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Focus On Your Strengths As An Indie Author To Beat ‘Comparison-itis:’ Advanced Self-Publishing Podcast With Orna Ross And Joanna Penn

Focus On Your Strengths As An Indie Author To Beat ‘Comparison-itis:’ Advanced Self-Publishing Podcast With Orna Ross and Joanna Penn

In this episode: Focus on your strengths. “Comparison-itis” is really just comparing yourself to other people in an unfavorable way. It is, of course, permissible, even desirable, to compare yourself to other people and to have role models. But “comparison-itis” is where you look around and think other people have it easier or are doing better, getting more accolades, or selling more, or writing better. You’re comparing yourself to others in such a way that it’s either stopping you completely in your tracks, or it’s making you not feel good about what you do and how you’re doing it. Unfortunately, it’s pretty widespread in the indie community.

In this #AskALLi Advanced Podcast, Orna Ross and Joanna Penn talk about how to relax and be yourself as a writer.

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Show Notes

Clifton Strengths

Becca Syme Strengths for Writers

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 democratising, empowering potential of author-publishing. For more information about Orna, visit her website: http://www.ornaross.com

Read the Transcripts: Focus On Your Strengths

Joanna Penn: Welcome to the Alliance of Independent Authors, Advanced Self-Publishing salon with me, Joanna Penn and Orna Ross. Hi Orna.

Orna Ross: Hi Joanna. Hello everyone.

Joanna Penn: Hello everyone. This time we are focusing on a new topic, focus on your strengths as an indie author – ways to beat comparison-itis. And this is a super important topic because we’re always comparing ourselves to others.

So, we will get into the topic in a minute. But first up, we always like to give you some news and what’s happening. So, Orna, what’s happening with ALLi?

Orna Ross: I guess the biggest thing, always around this time of year, is SelfPubCon, the Self-Publishing Advice Conference. So, we are right in the thick of preparation.

It’s on the 23rd and 24th of October, so just around the corner. We’ve got a fantastic line-up of speakers, sponsors, and all sorts of interesting things happening at selfpublishingadviceconference.com. If anybody hasn’t registered already for their three free days.

Also, our latest short guide for authors is Children’s Book Publishing, which is one we’ve been asked for, for a while, and we worked on that with the wonderful Karen Inglis, our children’s book advisor, and that is back from the editor now and shortly about to go.

Joanna Penn: Oh, that’s great, and I think this is one of the big shifts, we always talk about what’s changed in a decade of indie, and when we started out, it was really hard for children’s authors. The wisdom was, don’t do it, because it’s actually really hard, and now as Karen’s shown, and a lot of the indies in the community, children’s books are having a real heyday, you know, indie children’s books, there’s a lot of opportunity. So, I’m excited about that, I’m not doing any, but I’m excited for people to get that guidebook, because I think that’s super important.

Orna Ross: I think it’s really interesting. It’s one of the things we’re going to be talking about a little bit later on in the show, is that it is possible to succeed as an indie at anything. Anybody who says, indies can’t do this that or the other are wrong, and the interesting thing about, the most interesting thing, about children’s books is that it’s still 80% to 90% print, and yet people like Karen have sold now into six figures.

Joanna Penn: Oh, multiple, hundreds of thousands, hundreds of them.

Orna Ross: Okay, I haven’t been keeping an eye on her. Every time I look at her website, the number she’s sold has gone up. So, yeah, multi-hundreds of thousands, and definitely she would have been told that it just wasn’t possible to do that. So, yes, important.

Joanna Penn: Yeah. That is coming out. So, I have put out, The Relaxed Author this month, with Mark Leslie Lefebvre, and it’s going down well in the community. And in fact, it does again, tie into today because one of the reasons we wanted to write the relax author is because everyone gets so het up and anxious comparing themselves to others, trying to do things that don’t fit with themselves. So, that’s out. Also, Tomb or Relics goes to my editor tomorrow, so I’m just finishing the edits. I’ve just printed it out all over again, it’s like the fourth time, I’m really over it. I’m at that ‘over it’ stage, but that’s happening, and I’m going on another pilgrimage, another long walk, these pandemic long walks, and I have pretty much decided I’m going to have a series of travel memoirs and I’m planning that, possibly under another brand, which would be crazy.

So, I’m thinking about these things and maybe we’ll talk about author branding in another session next year or something, because I really have a lot of questions about that, even though I’ve been doing it so long. And what about you?

Orna Ross: Yes. I am finishing, and this will excite you, Jo, because he’d been hand-in-hand with me through all of this, I am finishing my next novel. Almost there on the final draft, and it’s great being back here, writing fiction, where I’m happiest, but I’m also really interested in all that has happened in between, and why I couldn’t have written this until now. It’s interesting to me.

I am sponsoring a story award, which I’d like to tell people about. The Green Stories Award, it’s called. It’s with the university of Southampton, and Denise Baden is an ALLi member, and she’s super interested, as am I, in the potential of fiction to take the green message beyond the converted. So, telling stories in which we get our focus off the problems and on to the solutions. It’s just, at this point, just letting people know that it exists, and we’ll let you know a little bit later in the year when it’s actually open for entries, but if you have any interest in green topics and you have a good story, short story, or a novel, there’s a short story prize as well. I’m sponsoring the novel prize. So, think about the award and maybe get writing that story if you haven’t already.

Joanna Penn: Fantastic. Okay. So, did you also want to mention, you said there, new phase, new website?

Orna Ross: Oh yes. There’s so much happening, I really feel like the last few months have been a whole new phase for me, in terms of, I moved, well, I haven’t quite moved, I have one foot in London very much still, but I’m also spending a lot of time down by the coast, the south coast, here in England and in St. Leonard’s on Sea, and everything changed at the same time. So, I’m working on a new website as well, which is the last thing I needed to be doing in the middle of so many of the things that seem more important, but you know, when you just get to the stage where your website just feels like it does not represent you at any level anymore. So yeah, I should have a new website. I’d next time we talk.

Joanna Penn: Oh, well, that’s exciting. We’ll definitely have to put a branding thing on the list then, because I feel that this is the other thing where we are having the years of writing and publishing and all these different books and things, is that you do change, and what’s nice is that we can keep changing, and as the world changes and we do, you don’t have to stay in one box, which I think traditional publishing a lot of the time wants people to just stay in one genre or stay in one box, stay in one brand, and we can do different things. So, yeah, let’s talk more about that at some point.

What is comparison-itis?

But let’s get into today’s topic, which is about focusing on your strengths as an indie author, ways to beat comparison-itis. So, tell us a bit, so, what is comparison-itis?

Orna Ross: It’s really just comparing yourself to other people in an unfavourable way. So, ‘itis’ it’s short for fever, I think, isn’t it? Yeah. So, it basically doesn’t feel good. So, it’s 100%, not only permissible, but desirable, I think, yourself to compare yourself to other people, and to have models to look at how other people are doing things; that’s how we learn as indies, very much so.

But comparison-itis is where you look around you, and you think other people have it easier, are doing better, getting more accolades, selling more, writing better, you know, you’re comparing yourself to others in such a way that it’s either stopping you completely in your tracks, or it’s making you not feel good about what you do and how you’re doing it, or it’s making you copy people when actually they’re not a good model for you. And it’s pretty widespread in the community. I think. There are all sorts of assumptions all over the place that there’s only one way to do things. People look at a successful person and say, I won’t what they have, and without looking and seeing, does it suit their way of doing things?

So, that’s kind of my understanding of it, and ALLi member, Lorna Fergusson, was doing a survey among authors of things that held them back and was very surprised to find a comparison-itis was up there at number one, or number two for most people. So, that’s what kind of spurred us to talk about it and decide to make a show out of it.

Joanna Penn: Yeah, and it came up in our Relaxed Author survey, as well. We asked two questions, you know, what stresses you out about being an author, and what relaxes you? Those are the two questions and yeah, the stress of comparing oneself to others is huge. But it’s interesting, because you mentioned there the importance of models and goals, and it’s really hard to balance, because what you could say is, oh, well, I just won’t look at anyone else. I won’t look at what anyone else is doing. I’ll just pull away from everything. I’ll just be in my own little world. And that’s not good either, because you want to know what’s possible. What you need to do is, it’s more like, don’t put yourself down because you’re not doing that, and that’s what we’re going to talk about in terms of changing the way you think about it.

But also, on the other end, there’s this, sort of, jealousy, which is also a negative emotion of, like you said, that person’s doing better than me, but what we’re really talking about here is when you just feel negative and small, and like there’s a ladder and you’re at the bottom, and that’s the feeling we’re trying to beat.

And it comes up in loads of different ways. So, for me, there’s a couple of things that I have that I still struggle with. One is the whole agents and publishers thing, as much as I love being an indie author, and I’m very happy with my income and my writing life and everything, I still have that niggly, oh, well, I never got an agent. Well, I have had an agent, but I’ve never had a big publishing deal, and I’ve never done this, I’ve never won an award for my fiction, for example. And I’ve put all these things on it where I am somehow a lesser person or writer because I haven’t achieved these things. And then within the indie space, for me, it’s the ads. Why can’t I just do ads myself without falling apart?

But what about you? What do you have comparison-itis over?

Orna Ross: I think, for me, it’s probably how long it takes me to write my fiction. In an indie world where people literally pump out books, and I know the books are different and all that kind of thing, but I have tried everything to write faster and I stopped, and I’m so glad I stopped. And it’s, of course, that ironic thing, that when you stop pushing, you actually move faster. And I think that’s the important thing about comparison-itis. One thing is the feeling that you have, and it’s not nice to have feelings that are not positive, and we’ll talk a bit more later on about dealing with that.

But the other thing is that, for some people, and I think this is mostly, it hasn’t stopped you in your tracks, it doesn’t stop you doing what you love, you carry on, and the same is true for me. I have kept on in my own way, and at times it hasn’t felt good, because I feel like I should have, you know, I look and I cannot believe how long it is since I put some fiction out, for example, and that does not feel good, but it doesn’t stop me. It’s when it actually becomes something, and I see a lot of people in the community where it just actually creates a huge stumbling block, because they don’t know what to do next, they’re kind of paralyzed comparing themselves to other people, and I think that’s where it gets pretty serious.

Comparing strengths and weaknesses as an indie author

Joanna Penn: Yes. So, what we wanted to talk about today was strengths. And over the years, both of us have delved into knowing ourselves, I think knowing yourself is super important, and quite recently, ALLi member and advisor, Sacha Black, put us on to doing Clifton Strengths Assessment, and I also want to shout out Becker Syme who has a Strengths for Writers program, and she’s been on my podcast talking about it. And so, you and I took the Clifton’s strengths assessment, and at the time it was funny, because we were like, oh, we’ll just do it to shut Sacha up, because she kept saying to us, oh, you really must do this, it’s amazing, and we were like, yeah, yeah, we know ourselves, we’re fine. And then we did it, and we were like, oh, that is very interesting, and it really helped me in a place where I’ve been struggling, which we’ll talk about in a minute. But it’s almost like I felt there was too much about myself that wasn’t, not right, but I felt uncomfortable. For example, let’s talk about ALLi, and the fact that you do an amazing job at community, and I’m always feeling like, why am I so bad at community? Why can’t I go to a writer’s group? People keep asking me to join these writing groups, and I’m like, I’m just not a group type person. I can be sociable or whatever, but I’m like, is there something wrong with me that I can’t do that? And I was also thinking, well, I need to stop doing all this futurist stuff because people really aren’t interested and it’s a waste of time, or should I go and get a job in the futurists, kind of, sector?

So, I was having all these questions about what to do, and then I did this strengths assessment and it’s really helped. So, should I go into my strengths, or have you got a sort of, overarching thing first?

Orna Ross: Yeah, just to talk about, for me, tapping back into that whole thing about fiction writing, you know, very often in the indie community, you’ll hear the thing, you know, productivity not perfectionism, and that if you are being too perfectionist, so being too picky, and it’s a form of resistance, it’s a form of being afraid, and not wanting to put your stuff out there, and I didn’t really feel that, that was true, but nonetheless, I began to wonder, was it true, because of the way in which things were happening for me.

So, we did our strengths and you found that?

Joanna Penn: Yeah, so I found, so just to let people know. Essentially, you do this little thing, and you say yes or no to all these questions and move these things around, and essentially it will come up with what are your strengths? So, there’s a whole load of things that are in a list, and we just talk about our top five, which are like your best things, even though everything’s on the list.

So, my top five were learner, intellection, strategic, input, and futuristic. And, of course, we’re not going to get into all the detail of these, but you can pretty much tell by these words, for me, learner, intellection, and input, has helped me so much because, again, I can’t sit down and write 10,000 words. And I, this year, I have “only” written one novella for my fiction, and I’ve been like, why can’t I just write 10,000 words a day, like Lindsay Buroker? I struggle, Lindsay’s a friend of mine and I’m like, seriously, where does she get those ideas? And this has made me feel so much better, because I’m like, well, I’m a learner and I need input, and the intellection is the thinking about things, and for me, that’s the travel, I need to read and listen and experience in order to create.

That was a big weight lifted off my shoulders, because I felt like, oh, well, then it’s okay. My way of writing, which is heavy on the research and heavy on input is part of my personality, and it’s a strength, not a weakness.

And then just to say briefly about the other two, strategic and futuristic, I was like, well, there you go, those are strengths of mine. So, instead of thinking, oh, there’s something wrong with me because I can’t do the detail, minutia of ads, I need to say, yes, I’m strategic, futuristic, and I can see things that perhaps other people can’t see, even though I can’t do the things that some other people can do. So, it became, this is a strength rather than a weakness, and it gave me the permission to basically just double down on those things and say, do you know, how I feel when I do the future stuff? How I feel when I learn? That’s what brings me alive. So, why on earth would I try and get rid of those things? Again, tapping into those feelings of how I love to do stuff.

So, what about you? Tell us about yours.

Orna Ross: Yeah, it was a very similar thing of having that permission. And I think there’s something to be discussed sometimes about permission, as writers and as publishers, who gives you permission, and it’s an ongoing thing. I used to think of it as something, somebody gives you permission, you know, once and off you go, because when you start being an indie author, very often, you need that. You need somebody to say, yeah, it’s okay to do this, you don’t have to have a publisher, just go for it. But actually, permission is something you, kind of, have to give yourself over and over again, or somebody else, or the Clifton Strengths program gives it to you, and that’s what hugely happened for me.

Because again, you know, I realized, being maximiser was my number one, and that gave me the permission. It, kind of, said, no, that doesn’t mean you are a picky perfectionist, it means that you lean into excellence, and that’s okay, but you have to realize, either that’s going to take a lot longer timewise, or else you have to ease off and realize that 80% is good enough, which would you prefer? And like you, it actually makes me feel good to fiddle with it and not put it out there until it is ready. I was rushed into putting stuff out before, from this feeling of, I should be producing, and 80% is good enough, but I didn’t feel good about it, and I ended up actually withdrawing the books.

So, this just completely gave me permission to do that, and yeah, my other ones were, strategic, as well, ideation, positivity, and activator, and it’s the combination of them, I think, is also the interesting thing about this Clifton Strengths program that is different, I think, from others. I love these, I’m a sucker for these kinds of things anyway, but I think it really is an excellent program in terms of understanding, not just your strengths, but what was also interesting was weaknesses, completely forget about them, let them go. Stop putting any energy into that, and maximisers are actually quite discerning about where they put their energy, but I think I was being, kind of, led to try and improve weaknesses, rather than leaning into strengths.

So, that was the big outcome for me.

Joanna Penn: And out of yours, what do you think? I mean, obviously the only one we share in our top five is strategic, which is so interesting to me too, because we’ve been friends for a decade, we think similarly in a lot of ways, but this also showed me why sometimes we do complement each other, because we are quite different in some of the, and we’ve always known we’re different in a lot of personality things. For example, I have been frustrated with the way that you do things sometimes, where we’ve done stuff together, and now I’m like, oh, I see that it works that way. And it’s really, it’s actually helped me to feel a lot more patient, I think, with people, for example, who are not strategic thinkers, and I’m like, oh right, their strength is in something else, and I can’t just force someone else to think that way. All I can do is offer what I have out into the world, and people who are interested will listen and people who aren’t won’t, and that’s fine. And so, it’s to stop forcing myself into a different box, but also stop forcing other people into a box.

Orna Ross: I think that’s really important. I mean, I learned a huge thing about you, because all five of yours, as well as having the 21 different categories, they’re in boxes, influencer, strategic and relationships, are the three overall categories, and all five of your strengths were in strategic. I bet that’s a record

Joanna Penn: It is quite funny, but also you, for me, it was like, none of my top ones were in relationships. And that also helped me, because that explains this, why can’t I be in a writing group? Or why don’t I want to be a part of that?

And of course, you know, I love being part of a community, but I want to be a bit of a step back from a community, whereas your right in there. So, what is it about your strengths there that you think have led into your ability to lead a community like ALLi?

Orna Ross: Yeah, I suppose I hadn’t thought about that. All of them, actually, the combination of them, because while yours were all five were in one area, mine was, kind of, balanced across the three. Relationship was in my top five, I had a relationship one in my top five. I had two influencer ones, and two strategic. And so, I think it’s that, probably the influencer wanting to influence how people perceive indie authors, how self-publishing develops, how people think about self-publishing, it was all very important in it.

And also, the thing you said about recognizing difference in other people, you know, we’re too inclined when we meet difference to see it as a weakness, actually, because we like our own strengths. It’s just human nature to be like that, but to see difference and strength, I have found this really useful in terms of leading a team, and in terms of leading ALLi, just in understanding the team, the people that I work with, and seeing their strengths, being able to categorize them in my mind and say, ah, that’s positivity, I bet that’s one of their strengths, you know, that kind of thing has been read really good. So, yeah. I guess we’re recommended authors to do them if they have comparison-itis.

The difference between strengths and skills for indie authors

Joanna Penn: Oh yeah, and it’s funny because when we talked about comparison-itis. So, for example, the “skill” of writing a book a month, which is a skill, also is related to a type of personality, but we don’t know what that is, and it might be across all different strengths, but I think it’s funny because we’ve ended up talking about personality strengths, whereas what we often get comparison-itis around are, sort of, skills, like writing fast, but I think that’s what’s so nice, is we can take a step back and say, okay, we think differently, therefore we can achieve differently as well.

Orna Ross: And it’s a much more creative way of thinking about it, really, when you realize what you’re doing, because when you’re looking at those other things, you’re looking at the output, you’re looking at the product and not the process. And always, in terms of growth for us as creators, as writers, as publishers, it’s the process that does it, and that is something that you develop your own particular process that suits your own personality. And that’s, I think, a bit of a hole in the community at the moment. I don’t think that people necessarily understand, they might understand their writing process, but how many people in the community really understand their publishing process, what works best for them, or how it might be best for them to make their money, because there are so many different models that you could make money at, but everybody’s just thinking about one kind of model all the time. So, there’s a lot here, I think, to be unpacked and yeah, hope to do that over the next year or so.

Joanna Penn: Yes. So, you can just put in Clifton Strengths, it’s only like $50 or something to take the test. I think it’s Gallup, the company. Becca Symes’ site, and again, I’ve interviewed Becca about this, but she also has coaching for authors to actually help people identify how those strengths will work best in the indie way of life, and the indie way of writing and publishing.

It feels almost like one of these more maturation stages of indie, that we’re now talking about this type of thing, rather than just how-to information, and you can learn skills, but does it feel good, I guess, to do it? So, I’m quite excited about that.

How can indie authors beat comparison-itis?

So, should we talk about some ways to beat comparison-itis? And again, the word beat is probably not what we mean anymore, it’s probably just learning to live with it. I don’t think it ever goes away. So, I guess we’ve started number one, understand and recognize your strengths. Obviously, we’ve talked about that. I also do want to mention the Myers Briggs. I’m INFJ on the Myers-Briggs scale, and learning about that over a decade ago, understanding that I’m an introvert, that changed my life at that point, because I thought there was something wrong with me, that I couldn’t be in a crowd, that I didn’t want to talk to people for too long, that I found video so tiring.

And so, I feel like understanding and recognizing our strengths is a process you have to keep going through, as we’ve talked about. And this won’t be the end of it, there’ll be lots more that we’ll learn. But if you get to know yourself, then that will really help you.

Orna Ross: Absolutely, and then the question of your weaknesses automatically rises with that, and so, I think coming out of that is very much about letting go of your weaknesses, and just before we let the Clifton Strengths thing go, one of the things I loved about it was the way it distinguished between those weaknesses, which you essentially can recognize by not liking them and not feeling good about them, but they also talk about the shadow side of your strengths. So, every strength that you have will also have a shadow side, and it can be worth just shining a bit of light on that, and trying to integrate that into the strength, which is a different thing from letting go of things that you’re just positively not ever going to enjoy.

Joanna Penn: So, what’s an example with one of yours, of a shadow side that you thought was interesting?

Orna Ross: Well, what I was talking about earlier on was that really the perfectionism, and that perfectionism could become a problem, and it could become a pickiness, a kind of fear, a resistance to letting go and to learning. So, once you make sure that, that’s not happening, you can accept the strength side of it, and that is different to say, you know, I’m never going to be a highly technical person. I’m never going to be somebody that gets stuck in at the detailed level of tech. So, that’s something I would just let go of completely, which is not the same kind of weakness.

Joanna Penn: And just on mine, the futurist one, which is what I’m excited about, the shadow side of that strength is that I go so deep down the rabbit hole and get so far ahead from other people that I don’t bring people with me. So, it was a really good thing, which basically said, look, you can get excited about these futurist things, but you have to then communicate this at certain levels in order to bring people along with you. Otherwise, you’re just going to be all alone out there, talking about things no one understands. And that’s helped, because that’s what I try and do on my futurist episodes of the podcast, and it’s that understanding that other people aren’t necessarily there yet in their thinking, and that’s okay. So yeah, I found those really interesting. And just so people know, you get a report, and it has all this stuff in, and I’ve printed it all out, I’ve got it on my desk, and I sort of look at it now and then and think about it. There’s a lot to think about really, isn’t there?

Orna Ross: There is lots to think about, and it’s a sort of unfolding, you know, I think there are layers of different things that jump out at you when you’ve been doing it for a little while. So, it’s rich and it’s multi-layered, as it should be, because we are multifaceted human beings.

One more thing on the weaknesses that I think is important to say, there are certain things, you know, when I was talking a minute ago about not liking to do things, the thing that jumped straight into my mind was a number of indie authors who say they don’t like marketing, for example. And that’s not a weakness. That is a skill that you have to have as a publisher. It’s simply one of the processes of publishing, and so, you don’t like it, but there’s a whole load of thinking that goes around that which can be unpicked. But also, if there are things that you specifically don’t like, for example, for me, minutia of technology, I will never be somebody who uploads podcasts, for example, because that’s just a waste of my time because it would take me ridiculously long and I’d probably, you know, sent it out backwards or something. But if there are things you don’t like to do, then you get other people to do them for you, and I think that’s really, really important.

I know you did that with your ads, didn’t you, because you don’t like doing ads?

Joanna Penn: Yes. So, I think you’re right. And marketing, as we know, marketing is not one thing, there are so many things that there are. And yes, so I pay someone to do my Amazon ads for my Joanna Penn non-fiction brand, and, for example, I don’t normally do videos anymore. The video we do together is often, it’s like the only video I do now, because I made a decision that video is just so tiring for me, that I would just double down on audio.

So, I’m not saying, oh, I hate marketing in general, what I can say is I don’t feel good trying to do the minutia of ads, and I don’t feel good doing video, but I will do other things.

So, again, there are all these different aspects that come into your personality, and you have to figure out what works best for you.

Although, Mark Leslie Lefebvre, my co-author of The Relaxed Author, he is all over video and he’s all over social media with all these little graphics and all of this, and it’s brilliant because I don’t do that. And he does that. So, as you say, it’s either paying someone to work with you, or if you have a collaborative relationship, then you can do that together. And actually, it brings me to marriage. I’ll just talk about it, because Jonathan left his job five years ago, six years ago, to join The Creative Penn, and I think if we had done the strengths assessment together, we would have realized that, that wasn’t going to work long-term, because actually his strengths, he’s even more strategic than I am, and neither one of us, like, I just wanted him to do all the detailed minutiae of ads and stuff, and that was just not his skill, just not his strength. And so, you can’t put people into these pigeonholes. You have to let people do the thing that is good for them.

Focus on your strengths

So, finally doubling down, or we’ve got here, let it point the way. What do you mean by that?

Orna Ross: So, I think, we have emotions about stuff. So, we were talking about our strengths, and very often when you’re doing the things that you like doing, you kind of feel strong about it, so you feel good about it, but thinking specifically about comparison-itis, and the feeling that arises when you compare yourself to a particular person, I think it’s really worth going deeply into that and seeing what’s behind it.

So, rather than just trying to suppress it or cut it away or say, it’s a bad thing and we shouldn’t have it, and even trying to beat it, invite it to communicate with us and tell us, because if you are feeling that bad, and you’re looking at somebody in particular who’s making you feel that way, then there’s gold there. There’s actually a lot of information for you about the way you should go, and the way you would like to go. So, I think when you find that particular person, or particular situation, just doing some free writing around it, just asking it, what it is specifically about it that makes you feel bad, what you would like to be doing as a result. Is it a writing issue or is it a publishing? Sometimes we get very mixed up between those things. So, you know, we’re kind of comparing ourselves to somebody around their success and their outcomes, but when we actually look at it, we’re not even sure if they write the way we want to write, or, you know, is it a publishing thing or is it a writing thing?

So, yeah, I think it can be a really useful exploration tool to go a bit more deeply into the comparison-itis and what it might be trying to tell us.

Joanna Penn: Yes. So, take notice is the big thing. Take notice of how you’re feeling, and then, as you say, is it really just a resistance to something in general that you can learn, or is it related to who you are as a person? Which yeah, you have to double down on your strengths, which brings us to our final one.

So, it is then, once you’ve identified those strengths, to really look at doing more of that, so I’m embracing my future side, I’m attending all these conferences online, and putting that into how I’m communicating on my futurist episodes on my podcast, and basically giving myself permission, so we talked about the permission, to spend money on learning about things that can go into that area, and yeah, just that permission thing is probably the biggest side of it.

Orna Ross: Yeah, really good, and I’m the same. I realized in doing it how much I had got into a routine of the way that I did things, and for me also, it’s about investing in myself and in excellence generally, and in searching out people who really stimulate me and grow how I’m thinking, and making the ideas pool much, much bigger. So, in a sense, I feel I’ve been a little bit too contained within our sector and our community over the last 10 years, and I think that did need to happen for those 10 years, but I now feel, and this has been part of that, very much about. So, a twin, sort of, a thing on the one hand leaning into, as I said, excellence and reaching out to other people who can stimulate growth in me, but also paying attention to things that I might’ve before just kind of brushed aside and said, no, I can’t go there. Don’t think, just do, you know, get on with it, kind of thing. Don’t look right, don’t look left. So, there’s been a reaching out, and a going in, which has been, I think, very enriching already. I don’t really know what’s going to come out of it, but I’m looking forward to it.

Joanna Penn: Yes, it almost feels like this is a new start, or a reboot, or something, where we’re moving into, well, we’ve talked about moving into new phases. I also think that maybe that’s where we are because of the pandemic, we’re at more than 18 months now of pandemic times, and as we start to emerge, I think we really are starting to emerge in a lot of countries, we are looking to reassess and figure out what we want for the next stage.

I’ve also hit a decade full time. You had a big birthday last year. And I feel like there’s a lot of things that people are thinking right now as to how we move forward, and again, like I mentioned, the maturation of the indie space, we’re established now, we’re part of the creator economy. So, it’s time to start looking at what’s next, I guess, and also, it’s a decade of ALLi, right, in 2022?

Orna Ross: Yes. I agree with you completely. It’s all of those things, and I think each individual indie has this multifaceted personality, and I think the indie author community is this huge broad church of all sorts of personalities, and it is definitely a sign of maturity to begin to really allow ourselves to distinguish these things in that way. So, yeah, I think it’s a very positive time for our community as well, because we are very well placed to cope with the kinds of things that are coming down the track, much better placed than authors who haven’t ever self-published, and other people who are still looking, or operating, within a world that still does exist there, the traditional way of doing things, for want of a better way to talk about it, and we see that at a societal level, as well. I think Brexit comes in there and the changes in the US come in there, there’s so much going on worldwide that we, as a community, feed into and, as writers, obviously, all of that is grist for mill.

Joanna Penn: Indeed, and as ever, we are excited about moving forward and moving on, and we’re not going anywhere, we’re still enjoying our journey, which I think is also exciting, because sometimes it can feel, you know, I was feeling a while back that it was all getting a bit stale, and now I feel quite reinvigorated for the next steps.

So, what’s coming up this month, just remind people of what’s coming up?

Orna Ross: Yeah. We’ve got SelfPubCon, selfpublishingadviceconference.com. You can go there to register for three free days of wonderful presentations on the whole topic of Writing Craft. We don’t normally double down on writing in ALLi, we’re normally all about the publishing, but this time it’s all about the craft of writing. It’s always a great 24 hours, live to you wherever you are in the world for some part of the day, and we’ve got just fantastic speakers who are talking about all aspects of writing craft, and setting up your publishing process to reflect your writing craft and to bring out the best in your writing, as well. What have you got coming up?

Joanna Penn: Fantastic. Well, I’m doing my next pilgrimage, and I’ll be back in edits with Tomb of Relics, lots of, sort of, I feel like I’ve got quite a productive end of year. It felt like a lot of this year was not good, for many reasons, and now I feel like I’ve got a lost woosh energy in this last quarter, which is a relief, to be honest. But in November, our topic, our next month, is going to be new opportunities and technologies for authors, which is a bit of a catch-all, and we’ll be talking about lots of new things that have been happening and that we’re excited about as we move into, almost 2022, which is kind of crazy.

So yes, that will be next month.

Orna Ross: Fantastic. Yeah. Which follows on really nicely from our topic this month of looking forward and growing into the future. So, yeah, great. Look forward to seeing you all then.

Until then, happy writing.

Joanna Penn: And happy publishing.

Howard Lovy

Howard Lovy has been a journalist for more than 30 years, and now amplifies the voices of independent author-publishers and works with authors as a developmental editor. Howard is also a freelance writer specializing in Jewish issues whose work appears regularly in Publishers Weekly, the Jewish Daily Forward, and Longreads.

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