If you're reading this and happen to be an independent author (or any independent artist, really) then you can probably relate to the title of this blog. Hours spent creating and self-promoting don't always lead to immediate returns, aside from feeling accomplished (and that's not a bad thing). Depending on your natural mindset, this can prove to be a hindrance, maybe even to the point of derailing your momentum. Now, I'm not going to just list random issues without offering some insight (I wouldn't do that to do, though I can't blame you for being pessimistic), so let's take a look at a few things that I've learned to do and some to avoid.
Write something you want to read
Now, you can substitute whatever your creative output is, but the moral remains the same. If you go into a project trying to shoehorn yourself into a genre that doesn't hold your interest, you likely won't come off as naturally as you would in a more comfortable area. That doesn't mean not to take chances and try to branch out, rather you stay true to your talents when doing so. While I normally write in the realm of suspense and horror, I released a few short erotica stories (don't judge me!) under a pen name. I was curious to see how well they would perform and decided to give it a shot.
What did I learn?
The first and most obvious thing was that I wasn't very interested in the material. Now, one of the reasons I wanted to try something different and utilize a pseudonym was to write something and just let it flow as opposed to letting my mind do donuts and second-guess everything that I wrote. In the end, the genre isn't one that I have any real interest in so, to me, the writing came off as soulless and stale. The stories did get positive reception and I'm glad that people enjoyed them, but I would never pursue a career there because it quite simply isn't for me, and that's okay.
Focusing on ideas and areas that hold my interest give me much more of a vested interest in my work. At the moment, I have two novels in the works and another in semi-development, and I don't feel burned out or burdened because I feel a much stronger connection to the genre. In both examples, I created the characters and storylines and maintained complete creative control, however the experiment in that particular category was a misstep for me. Long story short: don't be afraid to step out and explore other avenues as long as those deviations represent something that you would want to experience as a reader.
This leads me to my next point...
Don't get lost in your head
The single biggest hurdle that I face is questioning myself. As creators, we always want to put out the best product possible. When I get on a roll, knocking out words and expanding the story is effortless. When I get locked inside my mind, nothing is good enough. Is this sentence good? Is that quip witty enough? Why the hell did I choose that character name? There's no limit to the fights I'll pick with myself and when it gets bad, it can lead to a complete shutdown.
Having multiple projects in the works helps as sometimes jumping from one to the other helps. I'm not recommending that you do anything you're not comfortable with, so if you don't have multiple WsIP, don't fret because you've got options. Granted, they might be a bit clichéd but don't write them off.
Go for a drive, take a walk, listen to some music. Maybe watch an episode or two of a TV show, perhaps Magnum P.I. (NOTE: Ian McShane guest-starred on an episode in Season One) or indulge a hobby. Do anything that doesn't involve your project. Create some mental separation.
The end goal is to stave off writer's block. After all, to paraphrase an old adage, it's easier to edit a crappy draft than it is to edit a blank page.
Don't be a stat hound
I'm sure that most of you know what I mean but, for those that don't I will elaborate. Regardless of what you do, chances are you have material online for sale. Failing that, you probably have something up that you track views, downloads or something else. While it's always fun to watch numbers go up and up, seeing stagnant numbers has the complete opposite impact.
It's always good to keep an eye on things so that you know how things are going. It's not a good thing to constantly refresh pages, just hoping for a bump. It doesn't improve your output and probably won't improve your mental state either. Set specific times to gauge your traffic and stick with a schedule. Unless you're running a big promotion or just dropped a new release, there really isn't much of a reason to constantly look at numbers. Shift that focus towards creating and promoting. Honestly, you'd be better off washing dishes than obsessively eyeing stats (plus, your kitchen will smell better!).
At the end of the day the most important thing is that you enjoy what you're doing. Yeah, that's true of pretty much every job but it is especially true when you are creating something. Unlike a "regular job", you likely don't have a rigid daily schedule (but you might), so it is especially important to maximize your productivity and not let yourself get bogged down. Having fun with what you're doing goes a long way towards achieving that.
When you get right down to it, everything that I've touched upon feeds into this idea. You obviously enjoy what you do, be it writing novels, short stories, poems, songs or painting, drawing or anything else. Doing all that you can to eliminate obstacles will help ensure that you don't get sidetracked. If you believe in what you're doing and put full effort into it, people will pick up on it. Yes, it takes time but it won't happen if you don't let it.
Anyway, let me know your thoughts on what I covered and share any ways that you use to stave off the creative doldrums.
Until next time...