The Busyness of the Business of a Full-Time Writer…
One of the things that wakes me up at night is the panic of being behind in my life. I know that’s familiar to most of you.
When I was raising three kids and living in an old house that needed a lot of maintenance and had a large, overgrown yard and garden (ditto for maintenance), I despaired at keeping up with both the responsibilities of a homeowner and the kids and all their school and extra-curricular activities. And, more or less involuntarily, I was caregiver to a menagerie, which included our beloved Lewis, with his doggy requirements, and all the cage/aquarium needs for the birds, dwarf rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, fish and other semi-aquatic creatures that regularly came and went, due to their fairly short life spans. Oh, except for the dinner-plate size turtles, Cookie and Caramel, who, it appeared, could live forever under the right circumstances.
I also had the job of writing full-time. This is not unusual or unexpected: how many of you reading this are full-time parents with full-time careers?
While the above was going on – the stuff of life – and I was writing short-story collections and novels for both young adults and adults, the other part of my job as an author included a variety of commitments to the writing world. This was in the earlier days of my career, and none of the commitments were forced upon me. I said yes, often eagerly, when approached and offered a job or assignment, because I knew it could help me learn more about the craft, get my own work more recognized, meet other established and emerging writers, and, hope of hopes, bring in a few extra sou. I conducted school workshops for young adults, and spoke about my books and the writing life at libraries and bookstores. I was a guest at many wonderful and supportive book clubs reading my work. I taught creative writing for Adult Education courses at one of my city’s universities, and acted as guest editor for an edition of a literary journal, and took on the task of writer-in-residence at the city’s main library. I also sat on a board for a writers’ guild, acted as representative for a children/young adult writing society, was a mentor for emerging writers within a writing organization, and read and recommended manuscripts while on the editorial advisory board of a literary press. I wrote blurbs – the brief endorsements on book jackets – and reviewed books and wrote articles for local newspapers and for journals and magazines. I sat on juries for literary awards for local schools and writing organizations as well as for provincial and national grants and prizes. I travelled nationally and internationally to be a presenter at writing conferences.
I want to stress, whole-heartedly, that I am absolutely grateful I was able to be part of all those wonderful aspects of the writer’s life. It was always enriching, and I learned something with every venture.
The above was a long preamble to the fact that my life as a full-time writer has changed. I no longer own a house with a yard, nor do I have pets, and my children are adults with their own lives – and homes. I have cut back drastically on the number of additional “jobs” I take on. And yet – and here is the conundrum: why do I feel as though I am still as behind, and often as panicked about the business/busyness of a full-time writing career as I was while still a young(ish) mother trying to keep a household of five humans and up to six pets afloat?
I have tried to pinpoint what, exactly, accounts for my current state of feeling too busy, which leads to anxiety. I could blame social media, but I’m terrible at it. I have a Twitter account, but rarely tweet or even retweet, and then wonder why I don’t seem to be acquiring followers. I do not have Instagram or Facebook. Not to say you won’t see me there at some point soon, because I understand – trust me – I do understand that social media is very, very important for all of us, and let’s say, oh, number six on my long office to-do list is to generate a professional Facebook page. So I spend a lot of my “worry time” on what I’m not doing: I worry about my website, and how behind I am on keeping it up-to-date. I worry about my computer programs being current and running smoothly, and making sure my iPad and my iPhone are uploading and updating all the apps I am endlessly reminded about. I should be doing more on Goodreads. I should be getting new author photos taken, and I should be scheduling a dreaded meeting with my accountant. My inbox should not be so crammed with all those unanswered emails pertaining to my career. And, although unrelated to my work, let’s not bring up my avoidance of the treadmill.
But in spite of all the things I’m not doing, here’s the positive – what I am doing: writing and reading and travelling. While reading a book that inspires me, or writing a few lines I feel positive about, or travelling to a country that fills me with awe, my blood courses faster and my heart rattles in its cage. That troika that makes up my creative life keeps me open and learning, which makes me more understanding about the human condition, which should, hopefully, make the writing more…well, just more.
So since my last post in October (even typing October gives me a twinge), I finished writing what had been, for quite a while, a novel-in-progress, and I read some books that blew me away, and I experienced a month and a half of foreign travel. I won’t be talking about the novel yet, because it’s too new. But the next post might be about how writing is, for the most part, rewriting. Or how libraries and/or bookstores have influenced my entire life. Or some of the humbling and heart-breaking and awe-inspiring parts of the world I have travelled through recently.
Now that I have made this promise in writing, I can’t back down…so the next post will show up when I can stop feeling I’m wasting too much energy worrying about it – and just do it.
I’d love to hear from any of you who also struggle to keep up – and how you cope!