I was talking to Mike this morning about that wall that all of us creatives run into every now and then. Some of us spend more time than others bumping up against it. (Hi.) It’s that block that keeps us from creating—whether we’re illustrators or writers or musicians. I told him how I would love to bottle the drive that envelopes me occasionally and give it to my fellow artist friends who are struggling. There isn’t any particular way to get over that wall, or through it. You just do. You eventually learn to work around it and how to talk yourself through what’s holding you back.
During this last week, I took some time to evaluate my business. Not my art itself, but my career as a company. It’s hard to view art as something industrial. As humans, we want to put labels on things and categorize and market the crap out of them. Everything needs to have a “return on investment” and profit, and that can be exhausting for people who are more creatively minded than entrepreneurial. I have some experience with running a business, but that was web design, and long ago and far away. Things have changed quite a bit since I set up shop as a web designer. Even then, I was selling a service. I knew exactly who my market was.
I did not, until recently, know who my readers are or what my genre is.
That alone has created a sort of wall for me. “I don’t know what I’m doing,” I would whine to myself. That twisty, anxious feeling would creep up on me, snap me into its jaws, and hold me prisoner. I couldn’t even write because that feeling of no direction would quickly lead to a feeling of incompetence, which bled straight into my work. “If I can’t figure out the business side,” I decided, “I am not a real writer.”
I admitted to myself that I was still figuring things out, but the process itself was messy and frightening. I wanted to give up, but love writing so much that I refused to. I plodded along, getting the muck on my shoes and all over my keyboard, until I had an epiphany.
It wasn’t a sudden realization, though. It’s been culminating slowly over several months. Ever since I heard about the “New Adult” genre and the debate surrounding it, this realization has been building itself in the back of my mind, without me even realizing it. I found out a couple days ago that Amazon added NA to its categories. Suddenly I realized that Sandpaper Fidelity is NA; its characters are twenty-somethings, trying to figure out life and how they fit into the world. (For a good explanation of what New Adult is, read this.) Then, with this revelation, I joined a Goodreads group for NA books. I want to read as many books within the genre as possible. I found this thread where people were talking about their expectations of NA and what they wanted it to be, and as I read, realized these were the kinds of stories I’ve been writing, that I want to continue to write.
Now, I need to clarify something. The original poster, Kit, says she wants to read “trash.” I don’t want to write trash. I do want to write gritty drama with a touch of humor, with hope woven into it, that realistically depicts the struggles new adults deal with. I’ll be twenty-five in August, and have been trying to figure out this grownup shit ever since I turned eighteen. I want to write stories that explore the things I worry about, the things I know other twenty-somethings worry about.
Suddenly, the wall vanished. Yes, it will rise again. Something else inside of me will try to get in my way. That’s just part of being a creative. There is definitely a correlation between artists and depression. Now I have a solid business plan, genre, and know who my readers are. I will have to make some changes—mainly unpublishing a couple short stories that don’t fit into that, and tweaking of blurbs and my bio—but that anxious twist that was inside of me is now a spark that is driving inspiration. I stayed up late last night just scribbling down ideas. I have the beginnings of an outline for a new series, and have started writing an outline for the first novel.
Tomorrow I will start writing that novel.
I feel like my very soul is vibrating with energy. I’m just so excited about my career now that I know. I was so worried about having to pick a genre and brand myself, but the answer was in front of me the whole time. I know I can do a great job writing NA novels, because I am still technically living that life. Many NA books have gotten a lot of flack because they just don’t touch upon those issues, and are more like YA romance than anything else. (Then there’s that whole argument that NA is explicit YA, which just makes me want to prove that school of thought wrong. “This is NA!” I want to tell them, while pointing at Sandpaper Fidelity. “This is what it’s like!” [Of course, SF is a bit more dramatic than that, and I'm aiming for less drama and more realism in my new series.])
Oh, you guys. I’m so excited about this.
Of course, here comes the bad news: I’ll be unplugging for another two weeks to write said NA novel. What’s strange is, the more time I spend away from the internet, the less I miss it. I miss the people, but I don’t miss blankly scrolling through my Facebook timeline or scouring Twitter for articles to “read” on my break at work. I’ve been spending that time brainstorming, reading, and crafting characters.
So, expect some changes in Liz Land, but nothing too major. My key word for this year is “focus,” and that’s all I’m doing here: focusing on the stories I have already written, using those same themes and elements to take my career to the next level.