skip to Main Content
Optimizing Your Creative Energy — Starting, Focusing, Finishing: Advanced Self-Publishing Podcast With Orna Ross And Joanna Penn

Optimizing Your Creative Energy — Starting, Focusing, Finishing: Advanced Self-Publishing Podcast With Orna Ross and Joanna Penn

As you write, produce, and market a book, you’ll draw on different aspects of your creative energy along the way. In this month's Advanced Self-Publishing Salon, Orna Ross and Joanna Penn explore the difference between starting, pushing through, and finishing energies, and how to harness yours for optimal flow through the creative cycle.

Ingram Spark logo

The Advanced Self-Publishing Podcast is brought to you by specialist sponsor IngramSpark. IngramSpark is the award-winning indie publishing platform that offers authors like you a way to publish your book and share it with over 39,000 bookstores and libraries worldwide.

Find more author advice, tips, and tools at our self-publishing advice center. And, if you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization and become a self-publishing ally. You can do that at allianceindependentauthors.org.

Now, go write and publish!

Listen to the Podcast: Creative Energy

Don't Miss an #AskALLi Broadcast

Subscribe to our Ask ALLi podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Player.FM, Overcast, Pocket Casts, Spotify or via our RSS feed:

Subscribe on iTunes   Stitcher Podcast Logo for link to ALLi podcast   Player.fm for podcasts   Overcast.fm logo   Pocket Casts Logo  

Watch the Video: Creative Energy

As you write, produce, and market a book, you’ll draw on different aspects of your creative energy along the way. Orna Ross and @thecreativepenn show you how. Click To Tweet

About the Hosts

Joanna Penn writes nonfiction for authors and is an award-nominated, New York Times and USA Today bestselling thriller author as J.F.Penn. She’s also an award-winning podcaster, creative entrepreneur, and international professional speaker.

Orna Ross launched the Alliance of Independent Authors at the London Book Fair in 2012. Her work for ALLi has seen her named as one of The Bookseller’s “100 top people in publishing”. She also publishes poetry, fiction and nonfiction, and is greatly excited by the democratizing, empowering potential of author-publishing. For more information about Orna, visit her website:  http://www.ornaross.com

Read the Transcripts: Creative Energy

Joanna Penn: Hello everyone and welcome to the Alliance Independent Authors Advanced Self-Publishing Salon with me, Joanna Penn and Orna Ross. Hi Orna.

Orna Ross: Hello Joanna, and hi everyone. Welcome.

Joanna Penn: Welcome. Yes, here we are again. Today we are talking about optimizing your creative energies, starting, focusing, and finishing, because we have been doing a lot of this ourselves, which we'll talk about in a minute.

But first up, Orna, tell us, any updates from ALLi?

Orna Ross: Always updates from ALLi. Yeah, so this has been, as regular listeners will know, the year of the data. We're in the third and final stage of this now, where we're supplementing the quantitative facts and figures and things that we amassed in our Indie Author Income Survey and in our Big Indie Author Data Drop, which we did and launched earlier on in the year.

Now, we are doing some in depth case studies with CREATE, University of Glasgow who did the second phase analysis of the survey data. So, supplementing it with the sort of detail that you can't get from facts and figures if you like, and that seems to me to be a really important aspect of it, because what we want to do is not just produce a whole string of facts and figures, or various people's analysis of it, including our own, which we will do at the end, but also use it to make it useful to say, the facts and figures show this and the case studies show that, and be able to offer people some advice.

And also, I think, to show how differently people approach this job, how there really are so many very different ways to succeed, that we don't always hear about. So, that's what I hope will emerge from this stage and phase. So, we have put a call out for people to take part and we're selecting various different representative stories, and I think Mark Dawson's Self-Publishing Formula have been sponsoring this part of the research, and Mark has very kindly offered a nice prize, or gift, or whatever you might call it, bribe, for people to take part. So, we want to hear your stories. So, that's essentially one of the things that's going on at the moment.

What about you? What are you up to?

Joanna Penn: Ah, funny you should ask. I have the launch of my latest novella. So, it's a standalone horror novella, Catacomb which I'm launching on the other thing I've been doing, is building jfpenbooks.com, which is my fiction-first Shopify store.

So, for people who've been listening, yeah, I did build a Shopify store last year, creativepenbooks.com, and what I've discovered is that realistically I need a different destination for my fiction. We've talked about this over the years about having different brands. You have managed to put both under one. I do feel just like two different people.

So, J.F. Penn Books is where the launch of Catacomb is, and as we've talked about before and doing direct first, this is not a direct only, this is a direct first launch, and then it will be available wide. Now, it's direct first and then wide is everything else, and that will be from the 4th of August.

So, I feel like I've been in the finishing energy, which is what we're talking about today, realistically just finishing all the stuff for publishing and then marketing and then the build of the store. So, that's been me. What about you Orna Ross?

Orna Ross: It's interesting, because whenever you do something that I've done or am doing, I always get these words for things, like direct first and all this kind of stuff. So, it's funny that we both ended up doing similar things from very different kinds of places. So, I've been slowly transferring everything over onto ornaross.com for the last ages.

I haven't done a relaunch or a rebrand of the website. I'm just going to get everything up and running and all the tech stuff sorted, but I now have a centre, like yourself. Everything is ornaross.com first, and then everything else feeds into that. So, I think of it as kind of concentric circles going around it and moving the attention away from the retailers, or the retailers being places where I gather in readers and also set up my fiction and poetry.

When you say I do everything on one site, but actually all my publishing stuff is on another site completely, selfpublishingadvice.org. This site now has nothing on that front at all, where I used to always have a little bit of an overlap. Now it is just purely fiction and purely poetry, and it's working much better in that way, just segmenting the audiences.

It is a lot of work to get clear and clean, but it is, I think, worth it, and I don't see myself, there are a lot of things you do that you change again and again, but I don't see myself ever changing this again in that sense. That divide and that segmentation is, it's the work I've been doing for the past 10 years, it's the work I expect to be doing for the next 10 years. So, I think it has been worth it, even though I'm not quite finished yet, there are lots of strings and tails hanging out of it, but it feels good, and I have a much clearer pathway. I feel like I know what I'm doing much more now than I did before, I always felt I was shooting in the dark and firing things off and trying things.

Now I feel I can see a progression. I know what I’m good at and I'm only going to focus on that. I'm going to let a lot of the other things that we hear about in terms of marketing and promotion go, and not even try them anymore. So, I've turned off Amazon ads, and various other things. They were fine but they're not my focus. So, getting really focused.

Joanna Penn: Yeah, it's so funny, and just for people listening, realistically, this kind of proper ecommerce store, which is what we both have, wasn't so possible, even a couple of years ago, because of the print on demand options available to us, and now that's really available.

So, yeah, I'm the same, and I think there is this shift in the indie community towards direct-first being your store first, then everything else, and Amazon just goes in the bucket with Kobo and Apple and Ingram and everything else.

We've talked about Direct before and we'll probably talk about it again because obviously we've both set up changing our focus. So, maybe next year, 2024, will be our first year of really having evidence of that.

But yeah, I'm like you, I feel really happy that I can focus on the store and just direct traffic to the stores.

The other thing that's happened as we record this, we're recording on 25th of July 2023. So, this may change, but Elon Musk, I know you left Twitter last year in the first wave of all this, but Elon Musk has just changed Twitter to be called X, and what's happening, of course, is I'm like, okay, so maybe that's it now. So, I almost feel like there's a real ending for something that I wasn't ready to let go.

So, sometimes it's like the universe tells you things when you are ready. It's like yeah, you can let that go too, because I've been on Twitter for 14 years or something.

Orna Ross: Yeah, me too, but I tell you, I do not regret leaving it. Not for a second. ALLi's still there, and we'll see how things play out, but I think again, if you're going to be fiction first, lead with your fiction, lead with your poetry, lead with your literary work, then Twitter is not as relevant as it is if you are doing non-fiction or advice, or stuff like that.

It'll be interesting to see who stays and who leaves and who goes to Threads, and all of that. All that has yet to be seen.

Joanna Penn: Yes, and I guess that's another one of our messages that we always talk about is there are things that change in your own life, things you can control, things you can't control, and the same with the systems that we use in our businesses. There are some things we can control, like your email list and backing that up. Just a reminder to everyone, all services can go wrong, so I back up my email list. And then things we can't control, like we're going to be more dependent on Meta, which we can't control. So again, but we keep building our email list.

So, I think all of that's important. So, let's get into the topic for today, which we'll come back on some of these things, but the optimizing your creative energies, starting, focusing, and finishing.

So, why I wanted to talk about this today is I had emailed my list with this kind of, I am in finishing energy, and I am pretty much over it, but I'm so looking forward to starting energy again, because there's a creative cycle and you have to go through the whole cycle, and if you don't, then things aren't going to work.

But sometimes there are problems in different phases of the cycle. So, what we're going to talk about is how you might know which part of the cycle you're in and what you might be struggling with in each part of the cycle, and how to get through it into the next bit, because that is literally the only way you're going to be successful as an author, which we can even just define as getting a finished product into the world.

You actually need all of this. So, let's start with starting energy. What is this for you?

Orna Ross: Yes. So, starting is about the first quarter, shall we say roughly, you can't say for sure, but getting going on a project, and I'd like to say that we're talking here about writing and book production and marketing and promotion, as the three defining tasks for every indie author.

So, at the beginning of those tasks, and particularly at the beginning of the writing and making a book, shall we say, I think you get this rush of energy and ideas and excitement and passion, and you can feel like you're in flow, you're dying to get going, and that to me is what starting energy is. It's always the buzz.

Most people, certainly speaking for myself, starting energy is fun, it's great, I'm in there, I love it. Starting a project is never hard for me. So, the other energies, I think, which we'll talk about in a few moments, are the ones that maybe most people have trouble with.

However, some people have trouble just starting, and it might be starting the writing, it might be starting, we were talking about this earlier on as we do before our shows, and saying that there are some aspects of the process of the writing and publishing process that all of us don't like starting and are not good at. There are bits of it that we prefer and are very happy to jump in and start, and then other bits that we may not ever get going on.

So, sometimes recognizing that you haven't started can be challenging enough in itself. So, obviously it's easy enough to see if you haven't started writing, you've got that blank page screaming at you, but it might not be so easy to notice that you haven't got started on your marketing. For example, you might be doing a lot of busy work around things, but not necessarily making advancement, and it's the same with drafting, even with writing; you could be doing a lot of writing, researching, writing tasks, but not actually getting started, really getting started.

And creative work is messy, it's not straightforward, and so it's always challenging.

How about you with starting energy?

Joanna Penn: Yeah. So, I was also thinking about this, because someone emailed me and said, I can't get started because I don't know why anyone would want to read this. Which was so interesting, and we've said this before, but being a writer is this balance between massive ego and massive self-doubt, and we all have self-doubt, but you actually do have to have enough of an ego, even if it goes like this all the time, see sawing, to want to put your words out into the world. You have to be able to drive yourself to want to get things down. So, I found that really interesting and put it down to obviously working on self-esteem issues if you literally can't even just start writing. But also fear of failure, will anybody want to, it comes into the same thing.

Also, you can't decide what project to work on. This is another common one I feel with starting energy is people are like, oh, I have so many ideas, I don't know which one to start on. I have this problem often, and I have a drive, my J.F. Penn drive in my computer. I have maybe 40/50 folders and I just move them up and down. They've all got a number and they move slowly towards the top, and then sometimes I just find myself picking, like number 16 jumps all the way to the top because I suddenly get the urge, the starting energy. It's like, yeah, I know that book is next.

So, with Catacomb, I first got the idea for that a decade ago, and it was the time to write that, it's a novella, it was like time to write that.

So, I feel like those can be some reasons you have problems. Sometimes it's just literally learning the basics of actually, how do you write a novel or non-fiction or poetry? Is there just this… I literally don't know how to do it, but then the opposite of that is you've done all the courses, you've been doing courses for years, you've read all the books, you've got a massive library of writing books, which we all have, but at some point, you have to step past that and actually write your own words.

So, all of these things can stop you even starting. Is there anything else that you think can help people?

Orna Ross: What we're saying, I think, is that at the base of all of these different, you know, these symptoms look different up on top, but what they essentially are is some form of resistance, some form of fear is driving these various behaviours. So, you have this desire, but you have this inability to make the moves happen.

So, I think beginning by identifying the root cause of your particular situation. So, is it a fear of failure? Is it the sense that nobody would want to read this? What exactly is there? Perfectionism? You want to be better? Fear of being judged? Or lack of clarity? Or lack of resources; you don't have the quiet, the space, the time, whatever it is to get going?

And first of all, identifying the root cause and then acknowledging how you feel, because I think that's really important in terms of not judging those feelings, because you can get into this awful cycle of, I haven't started and now I'm beating myself up for not starting and so my self-esteem is even lower than it was when I began this process, and instead of something that could make you feel good and make you feel great, you're actually going around in a horrible, vicious cycle.

So, acknowledging the feelings that you are having without judging them, you need some technique that is going to take the pressure off. So, for me, as you know, it's free writing and meditation. They are the two things that work for me in every aspect of my energy, starting, focusing and finishing, they are really core for me.

I think maybe priming your environment as well, surrounding yourself with inspiration, whatever it is that makes you get up and go, doing it, no matter how childish or basic, or whatever it might seem.

Any other tips?

Joanna Penn: Yeah, and also as we go through this, it's unlikely that you're, I mean, you might have some problems around each process every time, but for me, I'm just literally, I'm holding Catacomb, I'm looking forward to the starting energy, and I feel like for me, the starting energy is what gets me through the finishing bit. Because I'm like, oh, yay, I know soon this bit will be over and I can start again.

I've got a banner behind me for those on the audio. It says, measure your life by what you create. And for me, that drives everything. It's like, right, yay, another project. Like so many of us, once I've finished a book, I'm like, yeah, okay, done, where's the next one?

So, for me, starting energy is this glorious phase, but let's move into pushing through or focusing energy. I think one of the damaging myths of being a writer is that you'll stay in that glorious sensation of flow and excitement about your project forever, and that somehow, if you don't have that positive energy towards your work, then you're not a real writer and that it's the wrong project. And I feel like a lot of people give up. They're like, oh, I've got bored with this idea, but I've only got X-number of words, but it feels like work to do this. And I'm like, yeah, it is work, great work, but it is still work.

So, there's nothing wrong with you if you're starting to feel like the messy middle, or this is a bit of a slog, or I have to force myself to the page instead of skipping there in a jolly manner.

So, what do you think about this area?

Orna Ross: Yeah, absolutely. This is where you find out whether you have what it takes to finish or not, because the vast majority of people who start books don't finish them, and when it comes to this point, they cut out and go work on another idea, and I have to hold my hand up as one of those people who opens too many projects. I had to give myself a very stern talking to a while back to say, no more new projects until these are finished.

So, getting through that messy middle, and it might be the writing, it very often is at the writing stage, but if you're more experienced, it can also be at the book production stage. So, the book leaves you and it's no longer your personal project now, you have to work with an editor, talk to a designer, decide what platforms you're going to use. A lot of would-be self-publishers get derailed in this part of the process. They enjoy the beginning of putting a book together, but once other people come into it, or once they have to deal with tech, or tools, or make decisions and get serious, then they fall away.

So, that's what the messy middle looks like in book production. And of course, very common for people to get through that phase and then not to get into the marketing phase in a real way, understanding marketing and promotion that works for them.

And to some degree, again, as I said at the beginning, creative work is complex, it's not simple. So, to some degree, you're always working through different things, and trying out different things, and dropping some processes and picking up others, and that's healthy. That's exactly the way it should be. You experiment with something, you give it a go, you explore something, you try it and see, does it work for you and your situation?

All of that is healthy, but identifying where it has become unhealthy is the challenge, and I guess if you're stuck for a long time going around and not getting very far, then you can feel that you may have a problem with pushing through energy, and I think we have to embrace that sense of the dip. Seth Golden's term for it is the dip, that tough period that comes in every single creative project. We have to understand it comes in every single creative project, and it's our job not to resist it, but to actually recognize it, see it as part of the process, and push up the sleeves and get through.

For me, something that really helped me to cope with this stage when I became a self-publisher was planning and scheduling time, taking time blocks in the calendar, and dividing up my tasks into maker tasks, manager tasks, marketeer tasks, and not mixing those up, doing them in distinct time blocks, even in different months sometimes or different weeks, or different days, but not mixing them up.

And of course, turning up for yourself and actually turning up for those appointments that you make with yourself. That's key in terms of pushing through.

Joanna Penn: Yeah, and I mean as you're talking there, it's not just the writing. In our life, it's also like I wrote in my book Pilgrimage, about a trip, there were those moments of like, I just have to take step by step and I will get there, and that is sometimes how this pushing through phase feels. I'm exactly the same, like you. In fact, I already have my entire August, all my writing stuff is scheduled, where I'm going to be, what time I'm going to start work, how I'm going to do that, and this will be like my 42nd book or something like that, and I still need that, or I will find some other thing to do rather than get to the page and get it done.

This is where, and again, not all rules work for everyone, but it either has to be a time period or a number of words. Authors tend to work in one or the other. I tend to work in time periods, so I know if I go to the cafe when it opens, by about two hours that's enough, and I need to go for a walk or go to do some exercise, and then I can do another block later. But creatively that's about it for me, and then I can do other tasks.

So, I do a block of creative work in the mornings and then I do marketing, publishing and business in the afternoons. But however, it works for you or, people listening, however you choose to do it, you have to time block. I literally don't know how people do things otherwise. It feels like it's such a secret weapon. I don't know, you're more free flowing than I am around these things, but you're still suggesting it too, right?

Orna Ross: Yes, absolutely, you have to. Well, I have to. I think you have to, and when you talk to an author who's having trouble around this stuff, very often they have a lot of time and they waste that time, they don't actually, and this horrible feeling of you really want to do the work, but you actually can't get going.

So, limiting your time I think it's really important. You mentioned two hours. I work in 90-minute bursts. Just putting an end time on that. We learned that with free writing as well. You write through for 15 minutes and then you stop, and the stopping is as important as the starting. If you feel you can go on at the end and it's open ended, that seems to not work well for the vast majority of people.

Again, there are no rules, and I'm sure there's somebody jumping up and down saying, that doesn't apply to me, and that's okay, but it does apply to most people in my experience having dealt with a huge number of authors at this stage, and it certainly applies for me.

Joanna Penn: Yeah, and just to say when I had a day job, because of course you and I, this is our life now, but when I had a day job, for the first five years of my author career, I would get up early and work before going to my job.

So, most people listening, you will have a job or some other, or family or whatever. So, we're not saying it has to be 90 minutes or two hours, we know that's a generous amount, but maybe it's 20 minutes, maybe it's 30 minutes, several times a week at some point, but literally the only way you will get a project finished, that pushing through energy, and you can almost calculate it.

Like, both of us have for August, as in, this is what we're doing in August, and we will both cancel other things in order to make that space, because sometimes we underestimate as well, which is another thing I've learned, that I will often do this. I think you've talked in our notes about micro goals, breaking the project into smaller tasks. So again, with pushing through, it's not, oh, I must finish the book, it's I need to work on this chapter today, or I need to write this scene. For my fiction, I write scenes and I'll be like, right, I'm writing this scene. That's it, and then I'll stop.

So yeah, also exercise, sleeping, all of these things that actually keep you going, because that's the other thing, you might struggle with pushing through because you are empty. So, also that might mean doing research as well, but it also might be physically empty, and you might need to rest. Like I had a day just basically in bed the other day. I was just like; do you know what? I'm really tired, I'm just going to go to bed. What was funny is I'd messaged you and you were like, oh, I'm fine, and then two days later, you were the one.

Orna Ross: I know, it's crazy.

Joanna Penn: Yes. So, all of those things are important. Right, anything else on. pushing through?

Orna Ross: I think do whatever it takes to make it happen. So, if you need to get the app that removes all the distractions, do it. If you need a quiet place to go, or you conversely, you need noise around you, learn what actually works for you and do that. Give yourself that, because sometimes we know what's right and we try to do it a different way.

Accountability partners or groups can really help. I have a Facebook group where we record our intentions at the start under the three hats, the maker, the manager, and the marketer at the start of the week, and then at the end of the week, come back and actually record the accomplishments.

I think that's really important as well, to recognize what you did get done. We're very hard on ourselves. We're always recognizing what we didn't get done. So, equally important to go, okay, maybe everything you intended for that week didn't happen, but maybe something else happened. Again, creativity is complex.

So, give yourself what you need. Accountability partners or groups, it can just be another writer and you just check in with each other and say what you have or have not done. But whatever you need to push through, recognize it is a challenge, athletes don't win races by not doing the training, and in a way everything we're doing in the background until that book goes out to the editor, we need to give ourselves what we need to get through that middle part in particular.

Joanna Penn: Yeah. So, moving on to finishing then. So, I know we slightly define these things differently, but for me finishing is the final, the proofreading, the publishing tasks, and then building the website, J.F. Penn Books. I've always built all my websites. A control freak, but I like to know how to build everything, but you know, uploading stuff. These are the things that, to be honest, we didn't become independent authors to be uploading files, but we also, to be independent authors means we know how to do these things and we can upload our own files, because the amount of money that some people pay another company to upload files is too much for someone like me.

There's nothing wrong with professional publishing partners, obviously, but for me, it's like, oh, I just need to upload all my files to all these things, and then of course you send your ARCS out to your readers, and someone will say, here's a typo and you fix a typo and you upload the files, and then the next day someone will send another one, and there's another. That always gets me. It's just like, oh, I just re-uploaded everything.

So, there's all these different things. Technically for me, it's the things that remind me of my old job where I used to do a lot of this type of clicking buttons and uploading stuff, finding keywords and blah, blah, blah.

So, for me, that finishing energy is I have to do these things or no one will ever get the book I've just spent all this time on. What about you?

Orna Ross: I think of finishing in a slightly different way. So, for me, you can encounter challenges in finishing in the writing phase, or you can encounter challenges in finishing in the production phase, which is what you're talking about, or you can meet challenges in the marketing and promotion phase.

So, finishing energy in that sense, drawing on, you can get through your middle and put in place all those things that we were talking about that encourage you and uphold your creativity and so on, and then somehow find that when it comes to the end, you're just not able to get the project across the line. I've given this a lot of thought because I am definitely somebody who struggles with finishing energy on some things. Some things fly through them, boom, done. But with certain projects, and two big projects in particular, I have had a problem with finishing energy. I think it's because completing a project, you choose to do a book or become an independent author, or whatever it might be, any creative project, there's a complexity in it and it's a very personal thing, and you often don't really understand. It's like the project chooses you and you don't really understand what's going on until you're at least, we were talking about this as well earlier on, you're halfway through, like you with your shadow book, and then suddenly you realize what's going on for you personally.

And sometimes, you have to grow; creative growth is personal growth. You cannot separate those, and finishing is where the growth comes. It's definitely in getting it across the line. So, I think those of us who struggle with finishing energy, as we work on the project, our ideas feel like they're evolving, and then you can reconsider previous decisions, or you want to expand the original concept, and that can be sometimes a valid thing to do, and off you go. But sometimes you can just end up going around in circles.

So, authors who struggle with finishing energy, very often they have lots of drafts on their computer, but they haven't gotten any into production. Or they've got lots of books published, but they haven't ever actually managed to identify their core readership. They're not really selling them, and rather than deal with the difficulty around marketing, they'll go and just write another book.

You'll even hear people say, writing another book is the best marketing you can do. Well, yes, but only if your other books are selling. If none of your books are selling, writing another book is probably the worst thing you can do. So, finishing energy, Erica Young, I loved that quote when I came across it first. I went for years, not finishing anything, because when you finish something, you can be judged, she said, but it can be judged.

So, putting it out there, it's easier to be stuck in this cycle of revision and rethinking and perfectionism than actually putting it out there. So, I think there are things you can do though to help you get it across the line.

Joanna Penn: Yeah, I think again, scheduling time is pretty much how you achieve anything in general.

But also, I think for me it's also saying, I have such a big list of things, and I do get to a point where I'm like, do you know what, not all of that is necessary, I just need to go live, as such. In my previous career as an IT consultant, go live was the date when everyone was let on the system and you never ever finish everything, and I'm not a massive perfectionist around these things. So, I literally just delete the rest of my list, or I move it in my calendar to another day. So, jfpennbooks.com will never be finished, the same as your website.

We are always a work in progress. So, I feel like there's loads more things I want to do, but it got to the point where I had Catacomb and I was like, I want to launch my book now and I'm going to do it and I will put off some of these things until later. Because at some point you get so frustrated that you need to just chunk it down and say, all right, I just need to do those three things, and that's good enough, and then I will come back to this later.

Sometimes when you come back to things later, you realize you didn't necessarily need to do that anyway, and I think sometimes what we think of as finishing energy is something we've overestimated and turned into something massive.

So, you mentioned marketing, but many authors now, obviously there's so much information and everyone's doing it differently, and so you can feel like all my finishing energy is all of this stuff, all these sites and all this thing; you don't need to do all of that. So, figure out what it is you need to do to finish the project and then move on.

Again, we always have to come back to books later anyway. So, I don't know, what do you think about that?

Orna Ross: Yeah, I think there's a huge amount of wisdom in that. I remember a very big publisher saying to me once, a book is never finished. It just gets finished when everybody's sick of it.

Joanna Penn: Yeah, being sick of it is a real feeling, isn't it? It's like, I am so over this.

Orna Ross: I don't care anymore now. I cared so much last week and now I don't care at all. It's got to go for me. It's got to go to somebody else, and it's the same when the editor feels they've done all they can, and so on. That's when it's finished, essentially, and it gets across the line.

So, I think if you are struggling with finishing energy, it can help you to do some things like have a specific finishing plan and visualize the end. Think about how you're going to feel when it's done. Keeping that end in mind, do set a deadline. It's really important to have a finishing date in mind. I know there's that quote, I love the sound that deadlines make as they go swooshing by, and I know that sound well, but deadlines are really important. Share the work with somebody that you trust, and just having the deadline to hand it over to them is important, and they can come back with a fresh perspective and make it feel like it's a real thing.

I do want to say though that sometimes people don't finish because there is actually a skill gap. There is something that is needed. So, do take a moment to consider that if you have been struggling in terms of finishing, and again production wise, marketing wise, whatever you might be struggling with, if you have a skill gap, do take the time to recognize that.

Yeah, I think that's about all we can do. Just let it go then. You will learn more from finishing, and letting something go, and putting it out there, and seeing what comes back, and starting something new, than you will from going around and around and making it perfect.

Joanna Penn: Yeah, and then I know I'm bad at celebrating the end of a project. So, Catacomb is out, but it's funny, I was thinking about this, which is the celebration for me is starting energy.

Orna Ross: Starting the new one. No, that doesn't count. You'll do that anyway. You have to celebrate.

Joanna Penn: I'm like, okay, great. I can just start on something else, which I'm really excited about. But no, I know I need to be better at that.

We all have strengths and weaknesses, like I am very good on finishing energy and I'm very good on starting energy, but pushing through energy, I know I struggle as much as anyone. And yet I know I always point to Lindsay Broca, who's a friend, amazing at doing words. I mean, she does like 10,000 words a day, and that's incredible, but she has no problem in that area. So, I don't know where she has a problem, but we all have different problems at different stages, and different problems with different books.

So, we mentioned my shadow book, which will be my next book. I started that probably 25 years ago when I studied Jungian psychology at university. So, whether that's a starting problem or what, I don't know, but I'm getting there, and it's like the ripening of that book has taken a long time. So, yeah, sometimes you could say that I've done badly with that project, but equally it's time wasn't ready, and I finished a ton of other things in the meantime.

So, this is the difficult thing, isn't it? As a creative, there's never just one rule for everything and you have to lean into your intuition. I guess the problem, is if you're not starting anything, if you're not finishing anything, then you know there's a problem.

Orna Ross: Definitely. I think the other thing is, for me speaking personally, it's about enjoying each of those different energies, all of them, and giving them all their due. I think that's the challenge, because with a creative life, it's how you do it that will matter more in the end than what you did.

So, for me, reminding myself to stay where I am, and yes, you can visualize the end as a goal, as an intention, but actually being where you are, allowing yourself to be there, fully inhabiting that, and learning the lessons from that different phase, so that you can take it in the next time, and that's how we grow.

Sometimes, you're absolutely right, like the shadow book, we have to grow into a project. The project I'm doing now, similarly, I had to grow into it. I did sort of a half-assed version earlier, and now it's grown into something that I didn't want it to be. I resisted it for years. I was, go away, but eventually I had to give into it. So, sometimes the book knows more than we do, and we have to follow through, but I think being true to the energy of the phase that we are in is probably, for me, the most important thing.

Joanna Penn: Yes. Okay, that is it for today, but what we wanted to talk about was, there are some changes coming. Of course, we talked a bit about some of our changes in our businesses, there's always change. So Orna, tell us what are some of the changes that people can expect?

Orna Ross: Yeah, so, we'll be taking our usual production break in August, and always we do a little bit of a revamp, but this year we're doing quite a change with podcast.

So, for years, I think since we started, we've had beginners, advanced, member Q&A, and our inspirational indie author interviews, and so on. We're shaking up the formula and our blog and our guidebooks are all constructed around the seven processes of publishing, which is editorial, design, production, marketing, promotion, and rights licensing.

So, we are going to restructure the podcast so it falls more clearly into those sorts of divisions, and dropping the idea of beginner and advanced, because as we were saying earlier, we're advanced in some things and beginners at others, and we always need to improve, and we all have strengths and weaknesses. So, recognizing that.

So, we'll be back in September, the first Friday in September with the podcast but we will explain then fully what you can expect.

There will be slight shifts in personnel as well. We've got a new content person coming on board this week and some other changes in the team. So yeah, it's all change around here, but still lots of good self-publishing advice is what you can expect, as always.

Joanna Penn: Yes, and we will still be doing the Orna and Jo show on different things as time progresses. So, we're not saying goodbye, we're just changing things up, but you can certainly expect to see us again at some point.

Okay. Anything else, Orna?

Orna Ross: No, that's pretty much it for now. Members look out for your member magazine, which will be coming in August. Lots of really good stuff in there, particularly our cover story this time is on part-time or full-time, and which works best for you and managing your energies within that. So, very relevant to today's podcast.

And yeah, if you'd like to be part of our case studies for the research, it's [email protected]

Joanna Penn: Fantastic. All right, everyone. Happy writing,

Orna Ross: and happy publishing!

Author: Howard Lovy

Howard Lovy is an author, book editor, and journalist. He is also the Content and Communications Manager for the Alliance of Independent Authors, where he hosts and produces podcasts and keeps the blog updated. You can find more of his work at https://howardlovy.com/


This Post Has One Comment
  1. Just so you know. In the transcript Joanna’s website has a typo. It should be jfpennbooks.com. Two “n” , not one.

    And thank you for another brilliant podcast, and being an example of change and pivoting!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Latest advice, news, ratings, tools and trends.

Back To Top
×Close search