Writing is a hobby

To all the writers and creatives out there, fasten your seatbelts!  You might not like this message.

As some of you may remember, I am a book coach for other authors, along with being an author of fiction and nonfiction, a freelance writer for others’ webpages and articles, and a small business coach.  I hear the same thing again and again from my book coaching clients.

“Yvonne, my book is unique and special.  People will LOVE it, and I’m going to sell lots of copies.  Like 10,000 in the first year alone.”

I take a deep breath and try to moderate expectations as gently as possible.

“I know your book is special.  It’s a message coming from deep inside you, one that will resonate with an audience.  It’s important to realize, though, that the audience might be smaller than you think.”

No one wants to believe me, and I get that.  I SO get that.  But here’s the harsh reality for any of us in a creative realm.

THE WORLD IS FULL OF SPECIAL BOOKS, SPECIAL ART, SPECIAL MUSIC.  

This is a good – no, a GREAT – thing, because the world needs beauty in all art forms to stay in balance.

If you’re the creator of that art, though, it hurts.  You check sales figures with a persistence beyond measure, hoping for that spike, that trend, that sudden flood of orders.  Little blips make you crazy because they turn into big dips or long dry spells.

“What can I do differently?  There has to be something that will help people find my book.  It’s so great!”

Reality check:  A new book is published in the US every three to five minutes.  That’s somewhere between 600,000 and a million books each year.  On average, each one sells about 250 copies over the course of a lifetime.

For most of us, this is a punch in the gut from a fist the size of King Cong’s.  We deny the reality.  We grieve.  We rage.  We cry.  We got slightly nuts.

I’ll share my secret sauce to restore sanity.

TREAT WRITING (OR ANY CREATIVE WORK) AS A HOBBY.

Yes, you spend money on it, but you’d spend money on a set of golf clubs and links time or on a new bike and gear or on a set of interesting plants for the garden.  Why doesn’t that bother us?  Because we know it’s a hobby.

Once you accept the hobby approach, you feel freer to stop checking sales on a daily (or worse) basis.  You concentrate more on telling more people, sometimes one by one, about the message you wanted to deliver.  You daydream new ideas, pick up the pen to scribble notes, and hit the keys.  The creative process becomes fun again.  

Most of us will probably never earn back what we invest in our creative life, and this HAS to be okay.  The good news is that as a writer in these modern times, our books (particularly if you’re self-published) can be available in perpetuity, often outliving us.  The bookshelf is virtual and endless, unlimited by size or quirks of the market or opinions of a department manager.

Isn’t that what we REALLY want?  Our message, available for a continuously new audience, long after we’re gone?

WRITING IS A HOBBY.

Write the next book, because you have more to say.  No matter what genre you write in – fiction, nonfiction, or memoir – you are a storyteller.  Embrace that and pull the keyboard toward you.

Therein lies the joy – the creative process in all its stages and forms.  Don’t think about sales.  Don’t worry about marketability.  Don’t wonder about your audience.

Creating is fun, and that’s what it is supposed to be.

Because if it isn’t fun, why would you be doing it at all?

How do you overcome the disappointments of high expectations?  Please share in the comments!

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