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Naming the fears
The other day, I was looking over a mind-map I'd created for my first book and reading the bits about the fears I had with regard to writing and self-publishing it.
These (some of them, at least) will no doubt sound familiar:
- the fear that I'll put months into writing this book only to realize that no one cares to read it -- much less spend money on it
- the fear that no matter how much time and effort I put into writing this book, it won't be worth reading
- the fear that I'll never be able to recover the costs involved in getting my book edited, formatted, wrapped in a beautiful cover, and marketed to my ideal readers.
- the fear that the new author debt I accumulated by following the new author advice would put us into worse financial shape -- and that ultimately, I'd have to work much harder to dig us out of it.
- the fear that no matter how much time I spend writing books, blogging, or freelance writing, I won't be able to bring in nearly enough to work from home or to help us pay down our debt
- the fear that my writing just isn't good enough to earn a living with it
- the fear that no matter how many hours I put into becoming a full-time writer and editor, I'll continually run into the same obstacle (me) to finally earning enough to justify my investment of time and energy
- the fear that my books will do no one any good and that all the time and energy I put into them will be wasted
- the fear that after all I've written, I'll realize that all I've gained from it is a pile of debt I can barely chip away at each month
Some of these have come true. Others haven't -- at least not yet. Some were countered by encouraging emails from my book's readers. Some seem at least partly justified.
And it's not enough to hear (or read) friends say things like "someone out there needed you to write this book" or "you needed to write this book."
Because it's impossible to prove this -- until a reader actually writes to say something like, "I needed to read this book!"
But I've read books before that made me think, "I needed to read this book!" -- only to think later, "Now that I've put what I learned from that book into practice, . . . it hasn't really been as helpful as I thought it would be."
So, looking at the covers of my own books -- whether on Amazon or on my bookshelf -- is bittersweet.
Tell me I'm not alone.
I even vented some of my frustration by creating a mock book cover for my Freelance Services page. Granted, it's not perfect, and I didn't actually buy the image for it (at least, I haven't yet). The cognitive dissonance between the cozy image and the un-cozy thoughts that go with the title and subtitle is intentional.
I'm still glad I wrote my first book -- and the ones after it, too. I'm just not sure I'll ever get to the point where I'm earning enough each month with my writing, editing, formatting, etc. to work from home full time and to make a serious dent each month in the debt I've accumulated (though most of it qualifies as business expenses).
And the obstacle I run into most frequently is me. I'm the one who has jumped into one experiment after another, only to come away (many times) ready to write a blog post -- or even a book -- about why that wasn't the right move for me or why I don't expect it will yield what I hoped from it.
So, on I go blogging or journaling my heart out about the following:
- Why I refuse to pester people en masse to buy things -- whether I made them or not -- because, first of all, I want people to buy the things that will actually do them good, and I can't promise them that my books or one of the products or services I recommend in one blog post or another (or on my Recommendations page) will do them -- as a whole -- real and lasting good. So, I can recommend something that I enjoyed or from which I derived some benefit -- and I can share links to my books and others on Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook -- but I can only sell something effectively to one person in particular who I honestly believe would benefit from it.
- Why I find email marketing repellent in general and very rarely buy something as a result of someone's pestering email reminding me I have "one last chance" to buy their new thing or sign up for their new course or take advantage of a limited time discount on something they're promoting.
- Why I tend to prefer visible text-based communication (email, text, and FB Messaging) rather than phone conversations or video chat. It's a personal thing. I do talk on the phone occasionally -- and if I have a client who really would rather talk on the phone or video chat, I can be flexible. But I think it makes sense to let people know how I generally prefer to communicate. I know that some have trouble accepting this ("Why on earth would you prefer texting to a real phone conversation?"), but that doesn't make it any less true.
- Why I'm reluctant -- now more than ever -- to trust any new course on . . . anything (blogging, freelance writing, affiliate marketing, self-publishing, AMS ads, etc.), because so far, I've invested in several, have put what I learned into practice, and am still struggling. And, thanks to those courses, I'm also deeper in debt, though most of them promise or at least suggest that by applying what I learn from the course, I'll be better off than before and will most likely be able to more than make up for the money I spent (or charged) on it.
I don't bother asking course creators any questions about their programs if I have no intention of signing up for them -- either because I can't afford them or because they don't offer anything of interest to me. What would be the point?
I only sign up for something if I have good reason to believe it will actually help me do something better. But lately, I had to withdraw from a couple courses, simply because I realized I couldn't afford to keep them.
And one in particular had me wishing I could continue with it. And that's a rare thing, lately.
There are so many courses out there, now. Many offer the same material I've already learned from other courses or from books. Many charge more but offer less.
Some pitch their courses as if the higher price should persuade me that it's worth the extra cost, simply because the creator is quoting an inflated value for every specific benefit the course offers, telling me he's actually saving me thousands of dollars by only charging me $600 (or so).
And then expressing shock that I don't jump on his offer right away.
That's usually about the time I unsubscribe from his (or her) email list. Because I can only take so much of that before I get a headache from all the eye-rolling.
For the time being, I won't be joining any more courses -- on anything. Because I don't have any money (or credit) to spare for something that only might pay off (in a big way) -- even if I do everything I'm supposed to do.
You know how frustrating that is, right?
You sign up for a course thinking, "Finally, I'll learn something that will fill the gaps and help me earn more money than ever before with X (or X and Y)."
And you go through the course and think, "This is it? That's all they've got? I already know this stuff!"
And you're no better off than you were before -- worse if you can't get a refund before the money-back-guarantee expires.
Suddenly the words "I'm actually saving you thousands of dollars by only charging you $XX7" sound like a cruel joke.
And then there's Udemy.com -- where you can sometimes get $200 courses for $10 or $15. Udemy has sales like this more than once a year, so if you're on their email list, they'll let you know when you can snag some interesting courses at steeply-discounted prices.
It helps, too, that Dave Chesson of Kindlepreneur wrote a post with a listing of some well-liked courses in several categories. So, even if you miss the sale or you can't spare even $15 for a course right now (like me), you can add your favorites to your wishlist and wait for the next sale to come along.
I briefly upgraded to the premium version of the first self-publishing program I joined in July of 2016 -- then backed out of it before the 30 days had expired.
Aside from the extra cost (and it was considerable), the two coaching calls I had, while pleasant enough, didn't really change anything. The coach was more sounding board than advisor, and I'd already received more real help from fellow authors on Facebook.
So, I downgraded and went back to being a regular member, which gave me everything I really needed from the program -- along with some advice I'd have done better without.
Am I writing this to say that all coaching is a waste of money? No. But it's not easy to find someone who can be the coach you really need.
With some, there just isn't a real connection. They offer advice that might help -- or it might not -- but the coach isn't really invested in your success (at least not when all your paid sessions are used up).
Are there some coaches out there that are motivated to do everything they can to help you reach your goals? Yes, I believe there are. I haven't found one for myself, but maybe you have. And if so, you are very fortunate!
I've been asked if I'm interested in coaching others, but I don't know where I'd even begin. Truthfully, I'd rather just have a (free) conversation with someone, and if I help in some real way, we'll both be better off because of it, even if no money is exchanged. Once I set a price on a conversation, I can't promise that it'll be worth that much to you in the end.
Yes, my time is valuable, but yours is no less so. I have no idea from one conversation to the next or from one email/message exchange to the next whether anything I say or write will benefit you. It's possible that your words will do me more good than mine will do you.
And I hesitate to call myself a coach when I'm still struggling to reach my own goals and to help my own family. I want so badly to fix things and make it so my husband can leave his job and pursue something that won't take such a toll on his health. And so far, I've managed only to make some things worse.
So, what help could I be as a coach? The responsibilities I already have are enough for me, right now. I'm always open to having a conversation that I hope would benefit both of us. I don't see why money needs to be a part of that.
This is not to disparage coaches who know what they're doing and who make a real (and good) difference in the lives of their coaching clients. I don't know how they do it, but I'm grateful to them for their clients' sake.
Passion and Priorities
Passion projects are my energy drink (coffee can only do so much).
But that passion has to be aligned with something bigger, and it has to serve a proper ordering of my priorities. Otherwise, even if I complete it, the satisfaction I could have in that accomplishment is tainted by regret -- for not putting more important things before it.
When a passion project is properly aligned with those higher priorities, even the necessary but less-fun parts of it take on a glow of greater importance, and I enjoy them more than I otherwise would.
When it isn't, . . . any satisfaction I have from finishing it and having something to show for it is short-lived.
And it's not enough to have friends and family tell me I should be proud of what I created or accomplished. It's not enough to be told, "someone out there needed to read the book you wrote" or "you needed to write this book."
If I have reason to believe God would rather I'd have put my time and energy into something else, I can't enjoy the fruits of that project -- even if someone else can.
I live with one leg in this world and one in another, and I can't enjoy finishing something that only serves this one.
If you can relate, you understand more than most why it's not enough for readers to praise a book you've written if you know you put this world ahead of the other while writing it.
Yet, the next time I feel dragged down by low energy levels and frequent illness (which low thyroid levels tend to cause), I know I'll be tempted to start a new passion project, just to feel a renewed energy to get things done.
Do you do the same?
And have you ever looked at something you wrote and published that left you feeling as though you'd left something important out of it?
I know it depends on the type of book or blog post (or video, podcast, etc.) you've created. If it's a how-to book or something technical, it doesn't need to explore your philosophical or theological reasons for creating it.
But how many self-help books have you read that left you feeling as though the book didn't even scratch the surface?
And have you ever wanted to write something that went deeper?
It’s important to add -- here at the bottom of this post -- that while some of the fears we have about our writing may be proven right, we learn to keep going in spite of them and in spite of those fears that we keep proving wrong or that are only partly right.
As for the ones that come true, we learn and adapt -- and, hopefully, we keep on going. And we keep on creating.
We just learn to do it better.
Thank you for spending some of your valuable time reading this, and I hope to read something from you, too.