I think I’ve got Writers Anxiety

I’m having writers anxiety.

Eeek

Its different to writers block.  I don’t even know if writers block exists anyway. Is it an absence of ideas? If you have *no ideas* then you’re not really a writer are you?  I’ve read countless writers blogs over the past week and a recurring theme is the discipline required to actually sit for an amount of time and take your ideas from your head and put them on the page.  Most people can’t do it because it’s hard.  A writer is someone who can overcome this hurdle. If they can’t then they are just a person who has some great stories in their head. A raconteur perhaps. Someone who’s a laugh down the pub? All writers have acquired this discipline.  There may be thousands of potential Rowlings or Dickens who died in obscurity who never managed to condition themselves to get the words down.

Anyway, writers anxiety is a new thing for me.  When I wrote my first book I was remarkably unconcerned about what people thought.  I had written three chapters which was enough to get me a book deal and an advance and then I just punched out the rest of it in a manic coffee fueled 8 weeks, sent the manuscript to the publishers and that was that.

Naively like many first time authors I really thought it would be a best seller. I got some good reviews, The Guardian, Daily Mail, even one of my entrepreneurial heros, Luke Johnson (pizza Express chap), is said to have liked it.  I thought it was a dead cert and a new career awaited.  I even got 30,000 words into writing a novel to capitalise on my new found success.

My publishers hired Raymonds Revue bar in Soho and they threw a big party with all sorts of press people and publishing bigwigs. Rachel Elnaugh, the Dragons Den lady came.  My agent Gordon came.  My Mum and Dad came. My old friend Bald Rich came. The gang from the Erotic Review were there, the people who the book was about, and we all got plastered.  This is them below.

The ER gang

I started becoming obsessed with Amazon rankings.  Even though Amazon rankings can’t really tell you how many you sold.  I was in the top 10 business books at one point which was a good sign.  There was speculation it might jump genres into mainstream “memoir”.

Then nothing.

It wasn’t a sudden nothing either.  It was a process of slipping away to nothing.  There was no person that said “Gavin, your book has bombed”.  People just stop talking about it. I stopped talking about it. I stopped checking the rankings every day or checking for new reviews.  I did my day job.  The dream of being a full time author slowly died and after about 6 months I stopped thinking about it. People would say things like “how did your book do?” and I would reply “oh, y’know, its in Waterstones”.  As if some point in the future it might completely take off again.  But this never happens.  You’ve really got one big shot at making it with a book and thats to grab some big attention up front.  It propels it along. Very rarely does a book come out, bomb, then get picked up again a few years later.

So I’m doing it again as an ebook.  I held on to the digital rights and I am publishing it myself. I’ve scoured the internet for self publishing information.  There are numerous websites that will help you self publish.  Lots of people out there that will charge you £20 for a book to tell you how to publish on Amazon even though Amazon tell you exactly how to do it on their website.  For nothing.

The technology bit isn’t that daunting.  A bit of formatting, a bit of uploading.  No the worrying bit is the rewrite.  Four years have passed, I’ve got a slightly different perspective and so I thought it would be good to update it a little. But I’m finding myself agonising over each sentence.  Is this the best I can write?  Have I repeated that word? Am I upsetting someone by saying something unkind about them?  Will people think my book is rubbish? Will it flop again.

I wonder what’s changed between last time and this time that makes me worry about what I write?  Is it the spread of social networking?  It seems only four years ago that everything was slightly further removed.  Now your critics can reach right into your house, into my little study, my little protected corner of the world where everything is safe… and tell you you’re shit.

So the plan was to have the book published and up on Amazon by the end of the month.

It’s going to take a little longer.

 

Everythings changing, it’s so tiring.

As I continue on my self publishing experiment what’s alarming is how quickly its changing.  It’s moving so fast that there seems to be some new device or technology introduced every day.  But it’s not just the book trade,  I’ve been thinking of late how everything seems to be changing fast.

all change

Just because an industry once existed there is no reason why it needs to keep on existing.  Take the music industry for example.  There wasn’t a music industry 100 years ago.  Most music was played by minstrels on the road, like lots of Bob Dylans roaming the country crooning about stones rolling.  Then the gramophone was invented, musical portability, and suddenly you didn’t have to have Bob Dylan in your front room with you to hear him and it created, hey presto, a music industry. And for a few decades some people made a simply staggering amount of money. I have purchased Brothers in Arms on every music format, including a mini tape which lasted about 20 minutes at some point in the 90’s. Mark Knopfler made a fortune out of me.  HMV in the UK is fading before our eyes, yet it was a pioneer of the music industry, opening as a gramaphone shop in 1920 (it was opened by Edward Elgar).  Of course they want to keep making bundles of cash but its gone now. Their time has past. Music has gone beyond being portable to being utterly ubiquitous.  Like having free flowing Bob Dylan coming out your tap.  Why would anyone pay for something if you can get it free?

Bob, bloody singing in my house again

Newspapers and Magazines are the same.  There is just too much news, specialist information and opinion floating around that doesn’t cost anything with ever increasing ways of getting hold of it.  Newspaper sales have been falling in the US steadily since 2004 – and this infographic shows advertising revenues taking a dive too. Every sector in the magazine industry is in decline. It won’t be as abrupt as the music industry, perhaps even shuffling along to serve one last generation, but the writing is on the wall. There wont be any new magazine billionaires.

But these are the obvious high profile populist casualties we read about every day. The changes are happening everywhere.

I had lunch with an old friend last week.  He’s an IT man.  Or rather he was an IT man.  He’s packed it up.  He couldn’t stay on top.  It was changing all the time, he said.

“I found it impossible to be at the forefront of the industry because everything moved so fast, it was exhausting.”

So he pursued his dream of becoming a full time acupuncturist which is the diametric opposite to IT because it’s been done the same way for thousands of years.  And the more you practice doing the same thing the better you get. He’s much happier by the way.

There is a seismic shift happening all around us. The 3 million people on the dole can’t be simply down to the fact that we don’t make stuff anymore.  It’s because whole sectors are changing so rapidly that nobody knows how to keep up. They just stay at home. Baffled. Scared.This was how the great depression started in the USA, millions of people who worked on the land being replaced by tractors and fertilizer with nothing else to do.

I work in an online industry which means I’m forced to stay connected and, if anything, this self publishing experiment is continuing to make me step out of my comfort zone and learn new things.  But it’s interesting to ponder that my welsh ancestors, coal miners, probably did the same thing day in day out, generation after generation for hundreds of years without much changing at all yet I do a job that 10 years hardly didn’t even exist and in another 10 years I have no idea what I’ll be doing. Don’t you just think sometimes what it would be like if you just had a job, the same job, a safe job, a job that you knew inside out, day after day, until you died?

 

The Accidental Pornographer – first thoughts on the reload

I do think somewhere along the way that when my brain was put together that certain key synapses were not connected.  My memory is extremely bad.  It’s planted some obstacles in my life:

I’ve failed practically every exam I’ve ever taken.

I forget peoples names, sometimes seconds after I’ve met them.  And often because I can’t remember their names I avoid them so they think I’m rude. Somebody once told me a trick to help remember names which has you reply very firmly “nice to meet you Ken”, so that it locks the name in your head.  It never works with me, I just ended up sounding like a car salesman.

I’m chaotic and frustrating to be about because I forget to do things people ask me.

On more than one occasion I have lost my car.  Once in Colchester where I had to enlist a taxi driver to drive me round until I saw it.

But there are also some advantages of having a terrible memory:

I can watch a film 6 month after watching it for the first time and be completely gripped by it, unable to recall the ending.

I can read a favourite book many times over safe in the knowledge that most of the facts are buried somewhere in the back of my head in a little unreachable corner.  My favourite for this is Storm from the East which is all about the rise to power of Genghia Khan.  In my opinion it’s one of the best business books you can read.

And finally, i can read my own book and feel like its been written by someone else.  A peculiar feeling.

I do remember that I had set my self a pretty tight schedule to finish the book and the last quarter could have been slightly punchier.  Or it could be that now 5 years older my style has matured a little.  Whatever the excuse I’m continuing to give the book a polish before I upload it.