Great–Now What Do I Do?

87. success vs. failureSuccess–how do you define it? It seems like an important question to me. Otherwise, a person can succeed and not even know it. Growing up, I knew people like that–never satisfied, always wanting more–to the point that they could never be happy with what they already had. And so they lost it all, over and over again. I never wanted that to be me.

I tend to push myself hard. It’s been a natural consequence of my life, like I’m sure it’s been for so many. Without my work ethic, I wouldn’t have survived. But behavior patterns should be scrutinized from time to time. Humans have a tendency to build habits that are productive in one situation, but then they fail to recognize that the same actions can actually handicap us in another. Still, we continue to do the same things, over and over, wondering why it isn’t working.

I’ve worked myself to the point of mental exhaustion for months on end, and that’s not a mental state conducive to clear thinking. Or ultimately, even mental health, although family troubles have cut into that anyway, like they have for so many others.

85. accept responsibility for change

Challenging situations will be with us always, so I shouldn’t use that as an excuse to avoid sitting in a corner and rethinking my life. Is what I’m doing working? Or am I merely spinning my wheels to no purpose?

And while it’s important to think about all parts of your life this way, this post is more about making my life work as a writer.

I’ve thrown myself into social media, since I didn’t want to be one of the many authors who pen a lovely book, only to watch it sink like a stone into clear water. For whatever reason, just writing the stories isn’t enough. I need my stuff to be read as well, or all this is merely self-indulgence. To make it work for me, art needs to be shared, whether it’s visual or literary.

I’ve been using the funnel approach to social media. Most writers out there will be familiar with the model. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. are all supposed to entice readers to your blog. Some of them will then sign up for your email list, which everyone seems to agree is paramount in building a reader base.

For two-and-a-half years I’ve followed this advice, and it netted me forty names on my list. I’m grateful for all of them, but that’s hardly taking taking the literary world by storm. The most I could say was that at least I wasn’t invisible in cyberspace. Barely.

Then I signed up for a promotion, with Voracious Readers Only ( And two months later, my email list is now sitting at 160. It’s still small, but no longer embarrassingly so.

86. Tough decisions aheadIn my day job, my husband and I own a construction company, and we’re used to evaluating the results of advertising and other associated endeavors. If I was being dispassionate about the numbers, I’d say that compared to the results of a single promotion, what I’ve been doing for two years hasn’t been worth the massive effort I put into it.

And okay, every job has stuff you’d rather not do. In all my years of teaching, I never met a teacher who looked forward to grading. But with social media and blogging, I’ve been doing the work. I’ve studied hard and tried to get better.

The other possible culprit, the quality of my writing, seems unlikely, even taking into account my inherent bias against wanting the blame to fall there. I’m big on getting honest feedback, and I’ve been blessed with truly talented beta friends who’ve helped me hammer my drafts into something worth reading. This is the one area in which I do feel successful. I get actual fan mail, from intelligent, articulate readers. Most of my reviews on goodreads and Amazon are four and five stars. In fact, when I’m down, I often go reread my reviews. People have told me that my stories truly touched them, which was the most important goal I set myself.Β  So in that one area, I already have succeeded, or at least brushed the edges of success.

But in the meantime I’ve become a writer who’s barely writing, and that really wasn’t the point of this whole thing. All the associated tasks have taken all the time and focus that I can conjure up. And still, I try to work harder, smarter, with longer hours, telling myself that I’m not a wimp and I’ll do whatever it takes. And then I burn out, over and over again.

There’s a reason I haven’t been blogging much lately. I’ve been visiting the blogs of more successful fantasy authors and binge-watching podcasts, notably the Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing podcast (, trying to figure out a way forward. Right now I don’t think I’m in much of a position to give advice on anything, except perhaps on the craft of writing, and I’ve mostly stated what I have to say in that area. There are only so many lessons that can be compressed into a blog post, with no direct feedback on individual work. I mostly learned to edit by giving and implementing critiques.

So I’m trying to decide what to do. What am I doing wrong, or just not right enough? What is worth saving, and what should I abandon as a time sink?

I keep hoping that if I sit in the corner long enough, I’ll have a Little Jack Horner moment and pull out the ripe, juicy plum I need. But right now I’m having trouble even locating the pie. πŸ™‚

Avid writer and reader of Faerie tales and noblebright fantasy.

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34 comments on “Great–Now What Do I Do?
  1. jenanita01 says:

    This must be the one question that all Indie authors are asking right now. Quickly followed by, I need more time! Short of cloning ourselves, I can’t think of a solution…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Ah yes! The life of a writer. It is messy. It’s like a roller coaster ride. You’re either going up, struggling, or you’re on top of the world, or you’re speeding down hill, coming to a stand still at some point. No worries. The movement happens.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Create Space says:

    I wish you clear insight into the way ahead Cathleen. Drawing on Adler’s theories which have been a positive in my life, growth comes through connection with your community and fostering growth in others. Maybe offering voluntary workshops or readings at your local library could be a starting point?

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve been thinking about that–getting more involved in my local community. I’m actually pretty good in person. All the years of teaching have left me with little fear of public speaking, and making connections locally is always a good thing, regardless. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  4. JM Williams says:

    Thanks for sharing your resources. I need to check out those sites! Especially the one that helped you build your email list. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Thanks for sharing, Cathleen.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I know the feeling, hard to know where time should be put in!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Hi Cathleen. I know what you mean. It’s not always particularly easy to figure out the path to take.

    You’re a good writer. Keep at it!

    Take care —

    Neil S.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Good to hear you’re still in there pitching. It is an overwhelming undertaking, writing. Then social media and less time to write. Sigh. Wish you lots of patience and luck. πŸ™‚ You can do it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • *slams into Tess and the resulting tacklehug requires chocolate to make amends* It’s so good to see you again!

      I think my time on social media has just been drastically cut.

      Of course this happened after I put a year of tweets and Facebook posts into the scheduler.

      Ah, well. Learn from my experience, folks. Don’t waste a year like I did.


  9. This post really speaks to my heart, Cathleen. I’m always doubtful but lately I’m also feeling like a total failure. However, you’re one of the people I identify as a success. Maybe you just need a breather in another direction as a way to recharge. Thank you for your honesty in what must be painful to share.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You are such a kind person, Shari. I swear, making online friends like you makes this whole thing worthwhile.

      And I never wanted to be cool so much that I wanted my friends to repeat my mistakes.

      So now I’ve got a new direction. Study folks who are recently SP successes, and see how they did it.

      I’m not saying not to do social media at all. I’m just saying it’s REALLY not worth taking a year to study how to do it best. It’s one (relatively) small pillar in what we do.

      Stay tuned for another blog post(s) on what I find and how I figure it out. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      • The social media aspect overwhelms me. I dislike making my life a glass house, and I’m technically challenged, so this whole thing is daunting. Yet I keep hearing that I have to be on every platform if I want to sell books, even more so if I want to attract potential agents.

        Better than all this – I value your friendship greatly.

        Liked by 1 person

        • My current understanding is that it’s not a bad idea to be on all platforms, even just as a placeholder. As a hypothetical example–suppose there’s a Cathleen Townsend out there who advocates something that I don’t want associated with me, like white supremacy. I’d want a placeholder if possible, and the more unique your name is, the more you need it. I don’t think anyone would assume that just because a Mary Smith or Jose Rodriquez espouses something, that this must be you because you share a name.

          But you can make it clear who you are by listing your Twitter and Facebook on your website/blog. I tweet @CathleenTowns. If there’s a CathleenTsend out there, for instance, then this makes it clear that her tweets aren’t mine.

          However, you don’t have to be active on all platforms. That’s a journey down a rabbit hole that will gleefully suck up ALL your time. As far as I can tell, the most important platforms to be on, in order, are Facebook and Twitter. If you only choose one, choose Facebook. I’m actually going to do a post on this soon, so more information is coming.

          And your friendship is worth more than all this stuff combined. ❀

          Liked by 1 person

        • PS–You don’t have to make your life a glass house. I don’t post ANYTHING about family members except dogs, who really don’t care.

          Mostly what I share is motivational stuff like the graphics in this post. I like reading that sort of thing. I’m big on quotes. Also funny memes (Star Trek, Star Wars, and LOTR are fruitful topics to look up on Google, but interestingly, a lot of the Harry Potter stuff has a dark edge to it that I dislike).

          Liked by 1 person

  10. willowdot21 says:

    Just keep plodding πŸ’œπŸ’œ

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Ann Coleman says:

    I honestly wish I knew the answer. I don’t write fantasy, but I do think that all writers struggle with the publication process, and that includes marketing. It is so hard to sell books, and even the big publishers struggle, and so do some of the successful authors. I read two mysteries by a writer I loved and eagerly awaited the third in the series (which was advertised in the back of her second book.) It never came out, I’m assuming because the publisher pulled the plug after the sales of her first two book weren’t big enough. Talent isn’t always recognized, which stinks! All I can say is, keep trying.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks so much for the kind words of encouragement, Ann. I’m not going to quit writing–rather the reverse. I just need to take a hard look at where I’m spending my time. Something’s out of balance. There’s got to be a way to fix it. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I have no idea either. My first book is much more successful (notice the qualifier ‘more’) than my second and I rolled both out the same. If anything, #2 was better done. Go figure hunh?

    Liked by 1 person

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