Perfection, procrastination, and brutal honesty
Right now I'm doing some more edits on a book I finished over a year ago. In fact I have been getting so caught up on perfecting my skill, my craft, the ability to just adult in general I have been driving myself crazy. I actually missed the one year publishing anniversary of my first book.
Which is nuts to because that is the anniversary of the day I did something very scary and very big. When I finally took the leap I've been wanting to for years.
Yes I rushed and pushed myself to publish thinking a deadline would make me stop procrastinating. It did. It was a grueling two months of long nights were I missed out on my son's bedtime and family dinners.
But I was so proud that I met my self imposed deadline and finally published one of the books I had been working on.
Then the self doubt started to trickle in. The worry it still wasn't good enough. I was getting feedback mostly good. Some not so good. I did a re-edit. Then another. I kept selling books. Not a lot but enough. I was happy to sell any but to be honest I set a goal with my first book and made myself a promise that if I hit that goal in the first year I would keep publishing.
I thought hitting my goal would make me feel like a real author. And really my goal was SMALL. It was the number of books I needed to sell to break even on the money I had put into publishing it. (Want in on a super secret?? It was 35. My goal was to sell 35 books in a year to break even. Surely I could handle that right? Its just a couple books a month.)
I hit my goal with preorders. By release day I'd tripled my goal and the sales stayed slow but steady.
I still didn't feel like a real author.
My book wasn't good enough. It needed more of... I didn't know. I just felt like if the book had whatever it was lacking, if it was perfect, then I would feel like a real author. So I pulled it to revamp. That was months ago. MONTHS and I have been procrastinating on finalizing the changes and putting it back up.
Months that I haven't made a single sale. Which is tragic because I know I would have made some. All because I am getting hung up on all the insecurities I have. I would tell any of my friends not to give into the self doubt because they freaking rock. (Only I wouldn't use freaking.) Why is it so hard to do the same for myself?
Because I promised brutal honesty here it is:
Is my book perfect? Hell no. Do I like it? Oh hells yes. However there are a few kinks to be worked out which I'm taking a break from doing to write this post. (Also that picture is a lie. I cannot do my own eye makeup that flawlessly...)
Chasing the idea of perfect was a stressful, panic inducing punishment I was inflicting on myself. It only led to procrastination which started this awful cycle of feeling bad about myself which is crippling to the creative process of creating worlds and characters. Which made me feel like even less of an author. It started to leak over into 'real' life making me feel like a terrible wife
and mother because I was taking time away from my family for a career I was no good at.
So how did I break this cycle of falling short of perfection which led to procrastination?
Well some days it's easy to fall back into that rut. Everyone has bad days and accepting that is part of cutting myself a break but knowing it's unhealthy to stay in that mindset. Part of this was finding a tribe. I joined my local chapter of the RWA. Started listening to different podcasts geared to writing. I haven't mastered the skill of scheduled writing but I do make it a point to log 'author time' everyday. It can be as little as a few minutes online researching or networking on social media or a much as hours of writing or editing.
My days don't have a lot of structure right now. My husband made a pretty massive career change a few months ago that completely flipped our household routine and because my three year old likes change as much as I do it took it's toll. Things are just now starting to calm. Or as calm as possible with a toddler in the house. I'm starting to get my own groove again.
If I'm being brutally honest to myself I'm a bully. I would never let anyone get away with being as hard on people as I am on myself. And the constant push to be better doesn't motivate me. The last year is proof of that. Now it's time to be kinder and more understanding of myself.
A writer friend called me an author this week and I had a mini internal freak out that someone I respected thought of me as an author when I struggled to feel like a 'real author'. One of my side projects is getting a trophy wall up in my office. A small place to put tangible proof that I am both awesome and an author. (I'll have to post pictures once I've actually got something more than a few messy piles.)
I am an author. I'm proud of it.