Sex For Money is a semi-regular blog series about my experiences in writing, publishing, and marketing gay erotica and M/M erotic romance. All of this information is from my own experience, so your experience may differ. It’s hoped that sharing this information might be helpful to new and aspiring erotica and erotic romance authors, as I see a lot of questions and a lot of misinformation out there. To read more Sex For Money posts, click here.
I have a general rule about negative emotions — I don’t share them publicly. As an author, I don’t feel it’s right for me to burden my followers on Twitter with depressive emotions or negative self-image. Twitter isn’t a counselling forum and, quite frankly, while I may sometimes feel those things, I would share them with friends. And while I might form relationships with people on Twitter, that doesn’t make them the kind of friend I would share my innermost feelings with.
I’ve seen a few authors send out a series of public tweets in the midst of a depression and it just doesn’t sit well with me. As an author, we are presenting professional platforms for people to connect with us. We are not reaching out to random strangers for help. If this was done on a personal Twitter account, then that would be more appropriate because it’s not a public persona that is potentially attracting thousands of followers.
But today, I’m going to break that rule.
I’m not in the midst of negative emotions right now — but I was last night. Now that I have distanced myself from what was going through my head last night, now that I’m back to my normal self and have my normal perspective back, I thought it would be good to share what was going on here on the blog. After all, a lot of you are writers, and this had to do with writing.
I’ve never been one of those mega erotica authors who rakes in six figures each month. For the most part, I was making coffee money. Slowly, it inched up so that it was a few fast food meals per month. Then all of a sudden in December 2015, my sales doubled, landing me in the triple digits for the first time ever. I was elated.
Then January 2016 came along and, holy fuck, I doubled what I made in December! And so far, right now in February, I’m on track to land between these two numbers. I’ll probably end up close to January’s sales, but not quite there.
So, all in all, things are going very well for me as a writer. Add on top of that, I’m planning to start a small publisher by the end of the year — I’m excited about it and it’s looking like it’ll actually become a reality and I’m so excited.
Yet, last night, I was crippled with self-doubt. I hid in bed, in the dark, for almost two hours.
I haven’t actually written much of anything since December. I think, somehow, the sudden increase in sales had me wondering if it was all some sort of fluke, and that my writing sales would come crashing down around me. Even though that doesn’t seem to be the case, it was still what was going through my head.
And then I began to wonder, well, fuck, who am I to publish other people’s books? I’m a self-published author with only three years of experience — what gives me the right to call myself a publisher? And then it circled around to my day job — I love the people I work with, but there are some background issues going on that are making my job somewhat unlikeable. And with today’s job market, it’s almost impossible to find a new job.
This led me into a downward spiral that landed me in bed in the dark. I questioned everything about who I am as a writer, as an entrepreneur with my upcoming publishing company, who I am in my day job, and more — and this only led to questioning who I am as a person.
I have no doubt that this is an identity crisis faced by many authors in the course of their careers.
That’s why I wanted to talk about it today. That’s why I broke my rule about negative emotions on my platform.
If you’re an author who is feeling that crippling self-doubt, please know that you are not alone. Others have been there before and others are there right now.
So how do we dig ourselves out of this? How do we get back on track?
The first thing is to remember that who you are as an author has no impact on who you are as a person. Those are entirely separate things. Your self-worth and self-identity should not be wrapped up in your writing successes and failures.
The second thing is to recognize your strengths and successes. Was it a one star review that brought this on? Well, then focus on the five star review you got the other day. Every reader’s opinion is different and you will always get one star reviews. Look at any mega-bestselling book and you’ll find a slew of one star reviews.
Tied into this, if you’re working on a project, is the “two stars and a wish” activity. It’s easy to see everything that’s wrong with a project, and I’ve been crippled by that before and I’ve seen it stall other writers that I admire and respect. There’s an educational self-assessment activity called “two stars and a wish”. If you’re working on a project, identify two things that you did well, and one thing that needs more work. (Notice — you don’t identify one thing you did wrong, you identify one thing that you can improve on.) This might be enough to change your perspective on your project.
The third is to make a to-do list to get yourself back on track. First, write out absolutely everything that you need to get done. Then take a new sheet of paper and draw four quadrants — “priority: must do right away,” “priority: must do soon,” “important: want to get done,” and “important but not urgent.” Once you have this, take a new sheet of paper and write an accomplishable to-do list that consists mostly of “do right away” items and a few “must do soon” items. Somewhere on that paper, write an additional list of a few other random things you need to get done — so if you need a distraction, you can do one of those things. (That’s why I’m writing this post right now!)
The fourth is to do some self-care. This might involve delicious tea, a shower or bath, cuddling up and watching a movie — anything that gets you feeling like your old self.
Those four steps should hopefully let you shed the self-doubt that’s hobbling your writing and progress. The important thing, though, is to never make decisions when you are in a depression like that. It would have been too easy to decide that I wanted to remove all my books from Amazon and say I’m done with writing, I’m done with trying to achieve this dream. Now that I’m on the other side of that dark mindset, I can see it for what it is. And, really, if an author doesn’t sometimes experience this, then they might not be taking writing as seriously as you or I. We want to make this dream come true, and to do that requires investing a lot of time and energy into it — and while doing that makes the dream all the more achievable, it also makes the road all the more rockier.