What next?

Our lovely fall weather continues this week, and the sunshine eases the pain of hearing the daily churn of nonsense from the House and Senate. Today, at last, it may end, at least temporarily, and for that we can all give thanks. Our social security payments will continue to arrive in our bank account until at least January 15.

My morning walks are a relief from such extraneous matters; instead I can ponder the quiet, or the trees, or the many deer that wander the local paths. Yesterday the air was so still and quiet that even the pine needles were motionless. No breeze swayed the ponderosa branches, nor shuffled the deciduous leaves that lay on the path. Even the Aspen leaves, always in motion, yesterday hung in silent repose. It felt almost sacrilegious to be moving amidst this silence.

It is always my goal to use these walks as a kind of meditation. Mostly I fail at that, but I do get a good deal of thinking done—sometimes it's productive. Lately I've been focused on the details that arise when publishing a book; both for myself and for students of a workshop I'm teaching next week.

The number of people who are self-publishing grows daily, and so do the number of people who write and sell advice for self-publishers. (Or, like me, offer workshops.) There are books and ebooks, blogs and columns, tweets and Facebook posts, PDF handbooks and downloadable booklets. I could spend all day every day reading advice on how to self-publish, and if I lived long enough to work my way through all of it I'd just have to begin again on the newest thousand entries. That's a version of hell that Dante missed.

One would like to assume that the growing number of published books means a growing number of readers, and perhaps that's true. The statistics I've been able to find aren't consistent—maybe because everything in publishing is in flux—but according to a Pew study cited by Malcolm Jones at The Daily Beast, one in five Americans read an e-book in the past year, and the average e-book reader claims to have read 24 books in the last year. This far outpaces the statistics for print books (an average of 15 a year).

All this interests me, since I'll soon have two books on the market, but what I'd much rather be thinking about during those long walks is my next project—and I don't have one. Since I'm happiest when writing, I need to come up with something soon. But when I ask myself the question, "what next?" my mind is as silent as the hanging aspen leaves. And that's very disconcerting.