Success By Any Other Name

So. I’ve been off Facebook for a while. I’ve been away from here, too, but Facebook has been the big change.

I needed quiet.

It’s not the updates or the friends that I’ve been avoiding, or even the unavoidable drama. It’s about me and my anxiety. My depression. And above all, my creativity.

I’ve been struggling for a long time. As much as I love writing–as much as I NEED writing as a way to connect with the world, figure myself out, and say things I can’t say any other way–the business side of it has never been good for me. Marketing is an anxiety trigger (for reasons I won’t go into here), and when I found myself unable to do it without breaking down in tears I was getting insanely stressed out in a seemingly unending spiral of stress-anxiety-shame-stress-lather-rinse-repeat.

You see, I thought I was a failure if I never got back to the sales numbers and income that I had with my first books, so I kept pushing.

Because here’s you see on social media when you’re an author:

SELL MORE BOOKS! WRITE FASTER OR FANS WILL FORGET YOU EXIST! TAKE UP MORE SHELF SPACE! WRITE WHAT’S POPULAR AND GRAB NEW FANS! MASTER FACEBOOK ADS! HAVE IT ALL BY HITTING A LIST! BUY THIS COURSE! HUSTLE HARDER AND YOU CAN WIN THE GAME!

And I’m not saying those are bad things to want. They’re good things for the right person, and I’m glad there are people out there who can help.

But when I’m on Facebook and it’s all I see, I start to think that that’s the only way to define creative success these days. Amazon followers. Little orange flags. Instagram likes. Facebook comments. Newsletter subscribers. HUSTLE HUSTLE HUSTLE, and there’s something seriously wrong with you if you’d rather not be in the fast lane.

I needed some time off to get myself away from all of that to understand that I’m allowed to define success for myself.

Honestly, I still don’t know what that means. What I have figured out, I think, is that I can’t let writing become a constant source of stress or I’ll lose everything that made me fall in love with it in the first place. I can’t chase goals that will leave me mentally and emotionally exhausted, with nothing left to offer my family and friends at the end of the day. And that’s where I’ve been headed, honestly.

I do know what I want, I think. I want to take my time, writing gorgeous books that I’ve had a chance to fall in love with, exploring every bit of inspiration and insight that I didn’t see until the second (or third, or fifth) draft without worrying that I have to publish NOW to keep the balls in the air. I want to take days off when the sun is shining and the beach or the blueberry patch is calling, or when the kids are sick or have a snow day. I want to read more. Learn more. Be bored more. Explore stories that have no chance of selling but that I want to tell because they inspire me. Blog more, and not just about writing. Take more time to share other people’s ideas and projects and successes and help them achieve the goals that feel right for them.

I can’t do that AND be stressed out about ticking all of the marketing boxes. Some people can do it all. I can’t. And I’m not sure I want to, given what I know of what it costs me and my brain (bless it).

So I’m in the process of choosing new goals. It’s hard. It’s one thing to say that I want my writing to be about creativity rather than fame or finances, but I do tend to compare myself to others and feel like I’m somehow falling behind if I let myself be happy with what I have instead of CHASING THE DREEEEAAAAAMMMMM that it seems I’m supposed to have.

It’s a process, as is everything else in life. Maybe some day I’ll get there.

I’m not giving up on writing or publishing, or even marketing. I’m at the end of a (damn good, if I may say so myself) 7-book series under my pen name and would really like to see those stories connect with readers who will love them. I’d like to keep publishing, which means making money for edits and such, which means selling books.

I think what I’m trying to do, really, is give up on the stress,the time-suck, the HUSTLE, the bitterness, and the expectations of anything other than writing books that I’m proud to call mine.

I’m trying to get back to the pure joy of playing in my sandbox and then showing off what I’ve made in the hope that others will also find pleasure in it.

I’m trying to fall in love again.

We’ll see how it goes.

About Kate Sparkes

Kate Sparkes was born in Hamilton, Ontario, but now resides in Newfoundland, where she tries not to talk too much about the dragons she sees in the fog. She lives with a Mountie, two kids who take turns playing Jeckyll and Hyde, two cats, an intentional boxer and an accidental chihuahua. She's the author of the bestselling Bound Trilogy (mature YA Fantasy). www.katesparkes.com View all posts by Kate Sparkes

13 responses to “Success By Any Other Name

  • Kathy Dunlavey

    I LOVE YOU!!!♥️♥️ You do you girl. I will always support your goals, whatever they may be and never stop. Get back to making your own definition of magic and bugger to the rest of it!! Success without happiness is failure in my book!!

  • kingmidget

    You describe an issue I’ve had for the last few years. When i went down the self-publishing path, I had no grand plans, but my first novel made me a couple thousand dollars without a lot of effort. That was cool. Let’s see what happens if I try it again. Second novel — eh, not so much. The problem for me was that the first novel was in a popular genre. Every I’ve written since is in a less popular genre. I went from a legal drama to literary fiction and it seems that literary fiction doesn’t work well for those who will buy self-published books.

    So, I’ve basically stewed for the last few years — not writing much, for a lot of different reasons. But one of those reasons is that I don’t know why I’m writing. Is it to just write and do nothing with it. Is it to continue self-publishing and not find much of an audience. Is it to try to get a publishing contract. I don’t know and as I spend years pondering that thought, I don’t write much … because I’m not sure what the point is.

    • kingmidget

      So, let me add to that … the point should be no more than because I enjoy writing. But that’s where all of the other issues come into play.

      If you enjoy writing, write for that reason alone. The rest is just gravy.

    • Kate Sparkes

      Purpose is important, but I think it gets lost in the shuffle sometimes (or under expectations of what our purpose SHOULD be rather than what we truly want). It’s fine to want an audience or book sales or whatever if we choose it for ourselves and want to do the work, but it’s misery to be working your ass off toward the wrong thing.

      Defining what feels right isn’t always easy, but I think letting go of what feels wrong is the first step.

      We’ll both get there, I’m sure. 🙂

  • Jodi

    You are truely amazing…..xo

  • Kit Dunsmore

    I so get this. I’m not even published yet and have to fight the “hurry up!” voice all the time (been writing seriously for over a decade and have lots of drafts but nothing is ready). And the kind of anxiety you mention regarding marketing haunts my blogging. Everyone says your blog is the best way to build an audience, but it’s also slow, frustrating, and a time-suck.

    I hope your new goals help you to be more at peace with your process.

  • Murees Dupé

    I fully agree with you. I recently found my health getting worse, and to cap it off, i was putting extra stress on myself, because I had to get my second book out (I have only published one so far), or I will be forgotten. I was constantly taking free webinars, reading about marketing, and rules about how One should or shouldn’t write. It did drive me a bit crazy, literally. I just focus on writing now. I blog every now and then, and go on Instagram for fun. Other than that, its about writing the stories that I want, and like you mentioned, just enjoy writing again. I didn’t publish my second book for a long time because all the advice said you have to rewrite your book several times. I didn’t have to. After draft 3 I just had to focus on editing instead. I also read a lot of writing advice say, “You can’t do this, or that, because then you’ll never be successful as a writer,” and listening to all that crap held me back. Social media and all this pressure on us Indies is toxic. No wonder so many of us burn out, or put our health in jeopardy. So you are not alone. I think it is okay to not want to be in the fast lane.

  • Roisin Black

    Kate! I identified with so much you wrote in this blog piece! Thank you for your words.

  • Emily Wrayburn

    Oh gosh yes, I get this. I see this stuff all the time, you’ve got to keep promoting, and generating reviews, or you’ll fall off all the Amazon lists and there goes your career. Or something. Just let me write.

  • Ali Winters

    Perfectly stated. I’ve had this same issue since I started. It was just something that I didn’t know how to identify for the longest time. It’s nice to know I’m not alone. (Not that I’m glad anyone else has to feel this way, too.)

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