It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon? Nope. It’s not a marathon, it’s a 5K
I had a mini depression bout this week, which was not when I was expecting it. I have regularly 2-3 days/month where I get hit hard, but I’m usually able to predict those and know what they are, so I think my way through them. This time, this wasn’t the cyclical bout, so it blasted me. It was triggered on Monday when I released my latest work, it only sold three copies.
It’s hard to approach a subject like this without sounding like I’m whining. It’s not that I expect people to read my books by virtue of my writing and releasing them, but I did think this one would get a better reception than it did, given that it was holiday themed and linked to an existing series. What it said to me was that I have lost the ability to get people excited about my books, and that there is little desire to read the books I’m writing. I’m more saddened by my lack of meeting reader expectations, by my inability to connect to readers, than I am about selling only three copies.
I appealed to friends for advice on what I should do. I can some up their advice in the following statement: “work harder.” Which is exactly not what I wanted to hear, because in my mind I convinced myself I had worked as hard as I could. One reminded me of the older writer’s salve: “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
God, I’ve always hated that phrase, and I especially cringe when people say it to me, even though their intentions are good. I’ve been at publishing for five years; I think it’s safe to say I’m not holding out hopes of overnight success at this point. But how long do I keep running and instead of moving forward, I seem to move backward with each release.
And then on Thursday, I ran a 5K. Not a metaphor, I actually hauled my ass down to central San Jose before breakfast and ran 3.2 miles in the 35-degree morning air. (Yes, it does get that cold in California.) And that, my people, gave me perspective. A marathon is 26.2 miles; I can’t even fathom what it means to keep at one of those. But 5K? That got to me. I worked my ass to cover that measly distance, but I did it. Sometimes I ran. Sometime I walked. Sometimes I danced and sometimes I cursed. I didn’t compare myself to the people running around me, because there success wouldn’t determine my own, it would only frame it in hindsight. I didn’t judge people who were even more overweight than me running, because I didn’t know where they were coming from, and I certainly didn’t know where they were going. I didn’t deem myself superior to the people I passed because I didn’t know what burdens they were walking with that I couldn’t see.
Indie publishing is one in which you only have the ability to look up in the sky and wonder why you’re not flying among the clouds like other. And in looking up, you’re inspired, but you’re also blinded by the sun. You have no idea what it took for those people to get there, all the years they spent building planes, learning how to pilot them, and figuring out how to navigate. You certainly don’t get there by just wishing you had a plane to. You got to build the motherfucking plane.
Shut the hell, Killian, and write the next book. And next time, chart the trip better.