In September of 2015, my husband and I visited the Outer Banks of North Carolina for our second wedding anniversary. We’d both been to the beach town before, but it was a visit to a new rum distillery in Manteo that awakened the writer inside my soul.
The distillery was newly opened, and run by four guys who were incredibly passionate about their craft. Their knowledge and drive, combined with the magic of the Outer Banks stirred up such inspiration for me that I went to bed that night with an entire novel in my mind. Such a thing had never happened to me before, and when we got home from vacation, I started writing and could not stop.
While I crafted the novel that was to become Rum Lovers, I embarked on a self-publishing journey and made my YA novel, An Accidental Band Geek, available to the public in May of 2016. (insert thanks to my little sister, who knows how much her Christmas gift and belief in me meant that year).
Although Band Geek had taken me fifteen years to write, Rum Lovers was completed after only nine months. I self-published it in August 2016, and was thrilled with the $200 I made thanks to the courtesy of family and friends.
My excitement was short lived, though. I had plunged into the self-publishing world doing little to no research about marketing or networking. Suddenly my elation at having my books available to the public turned into dread over formatting, editing, copyright laws, distribution, and marketing. I knew that I had to get my books out there to strangers, but had no idea how to do that. Inquiries to local libraries and bookstores were brick walls. And the marketing offered by CreateSpace and Kindle were entirely too expensive for my budget. I was working two jobs just to pay my bills. How was I supposed to pay hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars to promote and market my books?
Confusion and frustration made my novels stand stagnant for nearly a year. I felt naïve and stupid and embarrassed.
The frustration with marketing my books bled into my daily life. I felt trapped again by my lack of knowledge and had no outlet to escape my 9-5. Being home alone while my husband worked second shift and reeling from the results of the 2016 election sent me into a tailspin of depression.
Then one day at work I not-so-discreetly began scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed after being on hold with a client for an exorbitant about of time. An ad for a website called The Write Life popped up, and I clicked on it out of curiosity. Google and its slightly creepy ability to know what’s going on in your life thanks to your search history had placed an article about free writing contests on my newsfeed, and I jumped on it like a starving cat hunting a mouse. The article that had first appealed to me was about free writing contests, and that lead me to an article about marketing your books, self-published or traditional. That article lead me to another one about starting a blog, and soon I was discovering new websites and Facebook groups all about self-publishing, blogging, and marketing your books! As I clicked the ‘Like’ and ‘Follow’ button again and again, I felt like jumping out of my chair and dancing on my desk to the horribly jazz hold music. Finally, resources!
True to my anxious nature, I quickly became overwhelmed with so many new resources and the vast array of industry-used terms that everyone was throwing around. These people I’d begun to connect with may have been self-published, but they were experienced! They had hundreds or thousands of followers, fancy marketing ads, and sparkling resumes. Once again, I was way in over my head. How would I ever find time to wade through all of this?
A few weeks later, after an incredibly frustrating morning at the office job, I let out negative, profanity-laced rant about the place that my manager ended up hearing. Shit.
I agonized over it for days. Not only was I terrified of being reprimanded or even losing my job, but something deeper was gnawing at me. I’d never wanted to have a job or a life that left me little to no time to write. Despite being a relentless dreamer, I also knew that in order to keep a roof over my head, I had to do the practical thing and have a “real” job. But now that I had discovered a whole new host of information and opportunities about writing and self-publishing, how was I supposed to make them a priority when I spent 40 hours a week in a cubicle?
I agonized over my time management skills for a couple of weeks. If only there were more hours in the day! How could anyone work two jobs, maintain a house, spend time with family and friends, work out, watch their guilty pleasures on TV, and write and market books? Impossible!
Except it wasn’t. I had an epiphany one morning on my way to work. Like usual, I had spent 10-15 minutes watching the news while eating breakfast, then another 10 or so minutes watching as I packed my lunch and sipped my juice.
I set off to work in a foul mood, already bogged down by the latest circus act courtesy of the trump administration and string of murders, rapes, and robberies in the tristate area. I should stop watching the news, I thought bitterly, shaking my head. It makes me so depressed and angry. Then the lightbulb went off – what if I spent those 10-15 minutes doing something writing related in the morning? I could write a page in ten minutes. Or read an article about blogging or marketing.
The next day I put my plan into action. While eating my cereal, I visited writing-related websites, read articles, and thought of a name for my new blog.
I was so pumped when I left for work that I thought about writing throughout the entire day. In fact I was so excited that I didn’t even turn on the TV when I got home. Instead of watching reruns of Friends or Say Yes to the Dress after dinner and walking the dog, I opened up the laptop and wrote. And wrote. And researched. And read.
This has been going on for several months and I am thrilled. I am learning so much and making valuable connections with other writers. I even got inspired to start another novel. The best part is that I am feeling happier in general. Instead of watching President Orange make a fool out of our country on TV or getting involved in a Facebook fight with strangers, I dedicate all that time to writing or learning something about writing.
Don’t get me wrong – there are days when I can’t find the answers I’m looking for or am overwhelmed by formatting or other technical issues. Not too long ago, I spent three evenings in a row crying over page numbers. But overall I am feeling better and moving forward, baby step by baby step.
I have a long, long, LONG way to go before I consider myself remotely successful, and it’s not all about making money.
I hope to make meaningful connections with other people, and not just writers. I hope to help someone by writing about something important like anxiety and social justice. I want to inspire others and document memories and share entertaining stories about life. I want to be able to provide for myself and my family and those in need. I want to live in Manteo, North Carolina and spend my days writing books, blogs, and articles.
I want to write.