When you can’t get out of the bathtub on your birthday, something’s gone wrong in your life. And by your life, of course, I mean mine. The other night I tore a rotator cuff muscle boxing. It hurts when you throw a hook and miss. I ripped it up pretty well. I’d had shoulder pain off and on for weeks due to to my incredibly sedentary lifestyle and the computer mouse. I sit very still to write. I can’t write and walk around at the same time. I’m chained to a desk by an intravenous tube that carries coffee. When the shoulder pain hit, I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. The pain is enormous. I almost called my wife to help me out of the bathtub. On my birthday. Not one of my best birthdays, I have to say. In fact, it might have been the worst.
Pain is good.
I will use this.
I did manage to get myself out of the tub. Getting my shirt on? That was five minutes of hell and wishing the Advil would kick in faster. It didn’t. I’ve had shoulder pain this bad before (on the other shoulder.) When it hurts to laugh, you know it’s bad. When you have to devise new strategies to do mundane tasks, it’s makes you mad. When it happens on your birthday, it makes you sad.
However, I won’t let all this sadness and badness and madness go to waste. At some point, I’m sure I’ll have a hero try to fight the bad guy in a climactic scene and the hero’s shoulder will be all messed up. That’s the easy take away from this experience.
Let’s go deeper.
Staying home to write books full-time? This is awesome. This is the fulfilment of a dream. I am so lucky to be able to devote myself to this enterprise all day. However, if I don’t take better care of my physical body, I will lose this opportunity. When every movement reminds you of pain, it’s hard to concentrate on work. Pain saps productivity, whisks away opportunities and manufactures misery far from the site of origin.
But let’s go deeper.
The pain in my shoulder is not simply a rotator cuff tear. It’s a symptom. I have not been to the gym for quite some time. I have not been taking care of myself. Why is that?
My excuse…no…my dumb reason is that I have been swimming in the launch of my books. I have no excuse. I let myself forget that success is not a single facet. To get my shit together, I have to take time to take care of all aspects of my life: family, fitness and work. I am not of one dimension. I was so busy with work, it gave me the excuse to be lazy in other areas of my life.
I have books to publish! I have no time for the gym! Publishing is so exciting I don’t even have to feel bad about not going to the gym because I’m being productive!
Yeah, right. But for low long, Spock? How long?!
Concentrating so much on marketing made the disappointment at the initial outcome darker. My sales aren’t anywhere near where they need to be (yet, goddamnit! Yet!) The reviews haven’t been rolling in (yet, goddamnit! Yet!) But I’ve started up businesses before. I know how this works…or doesn’t work. These things take time. Readers will get around to writing reviews. Word will spread. It doesn’t happen on a schedule. You may as well try predicting cloud formations as plot book sales. But I do have a strategy. While figuring out how to manage our time in the new year, I told She Who Must Be Obeyed that I think I’m through The Worst of the First.
The Worst of the First is the downside of that incredibly creative, energetic time when you start up a new enterprise. You have to get a business license and take care of paperwork that is not directly related to your success. You order business cards or figure out technical aspects that feel removed from the core of your enterprise. The Worst of the First is about trying to do everything at once, just to get things rolling forward. The Worst of the First is about the trivia that no reader ever sees. It’s the behind-the-scenes stuff no one cares about, including me, but it has to get done. It’s part of building inertia, too.
Then there is The Best of the First. Here are the highlights of my first couple of months as founder, president, author and Chief Dude in Charge of Wastebasket Emptying at Ex Parte Press: Three ebooks up on Amazon and just about everywhere else by November 1. Recorded a podcast, Self-help for Stoners, to help market my book of the same name. Tried and failed to get my first podcast published. Dave Jackson of the School of Podcasting helped me to get the podcast up and out there. He helped me get control of my author website, too (allthatchazz.com). Got the paperback formatted with Jeff Bennington’s help. Got new art for the paperback done with my graphic designer, Kit Foster. Published Self-help for Stoners through CreateSpace. Published three short stories in the last week (Parting Shots, Asia Unbound and Vengeance is #1) on Smashwords.com. Maintained my Scoopit! Page, three blogs, three Twitter accounts and published six podcasts. Now the podcast is also available on the Stitcher app as well as iTunes, so it’s everywhere.
When so much positive stuff was happening at once, I was riding high. But I wasn’t leaving my desk. I’ve been married to my Mac, which makes She Who Must Be Obeyed jealous. I’m through the imbalanced part now. My shoulder reminds me with every move that I have to concentrate on the core. That means publishing three novels in the next year, yes. That also means taking better care of me so I can accomplish those goals. It means eating right and getting to the gym. That’s also part of the writing process. It clears the brain and keeps my body ready for writing marathons. Sitting still for too long is too hard on the body. We’re made to move and if we don’t, we die.
On my birthday, I checked my book sales and found the accounting had finally come through. It wasn’t good, but the beginning is rarely good. I’ve been here before. I know the terrain. I know the pain hammering me in the shoulder is a reminder of what a low point feels like. The sinking feeling as I looked at my first sales numbers—on my birthday!—made me think for a moment that all my marketing efforts had been wasted. But no. It’s just a normal part of The Worst of the First. My readership hasn’t found me yet. You have to market your books when you think you should be using all your time to write. In weak moments I do think, All I should do is just write and revise and do nothing else. But then I remember this is not 1987. Seclusion is a luxury for old media authors. I’m a new media author. I must not hide from the world if anyone is to ever hear me.
The fattest kid at Fat Camp has the most potential. When you reach critical mass and are feeling low, you can look up. There is so much to learn and so much to conquer. I am grateful to have so much fun and trial ahead of me. When we succumb to the idea that the best times of our lives are behind us, we truly begin to die. This is just the beginning and there is so much to look forward to! Writing this post, holding tight to this pain and this disappointment? That’s going to make the triumph all that much sweeter, don’t you think? I’m going to appreciate the win more when it comes. And I’m through the gauntlet and into the glove already! I made it through the Worst of the First. Yes, there will be frustrating times ahead, but I got through the first couple of months of the enterprise. I got to the starting line. A lot of people dream of the starting line but never get there. They never get the chance, or take the chance, to run. Now I’m running and I’ve got some inertia behind me. I have you behind me. (I know because you’ve read this far.)
My resolutions for 2012?
I will use this. Failure is fuel.
Failure is only failure if you let it keep you stuck in the tub.
Happy new year.
If it isn’t happy,
MAKE IT SO.
- Self-help for Stoners is now available on Stitcher (plus the Christmas message of hope and gooeyness) (chazzwrites.wordpress.com)
- Stuff to Listen to When You’re High (allthatchazz.com)
- Self-publishers: Why I went multimedia (and why you should, too) (chazzwrites.wordpress.com)
- Book Marketing: What I didn’t know about resistance to ebooks (chazzwrites.wordpress.com)
- A Series is Born: Free ebook and Parting Shots, a new short story (chazzwrites.wordpress.com)
- Podcast #3: How to Beat a Murder Charge with a Skunk and a Smile (allthatchazz.com)
- How to sell cross-genre books in The Land of The Easy No (chazzwrites.wordpress.com)