I am a writer; I write.
This also makes me as vulnerable as the next Joe McWriter who comes to a point when they need to step back and reboot. We all do, it’s the nature of the beast and other fun clichés. (Now at a bookstore near you!)
That said, writer’s block was not my undoing. I had personal matters that tipped the balance, so to speak, and it became a necessity for me to stop in my tracks and peel everything away–everything–in order to restart, rebuild, and see things again without a haze of bitterness getting in the way of all that had value to me…my family, relationship, career aspirations, creativity, and simply…me. So, a creative block did not rear its ugly head at me. Instead, I have a hoarder’s wet dream back load of ideas just waiting for me to quit making excuses for myself already and get them out there. Now that my mind and spirit have healed and I’m ready to put some of my attention back into my career, I find myself left with one burning question.
Where the hell do I start?
I have a day job. Well, my “pay the bills” work is vague really, because I have a couple of things that I work on as a freelance contractor. In addition to marketing consultation, I have steady work as an editor and writing coach. I have worked with one particular author for a couple of years now, and we have had numerous conversations regarding keeping focused on writing projects. I talk a pretty good game. I coach my little ass off, give great advice, and one of my strengths is keeping others organized and motivated. It’s so typical, isn’t it? Why is it so hard to practice what we preach? I can give my colleagues great direction, but when it comes to figuring out my own plan, I falter.
Here are my current challenges:
1. Visibility. Nearly two years ago, I decided it was time to focus less on the blogging platform and start putting my efforts into publishing my essays through a more “traditional” means. I had a good readership with my blog, was finding a specific niche in the memoir landscape, and it was time to take my career to the next level. I started to assemble my essays into a book. However, I noticed that because my focus had waned on my blog, my visibility online literally died. Like, dead and buried. Coming from a marketing background, and being fairly on top of where publishing is at and where it is headed, I know that having a presence online is vital. I knew I had to return to blogging in some form–but a lot of work goes into my essays, and I shy away from publishing them first online now as my intent still remains to publish them in a book. Hence, this new blog. Now, to get a readership base again. At this point, even when I do publish an occasional memoir essay on Flibbertigibbet, no one other than my friends and family check it out anymore. I even stopped being active on Twitter, and it shows. Now that I’m back, if I post anything, all that comes back at me is a big fat echo! Talk about feeling unpopular. That could make a broad feel mighty insecure if she let it! My challenge in this case is marketing myself, blogging here on Ballsy Broad and finding an internet presence for myself again. If I want to succeed as an author, it’s important to nurture these relationships, get my work out there consistently, and network (not my greatest strength!). This isn’t a horrible challenge, but I’ve been online with Flibbertigibbet for nearly five years. It took time, passion and dedication to grow my little space. It just feels like a raw deal to have to start over, but that just goes to prove a little marketing 101 lesson — the public is fickle and they have short-term memories. It’s all about visibility, baby. Whether you are a writer or entrepreneur or jewelry artisan, it’s important to stay out there and stay present if you seek growth.
2. Finding a Niche. I didn’t find memoir writing–it found me. And when it found me, there wasn’t a whole heck of a lot of it out there. Now, I see it everywhere. It is what it is, I guess. Like most others five years ago, when I started my blog, I had no idea what my voice was yet. I called myself “snarky” and wrote a few blog posts filled with expressive naughty language, mostly making fun of people who annoyed me before taking a right turn into self-deprecationville, which was a natural segue to my trademark memoir essays. On one hand, I was really lucky to find my niche so quickly. On the other, at times I felt a little boxed in. Suddenly, it felt like the only stories expected from me were either about my youth or something humor-laden. Which is great. I love both humor-inspired writing and sharing hometown memories–but I’m filled with ideas, and not all of them fit into those neat little boxes. There is a lot of information and insight out there about being true to who you are as a writer and embracing your niche when you find it. While I agree wholeheartedly with this sentiment, I don’t like following rules. I think it’s important to always be true to who you are, and recognize and embrace your niche, but not be afraid to color outside the lines every once in a while. For me, boxing myself in took a little bit of the dangerous joy out of writing for me. I like to be adventurous in my writing. So if that means I take a risk every once in a while, then that’s what I have to do. Who died and said that I had to write only memoirs after all?
3. Getting Organized. Like other wacky creative types, I am so disorganized it isn’t funny. I have so many ideas, and absolutely no clue where to start. And before y’all start shouting “make lists” at me…I am also the list queen. I have hundreds of lists hidden all over the place. I have more stories started than I’d like to count. More little paragraphs with ideas than I’d care to admit. And I also have a bad habit of getting excited about the projects of other people (friends and family) who come to me and I readily offer my help, out of a sincere desire to–you know–help. Unfortunately, all this leaves me with is an inane amount of unfinished projects. What would I tell someone I’m coaching? I would tell them to get it together by finishing one thing first. Prioritize the projects, and just slam through them one at a time. It sounds so freaking easy. I think I may try this though. I’m going to finish that damn essay book. I haven’t decided which larger project to start on next. But I do have a few short stories to also submit places in the meantime, both on- and offline.
Taking a writing break wasn’t the end of the world. Not having a creative outlet for a while contributed a little bit to feeling muddled, but once I let go of it all and allowed myself to breathe, I was able to come back fresh. Having been around the block before helps. Getting to the next step takes confidence. Consistency with my efforts will help nurture that confidence.
So. Where the hell do I start?
The simple answer: Just jump into the damn pool. Don’t think about it. Don’t test the water with your toe. Just jump in.
Have you ever taken a break from your creative aspirations? How did you pick the pieces back up?