To preface this, let me say that (despite generally disliking some labels because I feel that they don’t always explain the intricacy of what someone or something is) I consider myself a writer–and I write/have written fiction, poetry, screenplays, non-fiction, the experimental, and anything else that I can think of. However, fiction has always been in the forefront of my life and right now my focus is on that, and this blog entry is primarily about that aspect I feel I may have been neglecting in the past few months. I need to write, but since my book came out, I’ve been marketing, networking, and freelancing to earn money to help the cause of promoting my book, not to mention dealing with day-to-day annoyances and obligations that complicate life in general. In trying to balance everything, I’ve felt alternately drained and energized. I’m grateful for so much and am not at all complaining, but this entry is, I guess, to help me–and perhaps others that are going through similar things–to focus on other work that needs to be done as well.
The writing life over the years has changed. Even though the act itself is still solitary and, among other things, about the expression of the author and the communication of the characters/stories being created, there are more and more groups out there that cater to various aspects of writing life. The Internet makes it possible for artists from all over the world to critique work and get to know one another, to a certain extent, without leaving the comfort of their own homes. We can make friends and contacts that lead us to freelance jobs and other beneficial opportunities. With a click of a button, the poem, story, or article that was written just minutes ago can find an international audience in just a few seconds. While this is all wonderful and exciting, it, too, can have drawbacks. Sometimes (and I’ve been guilty of this myself more times than I’d like to admit) writers spend so much time on Internet blogging, networking, and writing sites that they neglect their real writing – the novel they’ve been meaning to finish, or that collection they were going to put together.
It’s important to not lose focus of that goal. Again, I’m writing this mostly as a reminder to myself, but I think it can be helpful for others reading to think about this as well. Even when a goal changes–concentrating on a story instead of a novel, etc.–the focus needs to remain strong. A 1000 words a day on a blog, or in writing cover letters, etc., doesn’t count when it comes to writing 1000 words (or more) of fiction a day, does it? And, for me, neither does a few scribbled words of non-business writing. Writers of fiction should remember that writing fiction is one of the primary goals; no matter how bad they think the text is, they need to go easy on themselves and remember that the end product is only a first draft. They have time to go back and revise what doesn’t work. Writing any kind of fiction is thrilling for those of us that love it, but it is also hard work that has to be done. And, I believe, anyone that can’t deal with that basic truth can not truly be a writer. It may be harsh, but write we must.
For those that are freelancers as well, this in itself can be a challenge. We have deadlines to meet, clients to make happy, bills to pay, records to keep–all on our own time. There’s no 9 -5 that we can use as an “excuse” for not getting our other writing done, and no free time at a job with access to a computer that we can use to pump out a page or two a day and still get paid. Then there’s marketing and networking, beating the pavement to make sure that we’ve crossed our t’s and dotted our i’s. All of it can be so emotionally, mentally, and physically draining, so much so that our other writing can suffer.
I know for myself, even before my book came out, I spent a lot of time doing marketing research; even now that process continues. The post office is almost a second home for me, and some weeks I’ve spent more time sending out my press kit and contacting potential reviewers, etc., than I have writing fiction.
But I try to remind myself that I need to reorganize; all of these things–writing, marketing, networking, freelancing–are high priority, but in the end, I am a fiction writer also and if I don’t reserve enough energy for the stories that I enjoy creating, then all the marketing and networking in the world isn’t going to help because I will have no fiction to show for it. Plenty of articles, interviews, etc. that I’ve written and conducted–while that’s great and helpful it’s not enough.
So I encourage myself, and others that may be experiencing the same drain and conflicts, to save enough energy for creating the characters and stories that move us. They deserve as much, if not more, attention as the other aspects of our [writing] life.