I Don’t Know What I’m Doing. Here’s Why I Keep Showing Up Anyway.

Hey there! I hope this lovely holiday season is developing nicely for you. We’re happily making our holiday gifts, brainstorming ideas, getting the calendar squared away (huge, huge family) and probably already eating too much in the process. That’s just how fall seems to go around here; it gets rainy, I start making soups, and as cool weather comes I spend a lot of time in my kitchen.

I’ve had one of those afternoons where my thoughts won’t stop circling. I listened to two podcasts over the last day that stirred things up for me. They were the most recent episodes from the two shows I make sure to listen to every week: Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn Podcast, and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing Podcast (links to the site of each show).

Joanna Penn had a futurist tilt to this week’s episode, looking at publishing in 2027. I love The Creative Penn partially because of Joanna’s positive outlook. She’s a great example of how your attitude can work for you. She looks for opportunity, she chases it, she makes her lists and checks them twice. Her mindset is 100% can do. And if she feels like she can’t, she has a remarkable aptitude for dissecting why and challenging herself to do it anyway. Listening to her helps me with my to-do lists — I usually come away with a couple of things from every episode that I need to think through for my own publishing. But she helps me as much with staying positive and focused on how all of these little bits we do along the way add up to whatever we’re making.

I’m going to dive deeper here….what you want to make is incredibly important self-knowledge. It is worth thinking about so that you can appropriately focus your energy, and make choices about what things aren’t worth your energy. Many writers I know started out chasing something that upon further reflection — or even achievement — was not the life that they wanted.

clear vision

For a long time, I hoped for enough income from writing that I could leave my day job. But I realized along the way just how much work this publishing gig is — and I realized that depending on writing for a monthly income doesn’t jive well with my personality. I’m risk averse. I like to know another month of income I’ve counted on is going to arrive. So I’ve adjusted my marker, and before I consider leaving my job (which is a great job!) I will set aside enough income to pay my salary for a year, and I’ll have an average income that’s stayed at the level I need for at least two years.

And you know what? If that means I continue to work at a job that I enjoy, if that means that writing becomes the second paycheck and never makes up all of my income…that is a-okay.

I’m more focused on being happily productive every day and being present for the people who need me than I am on any specific yardstick of success with publishing. Being happily productive is the success. Our needs in terms of income are taken care of. I’m already there.

Whatever you’re making, you do it in small steps. It’s the consistent effort that builds something. If you don’t know where you’re headed — if you don’t have a vision for your ideal, that thing you’re shooting for, you have little hope of landing where you want to be. Set your vision for the long term, divide it up into manageable tasks you can actually accomplish, and start doing a little every day.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing Podcast featured Andrea Pearson (link to her Amazon page; she writes fantasy and nonfiction for writers). She’s one heck of a driven woman. I like it. 🙂 She had a lot to say about newsletters and communicating with readers and… a whole lot of stuff I know I should pay more attention to. Enough that it started to stress me out and led to the whirlwind of thoughts I mentioned above. No matter how much I learn about publishing, I don’t spend my time in the ways that are advised (for success, I guess).

This is all an adventure; I don’t know what I’m doing. There’s no one single list of tasks that’s going to take me to that vision I’m focused on. There’s no set path for me; I am making it as I go. I own that. I also own my limited time and unwillingness to part with or alter any other section of my life to add more time to publishing. I choose the limit, I reject the stress of lifting the limit. In the meantime, in this writing/publishing business there are parts I love, parts I like well enough and parts I just can’t handle or don’t know enough to try. I do what I do, when I can get around to it, in between escaping into fiction.

So here’s the deal…I actually had to re-invent how I manage publishing tasks and building my author business in 2017. Like, how in the eff do I actually manage this number of discrete ideas, choices, options, tools, et-freaking-cetera. I made a new goal-setting strategy, developed a new journal style to house my goal sheets each month as well as organize my notes from various things I learn and ponder each and every month.

And I gotta say, none of that writes my fiction. My stories are still over there saying, “Write me! Don’t you want to escape?” Well, hell yeah I want to escape. The writing is the best part. But the more I write the more I finish and the more I finish the more I publish and I am now up to more than 50 titles across three pen names. It’s pretty hard to keep up with marketing books I’ve already written. Earlier this year I switched my ancient method of ebook formatting over to Vellum (which is awesome!!!). That was a month of my available minutes: learning Vellum (super simple; great tool, super glad I bought it); deciding formats for each pen name; going back over sales copy, descriptions; and a ridiculous amount of uploading of files.

Set it and forget it would be great, but each book I write is another property to be maintained over the long run. That’s fine…it’s just a part of the process that takes time I would rather use for writing. Of course if I was writing, I’d make more books… Circular mind games, eh?

Anyway. The deal is, there’s always more you can do. More that everyone says you should do. But really, we all have to make our choices about where we spend our minutes. My clock says it’s about time to go pick my kids up, make them dinner, chat about school, maybe play a game or two, and read a book before bed. You know, the important stuff.

I don’t know what I’m doing. But I’m just going to keep managing what I can manage, doing what I need to stay happy in my balance of work and life. That means some things I really should do will never get done. I’m okay with that.

I’m ready to show up again tomorrow.

About J.R. Pearse Nelson

J.R. Pearse Nelson is a native Oregonian, residing in the beautiful Portland area. She lives with her husband, two small daughters and the family dog. J.R. is always searching for the magic in our world. She weaves tales rooted in mythology, bringing legend to life in modern-day and fantasy settings. J.R. is the author of the Children of the Sidhe paranormal romance series, the Foulweather Twins fantasy series, and the Water Rites fantasy series. You can connect with J.R. online at her website. Visit jrpearsenelson.com.