Someone emailed me the other day – a Real Life friend – and she just said to me, “How are you travelling?”
Oh, man. I didn’t know where to start. There is so much stuff that is bogging me down lately that I knew that if I started typing an answer, it would turn into a novel. And not the sort of novel you want to read from me. So I just typed back, “Doing okay. Thank you for checking. See you Sunday.”
There are things that are happening in life that are throwing me for a loop. From my husband’s never ending health problems which we don’t seem to be solving, to the nasty mother at school who decided to spread unfounded rumours about my child without checking facts. One I pray to God for a solution about. The other one I pray to God that I can be the bigger person. I hear jail is tough.
I’m human. I try hard at life, and sometimes I can’t help but cause hurt. I have an acquaintance-friend who once confessed to me that she was writing an autobiographical account about the ill treatment she received while she was a practicing priest. She told me a while back, after I had signed my first contract with my publisher, but before my book was released. At that stage I was adamant that I was going to live in the author-closet forever, so I listened and asked questions about her book, but I didn’t share my secret.
Then she found out. I was put on the spot, and I confessed the truth to a group who were asking me about my future. She was one of the group. I felt awful. Her book is still being written two-and-a-half years down the track, and here I was admitting I had numerous novels published. She has two publishers interested in her finished book, but I could see my news was a little hurtful. I’m sorry. I really am sorry for that.
But there is something else that’s bothering me, and getting me down.
Let me tell you a little story that will help illustrate:
When I was pregnant with my first child, I was determined to do everything right. I read books. I borrowed books from the library. I read blog posts. I read news articles. I filled myself with knowledge. My son was born and I was so proud of him. I wanted to breastfeed, and those two things on my chest were supposed to help with that. I’d read all the information about breastfeeding and had even attended two different classes on the subject. I was set.
But then the midwife came in and showed me a different technique than the books and classes. “No, dear. This will help.” She got up close and personal with my equipment, and manhandled my baby in a way that alarmed me, but was adamant that this was how to feed. I tried and tried her way, and it didn’t work. I was frustrated.
Eight hours later a new midwife arrived for her shift and sat with me. She showed me her technique. It worked brilliantly. I confidently fed my newborn. The midwife patted me on leg and told me I was doing great.
Eight hours later another midwife swept into the room with a sunny smile. She chirped at me, “They tell me you’re having trouble breastfeeding. I’m here to help.” That just pricked my proud balloon. It was news to me that I was having trouble – was I really? If they said so, I must be, because they’re the experts after all. What did I know?
Halfway through the third midwife’s demonstration I dissolved into tears. I was crap at this. I was bad. I was wrong. I was a bad mummy.
The midwife wisely backed off and left the room. After I had mopped the tears up, I looked down at my baby. He was fine. I was fine. I just needed faith in me.
My son and I muddled through the breastfeeding problems over the next weeks. I cried with pain at the engorgements, he cried with hunger when my supply dropped if I wasn’t drinking enough water, and we both cried when we got thrush – him in his mouth, me on my breasts. Ouch. But there was more happiness than problems. Soon we were experts. Meal times could be finished in a matter of minutes in all sorts of odd places: scrunched in the back of a car pulled over on the side of the road, huddling under a tarpaulin in the rain, in the middle of a dinner party, at church, in bed, even while I put the washing on the line.
Two years later my second child came along. I was the world-weary second-time mum. I remember the midwife coming into my room on the second day. I was sitting up in bed cuddling my sleeping baby. She smiled. “How’s the breastfeeding going?”
“Fine,” I replied. “No problems. She feeds well.”
The midwife shot me a slightly disbelieving look. “Show me.”
I rolled my eyes. Yes, I knew she probably had people lie to her all the time, but my baby was asleep. I sighed, woke my child, yanked up my top, and offered up a meal. My daughter grabbed it with delight and began nursing.
The midwife smiled sheepishly, and probably somewhat apologetically, and nodded. “Good.” She marked something on the chart and left me alone.
What had changed? Me.
I think the world of publishing, authoring and writing is a bit like this. At the moment I’m the first-time mother, confused and wanting to do the “right” thing by my babies. I read lots of different opinions on how to market my book, how to build a website, how to build a readership, how to blog, how to self-publish, how to write the perfect book, etc. Everyone has an opinion on how I should do it. And most of it is contradictory. One piece of advice tells me I’m doing great, the next tells me I’m all wrong this is how I should do it.
And I’m the emotional train wreck in the middle.
Everyone rushes in to tell me what worked for them, but just like breastfeeding, different techniques work for different people. Techniques to sell a book depend on the book and on the audience. I watch and observe others, and it’s all so confusing. I see good books do badly, and bad books do well. And that hurts. I feel for the good authors who can’t get a break, the readers who are taken in by the pretty advertising and end up with a book that is crappy, and most of all I wonder where all this leaves me.
Knowledgeable writers tell me not to “shout” at my audience – don’t flood the social media outlets with my cover and the same blurb/blog over and over again, as it turns readers off. I agree. Yet I watch authors successfully use this technique and sell.
I’ve been told I need to blog for two years before people will listen to me. I’ve been told my website needs to x, y and z before it’s useful to readers. I’ve been told that free stories are the only way to sell your non-free stories. I’ve been told you need to do and minimum of thirty stops on a blog tour in order to get your message out. I’ve been told I need a newsletter, G+, twitter, Instagram, Facebook, tumblr, Pinterest AND Youtube – and update them daily. I’ve been told I need to self-publish.
I’m in information overload and it all seems too hard.
So just like the time in the hospital where I realised that no matter what the midwife thought, I was doing the right thing for me, I need to remind myself that what worked for that famous- or not-so-famous-author isn’t necessarily the way I need to go.
I write this blog for anyone who feels the same. You may be an author or a reader. But you need to apply this to your life.
Just yesterday I had the discussion with my mother about university degrees. When I was growing up, getting a degree was the ultimate for my parents – they pushed all of us kids toward it, and encourage us to make our children go to university too. One of my nephews struggled at school, and was diagnosed with dyslexia when he was eleven. For five years of his schooling they’d missed diagnosing it, and by then he was so far behind he had little chance of catching up. And it was too late to engage him. He left school at 15.
Ten years later and he works a trade. His hourly rate of pay is double that of his older brother who has post graduate qualifications and is working on his doctorate. My mother has come to the realisation that a degree isn’t a mark of success, and money isn’t a mark of happiness. For one nephew he’s working forensic science and loving it, the other is a welder and loving it. The same genes, the same opportunities, two different paths, two different sets of satisfaction.
So be bold, people. Go forth and walk the path that you want to walk, regardless of what the so-called experts say. And this blog is now here to remind me that so will I.