Teaching an old dog …

Ever since I left my school days behind me, happenstance has ruled my days. As a fairly normal human and stay-at-home mother of four, I observed a schedule of certain daily activities, but I also became a queen of procrastination.

Then my household dwindled to my husband and myself. I ruled my days. As of 2008, on most days, I could spend 8 … 10 … 14 hours writing, if I wanted. And I did. Housework be damned. But as of April, I have a published book. It’s up to me to promote said book. Happenstance is no longer cutting it.

Now I’m feeling the pressure to set a schedule—and stick to it. Every fiber of my being protests. But I don’t think it’s possible to go with the flow any longer and still effectively market one book while writing another. I have to decide what is worth my time and what isn’t.

I can’t do all the things the gurus advise to promote my novel. I’ll have to pick what I think will work for me. If I’m wrong, I’ll try something else. The most important thing to me is to have time to write. I accept that the marathon sessions I had for Brevity are no longer possible. Yet, I cannot write well in 15-minute segments.

Something’s gotta give. I don’t feel like myself anymore. I don’t feel like a writer. I don’t like this life.

Your turn: Are you naturally or do you force yourself to be disciplined with your writing time?

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38 thoughts on “Teaching an old dog …

  1. Yeah, welcome to being published. Everything changes. I’m still trying to recover from Cinders and now Monarch is coming in a few months. It will never end. I’ve heard nothing really makes sales except word of mouth and publishing another book. It all makes me very, very tired. I’m so happy with what I’m doing, though. I think it’s just the social networking stuff that gets to me most.

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  2. Beside my creative writing, I work as a freelancer translator and, if translation work is slow, I often help out at a university in their adminstrative offices. As a self-published author, I also have to now promote my own book. So I’m used to wearing several hats. I’m a fairly disciplined person as far as my work is concerned. You have to be as a self-employed professional. However, I am by nature NOT a good multi-tasker. I like to do one thing at a time and concentrate on it. So I can understand the frustration of being torn in different directions.

    I noticed one interesting thing though about my creative work. When I don’t have enough time for my writing, I get frustrated and unhappy and I force myself to get up at the crack of dawn, so I still get some writing done. When I have the whole day, I take more breaks. I’m in the kitchen, making coffee, eating that extra piece of chocolate. In other words, sometimes I get more done with less time, because the time becomes more precious! Make sense?

    Christa

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  3. I’m only speaking from my POV where I’ve been the observer and not the self-published author, but I have to say that I agree with what Michelle said, “I’ve heard nothing really makes sales except word of mouth and publishing another book.” I’ve heard the same thing.

    I think writing your second story and getting it out there, either by agent or self-publishing, will do more for your sales than marketing yourself. Good writing will sell – eventually. Continual good writing will help you build a loyal following.

    Just my two cents. 😉

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  4. Linda,

    Setting a schedule, AND sticking to it. Yep. I’ve been struggling with that as well, having set daily word count goals for myself and consistently not reaching them. Life keeps getting in the way. Like you, as well, I’m no good at 15 minute writing intervals.

    I saw this article (via Writer Unboxed on facebook) that talks about novelists who write for four hours a day and then spend the rest of their time recuperating: http://www.businessinsider.com/leave-work-early-2011-5#ixzz1MWQ8u0ZM. I don’t think I can manage four hours right straight right now, but I know that when I focus, during a good two hour stretch, I get a ton of writing done. It’s just unfortunate that those hours open up way too late at night.

    Anyway, great post to get me thinking, as I’m about to enter my “summer schedule” with the kids 🙂

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  5. Do you really want to hear from me on this topic? The spreadsheet queen?? 😉

    I don’t know if I’m naturally disciplined, I probably am, but if I don’t write in the morning before I go to my day job, it will never happen. I’m a morning person and I’m really struggling right now to try to spend some evening time writing as well. Mornings I hit my target 90% of the time. After dinner, not so much.

    When my kids were toddlers, the eldest got up at 5:30am in the summer and went outside to the sandbox. That gave birth to the 4am writing schedule. That way, no matter what happens during the day, I’ve already been my writer self! That feeling is something I wouldn’t trade for an hour of sleep 🙂

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    1. Cathryn, I’m a morning person too. It’s the best time for me to write and even if I write just one lousy page, it makes me feel better the rest of the day. Problem is, as I’m getting older, it’s harder to get up at 5:00 am or so, but when I do it, it saves the day.

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    2. I’m a total dunce with spreadsheets, Cathryn. I think once I decide what to cut out, I’ll be able to see how to schedule my time better. Of course, cutting is the hard part.

      Mornings used to be my best writing time too, then my husband’s schedule changed and threw me off. I guess I need to get back to rising before dawn.

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    3. Wow, Cathryn, that’s amazing discipline! 4am!!
      how many hours sleep where you getting a night? I’m such a sleeper, well at least I used to be, and I’ve been thinking about getting about early to write, but I think I need my nights to be better before that will happen. The baby doesn’t wake continously anymore, but it’s still a handful of times a night.

      Linda, I have scheduled writing time, without it I wouldn’t write a drop. LIfe’s just too busy.

      You’re last sentence of this post is so sad for me to hear from you. You need to get in the writer time and feel like yourself again. Is it possible for you to dedicate a given amount of time (months or weeks) to marketing, and then begin integrating writing time? Maybe if you know that in given amount of time you’ll be writing again it won’t feel so bad when you’re in the marketing phase.

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      1. I suppose, Jennifer, my discombobulation is partly just inexperience. When I was aiming for legacy publishing, I knew I’d have at least a year lapse between the book’s selling and it’s publication, when I’d have to start publicizing it. But you don’t have that lag time when you self-publish. If I’d been smarter, I’d have had at least two novels written and polished before I published the first one. Even so, if only I wrote faster. Argggh … the if only game. 😉

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  6. I vow to be disciplined every day. Every day I break my vow. I’m not good with snatches of time, but I can’t be picky since that’s all I get.

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  7. I did well with deadlines in college, usually working late the last two or three nights before a paper was due. These days, I am now trying to set deadlines and see what comes of that. Good luck on that. You’ll make it work.

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    1. It all comes down to self-discipline, doesn’t it Jess? If I were stricter with myself I could say no snack until I’ve written 1, 000 or whatever. But I’d never stick to it. I’d eat it after 50 words, rationalizing that I could write better if I wasn’t thinking about the snack. 🙂

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  8. Personally I’m so undisciplined with my writing it’s not even funny. I don’t have any sort of outline or plan except the plot that I’ve dreamt up and worked out in my head, I have very little that I haven’t played with and shown others, and I never write when I mean to. For me, writing has to be fun and/or inspired or my work honestly sucks. I can usually prompt that inspiration but I really only write on my book a few times a week.
    At least the one plus is that I write all day everyday. My room is covered in little scribbles or short stories. Anything I’ve written while avoiding my book.

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      1. Yeah I have a feeling this is going to bite me in the butt later, but right now since I’m still only a Sophomore in high school and no where near publishing, I think I’ll stick with what’s working.

        For me when I do want to get organized I tend to make lists, like, I need to the a, b, and c done before ___ time of day.

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  9. I still get butterflies when I read you have published a book! It amazes how much work goes on after and I can see your dilemma in scheduling and prioritizing. my own schedule is firm in my mind..but I struggle to carry it out.
    You are pretty incredible,

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  10. It’s a dilemma for sure. How to find the time to write the next book when you’re so busy promoting / marketing the first one? When you’re writing you feel like you should be marketing. When you’re marketing you feel like you should be writing. I don’t know how people do it who have little ones at home.
    I try to set aside blocks of time for each when I come home from my day job. One hour for this. One hour for that. It sort of works. 😛

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    1. That’s exactly it, Jacquelin. It’s a constant pulling from the other side. But I like the one hour idea. I think when I sort out what parts of marketing are effective for me, I might be able to keep that to an hour a day. That would be manageable. My wild-eyes scattershot approach is not helping anything. 🙂

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      1. “wild-eyes scattershot approach” OMG! That so summed up my approach to just about everything these days. I used to think heck, I’m bound to hit on something. But now I question what that might be and will it be worth all of the time that I’ve spent?

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  11. I wish I had more time to devote to writing. I have a very demanding job that leaves me mentally wiped out at the end of the day. And, I love to garden, something else that takes up large chunks of time. I’ve discovered that if I let Saturdays be for gardening and errands and Sundays are writing days it keeps me going. Of course, I find myself praying for rain – a lot. Two birds, one stone. 😉

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    1. Oh, Kimberly, I shouldn’t complain, I know. There are so many of you with far less writing time than I have who make great use of it. I have let my gardens go to pot (not literally) and still don’t get enough writing done. I empathize with your praying for rain, though. That’s like my hoping my husband will say let’s order pizza for dinner or he’ll do the grocery shopping or wash the dishes. Of course, then he expects I’ll actually get some words down while he does that. 🙂

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      1. Oh but I’m not complaining. The trick is to always think about your story. Sometimes I’ll sit down to write a scene that’s played through my head several times over and I find that it comes out much more polished that way. It’s just quality vs. quantity.

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    1. Yes, indeed, Christa. Probably most of us would be in big trouble if all our “wishes” came true. 🙂 And Happy Doomsday back. Of course, it’s not 6pm here yet, so I could still disappear. 😉

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  12. I have to admit that I’m not very disciplined when it comes to writing. There is usually a five month period during the year when I’m not working outside the home, but the rest of the time I am. Many days I just don’t get time to write after working, but I try not to get upset about it. Even when I’m not actually writing I’m usually thinking about my characters.

    I will say I found it challenging to get back into a writing groove after my book came out. You get wrapped up in the promotion of that book and it’s not easy to think about the next. I even spent time wondering it there would be a next.

    Getting back to writing is probably a good thing, Linda. I guess it’s a matter of moving ourselves along and not staying stuck on the one book.

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