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Endings, Transitions, And New Beginnings: Advanced Self-Publishing Podcast With Orna Ross And Joanna Penn

Endings, Transitions, and New Beginnings: Advanced Self-Publishing Podcast With Orna Ross and Joanna Penn

The indie author’s life is full of creative transitions and transformations, which means closing one phase and beginning another. In this session, Orna Ross and Joanna Penn discuss their current transitions, lessons learned from years of growth, and the projects and approaches they left behind along the way.

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The indie author’s life is full of creative transitions and transformations, which means closing one phase and beginning another. @OrnaRoss and @thecreativepenn discuss their transitions. 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 democratising, empowering potential of author-publishing. For more information about Orna, visit her website: http://www.ornaross.com

Read the Transcripts: Endings, Transitions, and New Beginnings

Joanna Penn: Hello everyone, and 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.

What’s happening with ALLi, Orna Ross, and Joanna Penn this month?

Joanna Penn: Hello, here we are again. Today we're talking about endings, transitions, and new beginnings, in a different order but we will do all of these things. So, we will be getting to that in a moment, but as ever, we are writers, and so we like to give you a bit of an update as to what's going on. So, Orna what's happening with ALLi?

Orna Ross: ALLi, yeah, we are at the start of, and probably you'll hear me moaning for another month or two about this one, a big update of our Self-Publishing Advice Center, which is a little bit overdue.

Over a thousand blog posts, that's just the ones we're keeping, not counting the ones we're letting go, and a major reorganization and revamp so that we can separate out beginner's stuff from advanced stuff, and just generally make the site a lot more user-friendly. There is tons of good information there, but it's not always easy to find it, and it's kind of set up as a blog site because it has always been, that's how we've always thought about it, as the ALLi blog, but there is a lot more than a blog there. There's our Watchdog desk and ratings, and I'm putting in a planning section as well. So yeah, that is going to be going on.

We are also updating our Open up to Indie Authors campaign. What was a comprehensive overview guide has now been split into different sort of cohorts and people that we're going to be approaching, because things are shifting, things are actually beginning to open up, and of course, we took on the wonderful Melissa Addey a little while ago, and we'll be making that announcement officially this month and launching that.

And the third thing we're doing, which is kind of part of the Open up to Indie thing is gathering data. We are really sorely in need of some accurate statistics and they're very hard to come by, so we are actually putting some time, effort, and resources into trying to get a snapshot of where we are today, because you and I are talking a lot about the creator economy at the moment, but these new opportunities are making the indie publishing scene ever more fragmented, and it's getting harder and harder to see what's going on. So, we're trying to pull together some sort of a statistical picture, and then thinking about doing a survey ourselves a little bit later on in the year.

Joanna Penn: Yeah. Well, since one of our themes today is transitions, I'll just add that websites, oh my goodness, I think they're just in a permanent transition.

The Creative Penn is the same. Since 2008, I mean, I just use the search bar on my own website. I use the search bar on Self-Publishing Advice as well. So, there's a tip for everyone.

Orna Ross: Yes. We do often say that, just search for the topic. But the thing is, you maybe get 15 posts, and some of them are spot on and still current, and some haven't been updated for three or four years, or whatever it might be. So, it's just a major organization job, really.

Joanna Penn: Yeah. Well, you and I were joking beforehand about how there's always something new. I mean, we are just permanently in tech transition, I think, so that's definitely something.

Now, in terms of what I'm doing, I just got, How to Write a Novel back from my editor. So, I am going to be editing that, and in terms of the creator economy, I will be releasing that direct first in all format’s eBook, audiobook, and print, paperback, hardback, large print, workbook editions. All will be exclusive to me for at least the first month.

So, the idea is to take the biggest chunk of the sales direct to me, 95% royalties in my bank account that day, rather than doing, most of us, most people, most indies will launch to the stores first. So, I love the stores. Thank you, everyone. We love all our sponsors and everything, but this is a changing model. So, obviously we'll talk about that once we see if that actually works.

I did have a creative rest; I know you like talking about creative rest. I had a week in Greece and that was really good for just stopping and thinking. I read nine books that week.

Orna Ross: Wow. A rest, that's what Joanna Penn calls a rest, people.

Joanna Penn: And, of course, you and I have been working on our creator economy workshop, which we're running together this coming weekend. It's our first full day event together for, I think four or five years, because we stopped before the pandemic, and then of course the pandemic. So, we're talking new concepts, new technologies, new mindsets, and also running an event. So, we'll be talking about that as well. So, yeah, busy, busy. What about you?

Orna Ross: Yes, also busy. Also thinking and, I mean, I'm sure it's no coincidence that we've been working on this creative economy workshop, and then we're both thinking very much about publishing direct and all that, that means. So, I'm also trying to turn around, my website now is literally just for my sales and Patreon, there used to be all sorts of things there, and turning all the systems that are around it to try and point in that direction.

Yeah, and workshops, and updating the planners that go with those workshops, that's also what I have been focusing very much on, updating the creative business planners, again, with the creator economy more in mind. And I think one of the clear things there is that idea of direct first, and more generally, just thinking more and more about what would delight the reader, what will bring the reader closer, and how to nurture that relationship even more. So, that's very much where my head has been.

Joanna Penn: Although, we should say you still do poetry every day, right?

Orna Ross: I do poetry, I do at least three poems week. That's on Instagram. I mean, some of them are harmless, small little things, but yes, I do, I'm always writing.

Joanna Penn: That's a big deal. I mean, I'm more of a binge writer. Like, I'll do a book and then move into something else, and you have more of a constant than I do for sure.

What are transitions, and how can they effect indie authors?

Joanna Penn: Anyway, let's get into the topic for today, which is transitions, endings, and new beginnings.

So, basically when you've been in the industry as long as we have, which for me was 2008, really, when I got into it, and for you was?

Orna Ross: 1900, or something,

Joanna Penn: Certainly at least a decade before me, but you know that things change, the business changes, but also, we change, and this is so important. So, sometimes these changes are within our control. Sometimes these transitions are slow. Sometimes they are super abrupt. For example, the pandemic, how much did we all have to scramble in that period with our mindsets, our physical health, our mental health, our business models. But sometimes, as we're talking about the creator economy, it's this kind of slow change over time.

And all of these changes impact our creativity, how we make money, how we feel about our creativity and our business as well, our network. And as indie authors, we need to be comfortable with these kinds of constant transitions, beginnings, and endings.

So, we're going to start with transitions, moving from one phase to the next. Orna, do you want to start?

Orna Ross: Yeah. Well, like you said, sometimes we have transition thrust upon us and there's nothing we can do about it. So, obviously the pandemic thing is still what's very live in our minds, lockdown hit, and I mean, for authors, it probably wasn't as bad as for some other people who were used to getting up and going out into the world all the time, and then some people found it extremely challenging. And then of course, I think all of us, I don't think I know anybody who hasn't had COVID at this stage. So, you know, all these kinds of changes that affect our work, that's a transition. And in terms of getting comfortable with change, I think, understanding that, and understanding that change is the norm.

Then of course, there are the transitions that we actually are trying to make for ourselves. They're slower, they're under our control. It's really a matter of looking ahead and seeing, what do we want to create? So, for me, I'm currently looking ahead and trying to create a transition that will come for me in the future whereby I can transition into having a bit more writing time.

So, I'm setting up a publishing team who can help me with my publishing side, all the tasks and things that I don't have to do myself, and equally building more of a team all the time on the ALLI side. So, that's an example of the transition whereby it's something you're working towards, and it can take a long time. This isn't something that's going to happen overnight, but it's something that I welcome. So, I think that's the other thing about transitions, is it something you're actually trying to make happen yourself, or is it something that you're resisting? And that whole thing of the creative response to change, I think, is something that comes in very much there.

You're transitioning your business model, right?

Joanna Penn: Yeah. Well, I first wanted to wind the clock back. So, for people listening, you mentioned how long some of these planned transitions can take, so I pretty much decided I wanted to leave my job when I was an IT consultant way back, you know, it was sort of 2005/2006, when I just was so miserable, and it took me until 2011 before I left my job to become a full-time author/entrepreneur, whatever you want to call it.

But I took a massive income drop, but again, even with five years’ worth of run-up, it takes a long time to build. So, this is another lesson learned, I guess, with transitions. And again, like you're saying, I'm trying to transition my business model again into going direct first. I've sold direct since 2008, but I am really just transitioning to try and make that the primary model.

But equally, there's so many things I want to do, but like you, it's finding the time, and a lot of that is automation. But winding back to when I first transitioned into full-time, most of my income was money for time. So, it was speaking, it was consulting, and I've transitioned my goal. My goal once I left my job was transitioning to assets that were scalable. So, creating books, courses, things that could sell without my time, and that is one of the secrets, I think, to being a very successful creative, is having assets which generate income, regardless of whether you are actually physically doing the work at that point, and that's very different to a day job.

So, when we're thinking about transitions, there's also these life stages. So, it can be, I want to move from this job to another job. It can be, people with kids listening, I know lots of authors who have little kids who are like, oh, I wish I had more time. Well, give it 10 years and those kids will be like, go away mum. And you've been through that, and I mean, there are different phases of our lives that we transition through. I'm in the “woman of a certain age” transition right now, and that's an interesting stage too. And your priorities change and again, it's, as you say, what's forced upon you versus what you can try and control. And I guess it's getting used to the things you can't be in control of. So, I was very, very angry at the beginning of the pandemic, I think we all were. It's part of the stages of grief, the anger side.

So, what are some of the other emotional aspects of these transitions, whether they're in our control or not?

Orna Ross: I think one of the significant transitions, that we don't always think of as a transition, is the learning stuff that has to happen for the indie author. So, we talked about slow ones that we control and ones that are thrust upon us. There are also the ones we jump into and kind of catch up with ourselves.

So, I would say self-publishing was like that for me, I jumped in. I just thought, this is amazing, this is going to change everything, I want to be part of it. I jumped right in, and I feel like I've only kind of caught up with myself now, where really there was so much to learn, so much that was so different, you know, all of that.

So, we are always, as indie authors, we are crafts people. So, we learn, like an apprentice, by doing, by modelling, by emulating, and all of that. And that learning phase can be a transition, you asked about the mindset and I'm coming around to it slowly, can be a transitional phase, and we don't quite recognize it as that.

So, I do see a lot of indie authors who fall off because of that learning, that sense of, this is too hard, as if it's always going to be that hard. And it's not, because what you're in is actually the learning curve, and once you've learned how to do it once, the second time is easier, and we've spoken about this so often, by the time you're on your third or fourth book then it's become automatic, you are hardly thinking about the book production aspect which took up so much of your time and thought on the first one.

So, I think for that learning transition, it's recognizing that, that's where you are. Always this discomfort when you're stretching. Change alone is enough to create discomfort, but when it's a stretch for you, then it's creative discomfort, which can make you feel very antsy and very anxious and very confused or lost, there are lots of emotions you can have. And I guess, knowing that you're in transition is part of understanding that, but also having practices and things that you do, that when you recognize the syndrome in yourself, you know how to cope with it, you know how to protect yourself and support yourself through it. It's really important in terms of getting to the next stage, because being an indie author, being a creative in today's creator economy, means that all the time, you're always expanding and going to the next phase, the next stage. It won't stop. It's going to be that until the ultimate kind of-

Joanna Penn: Until you're dead.

Orna Ross: The ultimate transition, yeah.

What practices can help indie authors to identify a transition?

Joanna Penn: Let's just talk about the practices, because you're right, we need practices that help us identify a transition.

And as you were speaking, this so often happens when we do this show, as you were speaking there, I recognized what's happened for me in the last few years. You've been privy to my thoughts. I've been like, I am so over this, I'm so bored with the way things are, something's wrong, and maybe I'm just over it and maybe it's an ending. But what I thought might have been an ending has turned into a transition, because some of the things that I was so excited about, we've talked about blockchain and AI and just so many things, VR and AR, I wrote an article on VR for books in 2012 and, you know, things are so slow and yet now actually they're starting to happen.

And so, this idea of, what are the practices that help us? And so, I'm going to recommend, and then you can add some more recommends. So, I do longer walks, they have to be long enough that I've gone past all the thinking about all the basic stuff, and I've dropped down into the next level.

Journaling. So, I don't journal every day. I don't write every day, as we discussed, but what I do have is this almost, this build-up, and I know when I have to journal because everything's built up and I'm like, oh, now I have to journal. A few weeks ago, before I went to Arizona, when I was in the airport lounge, I spent three hours writing and just doing all this stuff because everything kind of came together.

And so, identifying what phase you're in, are you in a transition? Are you in an ending? Are you in a new beginning? That is a tough call, because sometimes we feel like we're in a transition, but it needs to end, or it's the beginning of something new. So, how do you identify which one of these things and what practices help you?

Orna Ross: Yeah, free writing is my biggie, as you know, I've been singing the praises of that for years, which is very like journaling, but you do it really, really fast. So, you get beyond the conscious mind.

Meditation is another one for me, consciously stilling the mind so that the unconscious stuff can kind of rise up.

Yeah, I think it's not a coincidence that you found yourself sorting through all this stuff when you were on your way to Arizona. That thing of a create date, where you take yourself off and you're not in your normal environment and you're doing something that you enjoy, like travel or whatever. So, you mentioned creative rest there at the beginning. Creative play also. These are the practices that allow us to get some perspective, because when we are working, and immersed in the work, we can lose that sense of perspective.

And I think it's really interesting, what you said about, the ending was a transition. I've seen people over the years, and I've done it myself, where I've walked on something or dropped something that I should actually have just rested, just set it aside and let it percolate for a while, but instead kind of said, no, it's over.

And I think actually, probably everything could be done with, I think, the other thing, add time, you know, add some time, wait and see, is it? We can have some very, very strong emotions and be very, very certain about something, and then next week it all looks completely different.

So just, yeah, I think that's pretty much it.

How can endings impact your indie author business?

Joanna Penn: Okay. Well then let's talk about endings. Sometimes it's your decision. For example, I moved. I guess London ended for me and for you at different points. And I moved to New Zealand, I moved to Australia. I end countries and cities quite regularly.

But it can also be an external decision that you have to come to terms with. So, for example, and I'll be totally honest on a personal level, my first husband left me very suddenly and that was not my decision. It was an ending, an abrupt ending, that changed my entire life. Like, your life pivots around. Very happily married for the second time, everyone, don't you worry.

Or for example, in traditional publishing, I've heard quite a lot lately, I don't know what's going on, but somebody's editor moves on or gets fired, the imprint is stopped, and books are just orphaned. Things happen that are not in your control.

Another for Indies, for example, the introduction of Kindle Unlimited in, I think it was 2014, ended a whole lot of stuff for a lot of people, me included. It changed the business model overnight. Then the end of organic reach and the rise of paid advertising, we've talked about these things. Or a change in the Google algorithms, I've seen that change people's business overnight.

Lots of things that kind of hit in different ways, especially when you see the industry. So, what are some of the other things that might happen with endings?

Orna Ross: Yeah, you can be dropped by your publishing house, or indeed, you can have your Amazon account closed, which is something that authors don't realize and can happen. And I think this ties into something else, which is around protecting yourself against possible risks and endings in the future that may be outside of your control, which is something that may be as indies, we're not always brilliant at doing.

So, understanding what it is to have a sustainable foundation under your author business and how you mitigate against risk. You can never prevent risk completely, things happen, as you're saying, that are completely outside your control, and things are always ending and beginning.

We've just seen, Smashwords was one of the big indie pioneers, has now merged with Draft2Digital, which was an ending of one phase for both of them, and the beginning of a whole new phase.

And we, as authors too, can find that we have come to the end of the series, you know, something we've been carrying around for a long time. The Six-Figure Author podcast ended recently, and lots of people are upset about that because they really loved that show, but those authors needed to move on to new things.

I think, as creators, we have to end things sometimes, and it's often good to go out on a high. But then there's the other side, where you think you want to end something and, you know, maybe you're just tired and you just need a break or something.

Joanna Penn: Yeah, it's true. I mean, I've considered ending my podcast a number of times, and then it ended up being another transition. One of those big ones, and this might help some people is, around 2015. So, I started the podcast 2009, and in 2015, it was like, I am spending way too much time on this. Either it makes them money or it's ending. So, that was a business model shift. It was okay, so how do I make this pay? And I changed the podcast into a revenue generating unit, as business people call it.

But in other ways, so, I used to do a lot of webinars and I shut them down, and that was a significant income stream that I shut down for lifestyle reasons because I'm a morning person and the webinars were always late at night, and I would get almost like a hangover the next day because the energy of webinars broke me, and I said, I can't do this, it's not worth the money.

You mentioned the Six-Figure Authors, I highly recommend people listen to the final episode of Six-Figure authors. It's brilliant because all three of them, Lindsay, Jo, and Andrea, talk about why they're ending it and what's going on in their lives, and they're all completely different reasons that they're ending the show and what they're going on to do, but very important to consider.

Also, you mentioned ending a series, I did want to ask about this because you have, just talk a bit about how you've gone back to this same group of books. How do you know that it's going to be ending this time?

Orna Ross: Yeah, well, it's ending because I know the ending. I know the ending of the book, finally. So, this was a book that was, I thought it was two books, and then it became three books. And I knew that there was a third book there, but it took me a long time to excavate it.

So, I had a whole part of it, but I didn't have the other part. So, yeah, I'm in the process of working on that. The other thing is, I think, knowing sometimes you have to call it a halt to something. So, I worked on another series, a non-fiction series, the GoCreative! Series for a very long time. I put together loads of different half-written books, you know, they were open for ages. I was forever surfing up and down and all the rest, and I think you and I discussed it and you actually said, maybe just get rid of it. So, I actually did. I took a part of it and turned it into just Creative Business Planning for Authors and just kind of went with what was my core niche, and just let the rest of it go.

Will it ever come back? Maybe it will. Is it a transition? Maybe it is, but for the moment it's dead until I get to these other projects completely finished. In which case, I think I want to go onto something new and not go back.

So, yeah, knowing when you actually should drop things, I think, and I still wake up thinking of bits that I would add to this book or that book, for that series and I still often think, you know, maybe I'll resurrect it or whatever, and then I think, no, there is no time, stop it.

Joanna Penn: Well, I think this idea of there is no time, or for me it's always, Memento Mori, remember you will die. I'm just that happy soul, but that's always what I think, and that's what I think the pandemic gave a lot of people. For you, we talked about that, because it was a significant birthday that was coming up, and it was like, well, really, what do you want to do with our precious life, as Mary Oliver says.

Orna Ross: Yes, absolutely. We want to do it all, but what can we do realistically, within the time frames that we've got? And I think this is certainly, this is one of my issues, and I have seen it in other authors as well. In your head it's all possible, but in your planner, it's not possible, and that's why I have to be quite rigorous strict with myself on planning. So, I can still, as I said, go off wool gathering and think, yeah, I'll fit it in, I'll make it happen, but then when I actually look at what's coming up for the next two years, I know that, no, I'm not going to fit it in and make it happen.

The other thing I'd love to say about endings is that I think it's really important to note small endings, small accomplishments. I think there is this thing in the indie authors life where the to-do list is always there, and it's always growing. No sooner have you knocked something off than something new has come in and is on it. And that's one of the things that planning did for me was, noting, logging, sort of, mapping the intentions and then logging the accomplishments. And they're often very different, they're not the same. You start off thinking the week is going to go one way and it goes a different way. But at the end of a week, you've done all sorts of things, and logging that, and noting the end of the week, and whatever you managed to achieve in that time, I think that's really important. And not to constantly be looking at the next thing, the next thing, the next thing, the next thing, because over time that can actually become quite wearing.

So, celebrating lots of small endings along the way, because writing long form is challenging and it takes time, and it can take a long time. I was a journalist for years and I think it's also one of the reasons I write poetry. Short form is very satisfactory. You get lots of finishing.

Joanna Penn: Well, I was just reaching for my logbook by my desk and my pack of stickers, I thought I would show people. So, this is my daily logbook and there's just a page, but it's not a diary, I just literally log what I did with a few lines. And I get a sticker if I achieve something towards one of my goals, so if I wrote some first draft or if I did some editing. And then I get a gin and tonic or a glass of champagne if I print a first draft, which is very exciting. I do try and do micro celebrations, does that count as my sticker?

Orna Ross: Definitely, I love your stickers.

Joanna Penn: I'm such a child, but I'm like, oh, I get a sticker!

Orna Ross: Yes, I think that's great. That is the whole creative play thing, as well, not taking ourselves too seriously.

Joanna Penn: I'm glad I got a point for that; you see I'm so competitive.

Orna Ross: A point for creative play. Get an extra sticker.

Joanna Penn: Yeah, but can we just talk about ending still a bit on series?

So, I have 12 books in my Arkane series, and I want to write more in that series, but because I have so many other books that I want to write, like I'm doing this pilgrimage book, and I'm going to have pilgrimage guides and do that stuff for my travel side, and then my non-fiction side. I just don't have, like you said, there's not enough actual practical time to do all the novels.

And so, my readers are asking for another Arkane thriller, but I'm feeling that I've got about three standalones that I really want to write and that sort of keep talking to me. Elizabeth Gilbert says that, if you ignore an idea long enough, it goes and finds someone else. So, I'm actually really struggling, and I mean, it's not necessarily an ending for my Arkane series because I haven't killed off my main characters, but how long do you think you can leave something before your audience thinks it's an ending or the idea goes somewhere else?

Orna Ross: I don't think there's a particular time, it just will, or it won't. I think all you can do is prioritize the books, isn't it? And then just see, again, is it an ending or is it a transition? I mean, at some point that series will have to end, and I guess at that point you will kill off your main character and then that's that.

Joanna Penn: No, that doesn't happen in these thrillers. These long running thrillers, they're all at like 24 [books]. People have been writing them for decades, and a lot of the things I read, they're on book 24/25, they're episodic.

Orna Ross: It doesn't have to end. Yeah, fair enough. I think that this brings up the question of the different ways that you can let something go. So again, it can let you go, and you'll find that you can't write another book in that series, for example, not that that's your problem, but that is something that does happen to people, where they think they are going to keep going with something and then they suddenly find, actually, I can't do anymore of this. A bit like me with the GoCreative! Series. So, that's one way in which it finishes with you, kind of thing, rather than you finish with it.

Do you consciously drop something? You can sell something or pass it on to somebody else, that is another way in which you can end things. So, there are all sorts of different ways. Again, sometimes emotions take us, and we go for the big chop, but there can be ways that are much gentler in terms of ending things.

And I think, you know, we were joking there a moment ago about the ultimate ending, but it is important, as indie authors, to plan for that. We are going to pass on and we own intellectual property, and I'd like to give a shout out here to the Estate Management books that Michael La Ronn has written for ALLi. And for members, they're there to download in the member zone. There are two, one from your perspective, as the author, setting up and leaving things behind in an orderly fashion for your heirs. And then there's one for the heir, so they know what to do with all that intellectual property, because I think that's really important and there's a lot of value there, and if we want our work to live on as well, it's important to get that one into order.

Joanna Penn: Yeah, well, earlier you mentioned about protecting yourself and having sustainable practices, but having a business is also about organizing all that practical stuff. That practical stuff includes accounting and taxes while you're alive, and then also estate management, but also building retirement income and all of that kind of thing, other streams of things, insurance. And as you say, organizing things, I feel like, me included, when we start writing, we don't think about any of those things, and then you realize it's all in your head and what happens if you go. Like with COVID, or all the time people go unexpectedly.

But having all these things sorted, even, I was talking to someone the other day and they hadn't updated their wills. They hadn't actually, you know on your pensions you have to nominate a person if you die, and all of these things. These are tiny things, but protecting yourself and those people you love, it's actually part of this whole thing. This is the Advanced Salon; these are things we need to think about.

So yeah, I guess we talked about perspective earlier as well, about taking a step back and maybe looking at things and going, okay, so how am I preparing for these types of things? And if you're not at that stage yet, then, well, you must be at some point in your life. That's the thing. Anyone listening has things they should probably just at least put on a one pager.

Orna Ross: For sure.

Joanna Penn: Yeah, just in case.

How can I embrace new beginnings as an indie author?

Joanna Penn: Okay, well, let's move into new beginnings and changing direction. So, from the end to the beginning, because we're running this event this weekend, and it feels like, well, I had to do all the stuff with COVID conditions and stuff, but it feels like new shoots of hope. Post-pandemic, everyone's running around doing in-person conferences because everyone's so desperate to see each other again. And it's really lovely that that's happening, and I know COVID hasn't gone away, but most people, I think, well okay, a lot of people are feeling like, let's move into the next phase and new ways of doing things.

So, also in terms of new books, as I said, I feel like I'm beginning a new cycle with fiction. A standalone novel is always such new thing, because you have to really invent everything from scratch as opposed to pick up a series character. So, it's a chance to do something different, and maybe that's the exciting thing about new beginnings, you get to do it differently next time. Obviously, a lot of the process is the same, but you get to reinvent stuff. So, what about you?

Orna Ross: Yeah, definitely. I think workwise, I'm very much in ending phases rather than beginning a new project. I have a new project in my mind that I would like to do, but life-wise making a transition out of London, which is kind of scary and kind of wonderful, into a new place by the sea, which I've always found inspiring, and I'm definitely feeling that sense of, you know, just by changing your location, things change around you. And I'm enjoying the new ways of working after all those years of lockdowns, felt like centuries long, it's great to be in a different sort of environment. We've thrown ourselves into one of these workspaces where there are lots of people around us, lots of other creatives, and social change makers, and people like that. So, that's really stimulating and really different.

So, from a life perspective, I feel like I'm definitely in a whole new phase, and loving it, and realizing as I'm in it just how stale things had got during the lockdown time, which at the time I felt, oh, it's fine, you know, we're lucky compared to most people, we're fine, our work's online and blah, blah, blah. And all of that was true, but when I look back, I realize, gosh, how narrow things had got, and how important it is to shake things up. And how important it is to get that fresh perspective, and I do love that creative date kind of thing, once a week, with myself doing something different that I've never done before that I really enjoy doing, is something that I missed so much. Now it's back again and I'm really enjoying it, and as I'm doing it again, I'm realizing, gosh, I don't even know how I managed without it because it was just so boring for that time. It was everything, every day was the same. So, from that point of view, it's all good.

Joanna Penn: Yeah, you said stale there, and earlier I wrote down jaded, because I felt jaded in my day job, back in my old day job. And you know when you're becoming jaded when you're saying things that are kind of cynical and slightly negative, and you're like, oh. Me, for example, being angry, I know that's not me, and that happened a lot. Same as you, it's feeling that we were hemmed in.

We were constricted for so long, but this, I think also is just a sort of tip for people, in terms of whether you need a transition or a new beginning, it's that sense of staleness, or feeling jaded, or the overwhelming negativity or anger when it's not your normal personality type. If you're feeling that, then you probably need a new beginning, whether that's a new book, a new location, a new business model, a new something.

Orna Ross: A new partner.

Joanna Penn: Maybe let's not go that far.

But it's interesting that there are indications, there are signs. Your body gives you signs. Your mind gives you signs that you need this change. And we have to listen to that.

And we have to, you know, coming to Jeff Bezos, love him or hate, Amazon has changed many of our lives in many ways, but he talks about the business being focused on day one. It's always day one at Amazon, and Andy Jassy, the new CEO, put that in his opening letter in his first year as CEO, since taking over from Jeff Bezos. But it's always day one, and I actually love that. I think it's a brilliant business mantra to have. I mean, they are obviously a huge company, but we can think that too. We can think, okay, it's day one, what am I beginning today? And what do we leave behind? What are we transitioning? And sort of, try and recapture that energy, but to let go of those things that maybe make us feel jaded.

I mean, there's a difference, there is a balance, right? Let's talk about marketing. People say, oh, I don't want to, it makes me feel bad. How do we tell the difference between things that we don't really want to do versus we're jaded, and we need something new?

Orna Ross: I think it's about sensing the energy, isn't it? Jaded energy, as you say, it has a real, sort of, cynicism, a negativity of a different kind. One is fear, and the other one is something else. So, I think if it's a fear factor of something that, I'm no good at this, I don't know how to do it, then it's a different kind of sense of energy.

And I like this concept of the beginner's mind, which very much ties into what you're saying there about the day one, which is a Buddhist concept of just emptying your mind of all preconceptions, and notions, and ideas about what's going on.

And I think losing ourselves in the doing of things is very often the way we can see whether it is something that is actually, no, I've had it. Because usually, with the thing of it being something that you really need to do and need to get on with, once you start doing it, it takes you over and you're fine, off you go. But if you're really tired, the more you do it, the worse you feel.

So, it's about the direction of the energy, I think, more than anything else. But you're right. It can be difficult sometimes. Sometimes it's a matter of just waiting it out and seeing what's there. And also, consciously introducing new ways. I mean, part of being day one is that you don't have a set way to do things and so you can do them in a different way. Try new kinds of writing, new formats, you know, not automatically doing the same thing that you always do, not automatically doing the next book in the series, doing the standalone, trying a form or a format that you haven't tried before, a new collaboration.

There are so many ways that we can freshen things up, and I think just taking a really close look at where we are in terms of these three things that we've been talking about today, endings, beginnings, and transitions, and sort of labelling what's going on and saying, okay, that one's coming to an end, something could do with a freshen up, and a new beginning. Actually, looking at it through these three lenses could be a useful exercise.

Joanna Penn: Absolutely. Fantastic. Well, this has been an interesting topic today. So, we'll leave you with those questions, what's happening with you in terms of the different aspects of your author career around endings, transitions, and beginnings?

And we hope we've given you something to think about.

So, next month we're actually going to be talking about our lessons learned and our tips on running events for authors, whether that's live and in-person, as we're doing coming up, or online, and Orna runs online events regularly. So, we're going to talk about that and some of the pros and cons of the different things. So, that's coming up in July. So, I guess that's it from us? Anything else, Orna?

Orna Ross: Nope, that is it. I have no more, it's the end for me.

Joanna Penn: It's the end of this session. So, happy writing.

Orna Ross: And happy publishing, everyone. Bye-bye.

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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