In my defence, I do have periods of industriousness; I just don’t seem able to maintain them. I had a career of sorts for 22 years but it all went wrong when I veered from the track and I’ve never been able to salvage anything even remotely resembling a work ethic since. With the day job it’s a combination of boredom, demoralisation and stress that does for me but with the writing it always comes down to confidence. And confidence is a funny old thing; it can turn on you and cripple you without any warning whatsoever. Actually that’s not true; the warning signs are usually there but unheeded until it’s too late.
The fissures in my own confidence first appeared as I struggled to get going with my new novel. It took a long time to get started and just isn’t flowing easily. My frustration and disappointment in myself has been compounded by the fact that I should be enjoying the perfect writing conditions now that I am euphemistically between jobs. The truth is, since giving up work at Easter, I’ve hardly written anything and the longer I leave it the harder it becomes to pick up a pen.
Alongside this general apathy, I’m starting to wonder if self publishing is the right way to go. Maybe the ‘publishing’ experience is what’s sucking the pleasure out of my writing. As the market becomes more and more crowded, I’m noticing an edge of competitiveness that wasn’t there before. As people are trying to establish themselves as serious writers perhaps it’s inevitable that they want to try and distance themselves from what has been described as the ‘slush pile’ of self publishing.
It’s an issue that I find more than a little bit thorny, not least because I’m sure to some people my own writing is ‘slush pile’. I truly believe that writing is both an empowering and joyful experience and one that shouldn’t be reserved for an elite circle. I recently spent some time with a group of pensioners who had worked hard producing their memoirs. Okay, technically they might not have been perfect but does that really mean they are unworthy of being read? Surely they deserved to feel the excitement and pride of seeing their work in print.
I realise that some might say the overcrowded market is devaluing writers who want to be taken seriously. I have downloaded books that have been littered by errors and, on occasion, so badly formatted they were unreadable and I’m sure for some this must be a bitter pill to swallow. Writers may feel that their own standing will be undermined if the reputation of self publishing is tarnished. There are other people who, quite understandably, resent the fact that what was once a lucrative market has become less so with the glut of books now available. There is no denying that the proclivity towards free book promotions, where readers can fill up their kindles for no cost at all, has given the reader the power of the purse.
As I said, however, it’s a thorny one because, let’s face it, most self published writers aren’t going to get rich on their profits so I find it hard to get myself worked up over the rights and wrongs of books being free. If someone were to judge my own experience of self publishing in terms of profit or credibility it would be so far from successful it would be laughable but, does that mean it was a waste of time? I have done four free book promotions, none of which particularly set the kindle world on fire. My reason for doing them was that I’d rather people read them for free than not at all and maybe I would get some sort of feedback. Instead the silence has been almost deafening. A kind analysis of the situation would be that my books are languishing unread with most of the other free downloads; the alternative is that they have been read but warrant no feedback at all.
I don’t know how typical my own experience is but despite the fact that, after the expense of paying someone to design my front covers and do my formatting I am barely breaking even, I don’t really regret it. I have not been the most proactive of writers and my technical skills are so poor, I am seriously disadvantaged where marketing and networking etc are concerned. I only recently discovered how to download copies of the novels which could be sent to reviewers. However, after scouring a number of review sites and reading the strict warnings about poor quality writing and the resultant mauling writers not up to scratch should expect, I baulked at the idea of sending my newly downloaded ‘mobis’ anywhere.
Traditional publishing is a harsh, unforgiving business and when I first encountered self publishing it felt like a breath of fresh air. It felt supportive and encompassing but something has changed. I’m reading more and more blog posts deriding the poor quality of much of what’s on offer in the self publishing arena and I don’t think I like it. I’ve never been one for competition. I loathed PE at school with that ethos of if you weren’t good enough to win you shouldn’t be allowed to play. It seems to me, but bear in mind I’m often wrong, that self publishing is upping its game and trying to emulate traditional publishing. In more than one post from writers and reviewers, I have read how self published authors should have the same standards as professionally published authors but how can they when a professionally published author has a
team of people supporting and guiding them all the way?
So you may ask, what exactly has got me all in a snit? I don’t think it’s any one thing more a constellation. I’m sure we’ve all smiled at the phrase –dance like no one is watching but what it really means is dance like no one is judging. Maybe the same goes for writing. Maybe if I stop agonising over every word, the flow will come back. When I wrote my first novel, it was for a friend who was taking a career break to look after small children and was starved for outside
stimulation. She was my perfect audience – captive and appreciative of anything. I think that’s when it was most fun and so I’m going to write for my friend again and see what happens.