a relief. Finally letting those voice speak, finally at last just getting it out, getting it down. Then there is the second draft and the third, and so on, and yes, it gets better. Everything is going well until the end. And then I start to question it. I start to realise how shit it is. I start to wonder who the hell would read this? I start to think forget it, just leave it, stuff it back where it belongs. My self doubt would never stop me writing, but there are times it makes me want to stop publishing my writing!
Ups and downs. It’s so weird, the way it goes. My books will sit there not selling anything, then out of the blue I will get a really lovely message on my page about an article I wrote, or a blog post. Little things can bring me down very easily, but usually something nice will happen very soon afterwards. Something strange and unexpected. I’m never down for long. An excited text message from a friend reading one of my books who is nearing the end with her stomach all in knots! A message from another friend who is reading the first draft of a new book and already wants to know what happens next, so can she please have some more chapters? An amazing review. High praise from people I really like and respect. All these things happen every week, and I always seem to get a good kick up the arse when something else has made me feel small. I don’t know why it works like this but it does. I like to think it is the Universe making sure I don’t give up. And I won’t. Well, not while these nice things keep happening anyway.
Dilemmas. Indie life is full of them. On a day to day basis I ask myself what I am doing. I often grumble and wonder why I bother. I often feel frustrated at the lack of sales.I wonder whether I should carry on as I am with each new book, or whether I should try the traditional route again, try to find an agent? Would it be worth another stab? Would it make much difference? Do I really want to put myself through that again? What does success mean anyway? Genuine fans and positive feedback? A certain amount of sales? Proving yourself somehow? Or is it something much more personal than that? Accepting your talents, as well as your flaws? Knowing that you have both, and that both need working on.
I know I will be all right once the book is out. Once it is released, I will let the panic go. I will already have my teeth into the next thing and the whole process will start again.