WEEK 18 - #VoidDeckWriter: Why I Don’t See My Work as My “Baby”
Lately, I’ve been working on quite a few projects for my fictional universe and I had a fellow writer ask me, “Does it bother you if your book sales don't live up to your expectations?"
Week 18! And to be honest, I’m actually quite excited for this topic. May 2021 has the most public holidays packed into a single month, so I hope everyone is either preparing or recovering from a haze of celebrations. In fact, does anyone want to recover from the haze of celebrations?
If you’re anything like most people I know, the thought of going back to work, even in an industry we care about, seems daunting. Exciting sometimes, but daunting nonetheless.
Lately, I’ve been working on quite a few projects for my fictional universe - informally known as the JewelVerse (More news on that coming up!) - and I had a fellow writer ask me, “Does it excite you to have your books on bookstore shelves? And does it bother you if the sales don’t do well?”
Short answer: Yes, and yes.
The long answer? Here’s what I said…
What motivates you to create (whatever you’re creating)? If you’d like, share them in the comments!
I’m definitely (and always) excited to see my books in bookstore shelves. And while I used to be really bothered by the sales numbers of my books, it doesn’t really bother me as much nowadays because:
If I haven’t been “marketing” my work consistently and authentically, I won’t be expecting much.
I’m getting paid via the distributor directly, which means ROI and scale will be different. (E.g. instead of strategising to get individual sales quickly, I can focus on obtaining gradual sales over a longer period of time because bookstores don’t restock as quickly)
The more I see my work as my baby, the more stunted I feel I will get - and this may spiral into not actually producing.
“BUT JO, HOW CAN YOU SAY THAT? EVERY WRITER SEES THEIR BOOKS AS THEIR BABIES!”
I am not going to deny that. And I will say this first - it’s quite a counter-intuitive thing to say because all creators want to create their best work, right? However, the more I see my work as my baby, the tendency of myself being defensive or protective over it increases, and that can result in a few things:
Burning Bridges with Well-Meaning / Intentioned Supporters
The likelihood of burning a lot of bridges (even if it’s on my end) with people or fans who want to give feedback, is higher. Since my work is my precious baby, who are these people to say that my work needs work?! This can also result in an inability to filter what is good, actionable advice, and what is just nonsense. In this state of mind, everything is nonsense.
Ah, a big one.
Perfectionism is a double-edged sword, I would argue - it makes you detail-oriented if you can use it to your advantage. HOWEVER, chances are, perfectionism tends to cause over-protective vibes over creations and how these pieces are portrayed (e.g. absolutely perfect all the time). In the end, what I expect to happen would be that I end up not even talking about my work or, at best, do so transactionally (e.g. Plsplspls buy my work and support local!)
Does perfectionism end up becoming a barrier between you and putting your work out there? Share them in the comments if you’d like!
If something here is fuelled by fear, it’s probably a fear of this - stunted development. This means you stay stagnant in your craft, you don’t really improve, self-fulfilling prophecies ensue, and you spiral further.
When I heard the phrase, “Kill Your Darlings”, I was aghast - HOW CAN YOU JUST THROW AWAY YOUR WORK LIKE THIS?! - but as I continued practicing and creating, it made sense.
Perhaps, the most foolproof way to create better work is to keep creating. And if I am convinced that this baby of a novel is the only one I and the world need, the likelihood of myself closing myself to experimentation and other stories goes down. Why would I want to pander or try something I don’t need anyway, right? And then, this self-sabotaging cycle continues.
You Keep the Reader Out of the Picture
This is probably the worst thing, I feel, that can happen if I really baby my work - that because I want to preserve all sanctity, all integrity of the work, at all costs, I ignore my audience / readers. Worse still, I might not even care, as long as they are paying for my works. That’s a far cry from wanting to create a fictional universe for curious and like-minded individuals to immerse themselves in.
Loss or Worse Still, Unstrategic Loss
And after all that, seeing my work as my baby too much will likely result in myself spending a lot of money to market this one piece, hoping that every time I spend on some supposed magic pill, it’ll be my big break. What’s the point in looking to improve my work or send it to an editor - they won’t be able to understand and get my baby anyway!
So what comes out of this? Should we see our works as our baby or not?
The irony of wanting the best for our babies (or in raising children), is that time and time again, over-protectiveness and the mindset of wanting to get the perfect outcome actually produces the reverse result. And I guess with our creations, the same can be said.
So if you don’t treat your work as your baby, what do you do to put our works out to the world?
Unfortunately, I can’t tell you what to do exactly. Depending on your ideal readers or target audience, strategies and tactics will differ. However, I have learnt (from LITO) that regardless of how we go about our ‘Marketing’, answering and gaining clarity from your answer to these questions will inform how you will go forward with positioning or pitching your work -
Why did you write this story? And why are you a writer?
If you are able to gain clarity on these two main questions, it will definitely help you with direction in your creative career, marketing, or content creation.
That’s it from me this week, see you all next!
So are there any points that resonated with you? Share them in the comments!