A Book and A Dream: An author’s adventure in writing, reading, and being an epic fangirl

Top Five Lessons Salvaged from the Dumpster Fire of 2020

December 29, 2020 Megan O'Russell Season 1 Episode 54
A Book and A Dream: An author’s adventure in writing, reading, and being an epic fangirl
Top Five Lessons Salvaged from the Dumpster Fire of 2020
A Book and A Dream: An author’s adventure in writing, reading, and being an epic fangirl
Top Five Lessons Salvaged from the Dumpster Fire of 2020
Dec 29, 2020 Season 1 Episode 54
Megan O'Russell

Slogging through tough times can teach us valuable lessons.

While 2020 has been an undeniable disaster, Megan O'Russell offers some useful advice to carry into 2021, whether you're aiming to up your writing game or just trying to get through another Zoom meeting.

Show Notes Transcript

Slogging through tough times can teach us valuable lessons.

While 2020 has been an undeniable disaster, Megan O'Russell offers some useful advice to carry into 2021, whether you're aiming to up your writing game or just trying to get through another Zoom meeting.

Megan: [00:00:00] So, my whole planner for 2020 is just a mass of, like, angrily erased things, so, you know, only write things in pen if they really have to happen to keep you alive.


Announcement: [00:00:16] Welcome to A Book and A Dream with Megan O'Russell: an author's adventure in writing, reading, and being an epic fangirl.


Megan: [00:00:28] Hello, my name is Megan O'Russell and welcome to episode fifty-four of A Book and A Dream. 2020 is not the year that any of us thought we were going to have going into it, not by a long shot. So since it has been a year of adapting and learning how to figure things out on the fly, I wanted to share with you the top five lessons that I learned from, as an author, from the dumpster fire that has been twenty twenty.


Megan: [00:01:00] Lesson number one: never write it in pen, specifically in your planner, specifically anything that's not going to get anyone killed if it doesn't happen. As I look back at what I thought I was going to get done as an author, as my writing goals at the end of 2019 vs. what actually happened, there are two very different pictures.


Megan: [00:01:23] There were going to be other books and more books and a lot less audio was supposed to get done, but all of that kind of went flying out the window. And some of that is because of amazing opportunities that happened, like hiring awesome actors to narrate two of my series. And some of that is just because...dumpster fire. Dumpster fires happen.


Megan: [00:01:48] So my whole plan are for 2020 is just a mass of, like, angrily erased things so, you know, only write things in pen if they really have to happen to keep you alive. Everything else, write lightly in pencil so that you can erase it really easily and there's not going to be, like, rage whiteout all over the place because rage whiteout just makes it even worse when you finally flip to that page three months later and you're like, all right, there is no book release day today because that book never got written.


Megan: [00:02:22] Number two: be flexible and be willing to adapt. Now, this comes in a lot of forms for me. A lot of it came with audio. In my head...originally, the entire Ena of Ilbrea series was going to be released on audio by the end of the year. Obviously, that didn't happen. Hopefully, Ember and Stone will be available soon. Wrath and Wing is already out there, but there are three more books in the series that have yet to be finished, even in the recording booth. So there's a lot more work left to be done on that. And a lot of that is simple things. Like, sometimes you're living in a condo where the AC unit is just too noisy so you can't record. And you have to be flexible and put that on hold and, you know, hire narrators to do things for you. A lot of that is also being flexible with my writing time once I had found the narrators, because proofing audio books takes way, way longer than you think it would if you want to actually proof what you're paying someone to record for you.


Megan: [00:03:26] That's actually super time-consuming. That takes, like, four times longer than I thought it would when I was, like, making out my writing plans. No, no, it takes forever. Proofing audio takes forever. I now understand why you can hire people to do it on Fivver. Not that I would ever do that because I don't want to sell a product to my readers/listeners that I've never heard for myself because that feels super skeezy and wrong to ask you to invest your time and dollars into. But I understand why some people are like, no, I'm not proofing this audio. I'm paying someone to do it for me.


Megan: [00:04:00] And some of it is also not, you know, being flexible with our schedules, it's learning to adapt to change. It's learning to adapt to not being in the theater for nine shows a week. It's learning to adapt to being back out of the theater. It's learning to adapt to new technologies that suddenly become super popular. Hello, Zoom meetings for everything. Or in my case. TikTok. TikTok has so many options. It gives me menu anxiety and you open the app and it starts playing music at you, which is very overwhelming for me. But you know what? It's where the youths are. So I'm going to learn to use and love TikTok because that is one of the adaptations 2020 has asked me to make.


Megan: [00:04:42] And, you know, you don't want to have to be super flexible and give up your entire schedule. You don't want to have to adapt to a social media platform that plays songs at you and it's a new song every 15 seconds and it makes you panic inside. But sometimes that's what the dumpster fire requires you to do, and you have to accept it and move on so you can grow and be prosperous when the world reopens into its new and reimagined form.


Megan: [00:05:14] Number three: take chances and don't be afraid to gamble. So, just because people tell you that something can't be done, it doesn't necessarily mean that it can't be done. It means they haven't figured out a way to make it happen. So that could be something like, I don't know, having a bunch of interlocking series in Ilbrea where you can choose to start with the Ena of Ilbrea series or choose to start with Inker and Crown and you won't actually be missing a lot.


Megan: [00:05:41] A lot of people said that it couldn't be done. And you know what? It took a lot of charting, but it happened, people. It happened. Now, there are some times when people tell you things aren't possible and maybe they were right, like, I don't know, hiring out having to run Facebook ads. That one did not end so well.


Megan: [00:06:02] So, you should be willing to take chances and go against other people's advice because maybe you can really make it work for you. But the addendum to this lesson from 2020: don't gamble with money you can't afford to lose, because if those Facebook ads go badly, you need to be able to walk away with a smile and just like have a glass of wine on your way out and not freak out about losing the money. So, if you can't afford to get editors and covers and everything for Inker and Crown, when people are saying that it'll never work after the Ena of Ilbrea series, then maybe wait and gamble later. But if you can afford the covers and you can afford the editors, try it because you are creating your own art, whether it is books or theater or music or a new meal for your family or whatever it is, try things, take chances, keep an eye on your budget so you don't have to panic if things blow up in your face.


Megan: [00:06:56] Number four: don't chase trends. This can be with anything. It is particularly, particularly important to authors. And I think a huge chunk of the author community learned that this year. And there is this whole ecosystem within the author world where there is like the people who write their art and it's what's in their heart. And then the people who are like, no, you have to write to market. You have to write things that people want to read. So if you want to write a thriller, you have to have a guy with, like, a vague past and some alcoholism issues. And don't forget to blow things up, or nobody's going to want to buy it. It's not necessarily selling out. It's just picking what tropes are popular and then writing to that niche so that you have a ready-made audience instead of having to, you know, mine through Moria in order to find your audience. It does make sense. However, some people take that a little too far, and they start chasing trends.


Megan: [00:07:52] So, you know, let's say you were wanting to write a dystopian novel and in late 2019 viral, pandemic dystopian novels were the big seller. So if you had decided to hop on that train when it was already pretty far out of the station, you'd be a very sad author right now, because not many people want to read about a pandemic at the moment, so you've got to balance it.


Megan: [00:08:19] You want to be like in the now and writing things that are relevant and that have an audience, but don't chase every trend, because that virus that leads to the end of the world is not going to be a topseller in 2021.


Megan: [00:08:38] And last but definitely not least, number five: kindness and compassion starts with yourself. So, everybody's been put through the ringer this year. Even people like me who are really super fortunate considering the dumpster fire. Like, came out with some scorch marks on my hair and like maybe I'm missing half an eyebrow and maybe I have, like, a little limp as I run away, but like, really pretty fortunate...the whole thing considered. But even people who haven't had their entire lives lost, err, turned upside down, who haven't lost loved ones, ended up at the hospital, all those horrible things. It's still not been a great year. There's stress and there's panic and there's unknowns. And there's Zoom meetings and people are home schooling children, even though they never planned on homeschooling children, but they had children, but they didn't want to spend time with them necessarily all the time. I don't know. This is why I have two cats. I have no idea.


Megan: [00:09:36] So there's been a lot of hardship for everyone, and there's been a lot of change. And as an author, you can control a lot of your environment. You can control what you're writing on the page, what your characters do, all those things. You are the director, the choreographer, the actors. You have your little world, and you can make it go how you want. And so it often feels like you should be able to to do more, to write more words...there's nothing stopping you but you. But you also need to look at that word count that's not quite happening. That book that didn't get finished, that schedule where you were going to write three more books than you accomplished, with kindness for yourself. We all have to understand that we have been through a hell of a year.


Megan: [00:10:21] It's been awful. And you know what? If you didn't manage to write anything, that's OK.


Megan: [00:10:30] If you managed to write something, and it's not very good, that's OK. If you wrote seven books and you never want to look at them again and you're not going to edit them, you're going to put them in a drawer for the next 20 years. Cool. Whatever you have to do. We all need to dig deep right now and find compassion for the people around us. Everyone is stressed, everyone is off their schedule. Everyone is basically a three-year-old that hasn't had a nap in days. And if we're trying so hard to find that compassion for the people around us, whether it's friends or families or strangers who are not being good drivers...at all...then we have to find that same compassion for ourselves. We have to give ourselves that same leeway to work through all of this, however we can manage it. And if that means reading 12 books in a day, do it. If that means bingeing Netflix or wearing your new Pluto cardigan to record a video, then you know what? Live your life and find that joy and peace in accepting that, even if you are on the struggle bus, you are still doing the best that you can and that is OK.


Megan: [00:11:37] And if that is the only lesson that we come out of 2020 with other than your nose is attached to your lungs and handwashing is important at all times, then allowing ourselves grace in times of stress and trauma is the lesson that I would love for us to all come out with. Because we need that. We all need that. We've been so caught up in productivity and, you know, making things happen, and it all has to be now because technology will overtake us and...yeah. Capitalism, man, it's hard, but you've got to give yourself a chance to breathe or the dumpster fire will get you, it'll get you.


Megan: [00:12:20] So, take a moment as we approach the new year and give yourself some grace as you write down your New Year's resolutions. You know? Don't...don't hate yourself for those five pounds you gained, or 50, you know, whatever. Live your life. And we are going to come out of this on the other side, scorched, singed, limping, but it's going to be OK. So I'll see you in the new year.