Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Discipline, the four-letter word that isn't


Experienced sort of....

I’m new to the indie publishing venture and I don’t mind admitting I’m a little overwhelmed in combination with being excited to see what happens and enthusiastic to be part of something new and innovative. I love that I’m engaged at near the ground floor level in an endeavor that seems to square the playing field for all who care to enter the game. My author story isn’t different from dozens of others. I’ve written for a number of years and placed first in numerous contests. I’ve queried an inordinate number of agents and received increasingly complimentary and ever-more detailed--so-called positive rejections and invitations to rewrite and resubmit.

No walk down the aisle.

I once had an agent who, while she was new to the profession, was also wonderfully supportive and believed in my work. She actually sold a novel of mine only to have the deal fall through. A second novel she represented made it into committee at one of the big-six houses. That didn’t work out either, and, anyway, as the saying goes, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. A rejection is a rejection regardless how glowing the terms and a bridesmaid is not the bride! So, what a joy to have this indie avenue open, to take into my own hands the fate of a novel I’ve authored. The only difficulty was (and remains) how ignorant I am of the process, how it works, the best way(s) to go about it.

My brain doesn't have an app for that!

 So I researched. I read everything I could find. It took me several weeks to feel confident enough to start. I garnered inspiration and encouragement, too, from Joan Reeves of Slingwords fame and successful indie author Karen McQuestion. Still, it required patience and diligence. I’m not the most computer literate person. Nor did I understand the intricacies of social networking, a purportedly major key to the marketing success of e-books. I’m still struggling to get the hang of it and determined to overcome my resistance, my heartfelt belief that my brain doesn’t have an app for that--the likes of Facebook and Twitter, I mean!

When The Ninth Step finally went live, I emailed my mentor, who is also a many-times successful author and creative writing professor and my first publisher. In the note I told her that as the result of my indie publishing experience, I had conceived a new respect for what she did for me and many other authors when she founded a small regional press and took us on, authors whom she believed in. She gave us our first opportunity, handling acquisition and editing responsibilities, as well as contracts, book cover design and hundreds of other details. In short she oversaw what I now know is a complicated process and she did it not just for one book but for many--by herself. This seems incredible to me now.

Dreams require devotion.

As with any new process, I’m sure this one, too, will get easier with practice. Right now, I’m struggling to find a balance--that social networking thing against the need, the desire, the resolve to write. I can see how the networking can become addictive especially if one is a bit obsessive. Which leads me to the point of this post, that being a writer requires a bit of obsession. Paraphrasing Goethe, building a foundation underneath a dream requires devotion. You have to be a little crazy, I think, a little single-minded. You have to be persistent, stubbornly persistent. And you have to be disciplined. The d word. Few like it. So few in fact, it ought to be shortened to four letters.

Help along the way.

 What got me thinking about this was a post last week from Joan Reeve’s blog, where she shares some advice that was given by well-known author Robert (Dick) Vaughn during a workshop she attended, that the bridge between talent and success isn’t networking (I’m paraphrasing again), it isn’t even talent. It’s work discipline. Discipline with a capital D. I was relieved when I read this . . . that it wasn’t social networking skills I needed but discipline. I might not like it, but discipline is something I understand, over which I have control. Imagine, the d word--something so simple can be so effective. For a really terrific kick in the discipline pants, I suggest reading a little book written by Steven Pressfield called Do The Work. He nails it. And for some great tools, check out this blog post at Boxing the Octopus from author Colleen Thompson. Getting the work done is sometimes really difficult. I'd love to know your thoughts, to hear whether you have any tricks that work for you. Who knows, maybe they'll help someone else too!



  1. Hi, Barbara, excellent post! Glad my words helped you in some small way. I'm looking forward to reading The Ninth Step.

    Best wishes,
    Joan Reeves

  2. Thanks for reading, Joan. I'm glad for the chance to spread the wealth you give around!

  3. Great post, Bobbi! And you have an *excellent* book to work with, which, IMO, is the most important ingredient of all!