How Self-Publishing Dragged Me From my Comfort Zone

When I started my indie journey back in 2013, I was full of optimism and excitement. I, of course, had no idea how much hard work was ahead of me. I had no clue about the amount of disappointment and frustration heading my way. I also had no way of knowing then, how far out of my comfort zone I would be pulled.

Writers are by nature, shy, introverted creatures. I’m no exception. I was a quiet, bookish child. I loved my own company and always preferred reading and writing to socialising with real people. I always thought becoming a writer would be the perfect vocation for someone like me. I was intrigued and fascinated by people. I wanted to watch them and learn about them, but all without actually getting involved. I’d build a little warm bubble of imagination around my life and spend my days tapping away at the laptop, dreaming up stories and inventing new friends. Lovely stuff.

But alas, being an indie writer is not quite like that. You can’t really get away with hiding. You certainly can’t get away with not promoting or marketing your books. This was horrifying to me, to begin with. I loathed the thought of creating social media profiles and drawing attention to myself. What the hell would I say? Who would care? What about Twitter? I’d just be ignored, wouldn’t I? How would I get my books noticed?

And yet, look at me now. I’m still me. But I’m a much braver me. And maybe I have self-publishing to thank for that after all. I’ve built a platform slowly. I’ve grown my pages and my blog. I’ve networked (God how that word used to terrify me!!) I’ve grown and matured and learned so much. I even pass things on to others now. I write articles about writing and get paid to do so! I stand up in front of new writers and deliver talks and workshops!

And last Saturday, I did my first author event.

I’d heard about these but never felt brave enough to put myself forward. The thought of sitting there with my books, hoping people would buy them chilled me to the bone. But last year I changed my mind about a lot of things and realised I had to break out of my comfort zone. I had conquered my online fears and now I needed to conquer my real life ones. I had to actually get out there and talk to people and physically sell my books. I had to reach out to my local community as well as the global one. Show my face. Be seen and be proud. I had to do the thing I had never been very good at, interacting with people.

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And it was fun. I only sold three books, but to be honest, I wasn’t expecting to sell much more. I didn’t really know what to expect from the event itself and was really pleased and excited to see how the library had set each author up with their own table, book shelves and a very visible name tag. I felt an unexpected surge of pride and importance! It was very quiet though, so us authors started chatting and networking. We swapped cards and advice and took photos of each other to upload to social media. We had a laugh and a moan about the life of an indie writer. I also got chatting to members of the public who wanted to know about my book or my writing group. It was fun! 

And that’s how I’m going to approach it if this chance comes again. Fun. An opportunity to network with other authors, to support each other, and to feel proud of how far we have come. No, we don’t sell a lot of books and maybe we never will. But we wrote them. We stuck with them. We finished them, edited them, proofread and revised them. We found front covers, devised blurbs and started to learn how to promote them and grow a following. If I went back now and told the introverted child version of me, I don’t think she would believe a word of it.

I’m smashing my comfort zones because of self-publishing. I’ve achieved my childhood goals because of self-publishing. I’ve met some amazing authors, read some life changing books and gained some true friends because of self-publishing. I’ve started a writing group, I put on workshops, I work for others, I write articles, I write reviews, all because of self-publishing. I was brave enough to go on local radio, because of self-publishing. I’ve made mistakes and picked myself back up. I’ve had bad days and sad days, and I know the ups and downs will never end. But I’m stronger, braver, happier, more knowledgable and experienced and positive than I ever knew was possible and it’s all because I self-published.

Don’t get me wrong, indie publishing is not the answer to all of my dreams. I still long to be traditionally published, because it still seems to me this is the best way to get visibility, sales and reviews. I made a decision very recently to submit each new book I write, to a suitable press. Just in case. You can read about my reasons for this here; Self-publishing; Good times, bad times and ugly truths

Whatever happens, I will always be proud of my self-publishing journey. Sometimes I do need to remind myself how far I have come. I think we all do, from time to time. I will always be thankful to self-publishing for allowing me to get my books out there, for enabling me to connect with readers and grow a small, loyal following. It’s opened up other doors for me too, and dragged me all the way out of the introverted little bubble I used to hide away in.

What about you? What’s your comfort zone? Have you done anything recently or in the past that has dragged you from it? I would love to hear from you, so please feel free to comment and share!

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Lessons in Dog – A Response To Lessons In Kitten

Last week, the brilliant Lisa Sell posted Lessons in ‘Kitten’ on her blog. Like all Lisa’s posts, it was funny, honest and quite brilliant. It also made me think. I’m a dog person, myself. I like cats. But my dogs really, really don’t. I started to think about Lisa’s post regarding her new kitten Feegle and how he is helping her through her depression and inspiring her writing habits at the same time. The more I thought about it, the more I realised that my dogs have also had a massive impact on my writing life. So, I decided to write a post in response!

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Dogs Can Change Your Direction

For me, they quite literally did. For five years I was a childminder by profession. For eight years I’d been a mother to three small children. There was simply no time in my life for writing, and very little time for reading. We went through a bad period. We lost two homes and my husband lost two jobs. We felt cursed and helpless and guilty. My reaction? I got a dog. I got a dog because I needed something that was just for me. I’d always been dog obsessed, in fact the first books and stories I ever wrote as a child were always about dogs. Funnily enough, although we brought this little chap Skipper home in the most uncertain period of our lives, everything changed for the better after that. We found a house to rent. Semi-rural, massive garden, a river running past it, fields behind, woods beyond. It was like a dream come true. And then one day while out walking my new baby I had a revelation. I would give up childminding and take up dog walking instead. And I would go back to my writing. And…I did! So it’s kind of thanks to Skipper that I can now call myself a proper writer.

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One Is Never Enough…

Yep, you guessed it, one was not enough. Dogs are addictive. I might be biased but I happen to think lurchers in particular are incredibly addictive! After I fell in love with my big boy Skipper, I started fostering dogs for a local dog rescue, and not long after that this scruffy little wretch arrived on our doorstep. I totally did not mean to fall in love with Tinkerbelle but she was always going to steal our hearts. She fitted right in. At this point in my life I felt like I was living the dreams I had chosen in childhood. I was working with animals and writing. Perfect.

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Dogs Force You Out Of Your Bubble

Like a lot of writes, I’m an introvert at heart. I love nothing more than snuggling up with a  good book, staying home and putting on music, writing for hours or losing myself in gardening. If it were not for my dogs who expect their walkies at the same time twice a day, I could quite easily shut the world out and ignore its existence. I could easily do the same with the human race. But dogs don’t let you do this. They force you outside, they force you to go to new places. They encourage interaction with other people and other dogs. For this reason, writers need dogs!

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Dogs Are Therapeutic In So Many Ways…

No offence cat people (I have loved cats before!!) but there is nothing quite like the love of a dog. They don’t just love you, they adore you. You are their world! They throw themselves at you when you come home. Their little faces watch you out the window when you leave. They want to please you, they want you to be happy! Dogs are happiness! And they can teach us to be happy too. They yearn the simple things in life. A comfy bed (preferably yours, or the sofa will suffice) Good food, (again, yours is better, and with lurchers anything left in counter-surfing reach is fair game, including rubbish bags) Playtime and sleep time. Easy. Unlike children, dogs are grateful for everything! They also seem to know when you are feeling down. Just stroking a dog can bring your heart rate down and help you to feel less stressed. Not to mention how therapeutic walking is. (Bit less so when they disappear after deer on the horizon, but that’s besides the point) They make you exercise, they make you talk to people, they make you care.

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Dogs Accept Us The Way We Are

One of the best things about dogs is that they like you just the way you are. They don’t care if you are fat, thin, attractive, ugly, able bodied or disabled, straight or gay, old or young, black or white. They couldn’t care less! They also don’t mind your character flaws. When I’ve had a bad day or felt misunderstood or judged, it’s my dogs I long to be with. Just one walk across the beautiful common with my hounds and I’m soon all right again. I often talk to them while I’m walking. Tinks will skip ahead, doing her own thing, acting crazy, but Skipper will walk right by me, as if he is listening to every word. I’ll talk about my day, what was good, what was bad, and I’ll talk about my writing.

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Dogs Help Me Write!

Yes, they really do. For all the reasons listed above and because walking them, being out in the open with them, close to nature and away from people, is where all my inspiration hits. It always happens on dog walks. New ideas that spring out of nowhere, (including several of my novels and future novels!) Characters start chatting to me, giving me conversations to steer their story forward. Loose ends tie up. I get massive revelations when out with my dogs. Something I’ve been struggling with for weeks will suddenly come together and make sense. I’ll get story ideas from the landscape and from the dogs themselves. I don’t think I’d get so many ideas without them! I always come back with a massive smile on my face, desperate to find my notebook so I can scribble down my ideas before I forget them. Or I’ll tap them into my phone while walking. So many of my blog posts have been drafted in rough form on my phone while out walking the dogs!

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They’re in all my books!

Not my dogs exactly, (although that is my gorgeous Tinks immortalised by the brilliant Justine Pateman, on the front cover of This Is Nowhere) but dogs in general. All of my books have dogs in them! The Mess Of Me has bat-eared cross-breed Gremlin, Lou’s ever faithful sidekick. The Boy With The Thorn In His Side and This Is The Day have Danny’s adored Jack Russel, Kurt. This Is Nowhere has beautiful lurchers, Chase and Dash. And as for future books, The Tree of Rebels has a ball obsessed cross-breed called Charlie, and dear Elliot, from Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature has a Staffordshire Bull Terrier called Tizer. I just can’t seem to write a book without making a dog a character in it.

Writers Need Dogs!

For all these reasons, I think dogs make the perfect companion, muse and inspiration for writers. They get you out of your introverted bubble, out into the world and interacting with other humans. Exercise and just simply stroking and being with them releases endorphins, making you feel better and less anxious. They keep your feet warm when you’re writing, and snuggle up with you on the sofa when you are reading. They also make fantastic characters in books!

I need to say another massive thank you to Lisa Sell for inspiring me to write this post and being cool about me responding to hers! 

So how about you? Are you a dog person or a cat person? How do they help you or inspire you? Please feel free to comment!