I’m not sure if it’s the weather, but the recent conversations I’ve had with several self-published authors, including the one in my head, has prompted this post. There seems to be an illness going around which is infecting authors at a troubling rate. Symptoms include constant refreshing of review pages, taking every bad review seriously, reading good reviews skeptically, checking sale results numerous times per day, self-doubt, nail-biting, fatigue and writer’s block. If left untreated, it can lead to a loss of interest in finishing your manuscript, the questioning of your writing ability and general depression.
There is some debate on the exact cause of this illness, but I believe it can be attributed to a number of factors. I think one of the leading factors is our access to reviews and social media. We have become a society where things can’t seem to move fast enough. We publish a book and immediately start asking ‘where are the sales?!’. We take pauses in our writing to hop onto Amazon, Kobo and Goodreads to check for new activity on our published books and allow our spirits to be crushed by a bad review or lack of new reviews. When a good review does come in, we pick it apart, over analyze it and try to devalue its importance out of our own masochistic, self-flogging natures. (Don’t deny it. You wouldn’t be a writer, otherwise.) In previous generations of writers, access to reviews was slow and limited to things like newspapers, and writers generally didn’t read them or pay them any mind. They locked themselves away in a room with a typewriter for a good reason. The outside is distracting, and often times our view of it is wrong.
Which brings me to the cure: write like nobody’s reading.
I’m serious. Think about it for a moment. We have all seen the videos of people ‘dancing like no one is watching’, and those people seem to be the happiest and carefree people I have ever seen. They are getting their groove on, having fun with a smile on their face and people can’t help but admire them. Sure, we may laugh a little at them, but inside we are all wishing we were that brave, that carefree and that passionate about something. So, take a deep breath, close your eyes and remember how you were when you first started writing and before you became self-published.
I speak to too many writers who are acting like publishers. Yes, we self-published authors must wear the publishing hat and be concerned with sales and reviews from time to time, but we also need to learn to take that hat off and leave it off. We should be wearing our writer’s hat more often, and not just because it’s more comfortable. If you are constantly stressing over what you have published, it bleeds into what you are about to publish and leads you to question everything about your future writing projects. This bleed will affect your tone and creativity, and your readers will be able to tell. Not only that, but your muse will not stick around through all that negativity. She will pack up her bags and find someplace quieter to inspire.
Write for yourself first, and the rest will follow. Produce something that makes you feel good and ignites your passion, remain true to your story, and, above all else, remain true to yourself. Write like nobody’s reading.