“If your success is not on your own terms, if it looks good to the world but does not feel good in your heart, it is not success at all.” ~ Anna Quindlen
I’m writing this post because I need a reminder about what’s important to me. When I started this independent-publishing journey, I was happy I’d sold a book . . . to anyone. I was happy at least one person, somewhere, was reading what I’d written. I was happy that lovely person wrote a review, even better if it was a fabulous review.
What’s important to the world, though, is numbers: sales figures, dollars earned, number-one rankings, the number of visitors/retweets/Facebook fans, and the list goes on and on forever. I used to check all that. I used to until I noticed my happiness took a nosedive. Why? Because inevitably I’d read about some author bemoaning the fact that he/she was only selling 100 books a day (only 100 a day!). They were upset. They were venting about it. Complaining to whoever would listen.
And it made me feel less than, both as a business person (Why aren’t my sales better?) and as a writer (Why isn’t my book good enough?). At that point, when I’d read that post, I’d sold 2 books ~ in a month.
The effect looking at the numbers had on me
For starters, reading other people’s numbers made me start not liking them. A lot. Sure, it was jealousy but it was also the fact that I’d give almost anything to be where they were at & they weren’t grateful. Heck, they didn’t even seem to be happy. Anne Lamott in her fabulous, amazing, you-should-really-go-buy-it-now book on writing, Bird By Bird, talks about this in detail (in case you think I’m the lone person who’s felt this way). She writes about jealousy & how, yes, it happens but you also don’t have to hang around/listen to/like people who shove their success (or in the case of the 100-a-day-sales failure) in your face.
The second thing it did was made me start doubting. All the advice I’ve heard over the years about growing a business ~ it takes time, be willing to grow slowly, don’t let your ego get in the way ~ started going out the window. Panic crept in. And along with it came lots of self-doubt. Maybe this isn’t what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s working out for other people, why isn’t it working out for me? Maybe I should quit and go get a real job. And on and on the crazy-go-round went.
Finally, it also had the sad effect of making me look at writing with an endgame in mind~ well, is this gonna sell? Here are a few things I love about writing: when I get so caught up in the story that I lose track of time; my characters, who I actually look forward to sitting down with and seeing what they’re going to do next; and finally, getting surprised by the story, having it veer off in a direction I never anticipated, never planned for, & so I’m just as shocked as a reader would be about what happened. Looking at the numbers & anticipating the end result of my writing ~ forcing the story along or trying to make it into something it wasn’t ~ made all those things I love about writing unimportant, which, of course, also made it totally unenjoyable for me.
Looking at the numbers does not feel good in my heart
It feels good in my heart to not be enslaved to the numbers, to be happy when I sell even one book, to write the way I want to without worrying about selling it later. It feels good in my heart to keep plugging along and making sure the writing is what’s important. It feels good in my heart to craft stories that matter to me. So that’s why I stopped looking at the numbers.
What about you? If you’re a writer, are the numbers important to you? Please feel free to share your thoughts & experiences in the comment box below.