Deciding What’s Really Worth It

Because of some personal circumstances, I went back to full-time work a couple weeks ago. To say that I have not adjusted well is an understatement. I don’t want to sound whiney, like a little kid being made to do something she doesn’t want to do, but it’s definitely a rude awakening when all of a sudden all the writing time I’ve enjoyed is gone.

I know most, if not all, my adult writer friends also have some kind of full-time job, and many of those also add small children to the mix. There, at least, I am fortunate. My son is 18 and will be graduating from high school soon. My daughter is 12 and as soon as she comes home from school, she runs and hides, all her energy gone from putting up with her peers all day long. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have laundry to do, dinner to make. By the time I have a free moment, I am spent. Not maybe physically, but emotionally, all I want to is mindlessly scroll Twitter until it’s time for bed.

So, lately, I’ve been exploring what I can give up, and what I want to keep, in order to have the time and energy to keep writing.

office-620822_1920And it’s more than that, too. I consider myself an indie writer, publisher, marketer of those books. That means staying on top of publishing trends, practicing writing, reading about craft. I just finished Stephen King’s On Writing. There is always something to do when you are an indie writer: build your platform, market your books, run ads.

What do I do on a daily, weekly, monthly basis? Let’s explore:

Daily:

  1. There isn’t anything that I do absolutely every day, except be on Twitter/Facebook (and I can’t even claim I post regularly on my FB author page, either!). I enjoy it, and I follow influencers, top people in the publishing industry. Agents, editors, other writers. It’s easy to write this off as a time waster, but if you follow the right people and use it for more than watching weird gifs, it can be a great networking tool. I’m fortunate to have the account I do, and for that reason alone, I like to try to keep up with it. I have a lot of friends and support on there. Sometimes I do fall behind, and for that, I apologize.
  2. I should add writing to this, but for the most part, I can’t. Sometimes I am physically unable to write. Lack of time or whatever, sometimes I just can’t. It doesn’t help that right now I am formatting and creating my cover for my current novel. Any free time I have is going to that just to get it done. I’m tired of looking at it, and I would love to start a new book.

 

Weekly:

  1. Listen to podcasts. I try to keep up with these as they come out. To give myself a podcasts-2633018_1920two-fer, I try to go for walks as I listen, to get my exercise in. There are two that I absolutely love: The Sell More Books Show and Print Run Podcast. The Sell More Books Show talks about indie news, and I keep up on a lot of things going on in the indie-publishing world. Print Run is run by an agent and editor out of Minneapolis, and they talk about the traditional publishing industry. They’ve opened my eyes to a lot of things, and to their credit, they are candid about their jobs. Others that I try to listen to:
    a) The Science Fiction and Fantasy Podcast. I don’t write fantasy, but a lot of the guests on there talk about their marketing strategies that can work for everyone.
    b) The Creative Penn. Joanna runs a great podcast and keeps you updated on everything from indie news, craft, author interviews and more. At this point, she’s a staple of the indie writing community.
  2. Write. Finally, I can put this on the list. I would go nuts if I couldn’t write. Even when I have to write longhand at work, it’s better than nothing. When I was working part-time, I could write 5,000-10,000 words a week. Especially if the story was going well. Now, well. I haven’t been working long enough to fall into a routine to see how far I can push my limits. And now with summer coming, I just don’t know. All I can do is my best, and so far, I feel like I am failing miserably.
  3. Read craft books/editing books. Being I can read at work if it’s slow, (no internet/computer/device access though, that’s why I buy my books in paperback) I can read a lot. I read Stephen King’s book in two days. I read lots of books, which is a major boon for me. It’s harder to write at work on certain days since a) I can only writing longhand and 2) if it’s busy, I lose track of what I’m doing and my writing becomes choppy. It depends on the day, and what calls I’m scheduled to take. Weekends are better for writing.

 

Monthly: 

  1. Blog. My blogging schedule leaves a lot to be desired. Some of my most dedicated arms-3404941_1920friends will crank out two blog posts a week. I can’t do that. Not only do I not have time, Good Lord, where do they find the content? I’ve added book reviews to my blog schedule (of craft and other non-fiction books) just to add some filler. But contrary to what others say about how important blogging is to your platform, this is the one that I let slip first.
  2. Helping others. Sometimes I’ll edit for free for someone just because I know how hard it is to find help at a reasonable rate. While I limited that to once maybe every three months, or when I come across someone who really needs the help and have nowhere else to turn, I fear I may not be able to do any of that anymore. Which saddens me, because I really enjoyed it.
  3. Author interviews. I don’t do this often, but this falls into blogging, and while it might be easy to email questions, formatting the answers into an enjoyable blog post (see my lovely interview with Aila Stephens) can take a lot of time.
  4. Spend some time on Goodreads. I try to add all the books I’ve read to my shelves, and give a star review, even if I can’t write a quick review on there. Sometimes I’ll try to copy and paste the review I write for my blog into the review on Goodreads, like I did for The Continent.

 

So, obviously, as an indie writer, you need to make time to write. If you’re not writing, you’re not doing much of anything. But if you are writing and publishing, it’s hard to figure out what you can drop since you’re running two or three businesses single-handedly while working a job and raising a family.

business-3385079_1920What could I drop? Blogging, probably. I blog for indie writers, and well, indie writers don’t read indie books. That is not where my audience is, and it was one of my mistakes when starting up my blog. I could give up Twitter, but it’s my main source of writerly companionship. Sometimes I don’t walk as much as I want to, and that’s sad, because MN weather is really nice right now, and I don’t want my podcasts to pile up (when I don’t walk, I listen to podcasts to make the chores and errands go a little bit faster).

This probably isn’t a good time to figure out a writing schedule since I’ve only been working full-time for three weeks, and in that time I’ve been editing Wherever He Goes and have moved on to formatting and creating the cover. I’ll have a more accurate depiction of how I can figure out a writing schedule when I start my next book.

All in all, I’ll just have to try to find some balance like everyone else I know. Pull up my big girl panties, and write when I don’t feel like it. Walk when I’d rather take a nap. Be careful not to burn out.

Lots of people seem to have a handle on it, and lots of people seem like they don’t, too. I’ll just have to look at this as a speedbump in my writing career. It’s not easy to think that way, since I write romance, and romance is notorious for the pressure. It’s not unheard of for a romance writer to publish anywhere from 5-10 books a year. I’ll never get to that point. Even if I didn’t have to work, at all. I’d never make it.

So, I’ll echo the advice I hear over and over, and something I have even told others: Find a balance. Do the best you can. Work with what you have.

It’s all you can do.

Self-Care and the Healthy Writer

health is not valued

I’ve let myself go, and not in a good way. Not like I’ve decided to stop worrying about things I can’t change, or that poor review, or what someone thinks of me.

No, I used to run, not from my personal demons or bills, but literally–10k, 5k races, I even ran a half-marathon. I used to love it, the accomplishment, the exhilaration, the sheer pleasure of being outside. Just me and the squirrels.

That changed when I found writing. For a while, I did both. I wrote, went to work, I went on runs. But slowly, as writing became more and more important to me, running became less and less and soon I stopped altogether.

Since I’ve stopped, I’ve fallen into a routine: get up, get the kids to school. Then I settle in to write for three or four hours. I take a shower after that, do chores, pick up the kids from school, then make dinner. The evenings are spent online chatting with friends, maybe watching some Netflix. Maybe writing if I’m really into a scene. Then I go to bed. I can usually write about 10,000 words a week, maybe more if I don’t have to labor over every word, if I know what I need to write ahead of time.

Nice work if you can get it.

There are only so many hours in the day–everyone knows this. Especially the writer who only puts down 100 words before having to do something else.

Who has time for exercise?

When I was writing and running, when, for those few months before one passion overtook the other, I used my running time to plot books. I would listen to music, or if it was early in the morning, I would run in silence and think about my characters, what trouble I could create for them while I effortlessly ran my six mile route through a pretty city park near my apartment.

These days, in a time where families need two incomes to make it work, and you have little kids watching TV all the time and the noise stresses you out, or you listen to a book while you make dinner because you don’t have time to read, we don’t think a lot about self-care, exercise, even eating right. We do what we have to do to get through the day with our sanity intact.

The other morning, tired, after dropping the kids at school, I crawled back into bed with my cat and let my mind drift. I thought about where I was with my book, the people giving me a hard time on Twitter, what I did last week. I dozed, let my thoughts drift for a couple hours while my cat’s head rested on my arm.

We don’t do this very often for a lot of reasons: guilt, thinking it’s a waste of time, knowing chores could be done, words could be written, but we should.

Creativity is hard work. Writing is emotionally draining, maybe physically, too, if we deal with carpal tunnel, eye strain, or back pain. Many writers deal with anxiety or depression, especially if they are querying and waiting for news.

I’ve started walking–I can’t jump back into running just yet. Nothing abandons you faster than stamina, but I’ve promised to lace up my shoes, get some air, get my blood flowing, my heart pumping.

I used to listen to podcasts, but I’m going to try to walk maybe every other time in silence, let my mind drift. Think about plots, notice how the sun sparkles on the snow, take time to breathe. Let my characters speak to me.

calm mind

If you are drained, strained, stressed, you’ll have nothing for the page.

I’ve let myself go, and in the process, I’ve gained weight, and every year my bad cholesterol numbers go up along with my BMI. But not only have I lost some of my health, I’ve lost the peace running gave me.

Self-care is important, and how you do it is up to you. Sit outside and listen to the neighborhood dog barking, read that book, go to coffee with a friend.

Breathe.

Fill your creativity well.

Take care of yourself.

Because you don’t have anything if you don’t have your health. The Healthy Writer

To encourage you to become a healthy writer, I’m giving away two paperback copies of this book by the fabulous Dr. Euan Lawson and Joanna PennThe Healthy Writer: Reduce your pain, improve your health, and build a writing career for the long term. She’s a wonderful part of the indie community, and we’re lucky to have her as a professional role model. (I did not get any kick-backs for giving away her book–I bought the paperbacks myself on Amazon.)

Spring is coming! Get out there!

Click here to enter the drawing!

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