You feel vaguely restless, certain you need to boost your writing career to the next level. How to do that eludes you, however. Stretch any further as a writer, and it feels like you’ll break. Accomplishing everything on your to-do list seems impossible. You watch as other writers sail past you on the road to writing success with apparent ease. It’s hard to lead a contented writing life when you feel like you’re behind all the time.
I have good news for you. If you’re stuck and stagnating, making a drastic change might be in order, but the reverse is usually true. I’m not certain we writers put so much pressure on ourselves, but it isn’t sustainable. Sooner or later, we’ll burn out.
I know. I lived it.
I wish someone had told me when I first started writing professionally to appreciate my time as an invisible writer. Yes, it’s painful to feel like no one cares that you or your amazing stories exist. During this season in a writer’s life, the disappointment of unrealized dreams can seem a breath away. However, if you write well and are willing to tell the world about your books, you are likely to live your writing dream.
Lead a Contented Writing Life
Certain elements that are part and parcel of an author’s career move to the forefront during particular writing seasons. Leading a contented writing life is as simple as embracing the writing season you are in. Let’s take a look at the ones I’ve identified.
Time to Learn
Training yourself in the writing craft is one of the most important investments you can make in your writing career. Gain an education by subscribing to a writing blog, reading books for writers, taking courses, learning from workshops, attending writing conferences, hiring an editor or consultant to work with you, and reading well-written novels similar to those you want to write. My favorite way to learn is by writing itself, although that alone will teach you at a slower pace. I suggest using a variety of methods to learn.
There are many other things to learn as an author in today’s publishing world. You need to know how to promote to the right readers or you might as well leave your books on your hard drive. If you’re aiming for a traditional career, you need to put a proposal together, follow conference etiquette, learn how to interest a literary agent, and navigate working with an editor. In an indie writing career, you will likely engage an editor, take input from critique partners or beta readers, work with a cover designer (or become your own), and hire an interior designer. A hybrid author must learn all of the above.
Once you’re writing to contract or self-publishing, your life becomes a whole lot busier, and fitting education into your schedule is harder. The start of your writing career is the best time for a big focus on education. That’s not to say you should stop there, though. The best authors, no matter how naturally gifted, study writing over a lifetime.
Take the golden opportunity at the beginning of your writing career, while looming deadlines or the threat of eminent publication aren’t facing you down, to hone the writing craft. You’ll thank yourself later.
Time to Write
Whatever their path to publication, most writers reach a point where they want to write books faster. There are a lot of reasons for shifting from a laid-back writing schedule to an emphasis on writing productivity. Completing a book can feel like it takes forever, which makes it’s hard to keep the momentum going. Moving at a faster clip alleviates this problem. Your fans tell you they would very much like you to release books more frequently. If you don’t, a similar author might just woe them away. It occurs to you that releasing books on a frequent schedule lets you earn more money from your writing.
Time to Promote
Simply producing books will not a writing career make. I hate to say it, but it’s possible to write a masterpiece of modern literature that remains undiscovered, buried beneath an onslaught of books by other authors. Like it or not, learning to promote well is a survival skill. Possessing a deep backlist of books, while a good tactic, won’t help you if readers don’t know about them.
The perfect time to improve your promotional savvy is when you have at least a few books available for purchase (hopefully from a completed series). Unless you have an avid fan base, churning out more books becomes arguably less important than telling the world about the ones you have already written. Keep your readers happy, but adjust your schedule to allow more time for promotion.
Time to Breathe
Putting together an amazing backlist and acquiring the skills to promote it can lead to author burnout. Once you reach this threshold, you’re faced with a choice. You can continue doing everything yourself and drive yourself to exhaustion or delegate and give yourself the margin to remain creative. Unless you are highly organized, this is by no means easy. Deciding what to delegate, then teaching someone else how to take on part of your workload calls for a whole new set of skills. You may need to shift your paradigm from that of a lone writer to the CEO of your writing business. Retaining your patience and sense of humor eases any transition.
Time to Live
When your writing career is in full swing, you can fully embrace your dream. Writing is faster for you, and your manuscripts require fewer revisions. You know enough about the craft of writing to teach others. Socializing at literary events and conferences with a community of like-minded writers has lost its terror. The money you earn from sales of your books contributes to writing research adventures. You are in a position to ignore the world and write for long stretches while others take care of your writing business.
Many possibilities lie open before you. Make wise decisions about the writing life you want to live. Don’t accept opportunities that have nothing to do with who you are or what you want.
Final Thoughts from Janalyn
Embrace your writing season to gain relief from stress, boost your writing creativity, and rediscover joy in writing. Don’t worry about keeping up with other writers. We all travel at our own pace. Skipping a writing season may seem tempting but leads to problems. Writers who fail to educate themselves, for example, may never attain their writing dream. Those who fail to promote their books find themselves easy prey for discouragement. Authors with a backlist who don’t reach out to readers lose out on rewarding relationships and future sales. A successful author may long to return to the days of few writing responsibilities and forget to live their dream.