Yesterday, an author friend and I were discussing how stressful it can be when we can’t write or edit as much as we’d hoped. No matter how you measure your progress, whether by words or pages or chapters, I’m sure a lot of us feel the strain when we don’t accomplish as much as we would have liked in a certain time period. Once the day or week or month has elapsed, and we’re still staring at the same paragraph, tension mounts.
Why is that? Why do we feel we need to rush ourselves?
I’m sure a lot of it comes from seeing the progress of those around us. When Author X publishes fifty-seven books in a year, and they all seem to be doing well, we begin to wonder why we can’t do the same. However, I think it’s important to remember a variety of factors could be contributing to Author X’s success. Maybe she has four hands. Maybe she has loads of unpublished manuscripts ready to go. Maybe she’s a freak of nature (or just extremely talented- let’s go with that one.)
I know a lot of my author friends also have other jobs. For many, writing is something we can only do on the weekends or during our evenings. Let’s face it, it’s not exactly an easy schedule to maintain, especially if you’re tired. Eventually other commitments and responsibilities will collide with our writing schedules and we need to make decisions on how to allot our time. Writing won’t always win out. There will be weeks when the most we can hope for is a paragraph.
With the advent of ebooks and differing publishing schedules, to say nothing of self-published works, authors can establish deadlines that might not have worked with traditional print publishing. Remember when your favorite author only released one book every few years or so? Let’s not even talk about Harper Lee. I’m not advocating any writer duplicate that pace, of course.
To some extent, some of us can set our own schedules now but this comes with its own challenges. We may not have big publishers setting deadlines but what about the ones we set for ourselves? Are they realistic? Are we putting undue pressure on ourselves and each other? And are we releasing our very best work?
Is it such a crime to release one book per year or every couple of years? Whatever happened to building anticipation? And has Rosanna fallen in love with question marks?
I do like them, by the way. They’re curvy, like my heroines.
I have made a personal pledge to stop torturing myself with fabricated deadlines. Yes, if my publishers set them for me, I respect them. However, if it’s a case of me writing against some imaginary clock, sometimes I let the clock win. When I started writing, it was meant as an exercise in joy. I need to ensure the joy remains. If I’m stressing myself out, where is the fulfillment in that?
If you can only publish one book per year, do it and make it your best book. Polish it. Edit it. Check the spelling several times. Have someone else read it. Make it a story that speaks to you and don’t try to write for Author X’s audience. You’ll find your own audience and they will appreciate the time you took to craft it. If I hired someone to cut my hair and she only took five minutes, I wouldn’t be impressed. I’d want to know she respected me as a consumer and did her best job.
I read a book by a bestselling romance author recently and had to put it down one-third of the way through. I was very disappointed with the story and how cobbled together it felt. Everything about it seemed flimsy. This author has released numerous books. When I read the reviews on Goodreads for this one, her readers were complaining, saying, “What went wrong? It felt rushed.” Perhaps it was. Maybe that author felt the pressure too and phoned it in. Readers are smart. They will know.
As for me, I’m going to slow things down and enjoy the process as much as the end result.