By Gamal Hennessy
I’m coming out of my summer break from posting and I wanted to jump back into the craft with a few thoughts on a writer’s relationship to their writing.
Before I start, please understand that I'm not an expert on self-publishing. I don't even refer to my business as self-publishing. I call it independent publishing because it implies that I publish outside the traditional publishing system. ”Self-publishing” implies that I do everything myself and that's not true. I have a lot of formal and informal help with my books that make them better than anything I could do alone. I want to acknowledge that every time I talk about this business.(See What is the Difference Between Self-Publishing and Independent Publishing?)
Anyway, I've only been in the game for about two years. As of July 2014, I’ll only have one novel, eight short stories and one anthology to my name. Because I don't have a book publishing background, I spend a lot of time reading and learning about the business. Some of my education comes from research. Most of what I've learned comes from making my own mistakes. I make a lot of mistakes, so I guess I've learned a lot.
I share what little I know through my newsletter, The Independent Publishing Network. Every week I explore the minutiae of an industry that is changing every day. People have told me that information is really helpful, but if I had to boil down all the details of what I know into one piece of advice for a new writer, I would say treat your writing with love instead of lust.
Now what the hell does that mean?
When a person falls in love, they offer their time, energy and creativity to the loved one with enthusiasm. They bring the best aspects of themselves to the process. They make an effort to keep the relationship going, because they want it to last as long as possible. They are always looking for new ways to express their love. They are proud to display that affection in public. Part of what defines the lover is the person they are in love with.
A person in lust wants to get something from the object of their desire as quickly as possible. They are often single minded and ruthless in their pursuits. They jump from target to target, never taking the time to establish a bond or relationship with anyone. They often repeat a scripted pattern of behavior with each new target. They often act in secret or with a certain amount of shame. They are more defined by their hungers than their connections to others.
All this might seem very abstract, but the concept of love vs. lust has concrete applications for an independent publisher.
- A writer in love with writing wants to publish as many books as they can in their lifetime. A writer in lust with writing wants that one book that will give them money, recognition, sex or whatever it is they are really after.
- A writer in love with writing writes about things that they are passionate about. A writer in lust with writing writes stories that they think are "hot" or take advantage of a pop culture trend.
- A writer in love with writing takes time to learn their craft and find their voice. A writer in lust doesn't want to invest time and effort because they think writing is fundamentally easy. (It’s not.)
- A writer in love with writing uses social media to make connections with readers and other writers. A writer in lust with writing uses every social media post to scream "please buy my book"
- A writer in love with writing reads a lot. A writer in lust with writing is only interested in other writers when he's trying to sell them his book.
- A writer in love with writing will start on a new project soon after the current one is done. A writer in lust with writing checks the sales figures on their book every thirty minutes instead of writing, hoping they'll see a magical flood of royalties.
- A writer in love with writing will experiment and try new things to improve both their writing craft and their publishing business. A writer in lust with writing is looking for that one gimmick or magic bullet that will make his book sell.
- A writer in love with writing takes pride in their catalog and tries to expose it to you as many people as possible in as many ways as they can. A writer in lust with writing will reject independent publishing as dead after the first book fails because their book isn't a bestseller.
I could go on, but you get the idea.
I'm not trying to imply that I haven't committed lustful thoughts and actions (both inside and outside of writing). As far as the writing is concerned, the things I’ve done based on lust have been some of my biggest mistakes.
I'm not saying that writers in lust always fail and writers in love always succeed. I am saying that when I started loving the process of writing I had less stress and more fun with the experience. You may or may not become the next Stephen King. If you love what you're doing, it won't really matter.