“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”– Amelia, quoting her favorite prayer in the forthcoming instant Louisiana classic from Jason P. Reed, All Saints Day of the Dead.
If you’re one of the handful of people who read this blog from week to week—or even if you’re one of a future, expanding base of readers who, fingers crossed, have come across my books and then found your way to newbayoubooks.com—you might’ve noticed that the last few entries have had a somewhat frantic and overwhelmed undercurrent to them. Or maybe it didn’t come through as much as I thought.
But either way, that’s how I’ve felt. It’s partly because there’s just a lot going on. I’ve been managing the post-production process for Tattoos and Tans while working through the first stage of the editing process in preparation for All Saints Day of the Dead, my second book, coming out in October. As if this isn’t enough, I’ve also been trying to grow the New Bayou Books social media presence (with modest results) while making plans for the launch party on 1 November.
Even these tasks are manageable, but only if, I’ve realized this week, I can stay focused while mitigating the information overload that the modern online landscape presents us all with.
My interest happens to be publishing and creative writing, but whatever your poison, I don’t have to tell you that there’s an infinite amount of commentary, advice, instruction manuals, and “tips” right there at your fingertips, all of which are designed to cleverly keep you from doing the very thing that brought you to them in the first place.
This is not a new observation. Lots of writers and social commentators have covered this topic from all kinds of angles. My favorite is Marc Manson, author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck. Read or have a listen to his article on what he calls “The Attention Diet” to get where I’m coming from and come away with your renewed imperative to simplify your life. Marc says it better than I ever could, so I won’t steal his thunder, except to say that it’s not about consuming and doing more . . . the key is to do less.
It’s a lesson I’ve had to re-learn. All kinds of shit has gone wrong in my world recently. Simple things I thought I was prepared for have turned out to be more complicated than I thought. People I trusted to help me have tried to sneak their own agendas into my writing. Commitments weren’t honored. Courage fell short. And to add insult to injury, I’ve been getting in my own way.
I allowed the noise of the internet to distract me like a siren song. If I never read another book or consumed another podcast on the subject of independent publishing, I would still have all the tools I need to succeed. But still I consumed, allowing precious hours of productivity time to fall away with nothing much to show for it.
Again, this is nothing new. If you’re reading this, you know all too well how easy it is to let distractions ruin your plan for the day. But maybe the one tip I can offer is the best way to pull yourself out of the muck that is the online attention economy. It’s the advice I’m doing my very best to apply in my own work.
And it does, actually, relate to the Serenity Prayer, because it’s about control. For me, consuming all those extra books and podcasts and videos on how to best market independent books wasn’t really about learning some new or “secret” marketing tip. It was about attempting to exert some kind of control over a process and an outcome I don’t ultimately control.
There are only a few aspects of selling books that I control. The rest is out of my hands. I can’t make people buy the books. I can’t make people who do buy them like what they read. I can’t force new readers to my blog, and I’m not pretty enough to trick social media scrollers to stop at my latest post.
The only things I can do are the only things I need to do. Write the best books I can. Put them out into the world. Engage with the readers who find them worthwhile. That’s my lesson to myself this week, and it’s that simple.
By the way, Tattoos and Tans is for sale on Amazon now. Please consider giving my take on contemporary Louisiana literature a try. I can’t guarantee you’ll like it, but I can guarantee you won’t be bored.