21 November 2012

Finding Your Pivot Point


By Gayle Francis Moffet

There is a part of me that really wanted to make this post about NaNoWriMo. I mean, hell, I've been doing NaNo for ten years. I ran the Springfield, MO NaNo group for five. Long-time NaNoers may remember mention of that crazy lady who got the NaNo running man tattooed on her arm. That was me:

Tattoo in picture is clearer than it appears.
So, it seems if anyone has long-winded opinions on why NaNo is awesome (it is) or advice on how to hit that final word count (write like the hounds of hell are about to eat your face), it'd be me. But actually writing a post about NaNo is not in the cards. I have done four drafts. They have all sucked. Besides, with two posts here on PP about the topic this week and easily hundreds or thousands of other posts around the web, I'm not sure I could add anything worth knowing. Write. Write more. Keep writing.

So, instead of NaNo goodness, I'm going to tell you something you might need to hear more right now than the usual promises that NaNo will soon be over. Here it is: 

It's okay to change your mind. It's okay to look at how you're writing or promoting yourself or doing anything you're doing in publishing and saying, "This isn't working. I need to make a change." In business, it's called a "pivot point," and the idea behind it is that sometimes you start out with a good idea of what you're doing but halfway through trying to get of the ground, you've got to slam the gas, hit the handbrake, and whip the plan around. Allow Top Gear Live to demonstrate in their usual, over-the-top fashion:

It looks dangerous, and probably messes up your neck a little if you do it repeatedly over a short period of time, but the pivot point is so important to how to be a writer in this day and age. I say this as someone who's recently done it. I spent two-and-a-half years working a system I had built, which looked as follows:

My plan was to write and get published through traditional markets and then, once rights reverted back to me, publish the same stuff on my own and offer it for sale. While I waited to hear from markets, I'd be blogging and tweeting and coming up with fun/useful/not entirely boring things to put on my Facebook page. I'd build an audience from publication plus a good web presence.

At the year mark, I was seeing small signs of success. People were finding my blog through search results and from places I was getting published. I had chosen to self-publish a couple of titles just to see how they'd do, and they were selling a little bit. I was writing enough to have a steady set of submissions.

At the two-year mark, things were looking exactly the same, right down to the amount of sales and blog visits I was getting on my work. I started to feel stagnation creeping up on me. My twitter? Fine. My Facebook page? It was steady. I was still writing steadily, so that wasn't an issue, but it got to the point that every time I thought about sitting down and writing a blog post about some piece of what I was doing to push forward on my career, I got bored. I couldn't think of anything. I kind of didn't want to think of anything. The blog, it appeared, had become a serious amount of dead weight.

I thought about it. I talked to my husband about it. I thought about it some more. I talked to friends--writers and non-writers alike--and I tried to find a solution that would make me want to keep my blog updated.

Then, I discovered the term "pivot point," and I realized the problem wasn't that I had a blog; the problem was that I was using it wrong. This is a major part of finding your pivot point. Sometimes, what you're doing isn't wrong. Sometimes, what you're doing is the wrong form of the right thing.

What I needed, I realized, was a form of blogging that would let me go off-topic sometimes. It's hard as hell to constantly write about your own process and talking about various bits and pieces of the publishing industry. I made a change: My old blog, the one with my name on it, became my news blog. It only gets updated when there's big news to report. I got myself a tumblr. I'd originally set up my blog to be as professional as possible, a place where people could find me and say, "That Gayle, she means to make a name for herself. This is impressive in its lack of swearing and stupid pictures of creepy pencil cups."

You thought I was joking about the pencil cup.

Do you know how hard it is to be that professional all the time? It takes a lot of effort. Too much for me, honestly. I pride myself on having a voice you'll recognize in print as well as out loud, and I wasn't getting that on my old blog. But tumblr? tumblr allows me to be both professional, and also the dork that I am. I can post an entry about my feelings on paid reviews in the publishing industry and show a little of my writing process, and then switch gears and have a laugh over an unfortunate orange juice incident. My original blog was created to be very professional and respectable  and while that is all well and good, it was so hard to maintain I lost all will to work with it.

Finding and implementing my pivot point has been a life-saver. My news blog allows me to keep a professional face up. People who find it are linked to my work and can still read any of the posts from that blog, and they can even visit my tumblr if they so wish, with the title of my tumblr letting them know immediately it's not going to be as professional as the blog they're on. The tumblr allows me a way to keep people updated about my process and allows me to share information I find important, but there's a sense of fun and relaxation to it.

"But, Gayle," you're saying, "how do I find my pivot point?"

I find it's a three-step process:

  1. Figure out what it is that isn't working.
  2. Figure out what you need to do to fix it.
  3. Do the thing that fixes it.
"Gayle, that is hugely simplistic."

Yup. I'm not saying pulling off the pivot is easy. I'm not even saying it's easy to always identify where your pivot point is, but if you're feeling discouraged or worn-out by trying to keep yourself moving forward in your work, trying to build your brand as a writer, finding your pivot point and starting that pivot can be the saving grace in a really hard job. Knowing you need to make the change will help you start the change, and you'll be better off on the other side because you'll have made your work easier because you'll be happier with what you'll doing.


  1. I'm still trying to find my pivot point, but thank you for putting into words what I have been trying to figure out. Also, now I can follow your tumblr. Muahaha.

    1. I hope it helps you. I really thinking finding your point is the hardest part of the whole thing because it can lead to a lot of second-guessing and even some false starts, but once you nail it, it makes it all worth it.

      Enjoy the tumblr!

  2. Gayle, great piece. I feel strangely as though you've been in my mind via those hell hounds who mean to eat off my face. I will ponder this, this "pivot point" further because I feel like I'm on a pivot point precipice frankly. Writing about it... of course. I will tweet this. I liked it. :) -M

    1. Thanks, Molly! One of things that makes me a little jealous of your blog is that you built it as a platform to work these things out in writing that allows you to get feedback, and I never managed that with a blog of my own. I'm glad the post was helpful!

  3. I love the creepy pencil cup. Great points about pivot points and a great reminder on how to get unstuck.

    1. I have entirely too much love for that pencil cup, which I tried very hard to make my coffee mug, but it didn't work out. Unsticking is such a major part of any creative work, and it's amazing all the different ways you can do it once you realize you need it.

  4. I love the pencil cup, too. That is soooo funny.

  5. By the way, do they do temporary versions of the running man tattoo? :)

    1. They used to, actually, before they changed the logo for the current version. The new temp tattoo for writers looks pretty boss, but I've yet to immortalize it on my person.