Over the past few weeks I’ve heard a lot of “worry” in the air. Writers have been talking about the Covid virus, worrying about recession, worrying that book stores might close, that the publishing industry is headed for a downturn, and so on.
If you worry about things that might happen, you’re in trouble.
On slow news days, you’ll hear broadcasters talk of possible floods, tornados, asteroid impacts, and invasion of Chupacabras roaming city streets. They’ll tell you that you might have cancer, heart disease, or the Ebola virus. They’re verbal terrorists.
On Wall Street there is always some authority predicting that the economy is going to tank. They’ll tell you that you have to buy gold now, invest in cryptocurrency, or hide in a bunker.
Yet I tend to be an optimist.
I remember an old story that Zig Ziglar used to tell. During a recession, car sales were down. He spoke to salesman after salesman who would say, “Well, you know, with this recession going on, nobody’s going to buy a car. They just don’t have the money!”
But then he noticed that some salesmen were killing it, making sales 300% higher than they’d expect on a normally great month, and so he went to the top three salesmen in the country and asked their secret.
They all had THE SAME secret. They said, “Well, times are hard, but everyone knows that the hard times are going to end. Prices are low right now, and interest rates are low, and there has never been a better time to invest in a new car!”
Both the hero salesmen and the loser were living under the exact same economic conditions. The only difference was attitude.
As writers, we have to nurture the right attitude. Right now, a lot of authors are killing it.
In an interview with literary agent Mark Gottlieb from Trident Media Group the other day, we talked about this. I asked how he felt about the predicted hard times, and he said, “Well, it seems that the literary establishment has been predicting its own demise ever since the invention of the printing press.” In interviewing a publisher this past week about the impending disaster, she said, “Well, we were all worried about the impact that electronic publishing would have on our industry a few years ago, and that all turned out to be nothing, so, yeah, we’ll have a little slowdown, but things will bounce back in the fall.”
They’re absolutely right. There are more readers today, spending more money on books than ever before. Yes, some book stores may close, but I predict that new ones will open. Sales in one medium—paper books—may be down, but they’re up in audiobook and electronic books.
Our agent pointed out that at his agency, they’ve been doing well during the pandemic. Sales keep coming. And he added that during the Christmas holidays when many agencies close because “Editors don’t read over the holidays,” he usually does his briskets business.
In other words, his competitors take themselves out of market due to their own self-limiting behaviors. Maybe we all do it.
Maybe we should expect more from ourselves.
In my Apex writer’s group, I have one self-published author who is publishing one novel a month—each 100,000 words. He has to write 3,300 words per day—about 142 pages, and edit it, and re-edit it, and format it, and prep it for publication, and so on. That sounds like a lot of work. Really though, it’s not hard. I used to do it all the time when writing software manuals.
Sometimes the specter of a project is more frightening than the reality.
We suffer from our own self-limitations. We tell ourselves that “I don’t have time to write a scene today” because we don’t have a convenient chunk of time to do our pre-writing, get in the mood, spend a couple of hours diving into the project, and so on. In other words, we want to make sure that the stars are all aligned for us.
The reality is that if we wait for the world to get synchronized for us, we’ll never begin that big project. We need to take action now, figure out how to use that extra thirty minutes or hour in a day. Maybe just sketching out a scene is all you can do in your thirty minutes, or writing the first page of it. What you really need is to adjust your expectations and begin writing.
The moon lander was built by people who knew that we could get to the moon. It couldn’t have been built by naysayers who couldn’t be bothered to get out of bed.
We need to re-educate ourselves, understand our true potential.
An awful lot of people are taking themselves out of the competition. They’re spending time fretting when they should be writing.
Right now is a great time to be a writer.
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