Saturday, October 10, 2015

My views on expert views, by Renae Kaye

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.”

I lied.

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.


  1. Whatever you're doing, you're doing it right. I love your books. I love interacting with you on Facebook. I see posts from so many authors about blog tours and giveaways. It's all too much for me. If I see a new release post I'll just go buy the book. I don't feel I have the time to chase down all the contests and such.
    Keep going as you're going. Love ya!

    1. Thanks Kat! Yes - that's what I've come to realise too. For the amount of effort that goes into some people's promo, I'm sure they could've knocked out a great start to a new book. The constant barrage of advertising from some authors is off-putting to me too. I'd rather see them "talk" on Facebook about their life than hit me with 6 excerpts a day.

      Thank you! And I'll see you on the ole FB! ;)

  2. You must be doung things right. I know I enjoy your books immensely- I can't really remember how I knew of the first book of yours I read but I do know I loved it and kept buying your books. I love reading your posts, but I'd buy your books even if you didn't do it. Too much attention to social media robs you of time to work, it happened to me with Twitter, I cancelled my account because it was sucking all my time. So I guess a happy medium should do it if one's happy and can keep doing what we love.

    1. Very much so - we all need to find that happy medium. But interacting with people on social media is also great for my author creativity. I see people talk about their kids/pets/husbands or mention illness and injuries, which is all the things I need to put into a book to make it real. So I have to say I love FB too.

    2. True, it's like being in the "piazza" of a virtual city inhabited by people from all over the world, sharing their lives and thoughts. Fascinating!

  3. It's not just the direct 'wisdom' that your friends and family are so eager to pass on to the new padawan trying to understand this new 'force' in her life, but also the subliminal effect of the various media. (Doesn't that simple lil' word encompass so much of our lives these days). You are bombarded with the 'right and expected' way of doing things. All those bright, happy smiling mothers who are well dressed, makeup immaculate and have lost all that extra weight going to the gym. It's insidious and every where you turn. Yes, we all know so much more about the world these day and we are all so aware of what is happening on Pluto (who has a heart, did you know?)

    I experienced the same thing when I had my daughter in '85. I had so many problems with breastfeeding that I spent a week in a new mother assistance hostel run by QLD Health. I still remember to this day one of the nurses exclaiming loudly her amazement at my tiny nipples. Way to go for promoting self-esteem!!

    Then when I was in hospital after an elective caesar with my son, (and, WOW, doesn't that open a snake pit!) there was a new first time mum in the room opposite me crying. I went into see what was wrong and she sobbed that she couldn't breast feed as her milk never came in. That, however, was not why she was crying. Apparently, her sister had just left after abusing her for finding her feeding her baby out of a bottle.

    Now, wa-a-a-ay back in the mists of time, there was always the extended family there to help and support; to help carry the load. Even children were expected to help the family and they learned by example. Then, with the Baby Boomer generation, over a couple of decades, it became the nuclear family. People were so much more isolated from their own family and this brought on problems never before experienced in coping with 'life'. We all know this from experience and we've all seen support mechanisms come into life. Playgroups, mother support groups, coffee mornings, etc etc The parents who went back to work had their colleagues to talk problems over with, we all tried to find a 'nuclear family' that could impart wisdom and advice.

    I've mentioned before that I am a big believer in Hunter/Gatherer Theory. I can see so much of how and why we do things relating back to when we all lived in caves, and eventually , villages. The community back then was small, reading & writing non-existent and people relied upon each other. There literally was a 'Fount Of Wisdom.' It's in our genes to be gossipy, know-it-alls.

    Anyway, no matter what you do there will always be those 'expert' advisers and, yes, I'm one of them...we all are.... My final bit o' 'expert advise' is the one I've told all new mums struggling to get a handle on this bright, squally bundle that leaks at both ends.......

    Listen to all advise, understand that it is only an individual's opinion because something worked for them. However, try only what YOU think sounds OK, what suits how YOU want to do things and what YOU feel comfortable with trying.

    ....*waddles down offa soap box*....