Stuck Inside Myself

stuck insideMy guest blogger last week used those words—“stuck inside myself”—to describe her spiritual malaise, her inability to “remain calm and at peace” in the face of the bothersome details of every day life.

I too have always found mindfulness hard to come by.  But living in the moment has been particularly challenging during the past year, as I labored on the final stages of my first novel, A Fitting Place.  Reading Joan’s essay, it occurred to me that I was stuck inside myself because I had allowed my life to take a wrong turn.

Don’t get me wrong. I gloried in the hours I spent writing my novel.  I loved doing the research that added complexity and depth to my characters. I delighted in watching my protagonist Lindsey Chandler mature, often changing in ways I had not anticipated, and changed me as I watched. I relished the many hours of insightful discussion with my writing partner Carol Bodensteiner as she worked on her novel, Go Away Home.

But as I transitioned from writing to publishing and marketing, I seemed to get more and more stuck inside myself. I resented the seemingly endless hours I spent on social media, garnering information about titles and book blurbs and covers and printing options and, of course, marketing strategies. All of it was information I needed, but I did not find it interesting.  I grew grumpier with every passing day.

My stuck-ness got worse once my focus shifted full-time to marketing.  The ever-growing list of tasks made it almost impossible to enjoy riding a bike or reading a book—assuming I actually got on a bike or picked up a book. The fact is I hated doing virtually every task on that marketing list, and was well on the way to hating pretty much every routine task I had to do, no matter what the purpose.

My distaste for marketing goes back a long way, to age 7, when I was the only one in my troupe who failed to sell her quota of Girl Scout cookies. I hated asking strangers to do something for me.

That pattern followed me throughout my career in finance.  I have strong analytical skills and can explain complex ideas in simple terms.  My career moved forward because someone saw first-hand what I could do, and was willing to open doors on my behalf.  I rarely had to send out resumes, and never got so much as an interview when I did; indeed, only once in my life did I have to provide a resume before my first day on the job.

What I realized as I read Joan’s essay, was that in the last year I’ve gone from a life filled with something I love—writing—to spending my days doing something I hate.  I was reminded of the bit of banal but nonetheless good advice that I give to the MBA class I teach each spring: You are more likely to be satisfied and successful if you focus on doing what you love and what you’re good at.

For me, marketing a novel fails on both counts.

I don’t like the idea of being a quitter, particularly after spending six years on a novel I believe to be of interest in a world still battling gender stereotypes.  I love the emails and letters from readers who experience a “shiver of recognition” as they follow Lindsey on her emotional and psychological journey.  But sometimes being a quitter is exactly what you need to do.  I don’t want to spend these precious years doing something that I don’t like doing—and don’t have to do—just to prove a point.

I want to live in the moment.

What choices do you need to make in order to live in the moment, to not be stuck inside yourself?


A Fitting PlaceMindfulness is one of the key themes in my novel, and I continue to blog on other aspects of universal human relationships in the weeks to come. I welcome guest contributors whose own experiences offer another perspective.

If you’d like to contribute, please contact me at



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  1. The writer’s quandary nowadays. This precisely is the reason why I have withheld publication of Don’t Hang Up! It was ready four years ago. Now your experience confirms what I’ve long suspected. I’m leaning toward getting out my books without fanfare. I’d rather write than spend precious time – of which I have a limited amount left – on social media and marketing that will only sell a few more books. On the other hand, as a former advertising/marketing professional, that side beckons to me. But then, as you say, there is the stuck-ness and resentment that you’re not doing what you want to be doing – in my case, at my desk working on my next book.

    • Mary Gottschalk says

      Pennie … There are so many things I want to be doing …. writing is one of them, but traveling is another. One of the lovely things about writing is that you can do it anywhere and anytime … not so true of marketing tasks. You perhaps are wiser than I was … and saw your priorities correctly from the beginning. Me … it took a little longer.

  2. You speak for me as well as for yourself, Mary. As I work toward getting my memoir published and see the amount of work that is necessary to sell it, my gut fills with terror. At almost 72 years if age, I have a lot of things to do before I move on to another world. Marketing books is not on that list. I will publish my book and do what I can to sell it. But I will not give up my life of writing, painting, travel, and being in love with life in order to try to make tons of money.

    You are very courageous to speak out as you have here. I thank you for helping me see the light, and reminding me that I have to set boundaries in order to live in the moment.

    Oh, and thanks for the mention in your post!

    • Mary Gottschalk says

      Your comment is so interesting, as it was reading your guest blog on this website that made me realize my own need to set boundaries if I wanted to be able to live in the moment. There are times that social media connections are to be treasured, and this is one of them.

  3. You are both wise and courageous to recognize your own strengths and weaknesses and then act accordingly, Mary. The two previous commenters are experiencing the challenge of publishing/marketing first-hand. I’m not there yet, but I know when the time comes, I will have to pull out my extrovert-ish side to pull off that aspect of book launch. Moral of your story? If it’s counter-intuitive, change the way you think about it.

    Sitting on my bookshelf is this reminder from Dana Sitar: “Even if writing isn’t a money-maker for you, you deserve the freedom to take it seriously.” Your posts always nudge me out of my comfort zone. Thank you, Mary.

    By the way, I hated peddling tomatoes door to door. Now I realize what a treat to present field-fresh produce to our neighbors. A metaphor for blogging, book publishing perhaps?

    • Mary Gottschalk says

      Marian … your comment seems a bit ambiguous, and causing me to think yet again about why I am giving up marketing. When I started my blog about a year ago, it was very hard and I felt a lot of pressure about getting it done in a timely and professional fashion. Today, I enjoy the blog, and will continue to do irrespective of my marketing strategy. But at the core of the blog is writing–which I love to do—and conversation with interesting people who chose to engage. By contrast, marketing seems to me like peddling those delicious tomatoes or my not-so-delicioug Girl Scout Cookies. I don’t want to be the peddler when the person who answers the door doesn’t want tomatoes or cookies.

      • You mention that you are re-thinking why you are giving up marketing. Are you implying that you may grow into embracing your marketing strategy as you did with beginning your blog, which at the time seemed formidable too?

        Probably my comment seems ambiguous to you because we have different points of view: you in the thick of things with once again publishing and marketing and me, an ingenue in the writing world. Regardless, your have a lot of encouragement from me and others to remain true to yourself and your commitment to writing.

        • Mary Gottschalk says

          Marian … I’m not rethinking my decision to stop marketing. I was trying to think through the difference between blogging (which I found very difficult at first, but now enjoy thoroughly) and marketing (which I have always found difficult and still do). The difference is that the component parts of blogging are things I like, but put together in a new way, while the components of marketing are things I don’t enjoy, no matter how you combine them.

  4. I will add my applause to the others. Recognizing what you love to do – and what you hate to do – and acting on it takes courage. As your writing partner, I’ve watched your progress on this front, Mary. My observation is that your blog encompasses both your love and your need – writing and marketing. You are my role model in clear thinking.

    Many thanks for the mention of my novel.

    • Mary Gottschalk says

      Thanks, Carol, for those kind words. Your moral support along the way has helped immeasurably.

  5. Mary, welcome to the club. Bravo Joan! In her last couple of blog posts, Sonia Marsh seems to be nearing melt-down with her legendary, marathon 24/7 marketing campaign for Freeways to Flip-flops and succeeding gutsy publications. A thumbnail summary of her message is “It isn’t working!” Susan Wiedner voiced the same message last week. Her Amazon income covers the cost of a trip to Starbucks each month.

    Penelope, take hope. I have good news: I launched Adventures of a Chilehead last winter with a minimum of fanfare. I do have eleven reviews, all five stars. The book was featured in half a dozen blog posts on sites other than my own. I mentioned it once or twice on Facebook and G+. Maybe tweeted. I don’t remember. Basically I don’t tweet. I’ve nurtured that book, as well as it’s older sibling, The Heart and Craft of Writing Compelling Description, with about as much tenderness as a turtle. And it’s selling steadily, though not strongly.

    IMO, it’s time to rethink our reasons for writing. My reason is that I love to write. I do it for me. I do the best I can and publish things myself, on a slim shoestring, with full faith that those who are meant to read it will find it. I refuse to let my book run my life. My experience shows that this frenzy of marketing is not paying off, and search for the magic wand primarily benefits merchants of hope and dreams.

    Be brave. Keep writing!

    • Mary Gottschalk says

      Sharon … I think I share your kind of faith … that things that are meant to happen will happen, when they are meant to happen. I’m not abdicating responsibility here (I hope), but there are other things in life besides making money off my book. My goal is to have it be appreciated by readers who find something of their own story in mine. I won’t ignore opportunities that present themselves, but I’m not going to go out and beat the bushes.

    • Thanks for the Bravo, Sharon. I love that you have pointed out others who are questioning what they’ve been trying to do. Perhaps our ages have something to do with it. As we age we recognize and grab on to the things that are most important to us, knowing we didn’t love what we did when we were younger.

  6. I agree that the marketing part of is the awful part of publishing. To be honest, I’m pretty terrible at it, and I haven’t done too much. Of course, I also haven’t sold a ton of books, so there you go! Good luck with your endeavors–whatever they may be!

    • Mary Gottschalk says

      Thanks Merril … nice to know that I have company in the world of modest book-sellers.

  7. Mary, I think you speak to many of us who work on creative projects….who put their souls into their creation. Like you — I have no desire to market my soul. Yet I also believe that noone will come knocking unless they know you are there. Thank you for this post — it found me at the perfect moment!

    • Mary Gottschalk says

      Elysha … looking at your website, I would say you do a pretty bang-up job of marketing … I am wondering why this blog came at the “perfect moment”?

      • Mary, thank you for looking at my website. Your blog post showed up right when I was struggling with the pressure to market myself. It was reassuring to read others feel the same. It feels so unnatural — to sell ourselves. But I think if we can look at from a connecting perspective…rather than trying to sell, how about just trying to connect?

        • Mary Gottschalk says

          Elysha … You’re absolutely right that it is about “connecting” rather than selling. But the challenge for a writer is finding those with whom your writing connects. There are no published lists of book clubs. There are dozens (or more) websites hawking books of unknown quality but fewer and fewer reviewers from reliable sources like local newspapers.

          I hope your strategy works for you … it certainly looks good!

  8. Dear Mary and all, this is such a rich and relevant conversation. Writers Unite and take back your lives! I hear the call and feel the pressures of getting my memoir out into the world in an effective fashion. Just today I was thinking–I’m going to do the best I can and it will have to be good enough. There will always be so many other things I should be doing, but I want to enjoy my life beyond the writing and not be a hostage to the monumental expectations of constant marketing. I’ve given my memoir my all, like any parent does for a child, now I’ll have to release it into the world and let it be what it will be. And my goal is to continue to do the things I love to do, which of course includes writing but have fun and enjoy my life beyond the book. Amen! Thanks for bringing up this topic!

  9. Hi Mary,
    Marketing is rough. I’m not that trained in sales, and what I do know about marketing, (also beginning w those Girl Scout cookies, (which used to only cost .60 cents a box and held more!), isn’t all that applicable. The cookies were known to be good, and mostly sold themselves because people liked Girl Scouts in general. As an author, I am an unknown quantity, so I don’t have a great reputation which precedes me. It’s hard as a mature adult to have to work from the bottom all over again. I’m not giving up though. I’ll take the small scraps for now, which are better than no scraps. P.

    • Mary Gottschalk says

      Paige … I’m not sure what you mean by “small scraps.” I distinguish between sales (tepid at best) and reader responses (mostly wonderful … and even more when them come from people I didn’t know had the book). I have no regrets about the time or money I spent on the book … but there are clear limits to how much more I will spend for meagre sales.

  10. Hi Mary, Since I’ve been referenced here – I thought I would chime in. I agree that we all need to remember why we are writing books in the first place – to enrich the lives of others and ourselves. What no one here wants to say – and I am loathe to say it as I have never wanted to criticize other writers – is that a lot of what’s for sale out there is junk, yet junk the public buys.

    I’m working hard on a novel based on a true story – my late husband’s memoir. It is a story that consumes me . . . I am doing the very best I can as a writer to be worthy of his story and get it out there for the world to see. However, I am under no illusions as to how hard it will be – no matter which publishing route I take – to market this book. We are up against much, not the least of which are many false or vague promises that you too can sell thousands of ebooks – all you have to do is . . . well, you know what they say.

    Like Sharon Lippincott, I published my last two books on a slim budget . . . mine was $1,500. per books. I have earned many times over that through editing, my writing groups, workshops and talks. That said. why would I spend thousands of dollars when recouping that becomes a steeper and steeper climb the more I spend? The answer is. I won’t.

    I don’t mind being up front and center about my books, my message and am not afraid to try and sell myself. What bothers me is how hard it is to BREAK THROUGH … . and in the end, constant marketing just wears you down. That said, this week I sold 77 ebooks through a promo. They contacted me. My author ranking on Amazon soared, as did the rankings of my books. Now that the promo is over, once again the sales have ground to a halt. What’s the answer? How does it all work? So many questions, options and challenges to explore.

    • Mary Gottschalk says

      Susan … thanks for chiming in. I think the point about diminishing returns is key. I paid to have a book that was well edited and looked professional. It’s an investment that I may or may not recoup any time soon. I look at marketing differently, whether I am talking about time or money. From everything I’ve heard (from fellow writers as well as professional marketers), it takes a huge amount of time and energy to successfully market a book by a not-so-famous author, and even more to market a self-published book. I’m not going to ignore the low-hanging fruit, but I don’t want to spend my time pushing water up hill.

  11. A well written writer’s lament.

    • Mary Gottschalk says

      Thanks, June .. and btw, congrats on the recent 5-star reviews you got (saw it on FB)

  12. I still LOVE marketing as I love PEOPLE. I just realize that even those we think are making TONS of money, aren’t. They either have affiliate programs where they get a % of selling other products from their “cliques” or they are not telling us the truth. (OK, someone is going to disagree with me and that’s not a problem as I only want the best for all of us.)
    Honestly, I think it’s very difficult to make money with book sales, and as long as we realize this, we’re doing OK. I know you need about 6 books before you start seeing a substantial increase in royalties.
    I want ANOTHER ADVENTURE, and that involves travel. So that’s what I’m going to do in the next year or so, and that shall be the focus of my “GUTSY LIVING.””

    • Mary Gottschalk says

      Sonia … the realization of how hard it is for you — a master marketer in my book— was certainly a factor in my decision, as I was simply unwilling to to put the time into it that you have. And like you, travel is a high priority. Kent and I will spend next winter in Australia and New Zealand. Other destinations for the year include a month in Rome, a cruise to Alaska, and maybe a cruise down one of the European Rivers. There’s not much time left for marketing, or for doing the book clubs and presentations that I’d have if my marketing efforts were successful.

      So … let’s plan on sending each other post cards from our different corners of the world!