Friday 24th March 2017

Today was a day of doubt and a lesson in patience.
The day job was a bit busy today.  I seem to have run out of youtube videos from the people I follow, and so the day seemed to drag.  I then had to go grocery shopping, cook dinner and get to Reading for a friend’s birthday.
Rushing around probably wasn’t the best thing for me to do, given how my stomach is still recovering, but I decided that I wouldn’t stay over, and so whilst everyone else was downing cocktails, I stuck with the non-alcoholic ones.
The student bar we were in had its own cinema and so we watched Them!  The noise from the bar meant we couldn’t really hear it but it was a fun experience.
It was also great to catch up with some friends I’ve not seen in a while.  Of course, they all asked whether the book was out yet, to which I had to reply that no, it’s not even ready for my agent to submit to publishing houses yet.
Of course, being friends, they all make jokes, to which I always respond that “perfection takes time” but it did mean that I finished the day with a good amount of self-doubt.
Let’s recap the situation here:
I’m a 44 year old writer of fantasy whose ‘experimental’ novel got picked up by one of the world’s top agents and has been in development for close to 2 years now.  There’s industry interest in the novel but that’s no guarantee that anyone will pick it up, or – even if they do – that it will sell.
Despite the everyday doubts every writer has, I can safely say that the concept is great.  I don’t think I’ve mentioned it to a single person without their eyes lighting up and saying “Oooh”.  The big question (and source of occasional doubt) is whether the way I’ve implemented that concept will have the same reaction.
The whole reason for The Climb was to document the process: barring any major disaster, the journey ahead is going to be really interesting whatever the outcome.  It’s at this stage that a lot of writers go very quiet, not wanting to anger whatever gods of fate may hold their future in the balance.
I kinda wanna punch those gods in the face and take my fate.  Hey, it’s my fucking fate!
The whole social media experiment is simple.  At its most crass I want to build a following now, so that when the book finally comes out, a year to 18 months to two years from now, my followers might want to buy it.  In return, I’m going to document the ups , the downs and the sheer hard work of getting a book to publication as honestly as I can.  That means being right, and, with hindsight, being wrong.
As someone who has always dreamed of being a full-time writer, this was the content I’ve always tried to find and found missing.
I realised last year that if I want to be top of my game (and I really do!  I really, really do!) then it’s not about following what other people have done, but being my own person and crafting my own path.  That’s more than a little scary… but then I chase tornadoes and fight with swords.  I don’t scare easily.
To direct my own path I’ve taken inspiration from two places: myself and unrelated industries.
Let me explain.
20 years ago, I took a little hobby website on Star Wars action figures, to be one (if not the) industry leader in the collectables arena.  Action-Figure did more traffic than the superbowl (I think we did 3-4 million hits in an hour once), I had the ears of a lot of people on Hollywood and I had everyone from rock stars to TV stars writing for the site.  I have a track record of accomplishing things.  Even those closest to me, who mock me for just about everything, freely admit that they know how hard I work and what I accomplished.
The other inspiration I take is by looking at patterns.  I look at unrelated industries, be they fitness or business or music or whatever.  I watch others who document their journey.  It doesn’t matter if you want to be the best quarterback in the NFL, a bestselling author or create the biggest fitness brand in the world,  the challenges, the doubts, and the hard work are all the same.  By looking at these and mapping my own progress to them, I can get an external view of where I am, where I’m going right, and potentially going wrong.
Which is why I’m doing the social media thing now, rather than several months down the line when I have a book to promote.  I realise that on first glance, it could look some ego-driven delusion that I believe I am someone ‘important’ enough to follow.  It’s not (and I do question it regularly), and I actually like being no-one right now.  I love being the underdog.
Because, joining all the dots, knowing how much the ambition is matched by hard work, whatever the final outcome, I think the journey is going to be interesting as hell.
So I decide to start building the ‘personal brand’ in the calm before the storm, which is probably the worst time to start it from certain aspects.  I’m saying “look at me, nothing has happened yet”.  Yet!
At the same time, it’s the best time to launch it.  It allows me to find my cadence, get comfortable with pushing my honesty with my audience  (I wouldn’t lie, but I think I might omit).  I can experiment so that when this rollercoaster of a journey really gets going, everything is in place to document it.
But that’s when I have doubts.
You need patience as a writer.  Publishing is all about hurry up and wait.  I know from speaking to other writers I’m going to discover that more and more.  If there’s another rewrite needed on Black As Knight I want to take a week or two off from work and get it done.  Last year was slow, this year I’m back being fast.
And so I get impatient.  I want the validation for all my hard work.  I want the rollercoaster to start.
I may look back and wish that I’d enjoyed the calm more before the storm.  I doubt it though.
So I’m busy trying to get the first draft of the sequel done, trying to get ahead of myself before I have to turn out a book every year.  That way I can have a bad year like last year and not have a single worry about missing a deadline.
I have a LOT of books I want to write.  And as much as I struggle and push myself daily, I love writing.
But then I have days like today when I see people I’ve not seen in a while and really don’t have an update for them.  And that’s when the self-doubt creeps in.  I discount the progress I’ve made, feel exposed by pushing myself out there, feel a bit of a fraud (although this was worse a year ago)
A common theme in the patterns I follow is that you shouldn’t worry what other people think.  If you put yourself out there, you’re always going to have moments of doubt.  You’re also going to have criticism, some valid, some not.  The trick is to be open to criticism whilst still staying true to your goal.
The other theme is patience.  As much as I might want to make things happen after a day like today so I can tell people a date, show them a cover or even hand them a copy of the book, it’ll happen when it happens.  At least I’m doing the right thing by working on the next book rather than just sitting around worrying.
My patience has really been tested over the last few months.  Temporary worries about my own health and others close to me has made me realise we all get a finite amount of time, and I have so much I want to accomplish.  I have big aims.  And I thought I handled it quite well.
But I’ve come to the conclusion that I still need more patience, that I need to stop willing the clock forward.  I need to realise that just because I don’t have an update to give someone doesn’t mean that progress isn’t being made.
But most of all, and I’ve heard this from a lot of successful authors, I need to enjoy the journey more.  Everything is in place for me to succeed.  I’ve got my own house where I have all the peace I need to write, I have levelled up my craft to the stage where two of the world’s best agents think I have the talent needed, one of them is representing me and putting in incredible hard work to take it to the next level.  I have worked on my health to ensure that I have the physical and mental stamina to not just run the race before me, but to do so for years to come.  I have the bank of ideas and the process to turn out books at a prolific level.  I have laid the foundations on which to build something incredible.
I make the mistake of thinking I’m in the starting blocks waiting for the race to start.
In reality, I’ve been running for a very long time.
If you want to follow more of my journey, then be sure to check me on my social channels.  Likewise, if you’d like me to expand on any point mentioned above, please say so in the comments.

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