- C. J. Walters
"The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another." -unknown
I’ve lived with anxiety as long as I can remember. In kindergarten, I was frightened my teacher would call on me because her name was impossible to pronounce—and she refused to let us shorten it. In grade school, I learned to dread field trips; they meant finding someone to sit with on the bus and keeping up a conversation for the whole ride. In high school, speech class was crippling and led to lots of sleepless nights.
As I moved into my twenties, I learned to mask my anxiety, but it never went away. I was certain everyone was judging me—all the time. And I thought it was normal. Up until this point, I never discussed my innermost thoughts with anyone. But I saw others around me, moving through life with seemingly more ease. Fed up, I finally asked close friends and family if they felt the way I did.
Some did…most didn’t. It gave me hope. Maybe there was a way to cure my constant worry and racing thoughts.
So I started therapy—and continued it on and off for ten years. It helped a little, but mostly all I took away from it was a confirmed diagnosis with no real coping tools.
When I started a new high stress corporate job, my anxiety increased to almost unbearable levels. I tried one more therapist—who specialized in anxiety disorders. He helped me reshape my thinking—and my life. He taught me the ways my anxiety manifested (rumination and catastrophizing) and how to control them.
Using these tools, my anxiety was mostly under control and I enjoyed a new way of living—without constant fear.
And then I launched my first book a month ago. My anxiety was waiting in the wings to make an abominable return to my mind—and this was the perfect opportunity. The biggest trigger for my anxiety is the unknown, and I had just entered a world full of them.
How would friends and family react to my book? Would I find an audience? Would anyone enjoy it? Did I waste five years of my life on a book that will flop?
The first week was torture. I refreshed web pages relating to my book 40+ times a day. And when there were no updates, I would ruminate. Why are no reviews coming in, even though over 30 people have downloaded my book? Maybe it’s so bad, no one can get past the first chapter. Maybe they hated it, but didn’t want to give me a one or two star rating as my first review. Maybe they were reading other books, and hadn’t gotten to mine yet.
Honestly it was probably a combination of all of the above. But my constant checking was making me insane and I knew it couldn’t last. It was crippling me from working on my second novel.
So I returned to what my therapist taught me. First, I dealt with the catastrophizing by asking myself, “What is the worst thing that could happen?” Well, every single review could be a one star and I could find out I’m a terrible writer.
Once I admitted that to myself, I realized even the worst thing wasn’t that bad. I would rather find out, then spin my wheels for another couple years.
Then I dealt with the ruminating by promising to only check sales and review figures twice a day (once in the morning and once at night). I give myself ten minutes to digest any new activity, or if there is no activity at all. It allows me to cope with what I’m feeling, but not dwell on it.
Finally, I journal twice a week, writing down any positive or negative thoughts I have about this journey.
At this point, my anxiety has returned to normal levels and I’m able to focus on writing book two.
So here are the most important pieces of knowledge I can share from month one:
Family and friends will surprise you. The ones that I thought would be hugely supportive said nothing. The ones I thought would have little or nothing to say have been my biggest supporters. The truth is, you have no idea how the people closest to you will react, but you do have control over how you deal with it. I've worked hard to separate my relationships with loved ones from their feedback—or lack of it. Honestly, it’s the best thing you can do for yourself and your relationships.
Reviews are difficult to get. Amazon doesn’t want you to get reviews from family and friends. Or pay for them. And I totally get that. But here’s the reality. As an indie author starting out, there are very few options to get reviews. I did a few goodreads giveaways and utilized NetGalley to give away advanced copies, and they have provided a few reviews that I am extremely grateful for (more on this in future blogs). You should expect the journey for reviews to be long and hard, and be patient.
Sales are even more difficult. In the first month, I sold 61 books. Forty of them were to family or friends. Don’t beat yourself up if sales are less than you expect. This is a journey, and for many, it’s a slow one.
So for those of you who have anxiety, I promise you, publishing is possible as long as you check in on your mental health along the way. I still have no clue if my book will be successful or not. Eight reviews does not give me a fair picture. But I do know I did my absolute best, and that is good enough to be okay with whatever comes next.
Do your best and be kind always. Especially to yourself.
In my next post, I will share my experiences using NetGalley and what I’ve learned in the six weeks my book has been posted on their site.