You did it—you made the decision to Indie publish. You are now in control of your fate. So why don’t you feel happier? Maybe you love the control, but find yourself struggling with your traditionally published and hybrid friends. Or maybe your sales are nothing like you want them to be and you find yourself jealous. Or maybe you just aren’t experiencing the joy that writing once brought you.
You paste on a happy smile every day, renewing your commitment to your writing career. You tell yourself that going indie was the best decision you have ever made. You join the various Indie writing groups and find solace among the other writers—sort of. But inside, a piece of you quietly dies (or maybe, not so quietly). Procrastination of your daily writing becomes a new normal. When you do pump out the words and the books, you find yourself not as excited as you once were. You try to tell yourself that everyone goes through this—that once writing became a career, a job, this was to be expected. But you know there is more to what you’re feeling.
Why is this happening? The quick answer—fear.
The somewhat longer answer is this—creative people are, by definition, intense. You feel things at a deeper more profound level. As a result, you react more strongly to the peaks and valleys of life. This includes the peaks and valleys that occur in your creative life. This means that as your creative journey takes you on roads that differ from your expectations, you will have a reaction. As fear enters the process—which is will, I guarantee you—you will have a reaction. All of these intense reactions have the potential to throw you out of balance, which will lead to your despair.
So how can we solve this? First, it is important to understand the typical things that you can be sure of as you commit ourselves to an Indie path. This list is not exhaustive, but should help you begin to think about your personal journey:
- You will struggle to balance writing, marketing and other roles (like parent, spouse, day job).
- You will feel more exhausted than you can imagine
- Every time you think you have marketing strategies figured out (like the Amazon algorithms), they CHANGE. And NOT in your favor.
- Whatever worked yesterday for you, won’t work tomorrow. Period.
- You will fail!
- You will succeed!
- Neither will feel comfortable to you
More often than not, your response to the above “truths” will be based in some sort of fear. I know, I know, you are thinking this doesn’t apply to you—you aren’t afraid. You are excited.
While that may be true, I want you to hear me out. Do you every engage in any of these behaviors:
- Avoidance of writing or marketing tasks
- Excuses as to why something isn’t done
- Writer’s block of any form
These are all indicators that fear may be motivating your behavior.
For some of you, your behaviors resemble contentment. I mean, you are pleased with your progress so far and feel great. That is awesome, but I feel I need to help you recognize when that contentment goes too far, when it turns into complacency and numbness. If you are avoiding your writing, and resisting challenging yourself, then you need to do a little personal check. Contentment, when it turns to complacency and numbness, will kill your creativity and your career, leading to detachment from our emotional selves – something that can be a HUGE problem for your artistic self, not to mention the rest of you.
Getting back to fear, let’s talk about the “why” behind our fear. The reasons for our fear are plentiful. They vary based on where we are on our journey, ranging from the fear that our best work is behind us, or the fear that we will never be as successful as we want. Perhaps we fear that we are really a fraud—that we can’t maintain a creative life. Or perhaps we feel we have nothing unique to say. Regardless of the “why”, regaining a state of happiness requires us to recognize when we are afraid and make a conscious decision to move past the fear into a statement of happiness.
The fear busters below will help you begin to move forward:
- Recognize your fear triggers
- Let go of expectations and the past
- Get back to basics – craft and daily writing practice
- Set reasonable expectations and short-term goals
- Do whatever you are resisting anyway!
Here is a little exercise I like to do with my life events. Get a balloon and blow it up. Using a sharpie or other pen, write down on the balloon all of your expectations you had/have as you started down this Indie path. Using another color, write down your fears—all of them. Try to cover up that balloon with all of your angst!
Now…POP THE BALLOON! Seriously…pop it!
Feels great, doesn’t it!
Now that you’ve released your past and your angst, it is important to fill the void with happiness habits. Here are a few things that you may want to incorporate into your routine to cultivate the practice of experiencing joy in all you do:
- Authenticity – you are not expected to be anyone but yourself on this planet. Take a moment to appreciate who you are, quirks and all. Celebrate the uniqueness of your point of view and remember that being an artist means bestowing your unique perspective on the world!
- Service – nothing breeds happiness faster than being in service. How can you give back to others? Maybe mentor a young writer, critique something for a friend. The more “in-service” you can be, the more happiness you automatically create in your life
- Movement – We writer’s tend to be stagnant, sitting at our keyboards for hours and hours. Make a little time, every day if possible, to get moving. Dance, garden, take a walk—just do something to stimulate your physical body. Your creative self will thank you for it!
- Flow – Strive for more moments in the “flow” – you know, those cherished times when the words just pour from you and you lose all sense of time. Practice the habits of “free writing” everyday, giving yourself permission to write for the sake of writing…just like you used to do before you were published.
- Meaning – Speaking of meaning, add “meaning” to your life. We are all so much more than the mundane aspects of our lives. As you put yourself in service to the planet, cultivate the habit of mindfulness and meaning in all of your activities.
- Strengths – We all have gifts to share with the world. As artists, I think we have a profound duty to share our strengths. Don’t shirk away from this. Today, make a list of your strengths and give yourself at least one compliment daily. Yes, every day!
- Gratitude – finally, happiness and gratitude go hand in hand. No matter how big the trials we face, we have things for which we can feel gratitude. Develop the daily habit of identifying and acknowledging at least 3-5 things every day with inspire our gratitude. Some days, this will be a HUGE challenge. But the more we find the little things that are blessings in our lives, the more we focus on our abundance and admonish lack.
There you go—the beginning of your road to happiness. My deepest wish is for you to not only become Indie and Proud, but live from that space daily.
Enter this giveaway by Christine:
For more exercises or a deeper look at fear and its role in your life, check out Indie and Proud, available in digital format.