Recently, I participated in a fruitful chat with a seasoned author. Her frankness was appreciated and insightful, however, I walked away feeling even veteran authors get unbalanced from time to time. As I learn more about this industry, I begin to understand that authors require many different skills in order to become successful. Moving forward, I continually think how I can balance the demands on my time. Through observations and experience, I’ve placed tasks into four writing career buckets: life, writing, promotion, education; trying not to focus too much on any one area.
Life events get in the way of my writing on a daily basis. The disruption could be as innocent as a phone call, the pressure to attend a function, or as mundane as daily chores. To minimize disruption, I spend fifteen minutes every morning planning my day, because without proper planning, things get in the way of accomplishing my goals. Planning also allows me to push non-important items to the next day, or negotiate with family members to help. I’ve learned asking for help actually works.
Writing is easy. All it involves is sitting down in front of the computer, hands on the keyboard, typing out words. Not… The hard part is giving myself permission to write poorly, rather than setting an expectation that thousands of words will flow flawlessly from my fingertips. Establishing time constraints works for me. When I get stuck I want to do other things, check email, the internet, a blog posting. If I allow myself to get up I never get back to writing. Setting blocks of time to write and do nothing else, focuses my attention and amazingly I get words on paper—at least something I can edit later on.
Promotion for me is hard work. Some are good at it and spend more time doing promotion than writing. Twitter, Facebook, blogs, all those networking channels and accounts that take so much time. I’m not good at networking, so I ignore it. Burying my head in a book is just as bad as spending too much time focused on getting my name out there. Most experts say consistency and feeding the promotion channels until the day when there is something to promote is important. Networking in itself, is truly a balancing act.
Education, or continuous learning, seems to slide away sometimes, but it’s just as important as any other writing career task. Keeping up with industry trends and craft is essential to being successful. Knowing which Agent is accepting new clients, which Editors are buying and what books are doing well in the marketplace is critical.
I think of the four career segments as tires on a car. All four tires must be full of air and maintained, or the car does not function. I’m hoping by consciously balancing all four areas, this year, my career can zoom off into the horizon. That’s the goal, knowing that lots and lots of work will be required.
I would love to hear what you think of the balancing idea, and if you have set goals for 2011.
~Elizabeth Kelley www.elizabethkelleybooks.com
Elizabeth can also be found blogging over at Blame It On The Muse .