It’s been a long time since I blogged on here and a lot has happened with the Enterprising Writers membership website (enterprisingwriters.com) since the start of the year. If you’re new to the blog I guess I’ll have to set the scene a little and if you’ve been with us a while, here’s what’s going on at the moment.

Friday 18th February

I’ve always enjoyed helping others and most of my career has been spent encouraging people and businesses get the best from technology, building websites, digital marketing and solving technical problems. I’ve done a lot of work with writers and artists and I’ve been writing fiction for about fifteen years. A couple of years ago I had the idea to take these skills and provide a service that could help lots of people at once rather than working with one person or business at a time. I started building the Enterprising Writers website in early 2020, just before covid hit. I launched this blog in September of that year and the website in June 2021. I also ran some free challenges to get people writing, including #WRITE2021 to encourage people to write 2021 words a week in 2021 and #The3ChapterChallenge to get people writing 3 chapters of a book in 3 weeks. Although people got a lot from these challenges, this did not convert to a high volume of sales. I was running my web design and marketing business alongside Enterprising Writers and splitting my time about 50/50. My goal was to eventually give up the marketing business and focus solely on Enterprising Writers but when it came down to it, I ran out of money and I ran out of enthusiasm – both for the website and my own writing. I completed NaNoWriMo in November but a lot of what I wrote wouldn’t have made it into a book. It was more of what Annalisa Crawford calls a ‘draft zero:’ thoughts, ideas, characters, scenes. Not chapters and story. Although I managed to write 50,000 words that month I felt like a bit of a failure. I’ve also been really struggling to read – something which I believe is key to being a good writer. I have a pile of wonderful unread books on my bedside table and I really do want to read them, I just never seem to have enough hours in the day or the focus required to concentrate for more than ten minutes.

I nearly gave up the Enterprising Writers website many times after launching but the people who were using it and enjoying it (you know who you are) were getting so much out of it that I really didn’t want to let them down. I thought that I would find running a membership site enjoyable but instead it felt relentless – I don’t think that it was really, this was just the way that I had framed it in my mind. As I sat down after Christmas to set some new challenges and review the year I resolved to reframe my idea, maybe take down some of the sections until I was ready to make them better (another problem of mine is trying to do everything at once, so it was full of everything I thought a writer could possibly need, rather than focusing on the essentials and building up gradually, perhaps you can start to build up a picture of why I was feeling so frazzled!)

I had been very lucky to get the site onto the Pick My Postcode video draw a couple of times. Once when I was crowdfunding the idea right at the very start and again when I was running the #3ChapterChallenge in the summer. This is where I found some of my best writers, the most engaged and enthusiastic people who were getting so much from the website. Unfortunately though, because Pick my Postcode is a free lottery website it also attracted a lot of people who wanted something for nothing too. At £12 per month, Enterprising Writers could not deliver any more value than it already was. If you take up any sort of hobby you’re going to expect an expense, paint, brushes, fishing rods, tennis rackets. With writing you essentially only need a biro and some enthusiasm. If you’re not willing to invest £12 per month in your writing, why are you even bothering? I wanted the site to be accessible and affordable, but the pricing was also based on my own lack of confidence in what I was offering and the fact that as I had lost my writing mojo and felt unfit to lead!

By Christmas I was absolutely burned out, but as I switched my laptop on just before new year I was determined to try and reinvigorate my idea and rekindle the spark. There were several emails from non-members asking me for free advice and an email from someone saying they weren’t sure whether it was worth joining. This wasn’t the first time I’d has an email like that. They were dithering over whether to spend £12, even though there was a 14-day money back guarantee in place. What more did they want? I logged in to update the website. I couldn’t get into any of the pages, then I had two emails saying the community part of the site wasn’t working properly either and that people couldn’t post anything. It wasn’t the first time this had happened either.  I’ve been building websites for 24 years and I’ve never had so many problems with a live site. The fact that people were paying for something that wasn’t working was incredibly stressful for me. I contacted my web hosts who insinuated that the problem was with something at my end. I gave them access to the site and they turned off all the plugins and failed to turn them back on again, breaking the website further!  Once it was fixed they didn’t admit  that the problem has been with their server, until I asked them about it. This was something I had been suggesting to them since the beginning of December. As you can imagine it was pretty flipping stressful and that was the last straw for me. I decided to take the website down.

There was no doubt in my mind that the website had a lot of potential for success, the people that were engaged with it where doing phenomenally well, but I just could not get it in front of enough people, it was running at a loss, I got up to my eyeballs in debt from setting it up and people were sending me emails saying they didn’t want to pay for it. I set a date to take it down – 4th Feb and told everyone what was going on. I also arranged to refund the people that had paid for a year up front for whatever time they had remaining after that date. I decided to keep going with the blog and the challenge check-ins in the meantime and keep my options open in case my mojo returns or I think of a way to pitch Enterprising Writers so it’s less work and makes enough money to make it worthwhile for me to pursue.

On the week I was due to take the site down, I caught covid! It really wasn’t that bad, I carried on working right the way through, but it slowed me down and I was holed up at home in isolation with my two young children, muddling through as best I could. I resolved to take it down the following Friday, but then I didn’t – and here we are, Friday 18th February, Storm Eunice is raging outside. The school’s closed, the kids are home and the power is off in our remote corner of Exmoor which means no broadband and cups of tea cooked on a camping stove. The fire is lit and luckily there is still enough charge on the Nintendo Switch and my laptop to keep us all occupied today. But I won’t be able to take my site down yet or post this up on the blog. Thwarted yet again. Is someone trying to tell me something? Before you wonder if I could use 4G to post the blog, we have no mobile reception here either, we really have stepped back into the dark ages, thank goodness I have vodka.

As I said, I want to keep Enterprising Writers going in some form, so I will make my #WRITE2022 Challenge wordcount tracker available for people to use. I’m going to blog every Friday and send out my newsletter once a month, and you are more than welcome to come and check in under the blog post every week to let us know how your writing is going. I’ve got a big bank of authors and industry professionals ready to interview for the blog and I will start contacting them and scheduling them in for the rest of the year. I’ve learned so much from talking to other writers over the past year and a half and I’m sure you will too. I may also make some of the courses available on Ko-fi.com So if you find you are getting some value from what I do, please feel free to visit that site and drop me a couple of quid.

For now I’ve gone back to doing what I do best, content writing, social media marketing and web design. I have also taken a part time role as Parish Clerk for an adjoining parish as I wanted to meet new people and do something completely different and test my brain in new ways. I’m also working part time as a marketing manager for a start up training provider, collaborating with a friend on a new YouTube Channel about craft panel beating and studying NFTs in preparation for a new business venture with another friend. I’ve also been added back onto the staff bank as a lecturer at UWE and may begin teaching  computer science part time as soon as a position becomes available. I’ve started going to the gym 4 times a week and I’ve taken up Tae Kwon Do again at the same level after a 20 year hiatus and am determined to get my black belt before I am 50. Suddenly it’s becoming clearer why I have no time to read or write! But I am going to continue to blog about my writing here. Rather than trying to lead, I will share my struggle with you and we can cheer each other on. The amazing Avril Silk will also continue to blog for me once a month and if you’re reading this and would like to contribute a guest post to the blog then please get in touch! I’m thinking of adding something where people can share their fiction here on the blog, but I’m still recovering from my decision to quit the main site right now so we will wait and see how the blogging goes first.

Having not written since November, I have promised my writing group two stories for an anthology that they are entering into a competition by next Wednesday so perhaps I can take advantage of the lack of power and distractions to get that done next, I don’t want to stop writing but I do feel relieved that I stopped on the trajectory that I was on and I feel quite happy sitting with my uncertainty and keeping my options open right now. If you were an Enterprising Writer I’d really like to thank you for your ongoing support and for believing in me, it’s been quite a journey and I don’t regret it for one moment. I promise we’ll find a way forward together that helps you to keep you writing, checkin in and sharing your experiences without leaving me feeling like a piece of chewed string. Here’s to 2022!

Friday 4th March

The power was down here for 3 days, the broadband was on and off for a week and I’ve been catching up with work ever since! I rehashed an old story and wrote a new one for the anthology and it is now ready to be sent off. My writing group persuaded me to keep one of the stories back and enter it into an individual memoir competition so my next task is to re-edit that and get the word count down. I have taken down the Enterprising Writers website and it now loops back to this post to explain what happened. I have been reading a little again and am hopeful that my mojo is returning. How about you?

If you’re doing the #WRITE2022 Challenge, check in below and let me know how you’re getting on! If you’d like to join us you can download a copy of the word count tracker here (you’ll need a Google account so you can save a copy to your Google Drive) I’m also going to revamp the workbook and get that online within the next few weeks. My focus now is going to be on working really hard and paying off my debts as soon as possible so wish me luck with that and if you feel like buying me a coffee, every little helps! Here’s the link. I’ll see you back here next Friday for another check-in!

Ali

Picture credit: Tirachard Kumtanom on Pexels

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