“I have been in the revenge business for so long, now that it’s over I don’t know what to do with the rest of my life.”
I’m betting you’re familiar with Inigo Montoya’s rudderless feeling—when you finish a manuscript, when you send it out for submission, when your book is finally published and you’re waiting for the next idea to take root, take you over, make you want to dedicate all your passion and time and energy all over again.
Once you finish a “heart project,” something you’ve poured so much of your soul into for so long, after that giddy sense of achievement and gratification wears off there’s strange aftershock that suddenly it’s just…over.
That Princess Bride line above—one of my favorites—has been echoing in my mind a lot lately now that the heart project I dreamed of and worked on for so many years, my book Intuitive Editing, has been released.
Since I doubt I’d make a wonderful Dread Pirate Roberts (I’m terrible at marauding), I needed to find a new six-fingered man: something I felt as passionate and motivated about as I did the book that made it worth dedicating that kind of time, energy, and heart. And I did: I’m currently happily swimming around in developing a series of hands-on online courses to help authors dive deep into the hard, wonderful, illuminating work of editing and revising their writing.
But a funny thing happened to me as I began researching this new passion project: I started to wonder whether there was any point in it.
We work in a crowded space, in an industry that’s loaded with “competition.” For authors, it’s the literal millions of other books already published, or the towering agent slush piles we have to somehow get noticed in, or the dozens or even hundreds of other new releases when we’re trying to capture readers’ interest with ours. For me, it was the vast array of other writing and craft courses I found as I started investigating this arena.
Why try? I thought. What do I have to add?
I felt the same way when I was writing Intuitive Editing, with my bulging shelf full of craft books—craft books I admire—lurking behind my shoulder. Who did I think I was to try to add another “how-to” to that already crowded market?
Every time that thought overtook me as I worked on the book, I made myself stop and literally take a few deep breaths, and consciously brought myself back to my purpose: my passion for clarifying and demystifying a process many authors find overwhelming, sharing a practical, individual approach to help authors dig out the heart of their stories and express that vision on the page with all the clarity and richness it has in their minds.
I wasn’t trying to create the be-all, end-all of craft books, I reminded myself—just to contribute something I felt was of value and use to authors in bringing their stories to life, my driving purpose (I wrote about defining yours in a previous newsletter here). I wanted to share an approach I hadn’t seen before that I thought might be helpful to others.
I had to throw out all the noise in my head. I had to trust that deep, honest voice inside me that felt it had something meaningful to say…and let that voice out.
When you’re telling a story the kernel of which may have been told countless times before in some permutation (there’s nothing new under the sun), when you’re adding your voice to an already crowded market, when you’re trying to reach readers and encourage them to choose you and your story over the thousands of others they might choose instead, it’s easy to feel this kind of overwhelm. The “who cares?” that can dampen your passion and daunt your spirit.
But you do. You care. Your story is vitally important to you or you wouldn’t have dedicated so much of your time, your energy, your self to it. And because you care profoundly, your story will find its way to readers who will also care, people who need exactly this story you’ve written, need to travel exactly the journey you take them on. (When the traveler is ready the journey appears….)
When those little doubt demons teem out of their mental cave and come poking at your psyche with their pointy little pitchforks, stop, take a moment and a deep breath, and remember why you’re doing this, what drives you, what makes this mercurial, difficult, magnificent creative path meaningful work for you. And just focus on that—not anyone or anything else. You are not competing with anyone. You are simply sharing your story, your unique vision, because it’s important to you. It matters.
So that’s what I’m doing again now—taking that breath and moving forward with designing the kind of courses I find meaningful, that offer something I think will help authors more readily tap into the best version of their vision. That’s all I have to worry about—not the rest of the crowded playing field. Writers who resonate with my approach will find me.
Don’t worry about the noise—what others are doing or how many are doing it. Write the story that speaks to you, that matters enormously to you (whether that’s fiction or nonfiction…it’s all story). Keep your focus on what drives you, your purpose—stay connected to the heart in your heart project. That’s the thing no one on this Earth can offer but you, and it’s what will set your work utterly apart.