It’s Hallowe’en, and that means costumes! It also means raiding the candy stash for all the Butterfingers, half the Milky Ways, and that rare prize of a Black Cow (Mine! Mine! They’re ALL MINE! Muhahaha!) Aside from the sugar high and subsequent crash and coma, Hallowe’en reminds me of how many costumes we as parents wear every day. How many hats do you wear? Tutor, chauffeur, coach, parent, advice dispenser, prison guard, personal trainer, math drill sergeant, chef, waiter, and coat rack And sometimes giant walking napkin if you’ve got younger ones.
Another hat I’ve recently donned (after finally refusing, for the last time, to be the human wet-wipe) is “Published Author.” My short story, “The Spelling Error” is now out at Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon (US, UK, DE, and FR). Allow me a small squee for this…
…Okay, done squeeing. Because once you don that Published Author hat, you’ll realize it comes with accessories. Yeah, the glamorous life of the published author includes being your own publicist, business manager, advertising copywriter, and slave driver (because switching all these hats ain’t gonna get your next book written until you put that “writer” hat back on and get your butt back on that treadmill desk).
A Note From Your Mother
Of course, putting that published author hat on doesn’t let you get rid of any of those other disguises in your costume trunk. So put down the feather boa and come back down to the ground. You’ve snatched time to write from waiting times, practice times, and learned how little supervision you can get away with. You’ve eked out writing sessions while the kids are distracted at the playground or at a kid-friendly restaurant with a play-place. You’ve networked with other parents who’ve exchanged playdates for half an hour of quiet time while you used your time for banging on a laptop keyboard, or scribbling until your fingers cramped. Now you’ve got to exchange all that for promo?
Sweetie, of course not. You’ve got to add promo to your already-full plate. Hey, nobody ever said we weren’t masochists. But really–your responsibilities as an author are just as subject to the mad ninja organizational skills you use to multi-task your jobs as a parent.
Keep things in perspective. Adding “published author” to your costume collection is not going to drastically change your life overnight. Put the champagne wishes and caviar dreams away, because even JK Rowling’s “overnight sensation” took her a good ten years of butt-busting to make itself happen. There’s a great Zen saying: “Before Enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After Enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.” Life goes on pretty much the same as it ever did, even when we experience our personal milestones (or our personal setbacks, if you’ve submitted a story to an agent or editor and had it rejected, or your sales numbers weren’t what you’d hoped for, or your kid did not make the cut for the basketball team this year).
Use the tools you already know you have. Calendars are expandable. You can work in a few tweets while you’re waiting in line at the grocery store, and you can line up your blog posts for the week on a Sunday, instead of doing them real-time (something I should get better at, I know). Have your dinner menu planned out for the week and save your brain cells for thinking about plotting, or craft improvement.
Keep it fun. Yes, this is a career, but the minute it starts being work, you’ll hate it, you’ll find excuses not to do it, and you’ll defeat yourself. Know when to take breaks–breaks are important to keep your parenting skills sharp and your patience from being overused, and breaks from writing can help you gain a little perspective on your writing tasks. We all pay close attention to avoid overscheduling our kids, but we pay less attention to overscheduling ourselves. If the mad rush of “promo promo promo” is making your hair fall out, throttle it back.
When it comes right down to it, your strongest promo is your writing, and your writing of another book. And when it comes right down to it, your strongest asset to good writing craft is your balanced family life. Because eventually, your kids will want to help plot your novels, and you can distract them from inserting giant robots into your hometown romance by asking them to cut out bookmarks for a reader’s convention.