I’ve been thinking a lot lately. Thinking more than writing. Thinking more than talking. Thinking more than doing. You know what I got for all my effort?
It paralyzed me.
Who am I to think my voice might matter?
What can I say that might help?
What if someone actually listens and I get slammed by the trolls?
Or, worse, slammed by those I seek to support?
When I wrote, I over-wrote.
When I talked, I stuttered.
Then, late last week, I told a customer about my fear. Tongue tripping and sweat dripping, I explained my new book and how I wanted to navigate the narrow passage between opposing walls of Internet vitriol, how I wanted to build a bridge between them – a safe passage, a resting place for bruised hearts, a new dialog.
She patted my hand. She can do that. She’s got twenty plus years on me and isn’t afraid to let me know it.
“Destiny,” she said. “Don’t waste your time in between the walls. Go over them.”
Soooo, I turned down a traditional publisher who wanted me to make changes to make the marketing easier (i.e. compress the book into a traditional category), contacted my editor and cover designer, and reached out to a couple of publicists.
I’m going over the wall.
The Romance Diet is a feminist book with a male hero. It is a diet book without any recipes or exercise tips. It is a love story. The villain disappeared twenty-eight years ago, the heroine falls apart.
The first rung of the ladder feels pretty easy. What do you think? Are you climbing, too?
I make lists, send myself emails, have Google Calender remind me of where I’m supposed to be and what I’m supposed to be doing, but every once in awhile I blow it.
A few months ago, Kori invited me on the radio show to talk about Pipe Dreams. I was psyched! Then, amidst travel, life upheavals, and a new business, my brain hitched. I missed the call in and left Kori hanging.
Now, I’m beating myself up because I let a friend down. Kori, you rock and I’m sorry.
I hope everyone checks out what Kori is doing. She deserves all the support in the world.
Yes, I’m dancing on my toes ( alternately literally and metaphorically) because the day has finally arrived. There were some glitches — the paperback won’t be available on Amazon for a few more days — and some scary moments, but it’s done.
I’m free to read other people’s books and I don’t have to revise it again!!!
As most of you know, 25% of the sales of this book will go toward helping another author or artist achieve his or her dreams. All you have to do to be entered to win is help promote this book.
For those of you who have already said you want to help, it’s time to rock and roll.
Here are some talking points:
If you like Margaret Atwood, you will love Pipe Dreams.
What the world might look like next year. #pipedreams
Pay it forward and buy #pipedreams
All this week, I’ll be featuring my pay-it-forward friends here, on twitter, and on facebook. If you have some news you want to share, please email me at destinyallison (at) aol (dot) com with your blurb.
Happy hollering and thanks so much to all of you who are helping. 🙂
I hope you will join me on Monday, May 20 at 6 pm MST for a live twitter interview and chat with Andre Gensburger. You can stream the chat by going to tweetchat.com and using the hashtag #misterwriter.
The interview and chat will focus on writing, art, and life in general and should be a ton of fun. My twitter handle is @sfsculptor. Andre’s is @MisterWriter. This came about because Andre read my first book, Shaping Destiny. Here’s his Amazon review of the book:
“When I first bought his book I expected a simple mix of a life of an artist. It only took a page to find myself immersed in a raw journey quite aside from the journey of a sculptor; rather a beautifully written and profoundly expressed reflection of my own life’s questions seen through the eyes of someone I have never met. What Destiny writes about is life, raw, unadulterated, brutally honest, haunting, and yet somehow poetic in the complex meanderings that brought out, for her, her true self, her passions, her career, a deep understanding of life and death and, perhaps more importantly, of motherhood. It is only after she has run full circle through her past, her pains, the loss of her father and grappling with an understanding of her own self-worth, that she ends in a place of optimistic peace, still taking on challenges, but without the tempest that had preceded it. At the end, it has become a dance.
I had to read this straight through. I could not put it down. What Destiny sees and feels in her art, I see and feel in music, words; what I observe when I hide in a corner and watch the world without the world seeing me. I was fixed to her brutal honesty, the raw pain conveyed without the cliched obscenities or graphic violence we expect of writers. Her words flowed smoothly, thoughts to actions to feelings to emotion, all the while tying the lessons to the threads of her art, her growth as an artist, told in tandem, each leading to the next lesson until she has fully emerged.
Life is pain with love sprinkled throughout. Or life is love with pain sprinkled throughout. There is a lot of sprinkling of both, along with hope and understanding. I highly recommend this book and look forward to her next one. And here I thought she was a sculptor!”
I was deeply honored by Andre’s review and, over time, we’ve become good friends. I have a great deal of respect and admiration for him. He has several interesting ventures. To find out more about him and the upcoming event, visit his website by clicking here.
Hope you can join us and weigh in on the conversation.
A long time ago (as in last year when I sold my first books) I floated on an incredible high. What a sense of accomplishment! I’d done it. People responded to my efforts and posted great reviews! Indomitable, nothing could stop my inevitable, meteoric rise. Then, I received a bad review, sales fell off for a time, and I plummeted to the depths of despair. The emotional rollercoaster continued for months. Ultimately, it leveled out as I became consumed with other projects. Now, sometimes I’m in the Amazon best seller list and sometimes I not. Like most things, book sales go up and down.
So why am I writing this?
Obsessed with my new endeavor, I find myself struggling to resist the same kind of emotional response, even though I know better. As a young sculptor, I took the same ride. Every time a gallery rejected me, I took it personally. When accepted, euphoria exhausted me. Over time, as my confidence and knowledge grew, I understood the business and didn’t respond to every tidal shift. Instead, I focused on long-term goals and appreciated both failure and success, learning from each. The business, separate from the creative process, requires levelheaded optimism and practicality.
As a creative, is this possible?
Artists, writers, and musicians often find themselves riding the emotional rollercoaster. For many of us, our creations are not a product. They are our children. We gestated, agonized, and suffered through birth. Our works are living things and have the potential to change, if not the world, at least a life or two. They are not Tupperware containers or tires. It is painful to envision them as mundane products for commercial consumption. In reality, once we’ve finished them, that is what they become.
Now comes the didactic voice and a short plug
In Shaping Destiny, I wrote this: “We need to think about placement. Is this an indoor work or outdoor work? Will it require a base or pedestal? Does our sculpture need space around it, or will it dialog well with other objects close by? We need to take it out of the context of its origin and examine it in other environments so that we get a sense of what it will become after it leaves our hands.” In other words, the work is a product, even while it is a living thing. It cannot grow, evolve, or impact its audience when our obsession causes us to lose sight of the long term goals.
Teacher becomes student
I knew this, then. Now I find myself struggling to embrace it again. In a recent blog post, I spoke of the similarities between good leaders and artists. We are entrepreneurs and our greatest strengths are also our weaknesses. The same tendencies that drive us to create can lead to our downfall. If we are to be successful, we must pay attention to what drives our failures and successes. Recently, I enjoyed an article in Inc. that examined the 5 reasons leaders fail. It described my current obsession with my new novel and reminded me to slow down, take a deep breath, and pay attention to the business while I hold my vision of what I want the novel to be. The awareness is calming.
How about you? What is your experience with rollercoaster? How do you manage the ups and downs of your passion? Use the comment section to share your voice.
I am seeking indie authors to review. There are two reasons for this. The first is that I want to know what’s out there and to provide a service to indie authors. The second is that my husband and I are contemplating a new business to distribute indie titles to brick and mortar locations. Consequently, I’m looking for the best books in most genres. I will accept anything except Christian and Erotica.
Please contact me at destinyallison (at) aol (dot) com if you would like to participate. I prefer paperbacks but will read pdf.s. Looking forward to your genius.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of reading a post by author, Ciara Ballintyne. She talked about writers’ need for validation. One quote I particularly liked was “how soul-destroying is it to go through the painful process of writing fiction and have nothing at the end of it?”
By this, Ciara meant that without the joyous birth that follows creative endeavor, without the terrifying roller coaster ride of watching your child grow and become its own entity in the world, the creative process would be hell. Writers and artists need the external validation that comes through sales and recognition. It is not enough to just create.
In many ways, she is right. So every day creatives dutifully tweet and post on facebook. We write blogs and ask for reviews. We submit our work to the often uncaring eyes of the world and hope that someone (or multitudes) will tell us that our work is good.
When I published Shaping Destiny, I read everything I could find on publishing, book marketing, and how to be successful. Like all expectant parents, I was ebullient. I could do this. I absolutely believed in the book, knew it had marks of genius, and that it would eventually change the world. Now, nine months later, I’m like the exhausted young mother who realizes that her baby will probably not die or be scarred for life if she takes the time to take a shower.
During these crucial months of gestation, trepidation, and giddy excitement, I have learned a few things. Most of them have been about myself. In much the same way as the the birth of my children shattered my expectations, my experiences as an author have taught me that expectations have little to do with reality.
Here’s what I’ve discovered:
1. Nobody gets my work like I do. Or, to say it differently, everyone else’s relationship with my book is different than mine. They love it or don’t for reasons of their own. Now that it is in the world, its successes and failures have about as much to do with me as the successes and failures of my grown children.
2. Marketing and sales are, surprisingly, much less important than feedback and reviews. While I continue to enjoy the monthly checks, they are not what fulfil me. In the same way, I don’t really care how much money my children make or how many diplomas hang on the walls of their office. I simply want them to find someone who will love them and be happy. Who knew?
3. All the stuff you are taught usually gets thrown out the window because most of it doesn’t work for you. My journey, while similar to that of others, is unique. I cannot become someone I’m not to try to ensure the book’s eventual success in the world. Nor, for that matter, can my book. It is what it is. Sometimes, it stands on its own two feet and sometimes it falls. Just like me.
So how do you define success?
I define it in much the same way I define my success as a mother. Yes, I made a ton of mistakes (which my children didn’t hesitate to point out during the violent throes of their tumultuous adolescence), but in the end, the mistakes didn’t matter all that much.
My children’s place in the world is determined by who they are. They have their own hang ups, insecurities, and amazing beauty. So does my book.
As I have hurtled and stumbled through the world of self-promotion, marketing, publishing, et al, I am reminded of a book I read a long time ago. In that early feminist work, the author talked about how women lived vicariously through their offspring (especially their sons). After the initial creative outlet (birth) these women, who were not allowed to work, spent the rest of their lives coddling, nurturing, nagging, and meddling. In the end, the children grew up, moved away, and left the mothers alone with little more than the hope of grandchildren to comfort them in their old age. Ouch.
This metaphor is a powerful one for me. I never wanted to be a woman like that. So rather than coddling, nurturing, nagging, and meddling past my book’s infancy, I am focusing on writing another book. Tweeting is fine. So is Facebook. Both are like the phone calls I exchange with my children. We touch base, check in, and exchange news. There is comfort in that. Nevertheless, the phone calls will not determine the choices they make or the relationships have. I’ve done my job. No longer infants, or even kids, they are functioning in the world. Who they are will determine the interactions they have.
These days, the grades my children made in elementary school are irrelevant. The pats I got on the back for their achievements while they were still in my care make for some fond memories, but that’s about it.
In the same way, my sales numbers and the occasional institutional acknowledgement for the merit of my work have little to do with the meaning that readers derive from their interaction with my book. They’re important, but I wonder how important?
Sure, this is a business as much as it is a creative expression, but in reality successful businesses ensure that they are relevant to their customers and that they offer a quality product at a competitive price. Then, once they’ve let people know they exist, their most effective marketing tool is word of mouth.
Having done that over the last nine months, I’m not as worried anymore about how well my baby will do in the world.
Success is ultimately not measured in numbers. For me, it is measured by the peace in my heart, the joy I take from human connection, and the satisfaction I get from my current creative endeavor. The rest of it is beyond my control and not really worth my time.
I spent today in a university classroom. This is not my natural habitat. In fact, I was so out of place I might as well have been a rattlesnake on a New York City sidewalk. I was doing a friend a favor by serving as part of a professional “panel” chosen to help students defend their propositions on “Talking About Art Now.”
The class, from what I could tell, had focused on art criticism but had covered a lot of ground. The student propositions were wide and varied, ranging from critique being the most important validation of art to the role China is playing in shaping the art market.
I was my usual self – opinionated and passionate. I do not really belong in the quiet halls of academia where objectivity, analysis, and intellect reign supreme. No, I belong in the gutters of chaotic materials, memories and dreams. I live in the mud-pie magic of childhood jubilance, the anguished mayhem of decision making in an atmosphere bereft of rules, and the always yearning for something true. In my studio, or in front of a blank screen on my computer, there is seldom solid ground.
I remember a literature class I once took where the professor led our class through an analytical dissection of a work by some well known poet. I followed her lecture and participated in the discussion on rhythm, use of metaphor and simile, and the context of time and place, but in my head I was screaming, “It’s a poem! Just feel it! Let it be!” Listening to the dissection of that poem was like watching an autopsy of a living thing, a puppy under a knife. No, I do not belong in classrooms.
Today was a little different. I wasn’t there as a student, though I learned some things. I didn’t really care what people thought of my opinions, and I was enchanted by the young women in the class. Some were savvy and articulate. Some were passionate and committed. One seemed to have recently climbed out of bed. They had pushed themselves for this assignment and their frustration and excitement were contagious. My friend, the adjunct for whom I had come, appeared to have been an excellent teacher.
Yet at the end, on this last day of what must have been an intense and heated semester, there was no consensus, no qualifying absolute about how to talk about art now. In this post modern world, where truth doesn’t exist, concept is more important than perception, and form has transcended line and plane, the traditional vocabulary for determining artistic merit is seemingly obsolete.
Everyone in the class had their own opinion. There was no text book conclusion. I silently applauded my friend for teaching her students that the questions are always more important then the answers. Still, I found it ironic that “talking about art now” seems more subjective than it has ever been. Is this a good thing? Or are we collectively “dumbing down?” Are independent authors and artists the barbarians at the gate, or are we righteously revolting against oppressive tyranny? How do we set the bar, or should there be one? I welcome your thoughts.
The last weeks have been fraught with surprises, long hours, and too many deadlines. So today, instead of going to my studio or my office, I ditched my responsibilities, went back to bed, and read a good book.
This evening, I am a bit saner and am realizing that most of my recent stress has been self-imposed. The truth is, I’m really nervous about launching the book. It is all so new that I feel completely lost. So I spend whatever free time I have doing everything I can think of to try to control an outcome that can not be controlled.
Several years ago, I read a great book called Deep Survival. It is a book about why some people survive difficult or life threatening situations and others don’t. One of the things the author stated really struck me. He said that children who are lost in the woods are much more likely to survive than adults. Middle aged men are least likely to survive. This is because middle aged men are more likely to think they can get themselves out of the situation. They keep moving, they don’t take care of their basic needs, and then they panic.
People who survive settle in for the long haul by doing what they can to find shelter, food and water, while they continue to find ways to appreciate their environment. Instead of focusing on trying to get somewhere else, they inhabit where they are.
When I’m writing or making art, I am more like the child who is lost in the woods. I’m full of wonder and fully present in the moment. I may not know where I am, but I love looking around and discovering what is there. The process of self-publishing has been an entirely different experience and I am much more like the middle aged man — running wildly in an attempt to get somewhere until finally panic sets in, reason is abandoned, and hope is lost.
This evening, after allowing myself a much needed break, I am realizing that all of my endeavors to control the outcome have been somewhat pointless. No matter how much I research, I will never know as much as I would like to know about indie publishing and most of what I learn will not be relevant to my particular book.
I have been like a tourist hiker loading myself up with gear I probably won’t need for my trip into unknown territory. I bought the compass and the trail map (though I am not particularly proficient at using them) and some really cool nylon pants, but forgot comfortable shoes, basic first aid, water, matches and waterproof gear. The novelty of the adventure somehow stripped me of my common sense. No wonder I got lost. I think it might be time to stop running, quell the panic, and settle in for the long haul. Then, if I’m lucky, maybe the book and I will both survive.