You guys (and girls), I totally blew 2016. Let me tell you why it was worth it.
This is one of my favorite posts of the year. The one where I look back over the past year and identify the things I want to tweak, celebrate the victories, and generally evaluate the year in terms of my overall happiness. Then I get to turn the page to the new year and apply those lessons to my new catalog of goals.
Translation: I admit my failings, search through the wreckage for a silver lining, and commit to a reboot!
Mary Martin vs. Herself, January 2016
Publish Your Ebook Today: A Tech Guide for the Creative Type, November 2016
Those of you who know me personally or who have been following me along the way, know that 2 books in one year is moving at snail’s pace. Anyone remember that one weekend in May 2015 when I released two books? Because, um, fun? This is not a brag, it’s just how I operate. Some folks can coin a beautiful sentence in their sleep, others can write fast. Whatever. It is what it is. I’m usually pretty prolific and always alliterative (you see what I did there?), but this year was different.
You’ve probably heard about football teams (probably any team, actually) having winning years and having building years. This was sort of a building year for me. But I wasn’t building my back list at the speed of light like I did in 2015. Instead, I was taking stock of my accomplishments and my priorities. I was turning over rocks and adventuring down bi-ways to see where I would find my passion and joy. I was figuring out what was important to me.
Writing books? Yes?
Selling books? Yes.
But No. Let me explain.
When I write from a business-minded place, I stumble around in the dark trying to predict which of my story ideas might resonate with readers the most and sell a lot of books. When I’m in that head space, I use number of books sold as a metric for success. But do you want to know something funny? Not like haha funny, but like, lord have mercy Auburn that was obvious to everyone else but you kind of funny.
When I write what I want to write, when I’m having fun with story and characters and not thinking about the reader I write better. I write faster. And I sell a hell of a lot more books than when I’m strategizing and trying to go all Warren Buffet on myself. That guys a super genius economic strategist, right? Listen, strategy is not my strong suit. If I could just accept that, it’d be great.
I finally have accepted this, but it was an accident. I realized over the course of this year that the things I end up killing (in a good way) are accidents. All year, I found myself labeling myself with things like #accidentalgenius and #accidentalvixen. Let me tell you what I mean. It’s not that I’m not smart. I’m smart enough to get some shit done. But when I let go of strategy and planning and I let myself go where the road leads me, I accidentally find my own fun, my own victories, my own awesome. Accidentally. Isn’t that the funniest damn thing ever?
When I stop trying to force it, happiness comes. Everything comes (get your mind out of the gutter) when I don’t force it. Relax and HAVE FUN. I’m probably the first person to ever know this. Sigh. I said I was smart, I didn’t say I was quick.
So what I’ve learned this year from all my wanderings professionally is that I can’t think about the reader. I feel like I should apologize to you readers as I say that because it sounds like I’m being rude and arrogant and egotistical. It’s not that, though. It isn’t that I think what you like doesn’t matter. Of course it does. It’s that I give you a better end product when I’m not maniacally obsessing about how a book will be received by a stranger. I don’t have a crystal ball. How the hell can I possibly know if Suzie Q is gonna like my vampire romance or my historical fiction. I can’t. Not really. There could be a whole separate post (and I’ll probably write one) about targeting markets and how certain readers like certain things and all of those things are important. For example, don’t call your story a romance if the main characters don’t get together. Romance readers will riot. There are some general things we know, but I was trying to forecast more specifically and it was making me crazy.
When I write a book that I am proud of and had fun writing, it shows in the writing. And it shows in the selling of it. Because when I write a book that I love, rather than writing a book that some “target reader” might like, the book is just simply better.
Those last few paragraphs can be summed up with the following translation:
I overthought my writing, and forgot why I loved creating in the first place. But then I remembered, so yay.
Translation of the translation: Auburn got her groove back because she remembered what matters. Having Fun.
Yes, in fact, I did just say that the best lesson I learned in 2016 was that the secret of life (and a successful career) is to have MORE FUN. And yes, I am translating for my self. What can I say that I can’t say better twice?!
On that note, I’ve got so many AWESOME things coming up in 2017 that I can’t wait to share with you.
I’m in love with writing again and can’t get enough time at my computer. Non-fiction has a grip on my heart strings right now, but I’ve also got some fiction stuff that just will not leave me alone, so alright, already.
I’ve started a small writer’s studio with a dear friend and fellow writer (you’ll see more about that in the days and weeks to come) that is SO MUCH DAMN FUN I can’t even stand it.
And podcasting. WTF? I’m podcasting about living a fearless life and/or living in spite of the fear. This project is fun for me like a physics-defying roller-coaster is fun. It’s out of my comfort zone so it is terrifying, but I have so much fun actually doing that I can’t stop. Don’t worry, I’ve got a therapist (or three) on speed dial in case this gets out of hand. These episodes will go live this month, only 3 months past the deadline so watch for those too. Also, notice that late is better than never. (Another post for another day)
Somebody once told me that you shouldn’t buy something you don’t just LOVE. And I’ve decided to tweak that and apply it to my professional life. Don’t work it if it isn’t FUN!
Before you get all judgey on me about how sometimes you have to do things you don’t like and what kind of message are you sending to the children, Auburn? First, don’t trust me with your children. Obviously. And second, Yeah, yeah, I get that life is full of obligation. And I do things I don’t like all the time. The dishes, for example. Grocery shopping. Paying bills. Of course life has some duty to it, but what I’m talking about is different. What I’m talking about is making sure that my CREATIVE outlets are things that are fun and fulfilling and fucking amazing (and all the other F words I can think of).
For example, I went back and bolded every recurrence of the word fun because it was, you guessed it, fun to do. And yes, I have a thesaurus, but I happen to like the word FUN, so blow me. Trust me, it’ll be fun.
My wish for you in 2017 is to commit to having some more fun. If you aren’t sure where to start, send me a message and I’ll give you some pointers that may or may not include dancing to 80’s music and karaoke. #justsaying