As I take this self-publishing journey, one of the changes I’ve observed in myself is the way I think about how I spend my money and my time. When I was pursuing traditional publishing I wasn’t as careful about how I spent my time. When I sold VEILED MIRROR to The Wild Rose Press I did editing on their (very relaxed) schedule. I was a business owner even then, but I didn’t really think of it that way. That all changed when I decided to self-publish. As a business owner, I have to allocate my limited resources for the best effect, and there is no shortage of products and projects clamoring for my time and money.
Initially, I took the approach that every minute (and every dollar) should count. It seemed obvious that I shouldn’t spend time on activities that won’t move my career forward.
Let’s stop for a minute to examine that. What does it mean, to move your career forward? It’s a very personal question, actually, and underpinning it are the questions of why do you write, and why do you want to publish? Understanding the answers to these questions is vital to keeping us on track. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Bob Mayer observed in his book WHO DARES WINS, that understanding the intention of a military order can determine whether it’s successfully carried out, especially when circumstances change.
Once you’ve figured out what your bedrock objectives are, I recommend writing them down, and saying them out loud. Be honest! It can be a little frightening to do this, because putting feelings into words lays it all right out there. Your motivation is no longer a mushy, vague concept. It’s a clear, hard-edged statement. It may reveal something about you to yourself that you hadn’t acknowledged before.
Why do I write? I like writing better than any other job I’ve had. I write because I have stories inside me that I want to tell. I would write just as a hobby, but at a much slower pace. I revise because I want other people to enjoy reading what I write. I publish and sell my stories because I want the respect and validation that comes from successfully testing my work in the marketplace.
Knowing that about myself helps me make decisions about where to spend my time and effort and money. It’s important to remember: all knowledge is good. And if you don’t know what your real goal is, you’ll never be satisfied with what you get, because it probably won’t be what you really wanted.
That’s where the ruthless clarity comes in. (I looked up ruthless, in preparation for writing this. It means merciless, unrelenting, unyielding. And clarity is “freedom from indistinctness or ambiguity.”) Once you know what it is that you really want, you can cut away the distractions. That doesn’t mean you have to become a single-minded grind. Everyone has multiple goals from different areas of life. Goals in job, family, health. It’s hard work to figure out what’s really important to us, and even harder to juggle them all. Sometimes the people we care about want us to have different priorities. You may need to learn to say no to them. Or you may decide that the goal of meeting other people’s needs is more important for now, than achieving a personal goal. Knowing that, and choosing it consciously, will make deferring other goals easier.
The word “ruthless” gave me pause when I looked it up. It’s a harsh word, with a lot of negative connotations. It’s also a strong word. Ruthless clarity is a way of defending ourselves from the clamor of distractions that can destroy our time and eat our lives. Articulating my goals has made making career and life choices clearer, if not necessarily easier. I still struggle with knowing which priority to spend time on, and with wanting to fit one more thing into too little time. Sometimes my life isn’t balanced, and I don’t always make every moment “count.” And that’s okay. But at least I have a pretty good idea of where I’m going, even if I take a detour now and then.