Today I have to do laundry, write twenty pages of fiction and finish some promotions. To do that I must ignore the Internet, e-mail, new story ideas, my next series in development, working on my art quilt, playing with the dogs and the other thousand distractions around me. I'll also have to deal with the unexpected, like Mom calling about a medical issue, my daughter needing a ride to her volunteer job, improvising a meal because I forgot to defrost something and a friend who drops by without calling, which will over-excite the dogs, which usually results in a digestive accident.
That's a typical day for me. On the upside I don't work a day job, my family helps out with the chores and sometimes the pups don't puke in front of my friends. I also have no web site, Facebook page or Twitter account to update, or any cons or book signings to attend. To be honest I haven't made any public appearances since 2003. Sounds like complete madness, doesn't it? Everyone knows a pro writer has to do all that stuff and then some, or their career is utterly doomed.
I haven't always been this doomed. When I turned pro I let other writers, editors, and the agent tell me what to do. They said I could sell a lot of books if I did what all the other authors did. What they didn't know was anything about me, my shyness, my disabilities or the fact that being in any kind of spotlight makes me blush, perspire, stammer and even occasionally throw up.
For three very long, dreary years I forced myself to do what they said. I didn't sell a lot of books or make any of the lists, but I did get steadily depressed, actually stopped writing and seriously considered quitting Publishing. This after I'd spent ten years pursuing this dream job, which turned out to be a nightmare, all because I sucked at being an author.
Okay, I didn't suck at everything. I write a lot, and I'd begun posting free stories on the Internet for my readers, which they loved. I also enjoy teaching writing (weird, right? But true -- when I talk shop I forget to be shy) and the online free writing classes I hosted for two years were fun and quite popular. So was my weblog. For me all it was all writing, and when I write I'm a different person -- probably because I'm doing what I love.
That realization was my personal/professional epiphany. I decided that if I was going to fail, I'd do things my way by focusing on my strengths, not my weaknesses.
Before we get into what happened to me let's talk about you. Are you happy, productive, and selling your work? If yes, you don't need my advice; you've already figured it out. If you want you could come over and help me get this laundry done. If you're unhappy, not writing and/or not selling, then you may be where I was. This doesn't mean you have to give it all up to do nothing but write, but you might consider making some changes.
Speaking of writing, how much did you get done this week? Couple of pages? A chapter? Nothing? Now think about how much time you spent updating Facebook, Twitter, promoting your latest release and whatever else you did that was not actual writing. Compare the two figures -- are they equal? How do you feel about everything else? Does updating Facebook make you as happy as writing a fight scene? Is Tweeting as big a thrill as typing the last chapter of a story?
If your answered yes to the above, then you've probably balanced your writing equilibrium between writing and non-writing activities. If not, you may be wasting energy on things you dislike that make you feel lousy in return -- aka creative poison.
Do you love going to writer conferences? Plenty of people think they're fun, and there are lots of editors and agents at them, too. Once during an online discussion I suggested that for every con any writer wanted to attend they should first write two books. This idea scandalized everyone until I asked them for their ratio between cons attended and manuscripts finished. Most said they attended at least three cons per year but rarely completed even one book in the same time. Half of the others said they had yet to finish writing their first novel. Going to a con to have fun and pitch editors is great, but you do need to have something to sell.
Making big changes in your writing life can be scary, especially if you're convinced you have to do the must-dos. What if you swapped out just one thing you do from something you hate to something you love? Try it for a week and see if it makes a difference in your productivity, your creativity and how you feel about your writing life. If it works, try it with something else. If it doesn't, try something different. It doesn't matter if you find your writing equilibrium via a radical epiphany like mine or through a subtle and gradual process; both roads lead to the same destination: a more productive writing life.
How does finding that balance pay off? Well, after I found my writing equilibrium I didn't quit or fail. Seven of my novels subsequently made the NY Times bestseller list, and my fiftieth novel will be released In August. I've taught thousands of writers how to cope with the work and the life. I've also been ranked at various times as one of the top 100 female bloggers on the internet, the top 50 book bloggers, and the top 10 SF author bloggers on the internet.
Success is wonderful, but what really matters is that I'm happy and I love my job. In any kind of life, there is no better balance than that.
Lynn is the blogger better known as Paperback Writer. Check her out, read her books, and bask in her awesomeness.
Oh, and even though Lynn has been more than gracious giving us a guest blog today, she's also decided to do a contest, too. One lucky commenter will win the following gorgeous prize from Lynn:
This is what Lynn had to say about the prize: "The winner will get the tote (designed and hand-quilted by me), which will be packed with a signed set of the trilogy, a sampler of herbal teas from Celestial Seasonings, a box of Walker's shortbread rounds, a reusable insulated sports bottle, two mini garden kits (Sunflower and Herbs in a Can) and a green quilted bookmark."
So, get commenting. Lynn will be stopping by throughout the day to reply and keep the conversation going.
And thanks, Lynn, for stopping by today!