© 2011, Vicki Hinze
“Oh, I’d love to be a writer. You get to work at home. You can do what you want when you want. You can take off whenever you like—it must be so great. I’ll bet you have all kinds of time to do things I never get to do, working nine to five…”
Over the years, non-writers have said some version of the above to me hundreds of times, and to most other writers I know who write full-time. There’s a certain mystique to being a writer and if you find it endearing, you probably don’t want to read the rest of this post. It’ll shatter those illusions. So be warned.
If perhaps you’re considering writing as a career, or you’d like to peek behind the veil and see what it’s actually like to spend a day with a working writer, I invite you to read on…
It’s two weeks until Thanksgiving. I’ve scheduled my time very carefully because the grans will be off from school and I want a few days to spend time with them. So nearly a year ago, I scheduled a second book in a series to be due to the publisher on 12/1, which meant I’d be clear to take those few days. Only a few things came up that has totally changed my schedule.
It’s 4 a.m. I’m at my desk, and here we go…
1. Final read and forwarded a proposal for a new series to my agent. (I love, love, love it!)
2. Tweaked the last of the revisions on Book 1 in a 2012 new series.
3. Paused for breakfast, which Hubby (bless him) cooked.
4. Reviewed a set of proofs—the last look before printing.
5. Wrote an article for a bookstore chain’s Thanksgiving blog.
6. Reviewed a contract on a new promotional video that will be used on all videos I do.
7. Reviewed a proposed contract revision on ten books.
8. Viewed and reviewed a promotional video, celebrating sales Amazon has on nearly all of my books.
9. Received editorial comments on synopsis of Book 2 in a 2012 new series. I’d written the first half of the book while the synopsis was under review because the book deadline was looming, but it’s going to have to be reworked to better fit the imprint vision. Shoots the schedule, but coordinated shuffles so now ready to move forward again, but that extra week I wanted off . . . it ain’t happening in 2011.
10. Posted on my social network pages.
11. Received the advance copies of a new book and they’re gorgeous but had a wee problem so addressed that and we got it squared away.
12. Received and responded to two mentoring requests.
13. Received and responded to 17 author questions on craft/business.
14. Answered forty minutes worth of email.
15. Counseled a writer attempting to write through grief.
16. Discussed a promotional opportunity to decide whether or not to participate in a proposed program.
17. Attended an online meeting/webinar to render opinions.
18. Read an Overview on my partner’s project and brainstormed.
19. Had a career strategy discussion with a good friend contemplating a big career move.
20. Skipped lunch and did a phone conference with a new author instead.
21. Wrote a blog post for Christians Read.
22. Did a little research on a project I’m not yet discussing.
23. Added a couple of updates to the website.
24. Planned the move from the facebook profile page to the Author Page and started the prep work for it.
25. Skipped an afternoon break and reviewed requests from other authors and responded to readers’ notes.
26. Planned next month’s contests.
27. Started the final read on Book 1, 2012 new series, discovered a flaw and repaired it. Rescheduled final read.
28. Responded to workshop and seminar requests.
29. Reviewed notes and did the bare bones of an Art Fact Sheet that will need fleshing out once I know more about the story. (Read that, after I’ve written a chunk of it.)
30. Exchanged multiple emails with my agent regarding foreign interest in multiple projects, new proposal, and a few other things.
31. Got notice of adjusted publication dates on three projects, so tackled the resulting scheduling shifts. (Some days, I do believe the calendar is an enemy. Fortunately, some days, it’s a blessing.)
32. Got an alarm about more piracy. Checked it out—it’s piracy—so forwarded to legal.
33. Addressed another hacking attempt. (Have I mentioned I love LifeLock?)
34. Broke for dinner, pretty bummed that I didn’t see the sun once today. (That’s NOT happening tomorrow.)
35. After dinner, responded to more email, skimmed several loop messages, and answered two Urgent messages, which I always stop what I’m doing to answer as soon as I see them.
36. Got in another set of galleys to review—and notice that line edits on another project will be in within a week.
37. It’s now 10 p.m. and I’m done for the day.
Did I get everything done I wanted to get done? No. But I work from a priority list, so I got the most important things done and I’m not in crisis-mode.
Are there things I left off the list? Probably. Actually, I know for a fact there are. I pause and pray all through my day. For the work, for others, for decisions I’m about to make, for just about everything and anything. But that’s not work, that’s restoration time that rejuvenates and refreshes. Gives you a second and third and fourth wind. I also didn’t log Bible reading—first on the list every day—or any reading. There just wasn’t time for reading today aside from a group of opening lines that will be in a friend’s blog post (and likely a workshop) on opening lines.
Is tomorrow going to be this busy? Yes, but on different things. Some will occur again, of course: blog posts, network posts, reader and author notes and such, but some will different. Unanticipated things always crop up.
Where’s the glamour? Well, that’s the thing. It’s not in flitting to signings and doing media interviews or having long, luxurious lunches or dinners where you sit and leisurely visit. It’s in your love for the work.
Some parts of the work you love more than others, but you’d better love most of it or find yourself another career.
This isn’t an unusual day for an author. It’s a typical day during busy times. Some times are less busy, true. But some are busier and the author then must pick and choose what to do and what to postpone—prioritize.
Many think that authors have tons of free time. The truth is, I worked 60 hour weeks in the corporate world as a director of operations and that wasn’t as demanding as being a working writer. One of the biggest reasons is there I had a large staff. Here, it’s me doing the writing, the creating, and while I have help with some things, if I don’t produce, we don’t work.
Working at home is terrific—except that you never leave work. You set boundaries and things come up. You plan trips and things come up. You can’t always take those things with you.
My point is there are trade-offs. But if you’re the head of an organization and you think a person has tons of free time to volunteer for you because s/he works at home, you probably need to rethink that.
I’ve had phone conferences with other authors at 2 a.m. who after a full day were still awake and working. With authors whose day began at 2 a.m. I don’t share that with you expecting to indulge in a pity party. I’m just being frank about the investment required by writers to have a career writing.
Writers work hard and they work most of the time. They have to, to keep up with demands.
All this said, I have two days on my calendar marked with a great big “X”. They’re in red. In permanent marker. Those are days I AM going to spend with my angels. In December there’s a full week of those X marks—twice. One for Christmas shopping and decorating and such, and one for spending time with my family. (Read that, Vicki is going to play and play and play.)
Now before you jump to conclusions about that time off, let me remind you there was no summer vacation. A day here or there, yes—a few, even when I was well—so this time off is earned and necessary if I don’t want to see disappointed faces on Christmas or to render myself unbalanced.
I love writing. I love most things about it. I love most of the work that goes along with it. It’s my dream job because it gives me the opportunity to be ALL the things I wanted to be when I grew up. I’m first to admit I had a long and diverse wish list. It’s such a joy to actually get to do those things through the pages of books.
I think about writing and still have stars in my eyes. That’s a wonderful thing, a love affair. But it doesn’t mean I’m blinded by those stars to the real work and discipline required to do the job. To add those diverse elements that keep me balanced as a human being.
Like in everything else, busy seasons cycle. And there will be lazier days, calmer days, days where there’s time for lunch and to rest and just be. But even on those days, the wheels in writers’ minds crank at warp speed. Even when they’re taking time to relax and just be, they’ll be zoned out one second and in the next, a whole story flashes before their eyes, captures their imaginations and they’ve got to write it down—now—before they lose it.
That’s the nature of the writing beast—and the fickle sense of humor of the muse, who is on a 24/7 clock. It’s all part and parcel of the daily doings of a working writer.