What to Do about Time?

ticking clockHa. If I had a time machine, right now I wouldn’t go back in history or do anything amazingly cool with it. I’d just use it to catch up.

It’s not exactly riveting narrative material. But the time crunch is REALLY getting to me, and I’m uncertain how to proceed.

There’s so much advice out there, most of it well-meaning, I’m sure. Write every day. Read as much as you write. Blog. Read the blogs of others. Submit. Query. Publish. Critique–a lot. Learn your craft–grammar, punctuation, story structure. Polish your books to perfection–as many beta swaps as it takes. Tweet.

At this point, I’m so glad I’m not involved in Snapchat, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc. My Facebook is basically on set and forget. (My blogs are all posted, and Facebook automatically tweets them.)

Added to all that, I’m also a painter, and I want to paint my own covers. To make it worse, I’m not a fast painter. I’ll get there, but cover art is a form with very tight expectations. No loose expressionistic or abstract forays into pure color and composition. No impressionistic landscapes, which are really my forte.

I’ve come to the realization that I can’t do it all. And I really want to. Ugh.

So for the past few weeks, I tried to write a dozen short stories. The result was hardly a resounding success. I forced myself because y’know, I’m an adult and all, and work doesn’t have to be pleasant. But the result doesn’t meet my standards. And I was thinking that I had to finish now because I can’t seem to write about Christmas when it’s not December. I’m just not a Christmas in June kind of person. Maybe eight of the stories are good or salvageable, and that’s not enough for a collection. So much for forcing myself.

And really, it felt wrong. Normally, drafting is my favorite part of the process. I LOVE writing. Except this time I didn’t and it showed. Okay, lesson learned.

I’m really struggling with the priority thing.

On Absolute Write, some people have just decided they aren’t building a platform because they don’t have the time. They’re uninterested in anything but trade publishing, and they’ll rely on the publisher to help them promote their books. Okay, that’s fine, and I hope it works out for them (truly), but I think it’s unwise for me, particularly since I’ve decided to be a hybrid author. My personality is far better suited to self-pubbing. The small taste I’ve had of querying and submitting is enough to let me know that waiting helplessly, unable to do anything to better my lot other than yet more submissions and queries, is unwise for me. It’s like a fast-track to depression.

In addition to that, given my druthers, I write way more than the one book a year that I’ve heard trade publishers want to publish. I still have eight novels I’m trying to get out, as well as a start on three more short story collections (Christmas, fairy tale fantasy, and ghost stories). So it seems like a hybrid career is the best move. And I’d rather pay my dues by finding an audience self-pubbing than to go through the whole query process from a position of supplication again.

Okay, that means I’m self-pubbing, at least for now. I’ve also heard that I need to get my books out there, to the point that I’ve read that if you don’t have a least five published books, your best form of promotion is to write (or in my case finish revising) another book. No idea if this is true.

But really, it doesn’t make sense to write books and have no way to promote them. That seems like a recipe for depression, too. I’ve mostly just promoted Dragon Hoard on my blog so far, but it’s also free. I imagine it’s harder to get people to take a chance on your stuff if you’re asking money for it. So I’ll have to tweet.

I like tweeting. But that one has gone to the bottom of the priority list, almost by default. That means I’m not promoting my blogs other than my one automatic tweet, but maybe I have enough blog readers, at least for now.

I can give up painting covers, but really, I think my covers are better than anything I can afford to buy. And I love doing it. If I had the time, I’d have illustrations at the beginning of all my chapters a la Harry Potter, but I’ve already scrapped that thought. And having covers with paintings is an edge that I have. As far as the brand thing goes, my style is reasonably distinctive, so it will be something that unifies my books. And we’re talking a maximum of four paintings a year. Not that much time commitment, even for me.

I’ve decided to cut down on blogging, going to perhaps three posts a week instead of an average of five. Something’s got to give somewhere. But I can’t give up reciprocating reads on other blogs. My friends work hard on these things, too.

It’s hard to see how scrimping on editing can be a good thing. For me, that means beta swaps, which is another time commitment, but that’s fine. I’ve learned things helping others that I would have gotten much more slowly on my own work. It’s so easy to have blind spots. And honestly, I think my beta reading friends are better than a lot of editors. (Based on evidence, not just random this-is-what-I’d-like-to-believe opinion, but I don’t want to give specifics. I don’t think it would do anyone any good.)

And even if I could give up trading, it doesn’t resonate with who I am. It’s important to me to help other people, too. It’d be something like giving up my daily rosary. Some things have to be off the table–I’m going to still be me.

Which leaves writing. A writer who doesn’t write really seems like I’m missing the point. But perhaps I can just do Blog Battles. A short story a week is probably enough to keep me sane. I can’t say I’m thrilled about the prospect of no new novels for the next two years, but I’m not seeing many options.

I’m totally willing to take advice, and I’m adult enough to claim responsibility for whatever I choose. I’d love to hear what you think. How have you solved this puzzle? How do you keep the plates spinning?

Avid writer and reader, especially of fantasy. Learning about social networking and always interested in honing my writing skills. Contact me at cathleentownsend.com.

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Posted in Reflections
10 comments on “What to Do about Time?
  1. Time…don’t think I have much left.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. afhumphrey says:

    How do I keep the plates spinning? With care. Being a grad student — which comes with course work, teaching, thesising, researching — on top of commitments around the house and job searching, I’ve learned that moderation in all things is what keeps me going. Literally. Writing has become part of my routine (that was conscious decision), but it doesn’t happen every day. If you can, more power to you. But it’s physically impossible at the moment, so I strive for about three times a week (that may increase this semester since I’m lacking a TA position, but we’ll see). At least that way I know I’ll get something (even if I completely rewrite it later). Pacing myself is hard, but something the past four semesters have taught me is that the only way I’ll get through it all and get through it all *well* and with my sanity intact is if I pace myself. It’s a work in progress. Good luck πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Graduate work is a serious commitment. Your comment about moderation is excellent.

    I can’t write every day, either. And pacing is hard because everything changes–particularly for you, Anna, since you’re changing your whole life every semester. Thanks for chiming in.

    Like

  4. Still working on the “time” conundrum… πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  5. p.s. Got my copy of Dragon Hoard & shared… Thanks! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks sooo much, Bette. I hope you like it. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Arcaya says:

    Boy, do I identify with your blog Cathleen. There are so many strands to life that my heart wants to grab hold of. My biggest enemy is lack of energy so one day at a time and present moments:) Thank you.

    Like

  8. brmaycock says:

    I’m commenting on this while my kids are asleep at 5 am in the morning so you can guess I’m totally with you! I think a great timetable is the key, marking out your time for reading, reading with a view to crafting, blogging and writing. I generally only fully check out other blogs on a Friday and a Sunday morning, and these are the days I get to Twitter the most. I try to ease up on blogging, stay off social media and just write at least three times a week. I do this at night-time until the early hours of the morning but in the day my head plans and I keep a notebook next to me. That being said I’ve only book one out and I’m not doing the work other self pubbers are doing. This year I’m hoping to get two short stories and a book out, but have an idea for a novella too. I’m not sure that self publishers can successfully put out the numbers of books that they want to if you look at time AWAY from the book, ie the time in between each book that you need to get away from it, so that you can come back to it with an open mind. I guess you can guess that I’d like to be in the trad published section, but more than that, I’d love to have the time to be a more successful blogger too, which requires more time on my part so actually, I’m as flummoxed as you! Best of luck with it all:)

    Like

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