Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Emotional Lawn (an Indie Life post)

I've never been a big fan of yard work. Evidently, my parents weren't either, because, as a kid, I did the bulk of the yard work. Fortunately, for my kids, we don't have a lawn or, even, much of a yard, and what there is is rocks (because that's what the previous owners had put in rather than have a tiny lawn to tend (and, I have to say, these rocks are terrible. Tiny and red, they get tracked everywhere, because they quite easily get stuck in shoes and stuff)). But, when I was a kid, we had a big yard with lots of trees. And lots of leaves. And I hated raking. More than raking, I hated bagging the leaves. It was the worst.

The yard also had a steep hill down to the sidewalk (on two sides, since we lived on a corner), but, even with the hill, I preferred mowing to raking. Besides, when I mowed, I would mow designs into the yard. Not permanent designs, because, once the yard was mowed, there was no design. But, still, my dad always got pissed when I was doing diagonals and stuff and would yell at me for messing up the grass. Seriously. (And I always wanted to say, "Then you mow it," but I never did.)

In my current "yard," though, even with the rocks, there are weeds. They grow up between the rocks, and it's difficult to get rid of them. For one thing, you can't just go out and mow them down. The last several weeks, I've sort of let the weeds take over, because they were growing up faster than I could pull them out.

And that's what it's like, sometimes, being an indie author. For one thing, you have to tend your own emotional lawn. Those big name authors often have plenty of people to help with theirs, not to mention the fans which will plant plenty of flowers (praise). But indies... well, they get to tend their lawns pretty much on their own.

And it can be tough. You get your book out there, but, really, no one knows who you are, and it doesn't generate the kind of sales you'd hoped for, and you don't get the kinds of reviews you'd hoped for, either in number or quality, or you get that one really bad review that just breaks your heart and makes you wonder what you're doing anyway, and, suddenly, your emotional lawn is full of weeds: resentment, envy, bitterness, even thoughts of revenge. Basically, you have a lawn that's invested in how others treat it. You're allowing people outside of yourself to control what grows in your own emotional lawn.

And, really, why should those other people care what's growing in your lawn?

Even the people that do care, close friends and family, and may try to help you out with the weed pulling ("That bad review doesn't mean anything." "Keep working at it, sales will get better." "Don't worry that <someone else> is doing better than you."), won't keep it up for long if you continue to allow strangers the power to grow weeds in your emotions.

Really, you are the only person that can control what you have growing in your emotional lawn. You have to cultivate grass, an attitude of doing your thing without regard to the outside. You have to tend the grass, work at it, mow it, water it. You do just have to keep working and doing your own thing. And, when you see a weed popping up, you have to go over and pull that sucker up, because they breed like crazy, so you can't let them start.

Why is this important? Because, as an indie author, your lawn is almost as important as your books. Maybe as important. Maybe, even, more important. When you're big and famous (and rich), you can pass almost anything off as just being the product of an eccentric artist-type, but, when you're a little indie guy, how you behave (what your lawn looks like) is a lot of what attracts new readers, so, if you have a ton of weeds (bad behavior and attitude), it won't matter how good your books are, people won't want to come around. (That's why when authors have public meltdowns over bad reviews (or whatever) can ruin their careers before they even get started.)

So, yeah, maintaining your emotional lawn as an indie author is a lot of work. But it's one of those things that has to be done. But, you know, you can always have fun with it and mow in some diagonals, checker boards, or, even, swirls.

This post has been brought to you in part by Indie Life.


  1. This was a really nice post, Andrew. I really liked the analogy, and the thought that went into it. I think many could benefit from thinking about things that way. :)

  2. I think the lawn matters for all but the biggest authors.
    Two words - one product - for your rocks: Round-Up.
    Hate yard work. I keep threatening to put in astro-turf...

  3. Your analogies are awesome! Have you ever thought of being a shrink?

  4. As long as the weeds don't take root, the author can pull them free, and move on having learned something rather than feeling scorned; it's not always a bad thing to have to do that work.

  5. Ha! Emotional Lawn, love that metaphor! You must be a good writer to think that one up. And it's so true.

  6. I had an indie author friend who had a big chip on his shoulder about being an indie author. He accused everyone of discriminating against indie authors. He demanded that a discussion forum be supportive of him as an indie writer by allowing him to flaunt the rules by posting constant 'buy-my-book' posts.

    This garden of resentment meant that when I got down to reading his free sample chapters I very easily saw all the flaws in his writing. I was glad I had not been offered a free review copy from him, since I could find little positive to say and didn't want to end up a target of his resentment again.

    You have some wise advice, and I think we would all do well to follow it.

  7. My husband always said we'd install AstroTurf instead of grass. Cut out the headache. Thankfully I now have a teen to mow the lawn and it's not as big a deal, but those weeds... Ug!

    Awesome metaphor, and what a great reminder!

  8. moha: Thanks. I think people forget about the visibility they have on the Internet because it can feel so anonymous.

    Alex: Well, we're actually planning to pull up that part of the yard (at some point) and put in more planter boxes (and get rid of those stupid rocks), so I'm not stressing over them at the moment.

    JKIR,F!: Actually, I have a degree in psychology...
    And thanks!

    Elsie: It's probably a good thing to have to do that work.

    Catherine: Well, I like to think so.

    Nissa: Part of the problem with some of this is there is some truth to some of it. There is discrimination against indie authors, BUT that's part of the deal you're signing up for when you decide to go your own way. If you don't want to deal with it, you should seek traditional publication. It's not exactly right to complain to other people about the cost of something you chose to sign up for.

    Crystal: I'm not sure I could live with a plastic yard. And I bet there would still be weeds.

  9. Not a fan if yard work either. The wife loves it. We've got a pretty big yard and it used to take half a day to mow with a push mower, then weeding and such was an hour or so on top of that. I used to do it in stages, a little one day, a little the next. It was awful.

    Then we started paying people to do it for us. Best decision we ever made. Now she spends more time gardening and it get to spend more time doing laundry. The system works!

  10. You are skilled at metaphors. I'm always amazed at how you manage to do these posts that begin with topics like yards and weeds and finish up with great writing (and life) advice.

    The Gospel According To Andrew Leon.

    Anyway, I enjoyed this. I try to remember things like this whenever I get down about sales or reviews or some guy who says I need to edit my books better. "What does HE know!" I fume. "He probably spends all his time at Steampunk Accordion conventions!"

    Your thing about mowing your lawn in patterns got me, though: I used to do that, too! I once mowed our lawn in a spiral-ish pattern. My dad came home, looked out in the yard, and said "What did you do?"

    He was pretty upset. I thought it looked cool. But he never liked it when I did diagonals or anything, either.

  11. I agree with Briane and others. I love how you start with one topic that seems to have nothing to do with writing, then turn around and make an excellent comparison of how it does, in fact, have something to do with writing. I also agree with Alex that I think this refers to any author, really, until/unless they've reached the big time. It's hard to put out something so visible and wait for opinions to roll in on it.

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse

  12. Man, your folks worked you hard. Moving furniture, mowing the lawn...

  13. Rusty: Is your wife also a morning person?
    Being able to one day pay someone to do things like yard maintenance is a goal of mine.

    Briane: You're right; what does HE know? At least, he also says how much he likes your writing even if there are some technical issues.

    What is it with dads and lawns? And, well, if they're going to get upset, they need to do the mowing.

    Shannon: Well, thank you :)

    TAS: Oh, man, I haven't even scratched the surface.

  14. I totally agree with you on this one. As indie authors, we have to take good emotional care of ourselves.

    PS Love that you used to mow designs into the lawn :-)

  15. I like the analogy too. You are good at it Andrew.

    I do hope the weeds stay away from your emotional lawn.

    Living in an apartment I don't have to worry about yard work.

  16. As the other have said, you're really good with life metaphors. Teach me!

    Also, what you said is 100% true. It's amazing how careful you have to be with how you word everything as an Indie author. Isn't it funny to think that if we said one wrong thing, everything we've built up over the past 3 years could just come crumbling down?

  17. Nice metaphor! I often wonder how I'll be about reviews and stuff once I finally get published... I've grown an extremely thick skin when it comes to querying, so I hope that will cross over once I'm on the other side.

  18. Kathryn: It was the only thing that made it bearable.

    Jo: Thanks!

    ABftS: In a lot of ways, it's not really fair. We give our friends and family a lot of slack over meltdowns and such, because, well, they are human, but we don't extend that same understanding to people trying to "make it."

    alexia: It's hard to know until the time comes. A lot of authors just don't look at reviews at all because they can't deal, but I don't think that's best way to handle it.

  19. Good analogy Andrew. It takes work to keep it looking good.

  20. Analogy-Man strikes again! You might become my new favorite superhero. But then I'd have to go back to Briane's place and change my vote...but it would be worth the trouble.
    I've never had to mow a lawn in my life. I had a brother, then a husband, and now boys, who started mowing the lawn at waaaay too young an age, in my opinion. We also garden. I do my flower beds, The Engineer the aquaponics. (When will spell check (universally, not just where I've taught it) learn that aquaponics is a real word?!?)
    I think tending your emotional lawn applies to other areas besides writing, though. We can get "weeds" about anything we're really invested in.
    Tina @ Life is Good

  21. dagnabbit...subscribing...I was on such a roll...
    Tina @ Life is Good

  22. Maurice: It does take a lot of work.

    MP: Thank you!

    Tina: That's true. Weeds too easily grow. Okay, now, that needs to be in a poem. I'm probably not going to write it, though.

    Analogy-Man... hmmm...

  23. You come up with some really good analogies.

    In our neighborhood there was an ecology minded guy who planted his yard with drought resistant plants that were indigenous to the region. Our association made him pull it all up and plant a regular lawn like all the other houses had. I guess that could work into your analogy in some way.

    Tossing It Out

  24. Lee: I have heard of that happening many times. And I considered that angle, but I ended up leaving it out due to length. Maybe I'll come back to it at some point.