the art of the creative pause (+ not being Amazon’s bitch)

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It’s good to disrupt yourself.

My kids went to their father and I went to Palm Springs and Joshua Tree. I’d forgotten how much I love the desert. I felt drawn to it as a kid – to the New Mexico landscapes featured in Lois Duncan’s YA novels, or Judy Blume’s book TIGER EYES – and it was good to be reminded of that.

Shift your location, shift your perspective. We get attached to ways of thinking. We don’t realize that we need to change the frame.

She ponders how far she is from Coffee Bean.

So I’m writing this novel, and one day I’ll finish, and decide what I’m going to do with it. I read this piece about reasons not to self-publish. It’s an intelligent, well-written article —

— but something keeps nagging me. Something about the old-school frame that’s shaping the writer’s question. It’s a good question. But is it the truly central question?

The problem is no longer getting published, but finding your readership.

Where and how are your right readers going to find you? How to initially catch their interest and make them care when they have a zillion other things to do?

“I don’t want to be Amazon’s bitch,” this writer says: a reason why she seeks a traditional publishing contract for her first literary novel.

I don’t want to be Amazon’s bitch either. But I’ve been through the traditional-publishing thing (on the genre side), and I don’t want to be anyone’s bitch. William Goldman’s famous words come to mind – he was talking about Hollywood, but they still seem appropriate:

Nobody knows anything.

It’s a time, I think, for strategic improvisation. For what business theorist and jazz musician Frank Barrett describes as “fabricating and inventing novel responses without a pre-scripted plan and without certainty of outcomes; discovering the future that [your] action creates as it unfolds.”

It’s the ability not just to plan and act in real time, but to make adjustments, lean into what works and pivot away from what doesn’t.

If you’re locked into a traditional publishing contract for the next couple of years – and god knows what the publishing landscape is going to look like by the end of that (how many generations of e-readers will we have cycled through, advancing not just the technology but our comfort with it, our reliance on it?) – how, exactly, can you stay fluid enough to adapt as you need to?

When you sign that contract, how can you know what rights you need to fight for when the objects of those rights are in the process of…redefining themselves? How do you know that your books are going to be in bookstores when the bookstores themselves keep closing down and going under? What are the other places that might stock your book – drugstores, Target, Wal-Mart, airports? Are they likely to stock your book?

Don’t get me wrong. I think traditional publishers are still a great way to go…especially if you’ve built up a platform on your own, and maybe sold enough self-published novels that demonstrate your healthy, growing readership. You’re less likely to be someone’s bitch if you’ve followed Seth Godin’s advice and created your own media company. You’ve given yourself options (a.k.a. ‘leverage’).

And the interesting thing about finding your audience is that it involves finding yourself.

There’s something to be said for that.

Writers feel such a sense of urgency when it comes to getting published – and that often works to our detriment. We submit manuscripts before they’re ready. Or we do get published, and it turns out to be a mistake. We weren’t yet the writer we were meant to become.

What if we took this time of uncertainty as a chance for a creative pause?

As a time for radical exploration and experimentation? While the publishing industry shakes itself out and the trailblazers forge new pathways and make mistakes — so that the rest of us don’t have to?

As a chance to write whatever the hell we want, embrace mistakes of our own, and learn from them?

To get really fucking good?

In his book BRAND LIKE A ROCK STAR, Steve Jones observes that

There are very few Facebook-style overnight success stories to tell…Every band, and brand, needs that incubation time to refine their craft. Lennon and McCartney needed to figure out how to write songs together. Bob Dylan needed to meet Woody Guthrie and immerse himself in the folk counter-culture of Greenwich Village….

At some point every rock star brand finds that moment of transition when the kindling catches fire and the tiny flame becomes a massive blaze.

Maybe it’s time to improvise your way forward by looping back to learn something you didn’t quite get the first time. Maybe it’s time to change the frame and ask yourself new questions about what a writing career might look like if it played uniquely to your strengths, not just as a writer but a blogger, speaker, online entrepreneur, multimedia producer. Etc.

Or maybe you just want to take some time to make that manuscript a freaking masterpiece.

And when the kindling catches fire, you’ll be ready to blaze.

Dec 5, 2011
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19 comments · Add Yours

Thank you for this. When we met at Profit Catalyst months ago, I hadn’t yet launched my business. Now that I’ve been up and running for three and a half whole weeks, I’m still questioning if I’m feeling wobbly-legged and not super ready. I appreciate your permission to trust the breadth of the process and not be so urgent to manifest the “perfect” creation RIGHT NOW.

Great reminder. Thanks!!

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“The greatest risk is not taking one”

I used Joshua Tree (& nearby Anza Borrego, Low Desert near Palm Springs..towards San Diego) for some Comet Hale-Bopp astrophotos in 1997:

http://www.astrophoto.us
[ was lead photo for Newsweek cover story on Comet Hale-Bopp ]

http://www.astrophoto.us/hb/hb.html

I could only imagine how it was like during the centuries before, when Indians roamed these areas, witnessing various Comets! That was the purpose of the above, to try to “capture the Desert + Astronomy”. I was approached by National Geographic for their cover story on Hale-Bopp, btw.

Joshua Tree is too uptight for me, all the Park Rangers running around, prepared to give parking tickets, etc. I found a friend in nearby Yucca Valley, who let me stay at his place. Or, I just camped in my 4×4 van in the desert. That’s what I did for Anza Borrego:

http://cometphoto.blogspot.com/

I think Amateur AStronomy (telescopes to view bright planets from within light polluted city) would be a great hobby for your sons. Consistent with Elon’s dream of humans to Mars, Mars is easily reachable with telescopes from city (but a challenge of its small size). Need to talk to me before getting telescope, Amateur Astronomy market is filled with posers/fakers, i.e. cheap telescopes. Need to spend $$ to get decent equipment.

http://www.jumplive.com/08pats/index.html
http://pats2008.blogspot.com/

Joshua Tree (& adjoining areas) is a mecca for amateur-astronomerss, it would be good to bring your son to these “star parties”. Look thru their big scopes (20″ & under), see galaxies & nebula. I’m sure it would inspire your sons to become “rocket scientists” & join their Dad in the future economic sector (STEM/Science Technology Engineering Mathematics). The latter is my side project, STEM Outreach:

http://art-plus-science.blogspot.com/

Interestingly, there are some Hollywood actresses (Julie Newmar, an intellectually gifter person, graduated HS at age 15, got 99 on UCLA entrance exam, & Stephanie Powers, knows Dr xxx, female Volcanologist @JPL), who are STEM aware. I think you could participate in STEM Outreach, given your Communication skills as writer. Science in this country is DYING, the Fiscal Crisis is forcing funding cuts across the Board. Most of the graduating PhDs in leading American Univs are FOREIGN BORN

“We’re getting EATEN FOR LUNCH”
“A Noble Cause”
[ trying to stem the STEM Crisis, NOT recruiting young boys/girls for STEM careers, the sector for JOB CREATION ]
— Kevin H, NASA/JPL, Division for Communication & Education, my former JPL colleague, we’re working on JPL’s Outreach for their latest Mars mission, MSL (Mars Science Laboratory)

There ARE efforts for Collaborative/Cooperative effort between Hollywood & Science community, to use their brand-name to cross-promote Science. Science is a tough-sell, it’s a steep Learning Curve subject. Hollywood can “soften” it & attract young people. Writers like yourself are also important, fiction is a GREAT WAY of popularizing Science, e.g. Science Fiction

“Increasingly, it’s a race between Education & DISASTER”
— H.G. Welles, Science Fiction writer, 1933

I think you should use the backdrop of SoCal Desert (incredibly beautiful), new Content (your fiction & possibly STEM-based topics), & new Publishing venues, to kick your Content/Distribution “up a notch”

Yeah, Standard Model is BORING, the Alternative Model is New/Interesting:

“This is Old, therefore it is GOOD, this is New..thus it is BETTER”
— Old vs New

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The trouble
makers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things
differently. They’re not fond of rules and they have no respect for
the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or
vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because
they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some
may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who
are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who
do.” -Apple Computer 1998

You should get some sort of Sponsorship from Apple, being an Apple user

“Tiocfaidh ar La. [ Our day will come ]”
— Hawaii Five O, “Up the Rebels”

Justine is showing her Innovation side, not content with the “Establishment”.

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If you want to make a living from your art you wind up being someone’s “bitch”. Someone has to buy your art.
It is a fine line between commercial and personal. Added to a layer of everyone has different tastes when it comes to what we like, makes it a tough business to be in, no matter how you choose to sell your wares. Im tired of the in fighting traditonal published vs. indie or self-publishing. I have tuned most of it out.

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Hi Justine, you are a wise woman and I love to read your writing. I would personally like to see you write a self-help book as well as your next novel :)
I’ve just been at the FutureBook conference (#futurebook if you want to see the twitter stream) and it was clear that publishers don’t know what is happening for the next few years. It’s also clear that some of them are embracing agility and multi-dimensional creativity in the digital space, but the masses aren’t! It’s much easier to manoevre when you’re smaller, as you say, when you are your own company. I haven’t regretted going indie, I love the speed at which you can try things out and see the impact on sales and the realtime comments people leave. It’s an exciting time to be an author!

Incubation time is also a great tool but so is rapid production. I feel like I am developing my voice by writing more at the moment. Not all this needs to be published, true, but I need to get out what is right at the surface so I can get to the heart of what I want to write in the future. I know you have kind of done this already with your first books.
We all have a body of work ahead of us, a great deal of creativity to explore!

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@Joanna Penn Oh I think so too — I plan on experimenting with some maybe-slightly-less-than-rapid production myself this year :) — but you know what you want and where you’re going, so full speed ahead.

@

>asrai devin I don’t see it as a war at all, and it’s interesting so many people feel they have to phrase it like that. It’s a choice, and most of the time it’s not even that since it’s *extremely* difficult to break into traditional publishing. But I think the typical writing career from this point on will include both indie and traditional.

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@chimpanzee I love that Apple quote, thanks. I like what you said, esp about stem cell research. chewing on all of it.

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This is really excellent advice. About taking a pause. I’m not signed up with anybody or anything. Maybe it’s a good time to just learn, write, wait, see what else develops. The way things are going in e-publishing, or publishing in general, this might be just the time to stop fighting the tide and float.

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@Justine STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) is what I was referring to, not STEM cell research

[ but it IS a STEM related field, Biotech is HUGE, as is NanoTech..which has implications to Battery Technology, the current limiting factor in EV/Electric Vehicles, expect a Nano-Tech related upgrade for your Tesla Roadster ]

There is a STEM crisis in this country, your ex-husband Elon is in the RIGHT emerging Economic sector, that of Alternative Energy (incl Alternative Fuel cars, electric, hydrogen, hybrid, clean diesel, bio fuels, etc). He is also well-placed in the emerging industry of Privatization of Space (now that NASA Shuttle program has terminated, & SpaceX has the ISS contract for re-fuel/re-supply). Elon Musk is another one of these “crazies”

[ Justine can attest to that, marriage is often the 1st casualty..see Steve Jobs who never had a stable relationship until later, or look at Dr Henry Nicholas entrepeneur/co-founder of Broadcom, who got into all sorts of trouble (marital infidelity..incl prostitutes, drug dealing):

http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2008/11/nicholas200811

"you know what they say about borderline geniuses, they're BORDERLINE CRAZY"

Henry had a Lamborghini, worked CRAZY hours (all nighters for 3 days straight!!??), etc. You will recall Elon had a McLaren F1, worked late into evening (WHEN HE SHOULD HAVE BEEN HOME, being "attentive to his family needs"!!), some implications of "playing the field" (need confirmation, the Talulah thing sounds suspect) ]

who I believe has the Steve Jobs “complex” of overachieving at ANY COST. Kids & girlfriends/wives as “collateral damage” (God!!), see Steve Jobs inside story that’s coming out, Biography, etc. Steve Jobs bio father was from Syria, Elon is from S. Africa..that “African/Middle East” thing seems to be a common-thread!

I believe there are a line of entrepneurs who need to be supported, for the sake of America’s long term economic viability/propserity:

1) Elon Musk
gotta thank that loyal woman Justine, for nurturing this “Seed” (“Behind every great man, there is an equally or greater Woman”)

2) Dr Craig Venter (Biochemistry PhD, entrepeneur, Biotech)
He is a fav of mine, he was a brilliant gifted person, who did the Academic route all the way to NIH/National Institutes of Health, then pulled a “Justine moment”..he/wife left for Celera (famous startup), & co-sequenced the Human Genome from their “Alternative Model” startup (competing w/Standard Model “Publicly Funded” NIH & Dr Frances Collins). Bill Clinton got the 2 warring factions to make “peace” at the White House, in the interest of Biotech progress. Venter got kicked out of Celera (typical startup phenomena, the founder gets the boot in favor of snake-oil investors), & he promptly continued his work. He has JCVI/J Craig Venter Inst

[ hired a Nobelist in Medicine, Dr Hamilton Smith, an alumni of my high school University High School on U of Illinois campus, which produced Martin Eberhard, the co-founder of Tesla Motors, which Elon was 1st principal funder. JCVI had that recent breakthrough in designing an organism by computer & bringing it to life. Craig Venter is another brash genius type like Elon Musk, who offends a lot of people, but the bottom line is that he get SH*T DONE. BTW, Craig Venter owns a Tesla Roadster ]

which signed a 400 million (?) deal with Exxon Mobil: synthesizing hydrocarbon fuels from Algae (!?) Yes, you heard me right. See CBS 60 minutes interview, Google it. This blows the door open to Alternative Fuel vehicles, gas is not necessarily bad! Electric has a LONG way to go in terms of size/weight/capacity (affects weight of electric car & range) BTW, Dr Venter was at a recent EDGE conference (convenes leaders in STEM fields, for a think-tank multi-day conference), hosted by Elon Musk & SpaceX.

3) Martin Eberhard
former office-mate of mine in grad-school (Electrical Eng. U of Illinois, 2nd ranked Engineering Univ, tied w/Stanford..MIT ranked #1). He is Director of ERL (Engineering Research Lab) for Volkswagen in Palo Alto/CA (near Tesla Motors HQ, near Stanford Univ). He will be a factor in Alternative Fuel vehicles, electric cars

So, I totally agree with Justine’s BREAKOUT move, it’s along the lines of “crazies”, who BOLD dare to challenge the Old. I think, to be perfectly safe, using Business principle of “DIversified Portfolio”, Justine should retain SOME thread in “Standard Model” publishing (“Amazon bitch”), as a safety net. Then, exploit the Web 2.0 mediums (Social Networking for Marketing, incl Facebook, Twitter, iTunes video). There ARE Technology companies (equivalent to the “Desktop PUblishing”, but now using the Webspace Publishing paradigm) out there, who are developing new algorithms/concepts leading to new Hardware/Software solutions for Emerging Technology of Web-based Publishing. Justine should FIND these companies, offer her services as experienced Content creator (author), & become a Beta-tester for their new technology. It’s a win-win situation, she gets a “deal” on using their services, in return for feedback (“information”, what’s good what’s bad, what needs work). She could even become a partner in such companies, which could prove to be very lucrative for her. In the past, she was the “woman behind the scenes”, now she could become Elon’s Revenge & become an entrepeneur herself!

Justine, you NEED to goto 2012 CES (Consumer Electronics Show), & attend those workshops! I did in 2010 CES, man did I find it useful & did I make some HUGE contacts (many Hollywood types go there, producers/directors, etc)

http://www.jumplive.com/10ces/index.html
http://www.flickr.com/photos/chimpanzee/collections/72157623049052489/

There were a LOT of ebook related workshops, I met some ebook beta-testers. Obviously, this is an area which would be of interest to Justine. Then, the tradeshow is an extravaganza of “boys toys & their noise”, gadgets galore. Apps were a Big Thing in 2010, & it still is. I think the Apple iPad BREAKTHROUGH (insane sales) has triggered a reaction by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, his Kindle (ebook reader) now has Tablet capability! So, who knows, maybe Justine leads the way in Amazon 2.0 (Kindle as an AMazon publishing medium, coupled with Social Networking marketing with Facebook/Twitter/iTunes video)

Justine, you need to goto 2012 CES as MEDIA (not a consumer), it’s fairly easy to get Media Credentials, your Bloggin would qualify you. Then, attend those Workshops as “media”, using SN to “cover it” (as Media) blogging from this blog. But at the same time networking for your “Alternative Model” Publishing exploratory research. Again, there are a LOT of Hollywood types that are on these workshops, many female leaders there. Still have my 2009 contacts, I would be happy to share them with you.

You should come back “armed & loaded” with Tech contacts, ready to “beta-test” your way into Amazon 2.0 Publishing

“The biggest risk is NOT TAKING A RISK”
— Business 101

You are definitely on the “right track”, ala Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Martin Eberhard, Dr Craig Venter, etc.

“Do you want to make sugared water for the rest of your Life, or do you want to join me at Apple & CHANGE THE WORLD”
— Steve Jobs to John Sculley/Pepsi

[ Jobs got kicked out by Apple Board & Sculley, but then came back when Apple got into trouble in 1998..& the rest, like they say, is HISTORY. Apple 2.0 is a raging Success, it was the "2.0" (2nd effort) that put Steve Jobs "over the top" THey transformed into a Consumer Entertainment/Experience company "Apple",, from their origins "Apple Computer" as a computer company!

"Shape Shifter"

Apple had enough FLEXIBILITY, to change their Modus-Operanda from a computer company into a Consumer Entertainment company
]

I’m seeing similar signs from Justine, an urge to “alter her Modus Operanda”, a “Shape Shifter” transition, where she is saying “Why NOT?”

“Lean Mean ROCK & ROLL MACHINE”
— Agile/Mobile/Hostile (football term to describe linebacker)

Justine isn’t content to sit on the couch & be passive, she’s got a “mindset of her own” & “going for it”. Elon must have rubbed off on her. (sorry for the double metaphor!)

I myself am into the Web 2.0 media Technology (see my website http://www.jumplive.com/main.html), using LiveWebCast & iTunes videos. GREAT medium for PR/Marketing of …anything, niche-Motorsports (Offroad & Indycar), even STEM fields (HEP/High Energy Physics, a field Elon is dabbling in, he was invited to CERN/LHC by Dr Maria Spiropulu/Caltech..Harvard PhD experimental Particle Physics, a friend of mine also). So, I think Justine & myself may be sharing info on our related Projects: Web 2.0 Communications/Publishing.

“She’s DANGEROUS”
— “she’s a maneater” song by Hall/Oates

Cutting Edge, Bleeding Edge research. Expect to see Justine “UP FRONT” on the Bleeding Edge, she’s an established fiction writer, looking to push the limits in Web 2.0 Publishing. Beta-tester, possibly co-partner in a startup Tech company for “Amazon 2.0″ Publishing.

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Allow me to summarize my megathon post:

“Let’s get this Amazon 2.0 BITCH [ New Concept for Web 2.0 Publishing ] on the Road!!”

It needs qualified Content/Distribution authors (“bitches”), with track record in Standard Model. Justine is lead bitch, need “following bitches” (street slang for “passengers”, as opposed to “drivers”, aka “driving bitches”. Justine in her Tesla Roadster is a dangerous bitch)

“There are Drivers & there are Passengers..WHICH ARE YOU?”
— Volkswagen commercial
[ After leaving Tesla Motors, M. Eberhard role was to sway VW upper-management into EV/Electric Vehicles, which was an easy-sell to Elon Musk (1st investor in Tesla Motors) ]

Contemplating my rants, I think I see the following Convergence for Justine:

A) Content Creation
writing

B) Distribution Creation
Amazon 2.0 Publishing Concept/Initiative, “Proof of Concept” in the works

C) Alternative Fuel cars (as part of Alternative Energy, the new Economic Sector for the “new Sputnik moment”)
Electric, possible foray into Dr Craig Venter (who drives a Tesla Roadster, friend of Elon Musk) BioTech area (where you can DESIGN “life”, e.g. use Algae to synthesize hydrocarbon fuels)

I think Justine & Dr Craig Venter should have a “meet up”, both arriving in their Tesla Roadsters. Talk about Justine’s abilites/talents in Communication/Publishing, towards a common goal of PR/Marketing (Public Awareness/Perception/Information, a KEY THING in pushing New Technology to the masses) Alternative Energy to America. It’s related to Job Creation in an Emerging Economy, which is in a CRISIS STATE. China leads in Wind/Solar Energy, America lagging. The Tesla Motors CTO (JB Straubuel, Stanford Univ alumni) was part of an “alarmist effort” (see TV program, 1 hr documentary), to stimulate American Public about this new “threat”. America simply needs to respond, just like the Sputnik Crisis (Russia beat USA into Space), but America recovered/re-tooled & put a Man on the Moon almost within 10 years!! PRETTY AMAZING, this country has got Talent/Resources, but has a really bad habit of becoming complacent:

“you can afford not to be Good”
— Aerospace Eng friend, formerly w/Northrop

The Tech leaders (Elon Musk, Dr Craig Venter, et al) need a STRONG PR/Marketing campaign to “deal with the PUblic” (inform/educate & most importantly INSPIRE). THe latter is the domain of fiction authors/writers like Justine

“A writing teacher once told me, “A character doesn’t have to be likeable. He (or she) has to be *interesting*.” Been thinking about that.”
— Justine Musk, Dec 11 tweet

Science Fiction was a GREAT inspiration to many Engineer/Scientist (I myself was inspired by Star Trek TOS/The Original Series), so that’s an area where Justine could contribute: “inspiring a new generation of American boys/girls, to go into STEM careers”. Elon Musk, Dr Craig Venter, & EVERY SCIENTIST in America would “be all over this”, because they realize their success as STEM companies relies on future STEM talent

Justine, you have all the INGREDIENTS for success in Emerging Ecnonomy of ALternative Energy (sector for ‘next Sputnik moment’), the current Market conditions (Fiscal Crisis, failing Economy, job creation like “squeezing blood out of a rock”, STEM Crisis) dicatate a long-term STEM strategy, & you would be part of it.

“you go GIRL!”

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Alas, I must respectfully disagree. The problem with pausing is that it can silently become indefinite. There is ALWAYS more to learn, more skills to acquire, especially in the arts. Once you get to the top of one ladder, you are surprised to see you’re now at the bottom of a whole new one.

Writing is dancing with the infinite. Whether with the macro areas of writing (e.g., plotting, characters, dialogue) or the micro areas (e.g., prose style, nuance in pacing, point of view), the entire cosmos of it cannot be learned in one lifetime.

Perhaps a short, well-delineated pause – say, a calendar month – spent daily doing deliberate practice with a specific aspect of writing you most want to get better at will serve you better.

Our muse is served when we keep writing, keep releasing books to readers. IMO, the best any writer can do is produce a work at the top of their game Right Now.

Then move on to the next book, not only building on what the writer learned from the previous work, but adding in the new and the untried. More learning, more acquiring of skills, more growth as a writer AS YOU WRITE… and more books to share with the world.

(I am my own cautionary tale. The world moves on while we pause. I truly cannot recommend it.)

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Love it, Justine. Such a bold post, chock-full of dead-on statements. BRAND LIKE A ROCK STAR sounds like a great read.

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Fantastic post! Timely advice and I’m very happy that I found my here (via Writer Unboxed FB page), this is exactly what I needed to read today. Thanks.

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@tricia Tricia — I never meant stop creating. I think we need to create — and be creative — in more ways than ever. By ‘pause’ I meant more along the lines of: pause in the usual way we go about things (ie: striving to get published instead of striving to learn how to better differentiate ourselves and stand out from all those still-gathering masses).

Because I think the old frame can hinder us if we’re not careful; if we bring old-school expectations to a new-school world.

For example: is it really the best thing to keep releasing book after book in a world transformed by such a low barrier to entry, with SO MANY BOOKS out there and so comparatively few readers to shower them with love and attention? There’s a lot of talk about the dangers of blogging taking you away from your ‘real’ writing; what if there’s an inverse, if the danger of writing is that it takes you away from your blogging, and ‘catching’ and connecting with those future readers who will enable a writing career in the first place? What if a blog is kind of like the heartline to a writing career, steady and consistent, and everything else — including your books — spins off from and supports that? What if the process of blogging actually makes you a better and more authentic and more powerful — as well as more popular — writer? What if the very idea of book-writing will now expand to include other forms of expression as well across different platforms — to create its own kind of book/writer eco-system? (For example, I’ve been meaning to learn podcasting for forever, because it will give me a whole new way to reach a new audience).

I think it’s a time to question everything. And experiment and play and see what works and what doesn’t. To do that, though, I think we have to commit to the process of innovation, creativity and exploration instead of the outcome (which will happen regardless). Because the safest thing you can probably do right now, in terms of securing some kind of future as a writer, is a) becoming as unique and remarkable and relevant an artist as possible and b) creating that direct connection to a growing audience. Publishing a novel when everyone and anyone can publish a novel? That’s not enough anymore. We need to chart new territories (while still producing excellent manuscripts).

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@August McLaughlin August, it is a great read! There’s a lot of bias and prejudice against this idea of being a ‘brand’ — when all a brand is, is the emotional reaction a stranger has to your name, that visceral sense of who you are and what you stand for. So creating an authentic brand is all about knowing who you are, what you stand for, and how best to consistently express that — living your values, in other words.

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@chimpanzee Had to laugh over my STEM misunderstanding — the first time I glanced through that comment was on my phone and I obviously missed some of the, uh, nuances…

But I do hear you + I appreciate your thoughts + the time you took to express them…

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‘Strategic improvisation’ is a great phrase. Same concept as ‘flying by the seat of your pants’, but more respectable. (I am not flying by the seat of my pants, I’m improvising. Strategically.) If you can say that several times a week, then you must be (1) doing something right, or (2) about to fail spectacularly. Either one qualifies as Living. Good stuff.

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Great post as usual. The freedom of the indie route is more than running your own show in publishing, I’ve also discovered that it’s about having the freedom to write what you really want to write without having to worry about suiting someone else’s ideas of what will sell or not. Finding my readers is the hard part. I’m publishing short stories at the moment. My novel is with an agent who is trying to sell it to publishers and I’m a little nervous about any long term contracts exactly because of what you say.

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Great article! Great quotes!!

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I don’t know if you’re adding layers of complication, or stripping off the skins of the onion, but I think that you, as a writer, appear to want to become a sort of literary roman candle is very cool. Luckily, for those of us without the big MFA degree, the time and financial wherewithall, still have the option of getting in the car, putting The Cow Cow Boogie on the mp3 player and — like Kerouac — taking off to find what we’ll find. After all, it’s not the destination, but the journey. I like your travels and hope you’ll arrive where it is you believe is a place that is all yours.

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