Facing Fears In Writing And Life With Rachael Herron

    Categories: Writing

How can you overcome your fears and make a life change towards your dreams? Or tackle the fears that stop you from writing and publishing your book? Rachael Herron talks about creating despite the fear, and getting unstuck in this interview.

In the intro, Blackberry movie and IP questions; The Copyright Handbook by Steven Fishman; Co-Intelligence: Living and Working With AI by Ethan Mollick; London Screenwriters Festival; Lessons from my screenwriting course (2018); Catacomb on my store, and on other stores; Spear of Destiny Kickstarter.

Today's show is sponsored by Draft2Digital, self-publishing with support, where you can get free formatting, free distribution to multiple stores, and a host of other benefits. Just go to www.draft2digital to get started.

You can also Join my community and support the show at Patreon.com/thecreativepenn.

Rachael Herron is the internationally bestselling author of more than two dozen books, including thrillers, feminist romance, memoir, and nonfiction about writing. She's the host of the Ink in Your Veins podcast, and her latest book is Unstuck: An Audacious Hunt for Home and Happiness.

You can listen above or on your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and the full transcript is below. 

Show Notes

  • Tackling fear of the unknown when leaving your job, or making a big life change, or becoming a full-time author, based on Eight lessons learned from eight years as a full-time author.
  • Overcoming the fear of the unknown when writing a book and you don't know the outcome
  • The writing process when writing memoir vs. fiction
  • Fear of judgement when writing memoir
  • Writing as flawed and real humans that readers can relate to
  • Analogue physical IRL experiences in the digital age
  • Different fears that come with launching a Kickstarter

You can find Rachael at RachaelHerron.com and her Kickstarter at RachaelHerron.com/Unstuck

Transcript of Interview with Rachael Herron

Joanna: Rachael Herron is the internationally bestselling author of more than two dozen books, including thrillers, feminist romance, memoir, and nonfiction about writing. She's the host of the Ink in Your Veins podcast. And her latest book is Unstuck: An Audacious Hunt for Home and Happiness. Welcome back to the show, Rachael.

Rachael: I am so thrilled to be here with you, Joanna. Thank you for having me.

Joanna: I'm excited to talk to you today. Now, you were last on the show in July 2023, not that long ago, talking about publishing options. So we're going to jump straight into the topic today. I wanted to talk to you partly because—

You just did an episode on your podcast about eight lessons learned from eight years as a full-time author.

Can you believe it's gone so fast?

Rachael: No, I cannot. It's literally the blink of an eye. You know.

Joanna: I think that is something maybe we'll circle back on, like how fast it comes. One of the things I really noticed as I listened to that episode was how relaxed you seemed in your writing life. You talk about leaping before the net appears, but this is super hard for people. So I want you to start with this fear of the unknown.

How did you overcome your fear of the unknown? Both when you left your job and before you write each book?

Rachael: I love this question, thank you. Fear is something that is ever present for me. I do suffer a little bit of anxiety. I am not a cool and calm kind of person. I tend toward the worrying spectrum.

I have learned over the years that the best things I do are when I do this leap, when I do this jump into the unknown. It is always scary.

So we started writing about the same time. I think I started writing seriously about 2006, and then I sold my first book in 2008, and then I was able to leave my day job in 2016. So for 10 years, I wrote and I worked my day job, night job. I worked for 911 for the fire department.

It got to a point where I desperately wanted to leave my job and write full time. But I was making six figures as a 911 dispatcher, and I was only making about $30,000 as a writer per year. So it was a huge pay cut.

So what we had to do was pay off all the debt, which we did over the course of those 10 years. Then I was able to make the leap.

I have never been more sick about anything. I remember going into my manager's office, and she hadn't seen it coming because it wasn't worth talking about before then, and I told her that I quit. She was shocked, and she offered to keep me on as a consultant, like so she could pull me in for overtime kind of thing. I said yes, because I was so scared.

So really, I quit, but I didn't quit. I honestly had this backup thing. I think I only worked one or two overtime shifts, and they just stressed me out so much that I didn't do them anymore, but I was terrified that we would end up living under a bridge, I would make no money, and we would lose the house.

In that case, I had to cheat. Then my mother-in-law got sick, and if I quit, I could be with her. I could spend more time with her.

Shortly after I quit, I mentioned this on the show, my wife lost her job. I am not sure that if I had still been working my job, and she had lost her job, would I have had the bravery to quit? Or would I have been scared, and I would still be a 911 dispatcher? I don't know.

One of the things that I think about with fear, and I deal with this whenever I'm facing something big, including being scared to write a new book, or being scared to get the book right, is that I do know that leaping into the unknown is always scary.

I feel like I used to think that if I were braver, if I had more courage, then it wouldn't feel that scary. In my case, and I think in the case of many people, it's we don't overcome fear. We don't just talk our way out of it and then feel better about it—

We just learn to live with the fear.

It's okay that it's there. I appreciate fear.

I sometimes think of fear as this entity, this part of me, like fearful Rachael. Fearful Rachael does a really great job and I appreciate her. She is the one that keeps me from eating expired meat, and stepping in front of buses, and taking off my clothes in inappropriate places.

You know, fearful Rachael pays the bills, she makes sure the lights stay on, she makes sure that I work hard enough to bring in X, Y, and Z, but she doesn't get to drive everything.

She gets to have a say in some things, and she's not always right. So I like to thank that little fear, or the big fear, for keeping me safe.

Then a couple of things that I've done in the past to combat fear is I've had a dedicated worry time and a worry journal that I can only write in at a certain time. Like 7:15pm is when I go into my office and I write for 10 minutes about what I'm scared of. When I've been in times of my life where I wake up at two in the morning, and I can't sleep because of fear, I do that.

Then, specifically, so as you know, we took this big jump, and we moved from the United States to New Zealand almost three years ago. It's truly the scariest thing I've ever done in my life. I was so scared.

Tim Ferriss, you know who he is, he has a podcast.

He was talking about his fear setting exercise. Have you ever heard of this?

Joanna: I have, but explain it to people.

Rachael: So he does this fear setting exercise where for the big things, he sits down with a notebook, and he writes about the things that scare him.

Specifically, I have this right in front of me, you ask yourself, “What if I, blank?” What if I leave everyone I know and love, all my family and all my friends behind, and moved to New Zealand?

So you write down the what if, and then you write down every single fear that scares you the most. That's in one column, and then in another column, you write down the prevention for that fear. Then if it happens, in the third column, you write down how to repair it.

I did this when we were moving to New Zealand, and I just learned that there were some things that I couldn't fix. Like, one of my biggest fears was that someone I loved would get sick or hurt and I wouldn't be able to get back to the States in time to say goodbye to them.

I remember sitting with this piece of paper and thinking, how do I prevent this? Okay, there's got to be a way because Tim Ferriss said there will be a way, and there wasn't. What I put in that column was that I will always have enough money in the bank to get the first flight out to get to the States.

Then under repair, there is no repair, but I can also stay in very close contact with the ones that I love.

I am looking at the page here, I had 22 massive fears. From like, what if we get a divorce? What if we get sick and have no friends? I filled out the prevention and the repair columns, and it made me feel so much better to have kind of externalized all those worries.

Then the last thing I'll say about fear is that he says, you ask yourself, what might be the benefits of an attempt, or partial success? Then you rate that one to ten. And what's the cost if I don't do this thing that I'm scared of? Then you rate that one to ten.

For moving to New Zealand, the benefits were huge. We would see more of the world, we would travel, the choices are endless, and that got a 10. The cost of inaction, staying in Oakland with a mortgage we couldn't pay off before we retire, not having good healthcare in the United States, that got a two or three. So, let's go.

Actually, I know that for writers sometimes putting that kind of thing on paper can help a lot.

Joanna: It's interesting. You're right, we did start around the same time, 2006. That was when The 4-Hour Workweek came out, and I was pretty sure that is in that book.

Rachael: Oh, I bet it is. I know it from a TED talk that he did on it.

Joanna: I think it's in that book because I remember it's the, what if I'm homeless, and I'm living in a caravan by the stream, or something like that? Or tent by this by stream? What if I lose everything?

I think everything you said there is really amazing. I do want to just talk about the fear of unknown with a book. So although both you and I have moved around the world to change our lives and quit jobs, a lot of people have this fear of unknown around a book.

When we sit down to write a book, whether it's the first book, or even like you and I right now and this new book, Unstuck, and what you're doing with this book, we don't know the outcome. We don't know whether anyone's going to like it.

If you want to sell to traditional publishing, you don't know if you'll get a deal. If you do, maybe it will flop. I mean, there's a whole load of fear of the unknown around writing a book.

Can we even finish the book? How do we do everything? I feel like a lot of the fear for authors, and I'm sure you get all these emails as well, people are obsessed with, “Oh, well, how do I publish properly? How do I market?” When they haven't even finished a first draft a lot of the time.

I think that's trying to control the fear of the unknown.

Can you just talk about this fear of the unknown with writing a book?

How can we trust that something will emerge in that way?

Rachael: Yes. That's so real. It's hard to have that trust that something will emerge when you haven't gone through the thing before. After you have a few books under your belt, you trust that you will get there. In those first few books, I understand how scary that is.

I love what Becca Syme—I loved hearing her on your show pretty recently—but I love that she always says most of us want more clarity than we can ever have. So again, it's getting more comfortable with this discomfort in making these huge decisions.

You're right, it is fear that makes us ask, is this marketable? Will people buy this? Will people get mad at me for writing this? That's all fear.

So what I like to remember when I am scared to move in the direction of a book is that there is no right or wrong. That sounds so easy and light, but there really truly is no right or wrong. What we have to do is make a decision.

For a lot of us who are over thinkers, shall we put it, we could think forever. We could think forever.

My brain loves thinking so much that I will ask it to think, and it will say, “Great, I'm going to think for a while.” Then it'll give me a great answer, it'll give me a, “100%, we're going to go this way. We're going to write paranormal women's fiction next.” Perfect.

Then about 18 hours later, my stupid soul will ask my brain, “Hey, do you want to think about that again?”

My brain will say, “Yes, I would love to think about it again.” The thing about our brains is that they're so beautiful and so strong, that not only will they think about it all over again, but they will come up with a different, better-for-now answer. They will do that for the next 10 years, and you won't write your book.

So for me, I have to kind of put a time box around a decision window. First I have to notice I'm doing it, but when I notice I'm waffling, I will say, okay, on Monday—I literally do this—on Monday afternoon from 4pm till 4:15, I'm going to sit down with my journal, and I'm going to make a decision on the thing I can't decide about. After 4:15, I cannot change my mind.

The beautiful thing about this is that there's no right or wrong, but we can make the decision that we make right. So somebody said this, and I can't remember who, but don't make the right decision, make the decision right.

So it almost doesn't matter what book I choose to write at 4:15 because I've made the decision, and now I'm moving forward. Now I have a direction.

Then I can give fear a different job. Will I be able to pull this off? Will I get a good plot? How am I going to dial in the characters the way I want? Fear can do something else, but fear doesn't get to keep worrying about should it be a six book series or a nine book series? No, it just needs to be a book first.

So I make a time box around the window for decision making time, and—

Then I just move forward being comfortable with that discomfort.

Another thing I just want to say really quickly about fear as we're talking about it. We can talk about this, and it's fantastic.

I will also say that if fear is a generalized anxiety disorder or a trauma response that you need help with, it's great to do all these things that you and I are talking about, to journal and talk to friends and whatever it is that helps, but also, it's really great to go to a therapist and work through the things that you may need bigger help with in order to get unstuck.

Joanna: Yes, for sure, but we're going to assume that this is different. This isn't specifically about the trauma side.

I mean, I think moving forward is really important. I feel like the circling and circling and circling and not moving forward is the struggle sometimes. I know that's hard for people.

As you say, I mean, you take an action. I mean, I've talked before about skiing down a hill. I don't do much skiing anymore.

You want to go down the hill, but you don't just go in a straight line. You head off in one direction, and then you zigzag back in the other direction. Then maybe you fall over and then you zigzag back the other way. There is no straight path get to what you want to do.

Rachael: The one thing you have done is you've decided which side of the mountain you're going to go down. You're not going up the mountain, when you are skiing down and zigzagging, you're still going towards that end goal.

Joanna: Yes, you've chosen the direction.

Rachael: Yes, I love that analogy. That's perfect.

Joanna: So let's come back to this. So obviously, you journal a lot, you write a lot, but I think you do have a gift for writing memoir. Obviously, you've spent a lot of time writing this stuff, so you've had deliberate practice. You weren't born with it, necessarily.

You are able to write in a real emotionally honest way regularly. I'm part of your Patreon and you send out essays. You recently wrote about building this Adirondack chair, which I thought was lovely. I wondered about your process. So you've mentioned journaling, but—

What is your process for writing personal essays and memoir?

Which you often collect and put into books. How does that differ from your fiction?

Rachael: I love that this whole conversation is really about fear. When we're talking about writing personal narrative of any sort, whether it's an entire memoir like you have done, or even just a personal essay that you're going to put somewhere in the world, there's just this huge level of fear.

That's because when we are writers and we put out any kind of writing, we know that we're putting our soul on display, but it's especially so when we're talking about our real selves.

So first, the number one thing I do when I'm writing a first draft is—I'm quite gullible—I tell myself that no one will ever see it, and I kind of make myself believe it.

Even though now I've done it long enough that I'm like, yes, Rachael, you're going to polish this and put it out somewhere. I do tell myself that it will never escape my computer. Or if you're writing in a journal, it'll never escape the journal.

I make myself tell the truest draft. That's really, really hard because it's a natural state of affairs to want to present ourselves in a good light. Like right now when I'm talking to you, and I know how many people listen to your show, I'm trying not to stutter or mispronounce words because I'm trying to appear semi-cool.

It's hard when you're writing narrative nonfiction to actually put yourself out there, warts and all, with all of our flaws, all of our true flaws. So that's why in that first draft, I try to tell the truest, the darkest, the hardest parts, the places where I suck the most.

I always encourage people if they're doing this, every computer you can password protect even just a document. You can leave your whole computer open for your kids, or your husband, or whoever, but you can password protect that one document, so that you know that nobody could ever see it.

If you were, God forbid, hit by a truck, no one's ever going to find it. So do that in a first draft if this is something that makes you fearful.

Then here's the tip you would expect me to say, “and then you revise it, and you make it into what you want it to be.”

But instead, especially people who are new to this and it's personal memoir, when you go back to reread whatever it is that you wrote, a thing that can be super useful is to —

Circle or highlight the two or three sentences that make you cringe the most, that make you feel the most uncomfortable.

Then instead of deleting those, because that's the obvious thing you want to do, you highlight them.

You go back and ask yourself, why am I uncomfortable? Are they so true that it is making me squirm? Or are they a little bit untrue, and I actually need to be more truthful?

The thing that we have to remember is that readers don't ever judge us for being flawed and human.

They judge us for not being that way. If we talk about our damage, our wounds, and we talk about the stupid things we do because we're just humans, readers lean in and they empathize and they cheer for us. They want to be there for us.

Joanna: That is such a great tip. I love that. That is so valuable that you go through your draft and you circle the things that are like almost too much.

Actually Neil Gaiman has a quote, doesn't he? Something like when you feel like you're walking down the road naked, or something, that you're getting to the heart of it. That's basically what you're saying.

[Note from Jo: This is the quote]

“The moment that you feel, just possibly, you are walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind, and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself…That is the moment, you might be starting to get it right.” ― Neil Gaiman

It's like if I put this sentence into the world—and this is fear of judgment, which I definitely struggle with—what are people going to think of me?

Yes, people may think something of you, but as you said, generally they're going to feel themselves. They're going to feel seen, they're going to be like, oh, my goodness, that happened to me, or I understand how that feels.

That's why they resonate with your work. That's why memoir is so powerful. So I love that tip. I wonder, then—

With your fiction, do you take these emotional core and build from that? Or do these things emerge in your fiction as well?

Rachael: I think that they emerge naturally. I think that as a writer, and this probably varies from person to person, but I think I'm just braver with giving my characters big and real flaws because I do know that I'm making them up.

If anyone said, “Hey, Rachael, is that you on the page?” I could say, “No, I made that up. I'm better than that,” even though it's not true.

It is still the same thing, that when I write the thing that makes me uncomfortable, when a character says something that I go, ah, do I don't want to put that on the page? That is always an arrow that is either pointing—no, it's almost always pointing to gold, honestly.

I learned this when I wrote A Life in Stitches. My editor was Jennifer Traig, who is a phenomenal memoir writer. She wrote Devil in the Details, and a bunch of others.

I remember writing these essays for A Life in Stitches and sending them to her as I went. I would be so proud of these pieces, and then she would basically—I'm not exaggerating—x out most of what I had sent her, and she would always hone in on the one or two sentences that I had not felt comfortable with.

She always said, “I don't care about the rest, go here.” I think if we have that in mind while we're creating our characters, or while we're writing our characters, how can they be truly flawed, it makes writing fiction so fun.

Going back to fear, writers fear that our readers are not going to like the main character, they're going to be unsympathetic if we make them flawed and real, but I've almost never found that to be the case.

If they did come off a little bit, really unlikable, that's an editor's job. I also like to leave my editors a job to do. The editor can say, “Ah, no, I'm not feeling this. Why don't you change this?” But making them as real as possible, emotionally especially.

Showing them with those flaws is beautiful, and that's what I love to read. I would love to read characters in novels that make me feel like I'm not alone. That's what I love.

Joanna: That is it, isn't it? That's one of the things we look for in reading is certainly to feel that way. I think with memoir, a lot of it is hope, I think, seeing someone else's life transformation in some way that can help you in your own life.

I wanted to come back to the chair. So you made this chair, and you made it with your hands.

It's so interesting, because I booked myself on a stone carving weekend, so I'm going to do that. Of course, it's research for a book because I want to write about a stonemason which, of course, is completely random.

I wondered about this analogue experience. So I've been thinking about this, and I know your business as well is mostly online, but—

These analogue physical experiences are becoming important in this digital age.

With the rise of AI, and we both use AI in different ways as part of our tools, we think it's a tool, but it is changing the digital space. There's part of me that is feeling like I need to incorporate more physical, live-person things into my business, but I'm also afraid.

Since we're using fear as most of this episode, the fear is my energy because I find it hard. Also, hard is sometimes a good thing, and I should push myself into doing hard things.

Also, let's face it, the profit is usually bigger on digital things. So I wondered how you're thinking about this and incorporating that into how you're doing streams of income and all of this kind of thing?

Rachael: This is so good. So the experiences that we're talking about, these physical making experiences. I absolutely love that you're doing this stone carving, and I cannot wait to see pictures on your Instagram about this. The Adirondack chair building course was so unpleasant in so many ways.

I absolutely hated it so much until I really gathered this beginner's mind. I just decided that on the third night—I was in the bathroom crying because I had cut the wrong piece of wood, and now I didn't have enough wood to make the back slats. It was awful, and I knew I'd have to go back to the hardware store.

Then I just decided, look, I am never going to sell Adirondack chairs as a business. This is not going to be my profession. I don't have to be perfect at this.

I just decided that I would ask for help, and I would go talk to the teacher every single time I got confused. It was a lot, I've never done anything like this, and he would help me.

That's where the class really got fun because it put me in connection with him, and with my classmates, and asking them for help. Then they would come and ask me for help, which was really weird because I barely knew what I was doing.

When I think about this, we have been staring at computers for like 30-ish, 30 odd years of the last 200,000 years of human evolution. Up until the Industrial Revolution, every single thing we owned or used had to be made by hand by someone so we always knew someone who could make everything around us.

We were all makers. It's in our bones and our DNA to make, but even more than that, I think it's in our DNA to feel connected while doing the making.

Like, I'm also undertaking sourdough right now, and I'm in communication with a lot of—I know I'm the very last on the block—but with a lot of other people who are talking about this and doing it next to each other.

So my sisters, and I have two sisters, and one just moved to New Zealand not long ago, but the three of us we get together on Zoom a lot. We never hang out on Zoom and just talk, like stare at the computer like we're in a meeting, we do things.

Christie will be mending trousers. I'll be making granola. Bethany will be knitting. Then we'll move around the house and we'll take the computers with us. We're always doing something.

I think that that's how we all lived for so long. When we made things, when we did things, we did them in community. That's how we built community was all of that beautiful conversation that happens while we are doing other things.

I think sitting alone and writing is the polar opposite of how humans evolved.

There's nothing wrong with it. It's just not what we've always done.

Even letter writing in the past, it was still a direct connection. It was a call and response. If I was writing a letter to somebody, I was thinking about them constantly, responding to what they had said in a letter, and then they do the same thing and send it back.

So us writing into the void is such a different experience, that I think that that's why this physical hands-on making is something that can, yes, be very frustrating if we don't know what we're doing, but it also soothes us. It makes us feel very, very human.

So to your question, which I just think is such a good one to think about, is that in our author business, it's so easy, I don't know about you, but it's so easy for me to just get lost in the computer, and lost in my thoughts, and plans, and worries, and what am I going to do next, and looking at my to do list.

To come back to thinking about it like when I am knitting socks on Zoom with my sisters, what is the connection? What am I trying to do with my writing?

Almost all of the people who listen to your podcast, and almost all of the people who listen to my podcast, are writers. There are some people who are not for whatever reason, but most of them are writers, and almost none of them are writers who only want to journal and then burn the pages.

I am sure that there are two or three people who want to do that, but most of the people who listen to these shows are writers who want to meaningfully connect at some point, in some fashion.

When I'm writing, I need to think about who I'm connecting with.

Usually I make that into a specific person. Sometimes it's been my ideal reader whose name is Laura Jean. She's a real person, she loves my books, and she's been a beta reader for me a couple of times. So sometimes I'm writing to her.

More often, I'm writing to me. I'm writing to myself in a different version, in a different universe, at a different age.

What I want to write is what would please me so much if I found this book that I wouldn't want to get out of bed because I'd want to hang out with this exact person. I'd want to hang out with this Rachael. Then I write that.

So what I think about is using writing to connect to ourselves, and when we connect ourselves in that really deep way, then we're going to connect with others.

On top of that, I do think that there is so much use for actual community. Actual community in whatever way that best suits you, which sometimes is not what I want.

I know that I don't want to go to writer's groups. When I do, oh my gosh, I'm so full when I leave. When I go to my RWNZ group, I don't want to go, I've got a bunch of other things I want to do, but if I hang out with people who are thinking about the same things that I am, it just feels good.

Joanna: I find it interesting because I always think about doing more in-person events. I keep getting emails from people who came to my full day workshop here in Bath last year.

I guess I'm thinking, oh, maybe I could do another one, and I know how tiring it is. Yet also, it's so tiring in a good way. I'm planning on going to Las Vegas to Author Nation, and again—

It's a challenge to do these in-person things, but there's so much benefit from doing it.

I mean, you have this “Rachael Says Write” thing where you get on Zoom, and like you're writing and other people turn up and write. I just think that's absolutely crazy. I can't imagine anything worse.

I'm like, that's just weird. Yet, presumably people love it, and you presumably like it if you keep doing it.

Rachael: That's such a good point because I don't like it, I love it. I love it.

Joanna: That's so weird.

Rachael: Here's the thing, like it takes a lot of energy to be on a call of any kind, Zoom of any kind. But not this, because what we do is we talk for like—by we, I mean I give them a quote and I ask how they're doing and they type it in the chat.

Then for two hours, we're silent. Then at the very end, we get back in and we say how it went. I'm not looking at the screen. If I go over to the screen, I love to see their thinking faces.

I know that my thinking face is just bananas, but usually we're not. We're just looking at our work. Knowing that other people are writing at the same time is so cool. It makes me work, which is so dumb because they don't know what I'm looking at. I could be looking at Facebook for all they know.

Joanna: You could be doing email or whatever!

Rachael: I could be putting my screen off and making phone calls, but I'm not. We actually write. It's been so cool and so popular that I used to charge $39 a month for it, and I'm taking a little bit of a pay cut because I want more people to do it.

So I just opened it up to $2 at the Patreon level, and so many people are joining. It's so fun. Okay, so that is one of my favorite connections. Apparently, I got really excited just to think about it, but it wouldn't be your way.

Joanna: I'm not doing that by the way. Anyone listening, I am not doing that!

Rachael: I will say that in terms of like neurocognitive differences, I do have ADHD, and body doubling is a thing that a lot of ADHD people work better if they know that somebody is doing the same thing at the same time. I do attract some neuro-spicy people, and we do that together.

Joanna: I like neuro-spicy. That's awesome.

Well, let's talk about another fear, which is your first Kickstarter launches today as we record this. It still hasn't quite yet gone live, but it will be live when this episode goes out.

I remember how absolutely terrified I was before pressing the button. There's like literally a button to press. You've launched so many books, you've done traditionally published books, you've done indie, you've done a lot of launches. So how are you feeling?

How has this Kickstarter process pushed you more than normal?

Rachael: I've been terrified. It's not a bigger project than I thought it would be because people like you have been really clear. You and Monica have been really clear.

This is a huge thing. This is not a small thing. Don't expect to do this in a weekend or a couple of afternoons. I thought it was cool. I thought it was cool.

Then this morning, I woke up and I was going to go hit the live button, and my finger literally was on the button, and then this thought floated through my head that said, “I put everything in this in US dollars, but what if it's actually New Zealand dollars?” Because I know on the preview page, it shows New Zealand dollars. It defaults to where I am.

Joanna: Just explain why that's an issue, the difference in currency.

Rachael: The New Zealand dollar is probably about 61 cents to the American dollar. So I sent this desperate email out to Kickstarter. They're off today because it's a holiday, but hopefully they come back tomorrow and I'll hit the button.

Everything's lined up to go. Today was the day, but if that went through, it would be such a major error. It would basically be like saying, if I'm planning for 1/3 profit, hopefully, I just cut my profit by a third, plus shipping that I've now put in the wrong currency too.

I would end up, no matter what kind of book I sold, I would end up paying for it. I would pay for every single thing that left the Kickstarter.

Joanna: It's a pretty big possible mistake.

Rachael: My heart rate went through the roof. I screamed, and my wife ran in. She was like, “Is it okay?!” I'm like, I don't know if it's okay.

I haven't felt this kind of fear around a launch in many, many years. I think the fear is bigger because I know that for Kickstarter, you've got to push it. Like I actually have to do promotion, and I, like so many writers, hate promotion.

So, so much of the planning for the Kickstarter has gone into things like planning the emails, planning the social media, planning the extra podcasts that I'm going to put out, planning Patreon posts.

I'm much more comfortable pushing a book out. If it's a self-published book, I like to send one or two emails. Like I send one email, and then maybe a couple of weeks later, I send a second email, and I'm done.

With traditionally published books, I don't do much more than that, either. So doing a Kickstarter has made me have to trust myself more that I will really act like a business person, instead of a writer who likes to do a little business.

Like this is this is serious, and I'm really serious about this book. This is a book that I did not offer to my agent. I love this book, I want to get it out in the world. It's going to be Kickstarter, and then it'll be on my Shopify for a month exclusively, and then it'll go wide.

So I have all the plans in place, but I didn't know I would be this nervous.

Joanna: I mean, I really felt that, having obviously done two now, but also with more coming, that it's a worthwhile push, and that actually, this is really good for us.

In fact, talking about unstuck, I feel like we had been stuck in our processes. Like you said, we've been doing this, I guess almost 20 years now since we started doing this writing for publication and being serious about a career.

I feel like, oh my goodness, I had been stuck in my ways. I'd been stuck in the way I use social media, been stuck in the way I just did email. All of these things we can easily, if we just repeat the same thing over and over again, we can become stuck in that.

So I feel like the Kickstarter process is ‘kicking' us out of that.

What are some of the things you're doing for this Kickstarter that you haven't done before, in terms of marketing?

Or are you just doing a lot more in the period?

Rachael: I'm doing a lot more in the period, but what you say is exactly right. I think that I've just gotten complacent, and that's not a good place to be. For me, that's not a good place to be. I do need to be pushing myself.

This feels like an external push that I am choosing, that will be hard to do, and also so worthwhile. On one hand, it's making me believe in myself.

In the other hand, I think the fear comes from that I'm just scared that I will totally fail. That I will either not hit my goal, which is very low, or that I'll screw up all of the money.

Like your biggest fear is, everybody says, do the shipping, make sure the all of the numbers are right. And what if you do that in the wrong currency? Like there are fears I didn't even know to have.

I could screw this up so badly. No one likes that. No one likes the fear of abject failure.

So what I like about it is it's reminding me, again, to face it and go, “This is uncomfortable, and it's not going to kill me. This is good for me.” I can almost sometimes enjoy that discomfort if I think about it that way.

Joanna: Tell us about Unstuck, your book, and also what people can find in the Kickstarter.

Rachael: Thank you. You can find it at RachaelHerron.com/unstuck, or you can just Google “Kickstarter Unstuck.” I think it's the second one that comes up, it'll be obvious.

It is the memoir about every step of the way, from the moment that my wife and I decided mid-pandemic that we would move to New Zealand, kind of out of the blue. We never really thought we would do this. Then we decided and we went.

It's every step, from selling everything we own, selling the house, moving very quickly because of reasons. We were gone for months after we really made the decision.

Then moving to this new country and finding a home because we didn't know where to live, finding friends because we didn't have any friends. It's the whole exploration of that.

In the Kickstarter, there is obviously the normal things, the eBook and the paperback and the hardcover.

The thing I'm most excited about is that the Kickstarter is allowing me to have the time to do the audio, and I love doing and producing audiobooks. This will be my third, and it's one of my passions.

Also, in terms of perks over there, there's an online writing retreat, and there is coaching with me. That is something I probably haven't done in five years. There's actual coaching. Then there's other fun add-ons like other books I've written and signed things and fun things. I get so nervous just thinking about it.

Joanna: So you narrate the audiobook?

Rachael: Yes, yes.

Joanna: Oh, fantastic. It's interesting, you say that you really enjoy that. It is hard narrating an audiobook, but you really enjoy that.

Rachael: I love everything about it except the editing, just because it just always takes longer than you think it will. You were the one who turned me on to Hindenburg Narrator, which is just the best program ever. I absolutely love Hindenburg.

It just makes a lot of things easier, and because we've been at this game a long time, it's just so nice to get the tools that we've always wanted.

I remember when we had to code ePubs, and it was terrible. So now when the tools roll out, we use them. But yes, I love doing the audio. It's a thrill.

Joanna: That's awesome. Okay, so—

Where else can people find you, and your podcast, and everything you do online?

Rachael: Thank you. The podcast, it is formerly “How Do You Write” and now it is called “Ink in Your Veins” because I think we do all have ink in our veins or we would not continue doing this.

If you're a writer, you may want to get on my writers email list because I try to give away everything that I know. That's over at RachaelHerron.com/write.

If people are interested in the “Rachael Says Write” where we just write together for two to eight hours a week, that's at patreon.com/rachael.

Thank you so much for letting me talk to you about all this stuff, especially the scary stuff, Jo.

Joanna: Thanks for coming on.

Joanna Penn:
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