Random Comments and Thoughts 20220312

I was having a conversation with some friends in a private group about self-pub gurus and the amount they actually provide actionable information and how there’s often a lot more hype there than substance. (Or it’s the All-Star problem of people having inherent skills that most mere mortals do not possess and cannot emulate even if that would in fact lead to success.)

That conversation had me thinking about how the writing world in general and self-publishing in particular definitely has both cool kids and mean girls.

Some days it’s reminiscent of being back in high school where someone is standing in the corner whispering behind their hand and you don’t know what you did wrong today to get them talking about you but the pointed looks and rolled eyes or laughs make it pretty clear you did something.

(Which I react to about the way I did in high school: by giving a dagger look in their general direction, thinking, seriously fuck off if you’re that type of person who talks about others in petty little ways, and then I get on with enjoying a life that doesn’t include people like that.)

Of course that ties into one of the things I see make the rounds on Twitter every few months. Someone will get a publishing deal and suddenly someone else posts about how you shouldn’t be the type of person who drops their friends when you reach a certain level of success.

Part of me knows that there really are people like that, that think they’ve leveled up and can move past old connections. (Like in that horrible U.S. version of Downton Abbey they recently released.)

But part of me wonders if it’s just that the people bitching about no longer being connected to that person simply didn’t notice the person had walked away from the friendship until the person actually had something worth latching onto.

For example, I am an unfriender on FB.

Life is too short for me to stay “friends” with that person who was going to get their antibody test in early summer 2020 and then go join the white supremacist protestors with assault rifles at the capital to end the lockdowns.

Especially after FB had graced me with their anti-abortion posts for years.

Life is also too short for me to stay “friends” with the person who once informed me with all seriousness that they’re only friends with attractive people. And who recently name-checked a person that was at some event they fondly remembered while not name-checking me as the other person who’d been there. I figured if I either wasn’t attractive enough or wasn’t important enough anymore for this person to acknowledge my existence at that event that maybe it was time for that “friendship” to die, too.

I have no doubt if I ever signed some big publishing contract that both would suddenly realize we weren’t connected anymore and think I’d suddenly dumped them and make some comment about it. Forget the fact that it had happened years before and for vastly different reasons.

Which is why accepting some third-party’s take on a conversation or situation is a bad, bad idea. Hell, even accepting your own take is sometimes a bad idea.

Years ago I worked with a guy who really creeped me out. He followed me around at work the entire shift. One night I even thought he was going to follow me out to my car in a dark parking lot.

It was so bad I went to the manager about it and asked if she could please stop scheduling us together. I felt sick going in to work every day because I knew that guy would be following me around the whole time in this horrible creepy way where he’d poke my shoulder each time he walked by and say, “Hey you.”

It sucked. And I was firmly convinced it was him being a creeper. (I was 21 and had a number of experiences where men twice my age would run across the street to hit on me so I thought I knew what this was.)

The manager was his sister. And she asked if I really thought it rose to the level of sexual harassment. Me being 21 and having had to screw up all my courage just to bring it up with her, I said I guess not. So she kept scheduling him with me on every single shift for the entire shift and I kept feeling more and more sick to my stomach each day I had to go into work.

Which is how I came to lose my shit with her and him about a week later over my not being allowed to wear shorts at work even though he was and we had no dress code.

Which got me fired from that job. (That turned out to be a secret blessing, really. I’d taken the first job I could find when I got to school and when they fired me it turned out I’d been earning vacation time all along that they had to pay me. Not only that, I was able to get a better-paying, easier job for the last couple months of school.)

For years I would’ve told you that guy was a creeper. And I could’ve described for you all the things he’d done that proved my point.

Until my weird little brain finally put together an offhand comment one of our co-workers made to me about how the morning manager (I was the night manager) had been fired for stealing from the store a couple weeks after I was fired. My job was to collect the money from the till and put it in the safe. Hers was to count it each morning.

It took me about a decade to put that together, but I finally realized that the weird dude with poor social skills who was following me around my entire shift wasn’t doing it out of some sexual attraction but because his sister knew someone was stealing from the store and thought it was me so had set him to keep an eye on me.

And she wasn’t concerned about him sexually harassing me because she knew what he was really doing.

So, yeah. Sometimes what we think we heard or experienced isn’t even what happened because we filtered it through our limited knowledge or skewed experiences.

Doesn’t change how it made us feel even if we were wrong, of course. The stomach clenching feeling I felt going into work every day was very, very real for me.

But since I worked that out (after ten years) I try to keep that in mind as a reminder to myself that maybe I don’t have all the facts. Or maybe what I perceived in a word or an action isn’t what was intended, consciously or subconsciously.

And if I’m getting that information through a third-party who has their own limited knowledge and skewed perspective? Well.

That’s an even bigger moment to proceed with caution. Anyway. Random thoughts thanks to too much free time. Time to feed the dog.

Random Comments and Thoughts 20220205

A few random comments/ thoughts.

First, I just did a bit of a reorder on the website. I had maintained separate pages for each major store (Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Nook, Google, etc.) where my books are sold, but that was a bit unwieldy to keep up to date and certain books were starting to get buried.

When you have as many books as I do, trying to figure out what order to present them in is probably the biggest challenge. Especially when most of my books here fall under one category (Microsoft Office) but I do have other titles that people come looking for.

So I got rid of the store-specific pages and you’ll now see at the top of the website links to products on Microsoft Office, Business and Personal Finance, and then Writing and Self-Publishing.

I labeled each one products because there are video courses and templates in addition to the books.

For each title the thumbnail now links to Books2Read and the comments section below includes store-specific links as well as the print ISBNs.

The resources pages I had that linked to other sites or blog posts, etc. are now on the side.

Second, for fellow authors, one of the things I did while I was doing this massive update (it took about a day) was to also add my print links on B2R for at least Amazon and Barnes & Noble since I was already there getting the ebook links. Something to consider doing if you haven’t already.

I’ll have to circle back and do some of the other print stores later and also do audio links but not sure when I’ll get around to it.

One of the trickiest challenges of self-publishing is knowing where to put your time. Last year I added a few new stores and honestly they were not worth doing from what I’ve seen so far. But sometimes they are, right?

Going direct to Kobo was when I finally started getting some traction there because of the promotions tab. And being direct at Nook when I finally was able to access their promo tab really helped the year that happened.

So it’s always worth considering these new things that pop up, but often the best thing to do is just write more.

Third, I read a good book for authors the other day, Romance Your Goals by Zoe York. It is not just for romance authors, by the way. Might be worth checking out. Just ignore the goal profiles section.

(There’s an implied hierarchy and judgement in a few of the profiles that raised my hackles. Could very much be a personal thing. But overall a good book.)

One of the things reading that book prompted me to do was map out the various titles I have under each pen name. (Covered in Chapter 7 of her book.)

And it was clear seeing that map why my non-fiction outperforms my fiction. Because on the non-fiction side I have multiple series that tie into one another or complement one another.

I do have some distinct little buckets–as you can see by my new categories for products at the top of the website–but overall there’s a wide variety of “product” to pull in customers that feeds into the larger pool of books.

Compare that to my YA fantasy that has one trilogy, my cozy mysteries that have one series with a few side short stories, my main romance name which has two related novels and an unrelated novella, and my secondary romance name that has one series of related short stories and then one other short story in the same subgenre.

Basically, it highlighted what many authors know but maybe don’t implement. Which is that you need a big enough catalog or related titles to really gain some traction.

(I sometimes joke that instead of building one home for myself I am concurrently building five of them, which means a bunch of unfinished projects sitting around that will all suddenly hit at once if I keep going that way.)

With enough books, advertising becomes easier. You can have a permafree title or enough series to run rotating discounted promotions. Also, getting books out there consistently keeps existing readers engaged and draws in new ones.

Which is all to say that doing things the way I have on the fiction side is not a winning strategy. Not if you want to make more than a few thousand in profit per year. On the fiction side I need to focus.

But that leads to my fourth thought which is about closing loops.

I am one of those people who holds mental space for the things I haven’t finished yet. It’s why consulting was annoying to me. Because if I had a client who consistently used my services, but didn’t use them full-time I was still holding space for that client on the days or weeks when they had no work for me.

I actually ended my last consulting relationship because a project had ended and I knew that I’d be getting fifteen minutes here, an hour there, requests until something new ramped up.

But I also knew that I’d be giving that client far more mental space than they were paying me for because I’d be checking my emails regularly (I had an internal email account with them) and staying on alert for when they needed me. I preferred to move on and free up that mental space rather than stay on board for a little bit of income here or there.

(Clearly, prioritizing income is not something I do well.)

But I realized thinking through my goals for this year and what I’ve done and have to do that I also hold space for series that are started but not completed. They percolate as an open loop in my head until I finish them.

What will I include? When will it fit into my schedule?

I will mentally write parts of the next book while walking my dog or trying to fall asleep at night. It’s like my to-do list is weighted down with all these things I haven’t yet finished even if they’re not on my schedule to be completed anytime soon.

Which is why I’ve decided my goal for the beginning of this year is to close some of those loops.

I have three series that are one book away from being closed, so even though they’re not what I wanted to focus on right now, writing those three books should theoretically free up a ton of mental space. (I hope.)

(And one will in a sense be that final cap on my old career. Like, here, I gave you everything I know about that. Bye now.)

Good news for my non-fiction readers is that means two more non-fiction titles will be released soon. And probably the remaining Affinity videos by April or so because that, too, is an open loop since I already did one video course for those books.

Of course, if I pull that off it puts me in a dangerous spot mentally.

Because I will have, at least as far as I’m concerned, fulfilled all my writing obligations to everyone. There won’t be any loose ends. (Yes, I have readers on the fiction side who would want more, but I’d have no open series where readers were left hanging. I could walk away without guilt.)

Which means if my best friend from forever ago comes to me in May and says, “Let’s start that packaged food business we joked about” I may well say, “Okay, let’s do it. Sounds fun.”

Because I also realized reading that book that my goals are not writing goals. There’s an exercise in there where you list what you want or don’t want from your writing, and it turns out I don’t want or care about awards, peer acknowledgement, celebrity, bestseller status, or having adoring fans.

I like self-publishing because it gives me complete control of my time and energy. And with the non-fiction at least it feels like I’m doing something meaningful that helps others. It’s also a good challenge where I can be perpetually learning something new.

So, yeah…I don’t actually need to be writing to be happy? Makes that whole five-year-plan thing a bit of a challenge.

Then again, that’s always been the case for me. My life was never certain enough that I thought five-year plans could be met. Of course, ironically, they could’ve if I’d set them.

But, for example, planning on having X person in your life five years from now so that the two of you can do Y is just not something my mind will let me do.

I had a terminally-ill parent who did live until I was eighteen but that was never guaranteed. I always had to have plan A, B, C, D, E…Z. And I never ever let myself put all my hopes on one outcome.

You never know when bad eyesight or someone more attractive or a global plague will make that thing you put all your hopes on impossible. Better to remain flexible.

I think we’ve now wandered into therapy territory, so I’m wrapping this up. Off to add print links for my cozies because they have a large print option on B2R and that’s just too exciting to pass up.

Life Thoughts

I’m writing this from a hotel because I’m still not back in my place. But I do have a place and stuff, so that’s a good outcome. It’s just covered in a thin layer of ash that makes it unsafe to be there right now.

Hopefully I can go back soon. I should have an estimate for clean-up this week and am hoping it’ll get done in the next week after that but living in an apartment has its own stupid challenges because the apartment company needs to do its part, too.

As with all life events, this whole situations makes me think about things. Maybe I should’ve been a philosopher instead of a writer…

So.

First, one of the biggest challenges of being high Strategic (CliftonStrengths) is that you can see all the paths. Or more of the paths than others do. Which means you live catastrophes that haven’t yet happened sometimes.

When my friend was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer a few years back there was a part of me that mourned his loss because Stage IV cancer. And yet, he’s still here and thriving. (Knock wood.)

Same with this fire. I partially lived losing everything. And I partially lived having the insurance not cover the hotel expense. (They wanted me to go back to an apartment with no heat, no running water, no cellphone service, and unbreatheable air, but I refused. They have since come around.)

Being able to see what’s coming and plan a path through is an invaluable skill, but it comes with its own weight of stress and unhappiness for things that have not yet happened and maybe never will.

Second, I’m reminded yet again that sometimes absolute devastation is easier to recover from than that middle of the road area where things are bad but not horrible. If I’d lost everything I’d be in a new place by now buying new shit and moving forward. I’d be mourning the things I’d never see again for probably the rest of my life, but it’d be something I was recovering from already.

But because I didn’t lose everything and also wasn’t spared from the fallout of the fire, I’ve spent the beginning of 2022 in a no-progress limboland that feels like pulling teeth to accomplish anything.

(Which kind of reminds me of writing now that I think of it…Doing well enough to keep going, but not so well that it’s just a joyous fun ride full of love and money.)

I can also tie this to COVID, too, right? We’re all stuck in this ongoing, slow-motion train wreck. It’s not something that blew through, devastated a bunch of people, and ended. We’re mid-crisis and so we’re living as best we can until it derails us somehow. Maybe for a few days, maybe for months, maybe forever.

Someone somewhere said that you can’t recover from an ongoing trauma and I think that’s true for a lot of things in life. That bad job, that bad relationship, the ongoing decay of your society or your health. Sometimes you just want it all to fail miserably so you can start to move forward.

Third, I’m reminded of how just because what someone is going through isn’t as bad as what others are going through doesn’t change the emotional impact to the person suffering.

That sounds very wordy. Let me give an example.

After I lost my dad I was devastated. I was barely holding it together because he was my rock. About five months later I got together with a friend for lunch and she talked about how absolutely crushed she was that her friends had already gone back to college.

At the time I got furious at her, “Like, seriously? You’re barely holding it together because your living, breathing friends aren’t here to hang out with? I just lost my fucking dad. Let’s get real here.”

But after many years of processing that conversation and sometimes being the one on the other side of it I realize that the size of the problem or loss and the size of the emotion around that problem or loss are not always linear.

One person can roll just fine with a punch that would put another on their knees. And another can be knocked down by what seems like nothing. So, yeah, it seemed absurd to me at the time that my friend could be so upset about something so minor, but for her it wasn’t minor.

Which right now I’m using to let myself feel the stress and loss of this situation even though I know others have a level of loss that’s infinitely worse than my own. It doesn’t mean I can’t feel exhausted and sad, too, you know?

So, on that cheery note. Onward. Life is never going to be all you want it to be (unless you’re a fucking unicorn of a human), but it can still have moments of being amazing if you keep pushing forward.

The Need For Focus

One of the hardest things I ever did in my life was triple-majoring at Stanford while also working full-time and living half an hour from campus.

(For my non-fiction bio I tend to just list the Econ degree but I also completed all of the requirements for a degree in anthropology and one in psychology and all three are listed on my diploma.)

I had taken a year off from college between my sophomore year and my junior year and when I went back I realized that I needed a “real major” that would let me easily get a job after graduation.

Since Stanford didn’t actually offer accounting or business for undergrads, econ was as close as I could get to practical. (I really should’ve done computer science, but it didn’t occur to me at the time.)

By then I had inadvertently made it halfway to both a psych degree and an anthro degree and I didn’t want to just give that up. So I sat down and figured out that if I took a full course load for the next two years, I could complete all three.

(I will note here that I was partially able to do this because I was a transfer student and they didn’t make me do what I think was called CIV at the time and also this was before they majorly upped the units required to get an Econ degree. That year in fact it went from a 60 unit major to a 90 unit major and I had to declare before the switch to not have everything fall apart. Anyway. Back to the story.)

I decided on this plan before I returned to school. So when I got there I got the first job I could find, put my head down, and pretty much didn’t think for the next two years.

I had a goal: complete my degree in that period of time and with all three majors.

There were some bumps along the way. Like them changing the requirements for Econometrics to have two pre-reqs that I didn’t have yet so I stumbled through that class half-blind and only thanks to the mercy of the professor who let me still take it.

And I did not do my best in every class. I for the first time ever had some C’s show up on my transcript. I think I even had a C- which was a horror to me, but at least it wasn’t a D which wouldn’t have counted towards the degree.

And I definitely didn’t see the larger picture, so made mistakes that way. I had an opportunity to do field research the summer after junior year but there was no flexibility in my plan to do that so I missed out on what could’ve been an incredible experience and could’ve put me on a very different path. And I didn’t realize the prep work required to get an investment banking or consulting job so missed out on those opportunities because when it came time to interview no one cared about my triple major.

But because I had set this huge goal and then drove for that goal at the expense of everything else (including, some days, my sanity), I hit it.

Which means I know that when I set a big goal, put on blinders, and drive for that goal I can get there.

The problem is, life rarely gives us the time and space to do something like that.

I was in school during a period of time where I could forget about the larger world for two years. My father had already passed away and no one else in my family was in immediate crisis. I had a six-inch black and white television in my apartment. I didn’t have a computer. This was pre smartphones.

All I had was work and studying. I had almost no idea what was going on in the larger world.

I was also off-campus so not caught up in the ongoing dramas of those around me. (Unlike say, my freshman year, which was awful in that sense.)

And the world itself was stable. I just looked on Google and it seems the biggest events happening around then were the impeachment of Bill Clinton, which was more salacious than world-shattering, and the death of Princess Diana, which was tragic but not of impact to me personally.

I could afford to focus because I knew the world was going to continue on in mostly the same shape and form for that two years.

The reason I’m talking about this now is because there is a part of me that wants to do something like that again. Set an incredibly hard goal for myself, put on my blinders, and just go.

No questions, no second-guessing, no changing course. Just…go until it’s done.

I don’t even know what the goal would be. Maybe write a nine-book epic fantasy series in a year? Just dive in so deep the real world has no meaning and my goal becomes everything.

The problem is, I don’t think I feel secure enough in our world these days to do that. The current world is not stable enough to ignore for a year or two.

On the political side things have eased back a lot in the last year or so. I, like others, no longer feel a constant need for vigilance. I can go a week without knowing or caring what the President is doing right now. Whereas for the four years prior to that there was a lot of, “what now? oh dear god.”

But we’re still teetering on the edge there. I mean, if the U.S. defaults on its debt? Holy shit, the world will change in a moment.

And then of course there’s COVID. I got my family through the first year safe, but it is not over and I’m not sure I can get them through the next year safe.

And I’m pretty sure some friends of mine will not make it through the next year safe because they seem to think that these things only go in one direction and so things can’t get a little better and then get a lot worse. Since things got a little better at one point, they are full-on living like it’s over. I cringe every time one of my friends posts about taking her young child traveling all over the country like it’s nothing.

(And maybe they’ll be perfectly safe. That is absolutely possible. I told a friend recently that we’re all playing a game of Russian roulette where we don’t know the number of bullets or the number of chambers. But every exposure is a pull on that trigger. Maybe no bullet this time. But next time? Who knows.)

And then of course there’s just this shitty world sometimes, you know. This week there was a school shooting. In a county where one of my friends lives. Where that friend has a fifteen-year-old and a thirteen-year-old. So when that shooting happened, I had to wonder if it involved my friend’s kids. Only when the news published the ages and genders of the kids could I relax that worry.

Of course, the question becomes, how much of that do I need to monitor or own?

If my friend from college twenty years ago has a kid that ends up hospitalized for COVID, is that mine to carry because I see it on Facebook?

Right now I would say, yes, because that’s my friend and as a friend you care about the struggles of your friends.

But how much of that is from social media making our social circles wider than they really ought to be? And bringing in more stress and anxiety as a result? If I didn’t have Facebook would I still be in touch enough with that friend to share in their struggles?

And how much of the wider world do I really need to monitor? If I have no control over what’s happening, then should I be letting all of that into my space to derail my goals?

I could’ve spent the last few days mired in Twitter outrage about SCOTUS. Legitimately so. But what does that actually accomplish? My reading Twitter threads, if they’re not there to inform me on something I didn’t know or to help me gauge risk or to give me an action I can take, what does that actually accomplish? It just ratchets up the anxiety without changing anything.

So why do it? Why do any of it? Wouldn’t it be better to put on those blinders and focus on a goal? But can I? Or do we live in a world right now that is unstable enough that it can all be taken away tomorrow and do I need to monitor for that?

I don’t know. I don’t have the answers on this one.

I can’t tell how much is “danger” that requires my attention and how much is just a false sense of immediacy that I could safely ignore that would then let me focus and accomplish something big and great that I will not accomplish otherwise.

I’m hoping to work it out for myself before January. (Haha. Right.) That will let me know whether next year’s goals should be “write a couple novels while the world burns” or “write two million words of publishable words while the world burns.”

Even More Random Thoughts

First off, it’s Thanskgiving here in the United States. Canada had theirs last month I think it was and I’m not really sure about the rest of the world. But I think it’s good to have a day where you stop and take stock of the things that are going well and that you acknowledge what you do have as opposed to what you want.

Far too often we get fixated on what we don’t have. Or what we’d like to have. Or what we’re striving for.

And Goals are good, don’t get me wrong. I am all for forward progress.

But it’s easy to miss what’s there already. The family, the friends, the pets, the home, the hobbies, the job that isn’t your forever job but that you actually like, the peace, the money in your bank account. Any of which could be gone tomorrow.

So take a moment, even if you’re not American, and count up your blessings.


I’ve also been thinking a lot lately about a few concepts.

One is the idea of incremental improvement versus exponential improvement. The last few years I’ve seen a steady 15% increase in profit each year. But a few years back I had a 700% increase in profit year-over-year and going even further back I had a 2200% increase in profit one year.

Why the difference? Why did I see such a big jump in certain years, but not in others.

Simple. In those big years I made a drastic shift. Both involved writing something completely new.

Ironically, the 2200% increase was one I didn’t stick with. It wasn’t for me long-term so I didn’t build on it.

But I kept writing and trying new things and then had the 700% increase year.

(Quick comment here: Not everything new that you try will do that. You have to not only try something new, but have it “hit” to some degree compared to where you were.)

Now here’s the trick, though.

I think one the hardest business choices to make is to be at a point where you’re making that steady 15% more profit per year on something that’s “good” but you’re not where you want to be.

Taking that leap into the new and unknown to see if you can find the 700% market instead is not an easy decision to make. Because you often have to sacrifice the “good” path to get to the “great” path.

Earlier this year there was a Wharton talk I listened to. Can’t remember if I mentioned it already. But it included the guy who started SkinnyPop. And one of the things he mentioned is that he didn’t start with SkinnyPop.

He started with a gourmet popcorn idea that was profitable but not at the level he wanted. So he and his business partner took the risk of working on a new line of healthy popcorn. When that new product started to show promise they sold off the old business even though it was doing fine.

That old business is still viable, but it wasn’t a $320 million business, which is what the founders were able to sell SkinnyPop for.

So when do you set aside the viable business for the shot at the superstar business? Do you make the leap? Maybe that leap is jumping right off a cliff? Maybe a little patience would’ve transformed the original idea into something that was enough.

Because note that the guy isn’t running that business anymore. If what he really wanted was a storefront where he interacted with happy customers every day, that man actually didn’t succeed.

Which is sort of a secondary thought to the whole incremental vs. exponential growth question.


And leads me into my final area of thought these days.

Because at the same time I’ve been thinking about revenue and profitability and all of that jazz, my mind has also been on a completely track. (My mind often operates on about four levels at once but usually one whole level is music, because I’m weird. Anyway.)

A while back I read The Hero Within by Carol S. Pearson and it felt like that next step past CliftonStrengths for me. (That’s an affiliate link to Amazon by the way, but you can find it on all major retailers.)

For those of you familiar with Strengths, I know I will always be a Strategic-Achiever-Learner-Relator.

Put me in any context and that is who I am at my core. I am that person who will quickly learn what it takes to survive and then set about doing so while only bringing a limited number of people into my inner circle.

I don’t have to win, I’m not high Competition, but I do have to survive. (It’s part of the reason I have to be careful what environments I put myself in.)

I accept that wisdom I gained from Strengths. But it seemed to me there should be more to the story.

Because who I was at twenty-five and what I valued is not who I am at forty-five and what I value.

I have even found myself at times feeling very uncomfortable in conversations with friends who are currently where I have been.

For example, I met a friend for a meal a while back who was in a power struggle at work. And I knew that five years ago I would’ve reacted the exact same way they were to their current situation. But by the time we met the idea of spending that much mental energy on a work conflict repelled me. Like, what a waste of the limited time we have on this earth to be fighting over widgets.

But applying what I’d read from the Pearson book I could see that my friend was in a Warrior phase of their life. A phase they needed to go through. This was someone who needed to learn to stand up for themselves. So they were right where they needed to be.

I just wasn’t there any longer.

The Pearson book gave me an insight into the different psychological stages that we might all go through.

Now, keep in mind this worked for me. And I am not going to get into some lengthy debate with anyone about Jung and how accurate his work is or whether it can be scientifically proven, because at the end of the day something like this boils down to “Does it help you move forward in your life? Does it give you insights that let you better communicate or thrive?”

For me it does. For others it may not.

The book also gave me insight into why certain genres might appeal to certain readers. Many readers like stories around the Innocent archetype. They want to read about being rescued and taken away.

So that book was helpful to me both in terms of which stories I should be trying to write and in terms of understanding the personal conflicts in my own life. I’ve recently been reading Awakening the Heroes Within and it reinforced for me the concepts from the first book.

(Now I will say that at online they seem to have changed their test and I don’t resonate with the results of the new one and probably wouldn’t recommend it. But the books have an assessment in them that still works for me.)


Where to from here with all those thoughts percolating?

One idea is to make sure that the next fantasy I write incorporates characters that include each archetype. (In this recent book she makes repeated references to the Arthurian legend as an example of a story that incorporates many of the archetypes.)

Another is to lean into where I am on my own personal journey right now and choose the story idea I have that is most in line with the archetypes currently active in my own life.

If I look at the incremental versus exponential idea, then another option is to write something completely new. (I have a domestic thriller idea that’s been percolating for example.)

But I think I’m also coming to a really hard realization. One I may not be able to achieve fully.

And that’s that so much of what I valued in my early career has no meaning to me now. And if it has no meaning to me then I need to fully let it go, which is scary because it would mean fully letting go of fallback financial security.

Right now I’m pretty sure I could go back to consulting or corporate work and even if I took a position a few steps back from where I left I think I could excel at it again. I think I know at least three people who would help me get back in the door.

But knowing that is keeping me from fully stepping onto the path to wherever I go next. I am coming to the realization that moving forward from here requires me to fully let that possibility go.

Which is scary. Because that path represents wealth and financial security. And it also contains people who will not understand where I go next and who I may not understand anymore either.

Now, I should be clear here that this isn’t about “choosing to be a writer”. Because I know many authors who do exceedingly well financially with their writing.

And they have a level of reputation and clout that fits in very well with the path I want to step away from.

This is more me talking about writing something that’s so different and challenging and may not even work that it’s very likely ten other people will get it. And finding joy in that because it lets me explore the themes that matter to me. It’s about finally acknowledging to myself that other than books and a secure home and vehicle that possessions really do nothing at all for me. And about accepting that that may put me in a place that others can’t follow because they don’t get it.

I don’t know. I don’t know if I can make that leap. Or if I need to take that step to then come back into a more material life under the Ruler archetype with the knowledge that success for me won’t be about the money or being put on a pedestal, but on the ability to spread my truth far enough for it to have an impact.

Which sounds incredibly arrogant and pompous and all of that fun stuff, but that’s part of the whole journey discussed in those books. Setting aside those outer judgements so you can do what you need to do to move forward in your life.

ANYWAY. Count your blessings today. And if you think you have no blessings, remember you are still alive and there’s still another day for things to get better.

(And if it turns out they get worse but you didn’t count the blessings you had, well then clearly you were being an ass who refused to acknowledge what you had and you should try again.)

The Grind Stage

A few weeks back (maybe, what is time anymore) I watched a Wharton seminar where they interviewed a couple of very successful entrepreneurs. And one of the comments from that session was that to succeed in business you need a lot of persistence.

I think about that often. (I also think about Seth Godin’s The Dip often.)

Because probably any successful venture has what I’m going to refer to as the grind stage. You’ve started out, you’ve chosen a direction, and now you have to get to the top of the mountain. Which is a bunch of putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward.

I hiked a 14’er once. (That’s a 14,000 foot mountain.) We had to go up 3,000 feet in elevation to get to the top. I was not in good shape. I wasn’t in bad shape, but it was not an easy hike for me. The guys I was hiking with were in good shape. This was not their first. And they eventually left me in the dust.

But I got to the top. By pushing through each and every single step forward. Literally. Sometimes on that hike I would take only three steps before I paused for another breath.

But I got there eventually.

Was it worth it? Yeah, probably. The view at the top was gorgeous. I recovered after a few days. And I can always say I did it. No one can take that from me.

But to get there I had to go through the grind stage.

Publishing I think is like that, too. Or maybe on a broader scale, being a writer is like that.

You have those early bright moments. That first book in your hands. That first person who loves it. That first big promo that gets you that pretty best-seller tag for an hour. That first fan email asking for more.

But then the shine kind of wears off.

Sure, more people love it, but some don’t, right? Or you get another promo and you’re happy to get it, but you know that as high as you’re flying today, you won’t be tomorrow.

Or maybe you get the fan email that says they’re never going to read you again because you took too long to write the next book or you killed their favorite character or you included the wrong kind of character or whatever their personal peccadillo is.

That’s where the rubber meets the road. That’s where you have to show your mettle. When it’s not shiny and fun and new anymore and there’s 2,500 feet of mountain still to go to get to the pretty view.

That’s the moment when you need to put your head down and force yourself to take the next step. That’s the moment that sets apart those who make it to the top from those who don’t.

(Unless, of course, you’re really not on a path to the top of the mountain at all, which, well, yeah, that happens, too. What’s that they say about the journey being worth it? It better be, because you may never get anywhere you were trying to go. Haha. Sigh.)

Anyway. Perseverance. It has to kick in at some point if you want to make it somewhere that’s hard to reach.

(This post brought to you by my first box set promo with Bookbub that’s coming up tomorrow. I actually felt a little shiver of excitement about it today and realized how rare those moments have become now that I’m in the grind stage. The first in series has had a handful of Bookbubs at this point, but this will be the first one for the box set. Fingers crossed it does well even though there’s nowhere for readers to go because I sit around having deep thoughts or taking side paths into mountain meadows instead of writing the next damned book.)

There Is No Right Path Or Wrong Path

I recently sold my house and was beating myself up for stupid decision-making because while it was a good time to sell (my market was a 99 out of 100 according to Redfin and my house still only got one offer the first weekend), it wasn’t a good time for me to buy. Which means depriving my elderly dog of her own yard because not many houses like to rent to 125-pound dogs.

That of course led to the “what have I done with the last decade of my life” death spiral. I could’ve made millions if I’d just stayed with that job I really didn’t like.

And I was especially beating myself up because I did like the work itself when I was on good projects (give me a ton of information to analyze and absorb and then let me tell people how to fix their shit and I’m in my happy place), it was more the lifestyle and who I was becoming in that job that I didn’t like.

Fortunately, I don’t stay in those death spirals for long. I seem to have this automatic defense mechanism that kicks in and points out all the reasons I shouldn’t be down, depressed, and upset.

Like how I was able to live in New Zealand for the better part of two years and learn how to skydive and get to have a dog in the first place. Not to mention the fact that I’ve spent a good chunk of the last seven years in a very emotionally peaceful place writing whatever I wanted to write which has included 14 novels and way too much non-fiction.

And realizing that even though I quit my job way too soon to start writing full-time that I am still somehow better off right now financially seven years later than when I first made that choice. (Not as good as I would’ve been on that other path, mind you…)

Even though that other path would’ve been the more financially successful path, it wasn’t the more emotionally successful path to take. And that’s the lesson I have to keep learning for myself over and over and over.

There are a million paths you can take through life. Some lead to more money, some lead to more adventure, some lead to more love, or more fame, or more “success”. But none of those paths is the “right” path. The one true path. There is no one true path.

Because we’re always balancing a series of competing priorities. I want to have enough money to live comfortably and buy what I need when I need it. And enough to splurge on things at times. I want to have time to spend with my dog and my friends and my family. I want to travel. I want to be healthy. I want to be safe. I want to be stable enough in my own life to have grace when dealing with others.

But sometimes to have A you sacrifice B. I love my dog and I know she likes having me around, so I don’t travel right now. Those trips to Ireland and Malta and Argentina and wherever else strikes my fancy have to wait.

And because I don’t have a crystal ball, I don’t know where I’ll be health-wise when she’s gone. I don’t know where the world will be. Maybe I will never get to see Argentina for one reason or another. I went to Guatemala years ago and loved it, but four years later there were consular advisories about people being robbed on their way from the airport to the main city which would’ve kept me from going. You just never know.

And you can think you’ve made all the right decisions and that you’re on the perfect path and then life can come along and upend everything. It’s a very rare person who gets through their entire life thinking they’ve made the perfect choices. (Or a very self unaware person.)

So if you think you’ve made mistakes and everything is shit and you’ve done it all wrong, take a deep breath. It’s okay. Change what you can. Keep moving forward and find that new path. Learn from what you did. Accept that sometimes you can’t have it all and value what you do have.

And if you’re not happy with where you are, try to bring more of what you wish you had into your life. It may not work, but it may take you someplace you never even thought was possible that’s even better. You never know.

Socks

There’s a video I saw the other day of some creative in an interview with Larry King and Larry King asks the guy what his favorite luxury item is and the guy tries to give an answer and Larry King is like, no, a luxury item, and the guy goes into a long discussion of the expensive socks he really likes while Larry King stares at him like he’s crazy. When he’s done Larry King says he was looking for something more along the lines of a private jet, not socks.

But I get it, I do. I’m like that dude with the socks.

When I was consulting and earning more money than I really needed I’d entertain myself with shopping on the weekends. Best Buy was a favorite stop. I’d pick up this movie or that TV series or that CD. (Or all of the above.) Clothes were another big one. Not to mention shoes. Lots and lots of shoes. DSW loved me.

Now that I’m writing, though, I just don’t feel the need for that stuff in the same way. Instead of spending my weekend spending my money, I just write more. Or think about writing more.

I was given some gift certificates and money for Christmas (because we were not going to get together no way no how this year, thank you very much, so pretty much all of this year’s gifts were cash or gift certificates). And I spent the last hour browsing through websites with no idea what to use them on.

I literally searched the Macy’s website when I got a gift certificate for there to see if they carry the vacuum filter I need to replace. And when REI sent their sale email today I checked to see if the type of socks I like were on sale. I thought maybe I could find little loaf pans to make small lasagna in, but really that was kind of it for what I wanted.

I had no idea what to use any of it for. (Normally I’d want books. That hasn’t gone away. But I currently have a stack of twelve of them on the kitchen table that I need to read first and there are really no books I’ve been dying to buy.)

It’s odd how that shift happens. You step away from a world that stresses you out where impressing others matters and it all just…goes away. That driving desire to acquire things just disappears.

I do miss good food and travel. (I once laughed about a guy who told me he bought the good cheese as a selling point for dating him, but I now have my days where I wish someone would buy me some basil-infused Gouda…)

If I suddenly won the lottery tomorrow I’d probably spend more on that sort of thing. (Maybe not the travel right now; there’s a snoring dog in the other room who I wouldn’t abandon long enough to actually enjoy it.)

But fancy cars? Big houses? Lots of clothes?

Eh.

They all just lose their shine now that I can spend my days living in worlds I create…

Which is not to say that I don’t want to earn money from my writing. I do. So don’t go pirating things because you think that creatives get enough from the joy of creating that they don’t need to eat, put clothes on their body, or a roof over their heads. Or that they don’t deserve a fair compensation for what they do. That is absolutely not what I’m saying.

I’m just saying that I will probably use those gift cards I received on…socks. And be pleased that I got exactly what I wanted.

What Do You Say?

I haven’t felt that motivated to post recently, because, really, what is there to say about the current situation in the U.S. that hasn’t been said already?

If people don’t get that this virus is real, nothing I can say now will change their minds.

Although I have noticed some slippery thinking developing even with those who do take it seriously. My mom believed me when I told her to lock down back in March before our governor told us to, but since then she’s mentioned how she thinks she must be immune to this thing (why, I don’t know, she’s been home for most of the time with very limited exposure). She was also all for getting together this Wednesday to celebrate an early Thanksgiving and my grandma’s birthday even though my grandma is still a bit of a social butterfly and lets my aunt who is also very social into her house all the time.

It’s hard to take the safe course when something hasn’t hit you directly yet. I knew in my heart of hearts that we should not get together this week, but we didn’t cancel until my mom got enough snow to make it too hard to get to her.

Because, what is the risk really? It doesn’t feel like there is one. I still don’t know anyone directly who has gotten this. But in Colorado they currently estimate that 1:110 people have it. That’s based on testing, so the number is probably worse. We went from 200 cases a day not that long ago up to 6,000+ today with no sign of it slowing.

In an environment like this what was maybe safe last week may not be safe this week or next week. That’s the nature of exponential growth. It moves faster than most people are equipped to deal with.

Which means locking down early instead of too late. It’s like driving when there’s black ice. You can’t see the black ice, so better to drive cautiously the whole way rather than risk finding yourself on a patch of black ice, need to stop, and have no ability to do so.

Ugh. It’s frustrating right now. To know all this, see the news and other people talk about it, but then also see them talk about this or that social event or traveling for the holiday or getting together with people. It’s this giant disconnect and it seems people are on the path they’re on and there’s no moving them to a different one. And because of the uneven nature of this thing, many will be just fine so think they made the right choices when they were actually just damned lucky.

If it really only affected the people making the choices, I’d say whatever, I’ll stay home, you do you, God bless. But unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. A maxed out hospital system can’t handle normal medical emergencies. Lord help the person who has an appendicitis two weeks from now, at least here in Colorado. And just look at that wedding that didn’t kill any of the attendees, but did kill seven people in the community…

Anyway. I’m either preaching to the choir or you’re shaking your head at my over-reactive reliance on “fake news”. So back to keeping my head down and doing what I can do right now which it seems is formatting book interiors. Good times!

Satisfaction and Frustration

I’ve been doing a lot of painting around the house the last month or so. I redid my kitchen because white cabinets are pretty but they get way too dirty way too easily. And I changed a wall in my bedroom from bright green to bright blue because I had leftover paint from the kitchen and there are more color combinations that go with a bright blue than a bright green and I needed a change.

Painting means thinking for me. I put on some good music and my mind wanders because it’s honestly a pretty mindless activity. (Which is probably why I usually get paint on the ceiling and floor when I paint.)

What I realized as I was doing all this thing was that overall I’m actually very satisfied with my life. I have a nice home, I have a dog I enjoy who actually leaves me to do my thing a large portion of the time, family things are stable at the moment, and I like how I spend my days lost in thought or writing. Even being locked down I really don’t mind. I still see family and most of my friends are out of state or out of country anyway. And I don’t mind being alone. I have books and TV and movies and music and honestly I like those more than most people.

But I had to think about it because I had a friend message me recently and say something about how I’d been on their mind a lot lately. Knowing this particular friend I knew that it was because they look at my life and think I must be miserable. No spouse, no kids, no trade-publishing deal, no “real job”.

(This is the sort of friend who when my trade-published friends announce a new release will automatically share on FB and congratulate them with exclamation marks but when I announce a new release will remain silent. Same friend who did read one of my early books and then informed me of that fact, told me they’d lost it somewhere when I went to visit, but did make sure to inform me that they hadn’t liked it that much. Which reminds me I need to reconsider my definition of friend.)

Anyway.

Their little comment made me stop and assess. Do I miss those things? Am I sorry I didn’t take a different path? If I won the lottery tomorrow would I change this?

Honestly, I wouldn’t. If I won the lottery tomorrow I might sell this house and buy a smaller one because I have two rooms and one bathroom worth of space that I really don’t need that just acquires stuff, and my street is currently festooned with signs that make me refer to it as the gauntlet of hate when I walk my dog.

I’d also probably put all my books out in audio and pay for really snazzy covers for some of them. (Maybe, if I could bring myself to go through the annoyance of doing so and because I wouldn’t care about the lost revenue from not publishing the audio through ACX.)

But when I put it that way I realized that I’m actually where I want to be, doing what I want to be doing.

The way I am in relationships I know that if I were in one right now I’d be the one carrying the emotional burden for my partner through this whole mess. Or my kids. I’d be shouldering 90% of their stress to help them through this. And I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to not have to do that. I have never been more glad to live alone than in this current mess of a year.

The flip side of that realization is that it doesn’t mean that life is perfect or happy or ideal.

Right now I have two new releases that aren’t live on Nook after five days because it’s currently a cluster over there. And I just regenerated about 50 ebook files that I need to upload to Amazon because they’ve now decided they don’t want people uploading .MOBI files anymore but would prefer an .EPUB even though .MOBI is their own damned format.

I’m also thoroughly convinced that Audible’s return policy that they push so heavily to users is just a way for them to take money from audiobook producers and put it in their own pocket.

So the money side of self-publishing is still highly frustrating to me and if I could live my life without those frustrations I’d want to. Each week it’s something. Scammers or dramas or ad issues or distributor issues. There’s always something flaring up or going wrong. And it’s almost always something that is out of my control.

Which most of life is.

So satisfaction and frustration. Doing what I want to be doing in the way I want to be doing it, but in a decidedly imperfect world. Which is much better than doing what I absolute hate in that same imperfect world. 🙂