Discouragement may seem like an odd choice for the first post of a new year and a new decade, but I have found that sometimes looking at a dark time helps me remember the light.
But first, a story.
I recently read the book Chop Wood Carry Water, by Joshua Medcalf. In it the author tells the story of a witch who is retiring and selling her “tools” at a garage sale. Towards the end of the sale a man tries to purchase the last remaining tool. The witch takes it from the man, inspects it, and tells him she had mistakenly put it out to be sold, and because it is the most powerful tool of all, she can never sell it. That tool was discouragement.
There were several months last year when I was so discouraged I didn’t write or tend to any of my writing-related tasks, such as promoting my books, writing blog posts, reading about my craft and encouraging other indie authors by buying and reviewing their books.
Discouragement is indeed an all-powerful force, and for me it was truly paralyzing. As I went through my funk I tried to ascertain the source of my discouragement, and this is what I came up with: Amazon had changed its algorithm for how it places book advertisements, and because I relied so heavily on Amazon ads, my sales took a hit. It was hard to watch other indie writers crank out books and sell them faster than they could write them. With fewer sales and fewer reviews, I felt like I was writing into a black hole. Was anyone listening? Was anyone even reading my books? I felt alone. But I knew had the choice of what I could do with my discouragement. I could either prolong the pity party, or I could do something about it.
It took me two months to get back on the wagon and whip myself into shape. I wish it hadn’t taken me so long, but that sentiment serves no purpose. The important thing is I’m back on track and going full speed ahead. I found other places to advertise and continue to educate myself about book promotion and sales.
And while I was pulling myself up, this happened.
A reader found me on Facebook and sent me this note via messenger:
“I love love Finch’s Crossing Book One: Autumn. I haven’t even finished reading it yet. Meanwhile, I’m hoping to read your Finch’s Crossing Book Two: Spring, soon. When is it coming out?”
We corresponded for a while and she continued to tell me that when she finished reading Autumn, she cried on the train ride home from work, which in turn made me cry.
Someone was reading.
It was wonderful to receive this jolt of appreciation, and the idea that I had touched at least one person with my writing was truly a gift. I thanked my new fan and she responded:
“Just know that there ARE people like me reading your books and find immense joy in your stories. The book Autumn really moved me and I can’t wait for Spring to come out.”
And if some days it feels like I’m only writing for this one, wonderful reader who reached out to me, that’s fine. The important thing is to keep moving forward. I’ll release my second Finch’s Crossing book in a few months. The third in the series will be out in July, and I’ll release the first book in a spin-off series around the same time.
That’s the thing about taking action. The more you do, well, the more you do.
And when I find myself dipping again into discouragement, I remind myself:
And of course, I’ve saved screenshots of the messages from my Number One Fan. They are a powerful reminder of why I started writing in the first place. And no algorithm can take that away from me.