I should be writing right now, but I can’t get my mind to settle down enough to do so.  So, I figured I could blog instead.  Because the reason my mind won’t settle down is fear.

Fear’s a tricky thing.  It isn’t based on facts.  It’s based on the story your mind tells you about those facts.

What do I mean by this?

Let me give you an example.  Back in 2009, I quit my full-time job with the intent of traveling the world for a year, spending time with family, and then starting a business.  (I was going to do three months of travel, one month at home, three more months of travel, one month at home, etc.)  I had substantial student loan debt and I needed to sell a condo I’d recently bought, but I was ready and willing to walk away from a steady full-time job to live my life the way I wanted.

Even after my year of travels got cut back to six weeks due to the cost of selling that condo,  (I am the WORST when it comes to buying and selling property) I still wasn’t scared.  I came back from my travels fully prepared to embark on that next chapter in my life even though I was down to $200 in the bank.

(Granted, shortly after that I started consulting so I knew that money was coming in soon, but still.)

Fast-forward to today.  In July of last year I terminated my existing consulting agreement so I could focus on writing full-time.  I didn’t want to keep bouncing back and forth between writing and consulting because the consulting work just drained my creativity.  (I think I wrote five thousands words between January and July of last year.)

Consulting was far too much of a temptation, too.

Imagine asking yourself each day, which do you want?  Easy money and success or clawing and fighting your way to make nothing.

I figured the only way I was going to get past that clawing and fighting stage in my writing (if you ever actually get past it) was by going all in.

Some family crisis and moving issues later, I really started focusing on my writing in September.  (Might have something to do with pitching a novel to an agent that I hadn’t actually written yet…BTW, don’t do that.)

Now, in January, I’m seeing some good progress.  I’ve averaged close to 60,000 words a month the last four months which is a huge improvement and better than at any point in my writing career.  I wrote a new novel that I think is ten times better than my first one.  I self-published 30 new titles.  I actually broke the three-figure mark two months in a row.  (Don’t laugh.  It was a big milestone for me.)  I even received a very nice personal rejection on one of my short spec fic stories from a top market.

(May the gods bless every editor or slush pile reader who sends constructive feedback and asks you to submit more.)

So things seem to be moving in the right direction.

And yet…

I am scared as hell.  I’m doing better than I’ve done before, but not as good as I want to do. And I’m wondering if this is as good as it gets.  Maybe I’m tapped out.  Maybe I’ve hit my peak.

Some very arrogant, self-assured part of me knows that if I keep going at this I’ll get better.  But that other voice, the one that reminds me it’s been seven months since I did any consulting work and that every day I don’t do that kind of work makes it that much harder to go back to it, won’t shut up.

(I’m also not sure how correct that voice actually is…Fear can be tricky that way.)

Anyway.  In so many respects I’m actually better off than I was in 2009. And yet my fear level is exponentially higher.  Maybe because I have little glimpses of a life I’d really like to live and I’m just not sure I can get there?  Or because I’m not getting there fast enough?

I don’t know.  I do know I need to get past this if I’m going to keep going.

I don’t expect writing to replace my consulting income.  That’s asking far too much of it.  But I would like my writing income to reach a level to make a real dent in my monthly expenses.

The problem is the current publishing landscape is a bit like walking on quicksand.  In terms of self-publishing, I have no faith in the reliability of what I see from Amazon.  On the first of this month I had 17 borrows and 4 sales of my titles.  This morning I had no borrows and 1 sale when I woke up.  If I could trace those numbers to something like timing of new releases or advertising, fine.  I could do something about that.  But I can’t attribute those numbers to anything at all.

Algo change?  Perhaps?  Punishment for letting one title come out of Select?  Perhaps.  (The borrows and sales are mostly for different pen names, so no cause:effect there.)  Slow updates?  Maybe.  Post-holiday slump?  Maybe.

I don’t know.

And trade publishing, well, that can be a tricky beast, too, right?  I’ve seen more than one publisher I would’ve subbed to a year or two ago go under.  Or at least look like it will.  And I’ve seen more than one debut author have their series cancelled after one or two books, leaving them in the lurch in terms of the rest of the series.

Change creates opportunity, but it also creates a lot of uncertainty.  It makes me feel like one of those poor dogs in the psychology experiments where they kept shocking them randomly.  The dogs did not do well.

(And I realize that I took the full-time plunge long before anyone would recommend I do so.  Ideally, you’d have pro sales or a steady income from your self-publishing before you do something like this.  But it was a bit of a chicken and egg issue for me.  And in many respects that have nothing to do with writing, doing so was the absolute right choice for me.)

Anyway.  That’s where my head is today.

But I’m about eight hundred words from hitting 20,000 words for the week.  Something I can control in the midst of all this insanity.  (And part of my new year’s resolution to write 20,000 words a week for at least 26 weeks of the year…)

So, off to write those words even if they are shit.  Haha.

About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
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