2016 Year End Wrap-Up

Well, it’s that time of year again, the time to look back on what’s done and look forward to the year to come. Poetic enough, I suppose, although 2016 was anything but pretty.

Looking back at my year-end post from 2015, I had high hopes for 2016. I’d planned on writing a half-million words, but instead I came up short at just over a quarter million. All in all, not a bad way to fail, but that’s still only 50% of my goal.

What happened? The first distraction came with my day job. The company I worked for was sold and that didn’t work out well for me, so I found myself back on the job market for the first time in nine years. It was a lot of stress and a big distraction. I have a new job now that’s going pretty well, so that distraction is gone.

The second problem was not having a good system in place to edit and proofread the work after I completed a first draft. After adopting Chris Fox’s sprinting technique, I started producing new words faster than I could proof them. As a result, I got way behind and sacrificed a lot of time writing new words in order to get caught up. I now have a good end-to-end system in place for proofing and publishing those manuscripts, so that bottleneck is gone too.

And thirdly, I let self-doubt cloud my creativity and I floundered for a while trying to get inspired to work on projects. Combined with the work problems, this stopped me cold.

Combined, these distractions cost me about a quarter million words.

That said, I did use this down time to work on other book-related tasks. I created paperback editions for all my novels, something I’d been way behind on. Now all my novels in eBook format also have paperback counterparts. In doing so, I streamlined the process, allowing me to release books in both paper and eBook at the same time going forward.

I also revamped my website, brianjjarrett.com, improving the aesthetics, simplifying the navigation, and reorganizing the content. It’s much improved now and I’m very proud of it.

So while I might have missed out on getting a few new books to market, at least I didn’t let the time go to to waste. I have something tangible to show for those hours and my business is further ahead than it was last year.

I published five new books this year so far, with one more coming out at the end of this month. I’m ecstatic about that. I completed all the major projects I’d planned on. So while a lot of bad things happened in 2016, I still came out of it with something to show for it.

So what’s in store for 2017?

I have a half-finished “creature feature” novel called Kryptos that should see the light of day next year.

I also have a completed Badlands novel manuscript written and in need of only an edit. I plan to release that one before 2017 year’s end. Speaking of Badlands, I think there’s more to come in this story world. I plan to flesh out some of those ideas by the end of next year. Stay tuned.

I started a few projects in 2016 that I plan to finish up next year: a crime novel, a short story collection, and a zombie book. Look for at least one more Tom Miller book too.

I have a vague idea for a book centered around dreams and perceptions of reality. I feel like that one will make it into the 2017 release schedule.

And then there’s a secret project that I’m not ready to talk about yet.

Ambitious? Sure, but doable, I think. Mostly because I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t work and how to avoid the latter while focusing on the former. Will I hit a half-million words in 2017? Hard to say, but I feel more prepared this time around.

Either way, I’m glad 2016 is nearly behind me. I’m super excited about 2017. I feel like it’s going to be a fantastic year. I hope you guys come along for the ride.

Self-Doubt

 

We all know that self-doubt will kill your creativity and your productivity faster than just about anything else. To get books finished and launched into the world, writers need to get past their self-doubt.

One technique that some writers use is to imagine their self-doubt like a troll that sits in the corner and says awful things. This troll can’t die, and it can’t escape your head. The idea is to beat that troll down until he’s barely a whisper, or withhold food and keep him on the brink of starvation; too weak and tired to talk shit. In other words, don’t feed the troll.

I subscribed to this philosophy for a long time, until I started to think about it differently. I still see the nagging self-doubt troll in the corner, no doubt, but I began digging into why he says the shit that he says. Nobody does anything without a reason; not even imaginary trolls trapped in your head.

Eventually, I figured it out. The troll isn’t your enemy.

He’s your friend.

He tells you that you’re not good enough. He says you’ll fail. He says that you’re not smart enough. He says you’re a hack.

He does this because he’s afraid for you.

Think about it. What if you try and fail? What if people write bad reviews about you? What if people think you’re stupid or untalented? What if people don’t like you? All these things are risks when you put yourself out there for others to see–and judge.

He’s trying to protect you by dissuading you from taking risks that might cause harm. Remember, he’s stuck in your head with nowhere to go. He can’t die, not until you die. So whatever you go through, he does too. He takes the punches right alongside you.

He’s not your enemy. He’s actually your best friend, but his communication skills are lacking. He’s blunt. He’s rude. He’s childish. He’s impudent. He’s crass.

Hell, he’s scared all the time; what else do you expect?

So instead of beating him down the next time he starts his shit, maybe you should console him. Pat him on his bumpy little troll head and tell him that everything is okay. Tell him that you appreciate his concern, but you got this. Tell him that if he just chills out and sits quietly, the storm will pass and everything will be okay again. You’ll take the risks and keep him safe.

Like a fussy baby, once he’s calm he’ll shut up. He’ll go back to whispering in the corner, a soft murmur that you’ll ignore while you get things done.

Once you empathize with him, you’ll understand that his words are a misguided effort to keep the both of you safe. Ultimately, instead of feeling resentment toward him, you’ll feel pity.

And as far as feelings go, resentment is a whole lot more expensive to maintain than pity.