Striking a Balance

Today I went to the first in what I hope will be a series of “indie bookshop crawls,” in Totnes, Devon. While there, I was talking to a fellow Plymothian (during which conversation it emerged that the collective noun for Plymothians is “an excellence.” Okay, I might have made that up…) who was asking me who I knew, and which clubs and reading nights I frequented. I had to admit to not taking part in many at all, and explained that, because I work full-time, the weekends and days off I do get, I have to spend writing as opposed to talking about writing.

Which led me to ponder, on the way home; how much time should we spend at open-mic nights, readings, groups, etc? Are we doing ourselves a disservice if we shun 90% of these, in favour of actually writing? Does it make a difference that our agent is calling for 40k words towards our new novel a.s.a.p, or is that only an excuse?

I’m finding it hard striking a balance between trying to mingle with other writers –getting myself known locally, and spending time listening to their work–and actually nailing those damned words to the page. I was met with a surprised look today, when I said I hadn’t been to such-and-such a group, didn’t know this or that person, and didn’t really get out to many of these reading groups, but then the person to whom I was talking said he’d be lucky to get 40 thousand words out in a year.

With so much writing time already taken up with marketing online, preparing and posting updates and tweets, learning from other writers in Facebook groups, updating the website, and generally scattering myself all over Facebook in the hopes of scoring a couple of extra sales, can I really afford to take time out to sit in a room and listen to poems and short stories, in order not to be seen as distancing myself?

Where’s that balance, and how do I avoid coming over as aloof and/or non-committed if I ultimately come down on the side of producing work instead of talking about it?

Answers on a postcard please… or in the comments here or on Facebook 🙂

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11 thoughts on “Striking a Balance

  1. I’m in the same boat, Terri. When I panic about not getting out there I stop and think about how authors in the past managed. They didn’t have FB or Twitter, so I already have the advantage over them. I have an Amazon author page, another advantage over Dickens. In the end I told myself to do what I can and enjoy what I do.

    Hope you find your balance.

  2. You’re so right, Glynis. I think it’s time to stop worrying about it, or all the enjoyment will be sucked out of the one thing I love doing above all else 🙂 Thanks for stopping in and reading! x

  3. Thats a tough one and in this age of social media and self promotion it is becoming more of a dilemma.
    I think that you will need to be selective – and your writing will stand the test anyway.
    I wonder how many extra readers engage via readings and open mic nights, as opposed to posting and increasing a following via twitter, instagram, facebook etc?
    From a selfish point of view I would rather you write – and get those amazing books out there!

    • Thank you, Jane, that’s a lovely view to hear, I must say! 🙂 I’m thinking these open mic nights etc are not for gaining readers so much as for getting feedback, and gauging interest in your subject or style. I just don’t think I can afford that kind of luxury; I am getting decent feedback (and by ‘decent’ I mean well-balanced and constructive) from reviews and from my agent/publisher etc, so for me it really would just be doing it for the sake of it.
      Besides, it’d mean getting out my pyjamas… 😉

  4. I can relate to this, I don’t write a lot these days as I work full time and my book has not sold a single copy for years, partly as I’ve not pushed it or force fed it down the mouth of every person I know every day, but also as I’m ‘a work in progress’ so it’ll be many years before I produce a novel that I’d be happy promoting fully. That said, even a group I belong to, I’m not able to produce work for now, or rarely. I help them for free with their website, social media, book covers, uploading it and sorting the admin/finances and promotion of competitions. All takes time. I certainly don’t feel the need to rub shoulders with all groups and open mic nights in and around Plymouth. If I ever dream and then wake up a writer, maybe I’ll network more. But let’s face it today it’s impossible to be a successful writer without marketing and social media, unless you’re rich. And both those things are full time jobs themselves, unless you’ve a spankingly good publisher able to do that for you. Or minions of people you can employ if you’ve again got tons of cash.

    In the end if you’re not enjoying your hobby due to the above, then you either stop doing it or forget about the marketing, social media and admin and just write. By the way, you seem to be doing brilliantly as a writer, and I wish I’d had your success.

    Check out IPR licensing, I was sent an email from them and sounds interesting to get your books published in different languages.

    • This is the thing, I think, Matt; you use the word ‘hobby’ here, which is the extent of it for some. In this case, spending time mixing with other people who enjoy the same hobby is part of it. For someone who views it as a second job, it’s harder to justify taking the time off. I don’t know of any publishers who’ll take on the lion’s share of publicity either, so you’re right; it’s a job all in itself! The irony is, the writers who have publishers who’ll do that, are the high-earners who would actually be able to pay to do it themselves. Something’s wrong there, I think! 🙂 Thanks for the licensing heads up.

  5. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with this post, Terri. These days writers really are pulled in all directions but for me, writing has to come first (well actually the kids come first and THEN the writing – no need to call social services) and then everything else. I am trying to get out, meet more writers and make more contacts this year (one of my New Year’s resolutions) and be a bit smarter with social media. I think you need to be realistic and quite targeted in what you do i.e. go for things that help and work for you. It’s really easy to get distracted by what everyone else is doing. I say little and often and don’t run yourself ragged! Keep me posted on how it goes and I’ll do the same.
    PS love the ‘excellence’ of Plymothians – quite right too.

    • Thanks, Annie! Total agreement with the ‘what other people are doing’ statement; what works for some will not work for all. I know I couldn’t go on Twitter and post about my books more than once a day, unless something special’s going on. I have to check my own timeline to make sure I haven’t banged on too much! But for some genres, and some writers and their relationships with bloggers, it works very well indeed. I’ll be very interested in seeing how your resolution plays out for you 🙂

  6. This is an interesting discussion thread – I am torn but need to actually get the words down and time is limited. It’s hard to get heard above the noise and I do find a pattern that the people who seem to be out-there the most have very little finished! Perhaps it’s a bit like parenting, we all do it differently and should be positive about everyone’s choices rather than feeling under-mined.

    • That’s a good point – and up until now I hadn’t really thought I wasn’t doing what was expected of me, but the look I got on Saturday made me stop and think… hmm! Maybe I SHOULD be out there doing more face-to-face stuff. But Plymouth is not the easiest place to do that, which doesn’t help; I can’t get interviewed in my local press, for love nor money! Definitely makes me want to stay at home and just write the blimmin’ book/s 🙂

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