Go Pro versus Go Slow

the war of artI recently reread “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield.  Just like the first TWO times that I read it, this little powerhouse of a book provided me with much food for thought and a well needed kick up the behind.  In fact, it was so darned inspirational that it sent me into a flurry of planning.  Postits abound, journal pages galore – washitape, colour coding – I was riding high on a wave of “I can do this.  I am a writer” high.

Professional Overwhelm for Writers

And then…. overwhelm reared her ugly, salivating chops at me. Yes I could see that Pressfield was right.  I do need to take the whole thing seriously.  I need to up my game.  I want to GO PRO.

But the thought of all that?  Well, it’s a mountain, isn’t it?  The Roman Empire took hundreds of years to create.  Is it realistic for the solitary writer to think that they too can build that Kindle, indie publishing empire in less time than it takes to grow some seedlings in my vegetable patch?  Probably not.

And to enter into this marvelous and creative paradise, I need to ensure that I have the strength and resilience to do this for the long haul.  I need to be professional enough to have the patience to build things solidly from the ground up.  And that probably means that, like most writers, I need to temper my greed with a savouring for going a little more slowly.  I need to take my time a bit, and tell myself that it is not a race.  I can do this at my own pace.

Of course, such wisdom does not stand particularly firm in the face of my grand plans.  I like a challenge.  Every writer does.  Why else would we set out on this journey?  If it was so easy then everyone would do it, right?

What is a ‘professional’ writer?

And all the info that is out there is pretty clear.  You need more than one ‘masterpiece’ if you are going to stand a chance at going “pro”, and, by that, I mean, earning a full-time income.  Because that is what ‘professional’ means really.  It is about getting paid to do your thing.  We can all go a bit crazy churning out vast amounts of content but if the quality of that content is shoddy then the reality is that you are building an empire on dodgy ground and it will inevitably fail.

Do I want to be a professional if that means putting out vast amounts of content that I am not particularly proud of?  Well no, not really.  Who would?

Reasons  to ‘go slow’

So instead, I am taking today to remind myself that it is okay to go slow.  Slow is not unprofessional.  Slow is steady and measured.  Going Slow is about ensuring that the quality standards of your work are the best that you can offer and that you can promise that quality on a consistent basis.  Going Slow means that the journey is part of the reward.  It is about giving things time to build and develop without pushing them or placing them under too much pressure.

I am coming to the understanding that yes, I do want to be a writer.  Heck, look at me – I am writing.  This very post is evidence of that.  But is this ground-breaking?  No.  Am I being professional by only committing to producing a few books this year?  Yes, if I can promise myself that I will be consistent and productive without compromising my own standards of quality control.

How to go slow as a pro

So, fellow writer, by all means – Go Pro.  Create your work with the attitude that this is your life’s work.  It is not your ‘job’ (yet)but it is your profession.  A profession has longevity, it has standing.  In a profession, you commit to constantly learning and honing your craft.  You expect it to take a few years to really get into your stride and you commit to doing what it takes in the long term.

go pro v go slow

But you don’t do that at the expense of your mental health or quality of life.  You can avoid overwhelm and burn-out by committing to a realistic daily word count.  Record it.  Take pride in every small step.  Don’t rush or push.  Instead be willing to relish every inch of the path and to extract all the lessons that you can from your process.

Be professional in your approach by all means, but don’t forget to have fun and enjoy the ride.  Expect some disappointment and remind yourself that this is a long-haul game.  No short-cuts here.  The more you do, the better you will get.

What are your success parameters?

So I make this commitment to myself as part of my professional development as a writer:  I will commit to writing at least 1500 words every day.  My target is to create a solid body of work of which I can be proud and confident that it is a good representation of my emerging identity as a writer.  I am willing to try some new things and learn as much as I can from the masters of my craft. I am in this for the long haul.  I do not set myself a time-frame for success.  My success parameters are based on what I have within my control.

So, what are your success parameters?  Are you setting goals that are professional and sustainable?  Are you balancing going slow with going pro?  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

See you next post???

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Why choose self publishing?

It’s a good question really?  Sure, ten years ago, I wouldn’t even have been considering self publishing my book.  I would have resigned myself to the whole rigmarole of finding an agent, who then finds a publisher, who then finds an editor etc etc.  The whole process would have taken me years of my time and a hefty amount of plucky resilience.  I would have gone to the stationery store and bought  a pretty,new file which I would entitle ‘Rejections’.  My poor little fragile ego would have taken a bashing and many times I might have given up the ghost and ‘got a proper job’ instead.

However times have changed.  The beauty of the internet is that it has opened up the door to people like myself.  Writers of niche books which do not have mass market appeal are now able to offer their thoughts to the world and anyone with a credit card and an internet connection has the chance to join the party.  At the moment, it’s like a street party and anyone is invited.  I would predict however that, just like any evolutionary cycle, it will be survival of the fittest before long.

So what makes you ‘fit’ in the self publishing world?  I would say that approaching self publishing as a business is the best way to go.  Seeing yourself as a professional who is duty bound to put quality work out into the world and package it as professionally as an established publisher would is essential to success.  Building a robust author platform is also a must.  You can’t be a reclusive Lee Harper type anymore.  No, no, no.  Now you’ve got to get out there and tweet and poke and post and link like your life depended on it.  Truth is that choosing the self publishing route as a writer doesn’t always leave you much space for writing.  And essentially, writing is what I love to do.

Sure I am enjoying learning about all this marketing stuff.  Truth be told, I am becoming a bit of a geek really.  I find myself downloading books about online marketing, building followers, creating platforms, branding, finding my authentic voice, publishing by the moon calendar… you name it, I am reading it.  I have spent whole weekends rebuilding my website, and lost what feel like months of my life trying to decipher twitter. (I still don’t know my @ from my elbow!)

There’s another reason why I have chosen self publishing and that is my location.  I live in New Zealand.  Not just in New Zealand, I live in Dunedin which is one of the southern most cities in the world.  In New Zealand, sheep outnumber people 4 to 1 and sheep don’t buy books.  Due to its isolation, books in New Zealand cost A LOT.  Your average paperback is around $25 which is double the minimum hourly wage.  In this country, unless you are an ex Rugby player or a soap opera actress or both (I am neither) the chances of even getting a foot in the door of a publisher are greatly diminished.  Even once your foot is in and you nab an elusive publishing deal, your sales figures are only likely to get into hundreds.  It’s not a great numbers game really.  Factor in the wait time between being accepted by a publisher and making it into print and suddenly you are collecting a pension before your first royalty check for $3 or thereabouts hits the doormat.  I am not a very competitive person.  I don’t fancy my odds.

So I have chosen to self publish.  It’s not the easy route.  I am developing a Jack of all Trades attitude and, I fear, mastery of none.  But you know what?  I am having a ball.  I love the idea of taking my destiny in my own hands.  I like ‘workin’ it’ like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman and putting myself out there day after day.  It’s fun learning about SEO (WHAT?!?) and meta tags (double what?!?).

So why choose self publishing?  Because I am lucky that I can.  Because I have a product that I am proud of.  Because I want to share my message with as many readers as I can. Sure, I live in the back of beyond but I have the internet and I am darned well going to use it!

Why have you chosen the self publishing route?  Any cautionary tales for those of us just venturing out into the big bad world of self pub?  Any of you ex-Rugby-playing-soap-stars who still chose this route??  Love to hear your thoughts!  Post a comment to make me smile!

Kettle’s boiled – it’s teatime!

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How to make a header for your blog for free

When I first made my blogsite, I had fanciful visions of what it would look like.  I was determined that it would look professional and clean.  Only problem was – my budget for website building was ZERO.  I knew that I needed to learn this stuff myself otherwise, as a newly hatched entrepreneur, I was going to be in the Red at the bank until the year 2030.

Ultimately my philosophy that everything is figure outable meant that Google became my best friend and that the words FREE SOFTWARE would feature heavily in my search requests.

So, without further ado, here is my easy peasy lemon squeezy guide to getting a great header on your website for free:

1. Google xheader pro. or click here to go straight to the site.

2. Download the free software. it involves clicking on the box with the smiling lady on it.

3. Watch the tutorial when prompted – it’s great, really clear and inspiring

4. Spend far too long playing at creating new headers.

5.  Save about a million different options for your header. They save as jpegs just by double clicking the quality that you like.

6. Note to yourself that most of them look exactly the same.

7.  Have a cup of tea and a biscuit

8. Go back and pick, probably, the first design that you created.

9. On your blog upload the header into your appearance section. nb, I just clicked download as is, rather than cropping it.

10.  Marvel at how clever and professional your new header looks.  Aren’t you a clever bunny! Now go and have another cuppa – you have earned it, my friend1

Look there is a professional version with about 5000 headers to choose from.  I haven’t got this.  It’s probably awesome but I only need one header and ‘free’ works beautifully with my budget.  Also I am not “monetized” on this blog so I have no motivation for sharing this apart from the fact that I am such a nice person and it feels good to share.

So there you go.  Free header for your website? Done! You can check out my handiwork over here.  Look at the smiley face and the zesty colours – aaaawwww!

Kettle’s boiling.  Got to go

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