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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Author's Life

Last week, a friend approached me with a writing project that was very intriguing. Was I interested? Heck, yeah. But right on the heels of this offer, two other people contacted me and asked if I would guest blog on their respective sites.

No problem, I said. Those gigs aren't hard. And it's good networking. Then came another request, and then another. Would I like in on a super sekrit group project? Would I review such and such a book? Would I participate in a giveaway? Would I be interested in judging a contest?

Whoa. Stop the train. There comes a time when you are stretched so thin, you have to say, enough. No more projects, reviews, judging, guest posts, contests, and social media. No more herding cats through a gauntlet of drooling rottweilers.

I have a stack of books on my nightstand that I haven't touched in three months. I distract my husband with X-box games so he doesn't feel so neglected. There are enough fallen leaves on my six acres to start a forest fire. And I can't remember the last time I actually did something just for myself.

For the past three years, my whole life has centered around some aspect in publishing. I'm not complaining. I knew what I was getting into. But it's a little like a Ponzi scheme. The more you invest in your career, the more you have to keep supporting it by means of networking, marketing, reading, editing, and yet more writing.

Those of you who have books on the market know what I'm talking about. The cycle is endless. 

A friend of mine said it best when she said: If you CAN stop writing...stop. 

Easier said than done.

Once you get on this slippery slope, you can't take a break. You can't say: Oh, I'm tired, bored, busy, etc. I'll do the writing, editing, marketing stuff later. 

It doesn't work that way.

If you do take a breather, you risk having to start all over again. I've seen it happen to several authors who took a break to have babies, get married, get divorced, or have a life. Some of them haven't made it back yet. Some never will. 

The longer you stay out of the game, the harder it is to get back in. So you push forward, even if it's little baby steps.

It's especially hard around the holidays when we all have a million more things to do than usual.

How about you? Do you ever think about how much time you've invested in your career? Does it ever intimidate you?


Grandpa said...

Whoa Maria! That's a lot of offers, good for you, I say go for it!

I cannot answer your question as I didn't take up writing as a career, but generally I would say "don't let the passion die"

Maria Zannini said...

I need a clone, Grandpa. I'm grateful to be on so many radars, but it's a balancing act to fit it all in. Sometimes I have to say no.

Ted Cross said...

Ooh, I wish my wife would distract me with video games!

Kimber Leszczuk. said...

I need a nap! LOL But it sounds like you need one way more!

Maria Zannini said...

Ted: LOL! You're the writer, Ted. You're supposed to distract your wife--not the other way around.

Maria Zannini said...

Kimber: Ooh, nap. I'd settle for a few days with nothing to do but read and watch old movies.

Angelina Rain said...

I’m sorry you’re feeling so overwhelmed. I know sometimes it’s hard to take a whole day off from life, but try to take a couple of hours off. Take a warm bubble bath, or settle in on the couch with a good book and two warm, furry friends to keep you company. I hope you find some time to relax and unwind soon. And if you need to stop writing, editing, and blogging for a couple of days, your true fans and friends will forgive you.

J.L. Johnson said...

Honestly, Maria, it scares the hell outta me. I don't know first hand what you're going through, but I've read enough writer's blogs that I see the big picture. I really don't know what I would do in your place, but I'm wishing you all the best with that workload. :)

Jennifer Shirk said...

Well, aren't you Miss Popular. :)

Yes, it is sometimes too much fi I think about how much I do sometimes with writing and promotion. It's crazy. And as much as I like to say yes to different projects, sometimes I have to say no too.(Especially to doing reviews--as much I want to)

Sue Guiney said...

OMG (as the kids say). Don't get me started. I spend all day, every day, promoting my book, sending emails, liaising with the blogging world (like now), doing the social media thing, setting up events etc. I recognize that it is part of our job as writers, these days, whether we like it or not. But we all do have to stop, if only for a day. I took an entire day off a few weeks ago. No twitter, no facebook, no nothing. And it felt great, and I'm still here. I'm looking forward to leaving it all behind for a while during Xmas. But I do believe that all of this gets you nowhere if you stop writing. It must ultimately be the new work that drives it.

Maria Zannini said...

Angelina, JL: I was going to say that at least I'll have the week between Christmas and New Years to unwind, but my editor just wrote me. It looks like I'll be working on second round edits about that time. LOL.

Best laid plans and all that.

Maria Zannini said...

Jenn: I am in awe of you because you seem to be everywhere--and you have kids! Holy moley. I'd be a basket case.

Oh...and I guess I owe you a guest post. Coming right up. :)

Maria Zannini said...

Ref: I took an entire day off a few weeks ago. No twitter, no facebook, no nothing. And it felt great,...

This reminds of one year when we took off to a remote beach with no phones, computers or people. It was glorious!

I'd love another vacation like that.

Madeleine said...

I read a blog 2day that talked about time wasted because what he'd written wasn't good enough but I feel that writing is a journey and it's all valuable experience, so yes I can see your point about not stopping too long on that journey because we settle down into a different routine and can't fit back into those writing boots anymore. :O)

Mysti Holiday said...

Marketing is HARD... and once you get the momentum going, you don't want to stop unless you're quitting. You're absolutely right. But finding a balance? That's the hard part. It's definitely intimidating and occasionally frustrating.

You do good :-)

Maria Zannini said...


If I stopped writing right this minute, I can say my time hadn't been wasted.

I've learned so much. Not just the mechanics of writing, but the way I see things. I'm much more observant now and that makes me a more empathetic human being.

--but it wouldn't hurt my feelings if social media went away. LOL.

Maria Zannini said...

Mysti: Thanks, Mysti. And thanks for following me.

I sometimes laugh at the people who think writers are artists who wax poetically and wait for the royalty checks to pour in. :grin:

Glad you could stop by!

Krista D. Ball said...

I hear ya!

I'm a nobody author, so I invest a lot of time into trying to expose myself to the public without getting a criminal record. After a while, you just want to throw your hands up and scream, "That's it! I'm actually going to WRITE for a change."

Having recently acquired two children, one being high-functioning special needs, really drains a lot of energy. Add to that working part-time (otherwise, my partner and I would kill each other being at home together), and trying to write, I wonder how I'll ever get anything done. I feel like I'm on some kind of spinning child's toy.

I treat writing like a job. In regular job world, people take vacations. I firmly believe vacations are important in the writing world, too, for me. I take vacations from writing, from marketing, and *gasp* from everything dealing with the entire world of authorship.

But, yeah, if anyone would like a couple of kids, I'm offering them as a discount rate. :p

Maria Zannini said...


Ref: ...trying to expose myself to the public without getting a criminal record.

I finally understand the phrase: He couldn't get elected dogcatcher.

Part of the problem is competition for people's time. I'm hugely honored when people take the time to comment here--let alone read my books.

Authors do some outrageous things to attract attention and it's not often pretty or even ethical.

As Mysti said above, it's all about balance. And a healthy dose of self-respect.

Ref: discount kids
Don't most parents put their kids on discount around the holidays? :grin:

KarenG said...

Identifying with this post! The networking & marketing are as important as the writing. And then of course the reading, because that's part of our job too. And what's tough is that none of this is really earning a living. So many writers are having to put in their 40 hours a week on top of all the rest. You can't do it unless you love it.

Meghan Schuessler said...

WOW you're in demand lately, huh? ;-) Good for you!

I've been out of work since July and I still feel like I'm not getting enough done writing-wise. My main problem is that I spend too much time with "social networking" - blogger, facebook, etc. Balance IS key, but it can be difficult to maintain

Sondrae Bennett said...

I find it incredibly hard around the holidays to keep up with my social media sites. I'm trying and am putting up at least one or two posts a week on my blog but it's hard. And you're so right, it's a very slippery slope. But I think you're right and if you're stretched too thin you need to say no to some things. P.S. I love that you distract your husband with xbox games! The image made me laugh.

Maria Zannini said...

KarenG: Absolutely. No sane person would do this so the only other explanation is love.

Meghan: My 'demand' is cyclical, but this time it hasn't let up since my blog tour, so maybe I've reached more people thank I realized.

It would be interesting to figure that out.

Maria Zannini said...

Sondrae: I just wave that X-box package around and say: "Look, boy. Look at the shiny box. Ooh, X-box. Do you want it? Do you?"

And then I toss it toward the tv and run the other way.

This works well for dogs and men. I'm pretty sure they share a chromosome or something.

Renee Miller said...

It's hockey season and my husband has a 52" TV, a ping pong table, and a Wii with a ton of sports games, all in a cozy basement (he installed a pellet stove last year). I don't have to distract him. He tells me to go write something and get out of his cave.

When I think about the time I've invested with so far very little to show for it, I definitely feel...discouraged at times. But it is worth it. The key is knowing when to pull away from the writing and for how long. For me, when the tantrums start, I know I need a break. Er, my tantrums, not the kids'. However, I can usually only manage a day away. It is my job, so in order to pay the bills, I can't really stay away too long.

Shirley Wells said...

The social media/promotion stuff can be exhausting. Sometimes I wish it would all go away and leave me to get on with some actual writing. :)

At this time of year especially, it's all a bit overwhelming.

You're right, though. You can't quit. You have to find a balance. Um, if you happen to stumble across it, please let me know. :)

Maria Zannini said...

Renee: Greg wanted a man cave, but he settled for a 2400 sq foot shop. The man cave would've been cheaper.

Ref: tantrums
You didn't have to explain. I KNEW you were talking about your tantrums. LOL!

It is tough. But it's also rewarding. I think it's what keeps me coming back.

Maria Zannini said...

Shirley: If I ever find a store that sells 'balance'. I will pick some up for both of us. :-)

Joanna St. James said...

I feel you, I like to follow all my followers and then some- you know what i mean, I even try to comment on everyone's blog.
I am getting to that point where i need to sit down and develop a blogging strategy or else!
I still find it hard to blive when pple email me for stuff.

Maria Zannini said...

Joanna: I can't always make everyone's blog, but I do try to answer them here at least.

I do keep hundreds of people on my reader though, so I'm usually not too behind on what's happening in their lives.

Despite the demand on my time, what's important to me is to keep a relationship with readers and peers. We all need an audience and I want to make sure I deliver.

Cate Masters said...

Oh yeah. These past two years have been a blur of blog tours, keeping up my own blog, Facebook, email loops, you name it. I made a conscious decision to put on the brakes. I don't want to step away from writing because I love it, but I'd love to be able to focus more on writing than promotion. It's a necessary evil, though. The key is balance, I guess, but I still feel like I'm teeter-tottering.

Maria Zannini said...

Cate: You're like a whirlwind of books though. I don't know how you do it. I would go crazy having that many books out one after another.

I bow to the mistress. :)

brokenbiro said...

What you need is some kind of cost-benefit algorithm matrix spreadsheet thingie so you can work out the value of each request in terms of your (a)future career (b)current enjoyment (c)favours owed and returned versus (d)hassle (e)time it will take.

It should only take a few months to set up....

Great word verification: 'playwoos' 8-)

Maria Zannini said...

Brokenbiro: they have an app for that? :grin:

Carlos J Cortes said...

Ah, María, a little like a Ponzi scheme? You and your understatements. But come on, señora, X-box games? You're a writer, surely you can indulge a little creativity, non?

Maria Zannini said...

Carlos: Shhh. Hush now. Don't give him any ideas.

Linda Leszczuk said...

So does this mean you don't want to guest post on my blog, beta read my WIP, and co-write a new project with me?

Maria Zannini said...

Linda: Not unless there's liquor involved--and in that case, you wouldn't want me anyway. LOL.