So I set realistic goals for A Gift of Ghosts. What did I say, something like 50 sales in 6 months and 20 reviews? It was a nice realistic goal, based on realistic information, and having it made me feel very safe. This is where I am, this is where I’m going, this is where I hope to be in six months. Structure is comforting for anxious perfectionist types and goals create structure. Okay, artificial structure, but that’s not the point. If you know what you’re aiming for, you can relax while you’re getting there.
Ironically, I am better at getting lost than anyone I know. Possibly because I get lost all the time — I have no sense of direction — but also because I don’t get anxious about lost when it’s physically lost. Once, when I had my son and my nephew in the car, I was returning to my sister’s house from the grocery store and I wound up in the wrong state. It was mildly shocking to me, no big deal to my son, and extremely distressing to my nephew. I think R. said something blase, like, “She always gets lost but she always gets found again.” That’s the thing about physically lost — you always find your way home again eventually. You might wind up in Kansas along the way (road trips from Illinois to Nebraska include Kansas when I’m driving), but so what? I guess maybe when I’m physically lost I still know what the goal is: I just don’t know how to achieve it.
So back to book goals. My realistic goal has been, um, shattered, and that’s a good thing. I’m happy about it. Except when I feel really stressed out and anxious which is actually all the time for the past 48 hours. I’ve lost my structure. I don’t know what the goal is anymore. What am I hoping for? What do I want? Should I want a bestseller? I definitely never expected a bestseller — it’s a quirky little fun book, pure entertainment, and doesn’t really fit into any genre. If I’d tried to go with a mainstream publisher (I didn’t), I’m reasonably sure I would have been asked for changes and I didn’t want that. I like Ghosts just the way it is. But what should I want? Should I want 100 sales? 1000? 10,000? Should I want to break into the Kindle Top 100? What’s the bar?
No surprise, the anxiety’s killing my writing. My editing is going great — I’ve revised every chapter of A Gift of Thought (four of them) and they’re all much improved. But if I don’t write any more of it that really does no one any good.
So I’m looking at the bar and I’m thinking about why my anxiety level has skyrocketed and what it means to me, and I realize I need to lower that bar. I’m not insane — I’d love to make lots of money from my writing and be really successful, but that’s not why I started writing and that’s not why I want to continue writing. A Gift of Ghosts is out in the universe now and I need to let it go and let it find its own way and let the process work. Because I didn’t publish it to reach it a goal. I published it because I thought it was fun, and I wanted other people to have fun with me.
And that’s why I’m writing: for fun, and so that other people will have fun with me.
And that’s the bar. Now I just need to live it.