I could go on for days about this topic, but let’s just focus on the Working Writer. By working writer, I mean someone who has a day job to support their writing career, not someone who’s writing career supports them. This will apply to the would-be writer, as well as the independent and traditionally published authors who are less than top line. None of it has anything to do with the quality of your work. It has everything to do with unrealistic expectations we as writers have, but also the unrealistic expectations of those who propose to help us realize our publishing goals.
First of all, let’s drop calling this your writing dream. It’s a goal, and goals are achievable. Dreams are things you have in your sleep, they are ideas that help you formulate plans if they get past a warm smile and fuzzy feeling in your gut. Let’s be real. Calling it a goal will cement this idea of writing, and all the achievements you dreamt up, into a tangible thing. You can game plan goals, but dreams are too flimsy and surreal to pin down.
Now that that is settled…
How does unrealistic thinking apply to writing? Most fiction writers, and some non-fiction artists too, obviously dream up the idea of a piece of writing and go from there. Steps are taken (goals) to achieve the fruition of the idea into the art form, be it novel, novella, short story, poem, essay, etc. Eventually you get that idea into a tangible product, and then you wonder what the hell to do with it.
Authors are really good at dreaming, and not so great at goal-setting in many cases. Our job IS to dream. We are idea people. So dragging us out of our nice little bed to face the cold world of sales, where we put up our tangible completed projects for sale, we are a little lost—a lot lost!
Let me assure you, that there are indeed not enough days in the week, or hours in the day to get it all done on your own. I don’t care what you’ve been told about that. The feeling of being at a loss for what to do next is enough to overwhelm, and then you heap on advice from a thousand sources all over the internet, with no means to gauge each piece’s value, and then add on the need to apply this advice, and become an expert in Marketing—it is too much.
If you are like me, you work full time, which means you are at work more than you are at home. Add to that your commute. Mine went from 15 minutes both ways, to 2-3 and even 4 hours some days. Yes! It takes me almost an hour to get to work in the morning, and nearly 2 hours in the evening if traffic is decent. What kind of time am I left with? About 2 hours at night to get it all done, if I want to get enough sleep to be functional at the job that is actually paying the bills. FUCK THAT!
Where is the time to write? I have written one book and plenty of blog posts, in the last two years. I have also put my three publications back out through new independent sources, and re-engaged my editor, a publicist and continue to work with the best designer around. I sneak in marketing where I can, and continue to test different resources.
I’m sure you’ve been all over the internet looking for the marketing plan that is going to finally get your books in front of readers and supply you with a steady enough income that you can finally stay home and write another book. I know I have! I’ve watched these things work great for some authors and not others. If you don’t plan wisely, you’re going to be stuck marketing the one or two you have, because you’ll have no time to do anything else if you follow the advice of online marketing gurus. And you thought you were at a loss before!
So how do I get it all done? Let me tell you that through some periods it is still way too much. I wish I could be home just doing this and not have to worry about where the money was coming from to pay the bills. But, don’t lament! Going to a day job is useful for keeping your brain active on other things. It engages you with the world and provides.
Here’s what you can do… seriously consider your time table. Don’t be selfish and don’t be stingy. Be honest. You do need leisure, you need to work, and take care of your home. If you have children and pets, you must spend time with them. And, get your sleep. If you don’t get your rest, you will not be able to do your best at work or on your books. Mood is highly affected by these things, so take care of yourself. Don’t let someone in your life demand too much time of you, and don’t demand too much from yourself.
I have the benefit of knowing a really great marketer. Her advice may sound overwhelming at first, and there will be time investment in setting up an online presence if you haven’t already, but once that work is done, you shouldn’t need to spend more than 10, 15, or 20 minutes a day 4 times a week to get everything done that you can to help sell your books. Sound good? Sounds like something you can do while the roast cooks for dinner. Exactly!
Okay, much of your marketing and outreach can be done automatically. You’ll need to invest your initial time in set up. The marketer of which I speak recommends HootSuite to help with automation of sharing on social media, though it requires a payment plan of about $10 a month. I do it without, because I can’t incur one more expense—I also have to pay deviantArt for my membership, my website costs, an editor and designer, and marketing materials (such as bookmarks, postcards, etc). It cost me almost $3,000.00 dollars to put out OP-DEC: Operation Deceit once everything was said and done, and has continued to cost me a few hundred more since marketing began. Just like your time, there is an end to funds, so be sure to be reasonable about what you need most and what you can scrimp on.
Tip: Do not scrimp on your editor and designer or your website.
When you’re all set up online, determine what works for you with what you’ll be sharing (will you blog, or scour the internet for cool things). I keep a notebook, and I write out an outline for the month, each post and working titles. This ignores my book hop, which I write on Saturday afternoons/evenings in a 20 minute slot. When it comes to blog time, I choose articles to write. And, then, for two weeks before the drop date of the first of the month, I start writing them up. They shouldn’t be so long that it takes you hours anyway. No one is going to read all that. When do I plan? Whenever the mood hits me. That notebook is at my hip, ready to be scribbled in when needed.
While I’m watching television and relaxing, I will take the time to share posts I think appeal to my followers. Some nights, I spend time building graphics to market my work. Some nights I chat with other authors, plan with the publicist, contact my designer, or see what needs updating on my website. It can, in fact, turn into an hour spent or more, quite easily. If you are strict with yourself, you will meet your goals, and stay in your time frame, and you won’t miss a beat.
One other thing I do: Make use of breaks at work to do a little interacting (via your smartphone if you can’t use the net at work, like I can’t).
Further advice: if you have a long commute, use that time to listen to play lists you’ve made around your work and topics and decompress. You can meditate while driving. The focus on driving and the music are all you need to do that. Keep your eyes open and your attention on what is going on and you have to shut out the noise of whatever is driving you up a tree. (Go ahead and blast that music.) It might take me 2 hours to get home, but I unless the cat makes a catastrophe, I’m ready to get going again.
In conclusion, realistic goals can get you there and keep you on track better than keeping your head in the clouds and throwing money all over the place at phantom ideas. You’ll be less stressed, and more productive in the writing field.
- Set alarms on your phone to time yourself.
- Walk the dog or yourself to get through ideas, away from the clutter of your desk and distractions.
- Have fun with making graphics to market your work—you could employ the family to do this, as a way of spending time and engaging them with your goals.
- Be kind to yourself.
- Tomorrow is another day, and slow is still moving forward.