Today’s Lesson from the Universe, brought to you by The Pet Shop Boys

Too many shadows, whispering voices
Faces on posters, too many choices
If, when, why, what?
How much have you got?
Have you got it, do you get it, if so, how often?
And which do you choose, a hard or soft option?
(How much do you need?)

I keep being amazed at the quality of silence in my house. And in the few times I let myself come out of hiding and talk to someone via chat or email (because I don’t have local friends, so I do need to keep from being completely isolated), I keep seeing myself typing that it’s so quiet in my house right now.

But aside from the fact that we’ve been having school on a regular basis, my child isn’t home, and it is literally quieter than it was in Dec/Jan when we had so much lack of school due to bad weather and the holidays…isn’t it pretty much the same amount of quiet it always is when it’s just me and the pets?

So I’m forced to realize that the quiet isn’t in my house.  It’s in my head.

I had the flu recently. My daughter had this really brief illness, fever, generally pitiful and not herself, but it was about a day and half and then she was back to normal. I got it and it took me down hard. Fever for days, I couldn’t eat, I got dehydrated, slept all the time, and was just really generally miserable and unable to function. And I’m sure this was just because I have been so worked up over the various stresses in my life that I made myself every bit as sick as the virus did–likely moreso.

Coming out of that I’ve kind of felt like I’m in this really weird place where everything is different. I don’t know, maybe I lost brain cells or something, but I just feel better than I have in a long time. I feel like I’ve actually forgiven myself for the fact that I’m having trouble finishing this book. I’ve made peace with the fact that it’s not done, it wasn’t done two months ago when I wanted it to be done, it’s not going to be done this month. I think I’m finally starting to understand how much I have just been beating the crap out of myself over this.

I’m no longer checking my sales every day. Used to, recording daily sales figures was the first thing I did in the morning. Right now I know approximately what I’m selling this month, I know that my rank has dropped slightly on Amazon, and that rank and sales have dropped significantly at Barnes & Noble. But honestly, while I’ve learned interesting stuff, baby sitting my stats doesn’t actually affect anything. I don’t know that there’s anything to be done about the slow-down in sales short of coming back online and trying to find and spend significant amounts of time in NOOK forums.

That, by the way, actively marketing in the forums, would be the hard option, I think. And this is where the Pet Shop Boys come into my silence, as I realize that all that time I spent online from the time I released Hush Money until the time I said I just need to try taking a break from this, put voices into my head. Voices I’m not hearing all the time anymore. How many sales do I have? How often? Enough to stay in the top 500? No, not for the last few weeks.

How much do you need?

I can’t expect sales to just continue forever without a new title. I don’t expect that. And I’ve certainly got no room to complain about how things are going on that front. I’ve been remarkably blessed. And while I have been grateful, I’ve also let these blessings make me kind of crazy. It’s been exciting to watch this book do well, but I’ve put a lot of my attention into tracking that. I’ve put a lot of my energy into putting myself out here in virtual world, into making connections, “networking,” trying to help out and give back, and basically being “on” all the time.

All The Time.

I’ve funneled so much of my creative energy into posting to this blog. So much of the logic that should go to figuring out how to craft a good story has been going into dissecting marketing strategy and sales/rank ratios. So much reading time that could have gone to feeding my Muse has gone to running around trying to keep up with all these new friends, supporting, learning new things, keeping up…

Don’t get me wrong, it all has value. But is the value of all that stuff more than the value of writing the Talent Chronicles? Isn’t that what I really wanted to do: tell their stories, have other people read them, and make enough money that I contribute to the household and not have to feel guilty about investing that time and emotional energy?

When did it become a numbers game? When did I start to think about being seen as a successful indie and thereby legitimizing the indie movement more than I thought about my series? It’s kind of like at some point I went from being a writer to being an indie with something to prove. And no matter how much success I found and how many people blessed me with their compliments and kindnesses, I couldn’t seem to pull out of that again and get back to where I started.

So…I’m telling you this because I know that it’s not just me. I know a bunch of us go through this phase. I guess I wanted to let you know that taking a break has helped me find some peace and is helping me come to terms with some stuff. While there has been some slacking off of sales, it hasn’t been huge, and I really, truly believe that this is a natural result of not releasing new work, and NOT a result of my not being on the internet all the damned time.

So if there’s stuff in here that resonates with you, if you recognize yourself and your crazy, I just wanted to say yeah, it is okay to take a step back, to give yourself a break, and it’s not going to be the end of the world. Maybe it will just help you get back to the real one.

P.S. A special thank you to everyone who passed along my post yesterday. I guess that hit a nerve because it became the highest traffic ever day on my blog–not counting the time StumbledUpon sent me 800 Firefly fans. It was a nice Welcome Home present. Thanks.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Today’s Lesson from the Universe, brought to you by The Pet Shop Boys

  1. Hey, Susan! Glad you and your family are all better and things are getting back to normal. We’ve missed you and it’s good to see your posts coming through again. It’s good you are not stressing over the first book (which was awesome btw) and getting back to Heroes. I’m sure it will be just as awesome as the first one. I’m glad you didn’t just release it to get it out there. So much better to wait a little longer for awesomeness!

    Also, I loved your story in the anthology. It gave quite an insight into the school that your Talents could end up in and what goes on there.

    Welcome back!

  2. Love this post, Susan. I’m like you — I very easily get stuck in my head, and very rarely remember to step out of it.

    “I just wanted to say yeah, it is okay to take a step back, to give yourself a break, and it’s not going to be the end of the world. Maybe it will just help you get back to the real one.”

    ^I need this on a pillow. Thank you for reminding me that it’s okay to chill. ❤

  3. I’m trying not to get into the habit of staying online too much. Unfortunately, that means no one reads my blog. D’oh. I think there is a balance; it just depends on the person. I find that no matter how many free hours I have, if I go online, I rarely get off.

  4. Wow, I’m really behind on blog comments. I thought I had caught up. Ugh.

    I’ve stopped obsessing over sales, too. In fact, I rarely check B & N anymore. Those sales have dried up except for maybe 10 or so a day. Amazon is still doing okay, but not great. This may be an across the board thing, who knows?

    We need to focus on the next thing. The past has done well for us, but we need to keep moving forward and keep that momentum going. It’s hard, isn’t it? But we can do it.

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