Without getting too ‘otherworldy’ here, many writers experience their own creativity as a very Zen experience, going beyond the limits of the logical mind and soaring to great heights of authenticity. This is all very wonderful, yet a good many writers become very un-Zen once their creative work is done; they lament how cut-throat the publishing world has become, they tear their hair out about the poor recompense that writers have to put up with, they criticise the work of other writers; all that compassion and authenticity suddenly leaves the building.
It’s so easy to keep the state of Zen when you are in the full flow mode of creating, but the work you produce, once finished, becomes a product rather than a project. Suddenly you have to switch mindset and get to the marketing, which just happens to be a most un-Zen-like task. How do you keep that chilled mindset when you are now having to deal with the harsh practicalities? As writers, we live predominantly in our imagination; it’s a necessity. As marketers, we need to get out of our imagination and into a harsh reality which is contrary to how we like to work. So here are a few ways to stay Zen when there is marketing to be done.
- Don’t fixate on the result. Too much attachment on the outcome will just cause major disappointment if your book bombs. If the only results you want from your book writing efforts are purely financial, then you will be disappointed. You need to remember that there are many gifts along the way when completing a project, and if you are too focused on the financial outcome then you will miss the enjoyment of each unfolding new word, page and chapter. Remember when you loved writing for writing’s sake? Now that you class yourself as ‘A Writer’ you probably can’t recall a time when you didn’t care what you wrote; you just scrawled away, completely absorbed in the process, and didn’t worry about whether your book would hit the Amazon top 100. Yes, you are trying to make a living as a writer now, but whether you fixate or not, the results will be the same. In fact, if you can be more detached when your book doesn’t perform the way you expected, you can probably work the problem in a mental state of clarity rather than being bogged down by the negative emotions which come with too much attachment to results.
- Don’t judge your yourself harshly. We’ve all done this; ‘Your writing is crap. How could | be so stupid to think I could write a book? Of course nobody wants to read anything I’ve written.’ That tedious inner voice we all seem to listen to suddenly gets louder when it comes time to hit ‘PUBLISH’. We are our own worse critics and it can be really difficult to have any positive thoughts about our work. You won’t stop that voice in your head; unfortunately it can be a powerful foe; but you can counter the arguments it presents. Your writing isn’t crap, it’s unique; nobody else thinks in exactly the same way as you so what you write is as individual as you are; that’s its USP. If nobody is reading your material, it doesn’t mean it’s rubbish, it simply means it hasn’t been found and you need to work around your marketing techniques. When it comes to the voice in your head, do what you tell your children NOT to do and answer back!
- Be authentic. I’m sure you’ve heard the belief that the more difficult something becomes, the closer you are to a breakthrough. Dawn comes just before the sunrise, darkness before the light, etc. That’s not a bad belief to hang on to. There are numerous people who have given up on a project when the going gets tough; this is true in all walks of life, but what if you give up right before that sun is ready to burst over the horizon? What if you turn back into the darkness just as the first flicker of light appears to illuminate your path? The way to prevent that happening is to be authentic in work and in life. Have conviction in your ambition and passion and don’t allow yourself to be pushed back when you’re on the home straight, i.e. while implementing your marketing strategy. Keep true to yourself and however dark it becomes, remember you are probably closer to the light than you realise.
- Feel the fear and do it anyway. Get out of your own way. Stop overthinking it. Start where you are. Overcome the resistance. In other words, JUST WRITE! There are a million cliches to use but they all come back to the same thing: DO THE WORK. If you want to sell your beautiful book, you need to go through the entire process, and that includes the no-nonsense business of marketing.
The important thing is to enjoy the actual art of writing. The irony is that the less you concentrate on the future success of your book, the more likely it is to be successful. Without all the emotional attachments and limiting beliefs you tend to develop along the way, you can be much more relaxed and objective when it comes to the marketing process. There is a Buddhist proverb which says: ‘If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking.’ So once your book is finished, keep walking in the right direction and try to enjoy the marketing as an inevitable part of the process.