Resolution: Put Writing First

Happy 2010 all!  Confession: New Year’s is my least favorite holiday.  If it were up to me, I’d just go to bed at 10 and wake up the next morning around 10 and have a nice brunch. I know, exciting, right? Fact is that as a fiction author I’m all too often plotting in my head the what ifs. What if we, or someone we know is driving home from a party, and some drunken jerk is on the road. Shiver…

But there is something I do love about New Year’s: the fresh start.  Here’s where the fiction writer in me can plot eagerly. What will come in the next year? What do I want to change? What do I look forward to?  Naturally, I’m really into the whole resolution thing.  And I love to hear what other people’s resolutions are, too.  But every single person I’ve hung out with in the past few days has had no resolution. Or, worse, a resolution to never make resolutions.  Bummer.  And just this morning on the news they said just having a resolution makes you 10 times more likely to accomplish your goal. So feel smug resolution holders! (They also said that telling people your resolution and putting it in writing, keeps you more on target and keeps that goal from just fading away. If you want to add your resolution in a comment after this post, go for it, dude.)

I, of course, DO have a resolution: Put Writing First.

I’m a full-time writer, and I do spend plenty of time on my computer, but just how much of that time is devoted to fiction? Hm, definitely not as much as I’d like.  Like most authors these days I spend a huge amount of my time doing promotion. Setting up signings, getting in touch with press, doing interviews, organizing and running workshops. It’s fun and rewarding, but time consuming. (If you’d like to see what promotion you can do for your own writing, visit my post on it by clicking here.) Yet promotion is something we authors just can’t walk away from, not if we want our books to get into the hands of our readers. Gone are the days when writers wore tweed and cat glasses and squirreled themselves away into a room for months on end, only emerging briefly, blinking from the shock of daylight, to deliver a manuscript. Gone are the days when promotion was up to the publisher.  We writers today must be experts in every phase of a book’s life.  Writing is less and less a part of an author’s everyday ritual. Phooey.

A typical day for me involves checking my emails on various accounts and following up on what’s there. Next I stop by facebook, twitter, wordpress, verlakay’s blueboards. Sometimes I’m updating folks on appearances I’m doing, sometimes I’m promoting a fellow author’s accomplishments, and sometimes I’m just giving folks a glimpse of my life. Then I read the free newsletters sent to me: Publisher’s Lunch, and Shelf Awareness. This keeps me current with what’s going on in the industry. And that’s just for starters.

If I have a busy appearance schedule, I’m doing back and forth correspondence with organizers, I’m writing features and press releases about the events, I’m sending out this press. This can eat up DAYS. And if I’m actually making an appearance, there is time spent preparing for it, printing up promo material to bring, plus the time spent getting there, and being there. More days gone. And still no writing.

In addition to all this, there’s junk that I do. I confess that before I get down to really writing something, I get nervous. Especially if it’s a dicey bit of a novel. A complicated scene or a section that I’m unsure of. Then I hit the games on my computer. Huge confession: I’ve played so much spider solitaire that I’ve developed carpal tunnel syndrome. Luckily I’m not one to waste time watching t.v. (and luckily daytime t.v. sucks), and I actually have a fairly serious work ethic, but still…

Then there’s the other stuff I’m involved in. I’m in two different writing groups. One involves lengthy and rewarding critiques, the other involves lots of promotion. Since I am technically the stay-at-home-mom in this family, I’m the one who cleans the house and buys the food and cooks the meals. (My wild fantasy is that someday I will be able to afford a maid. Ooooo!) I’m also the one who ferries the kids to lessons, sports, etc. etc.  Plus I’m a scout leader.  As a writer, I’m an organizer.  I love to envision stuff and pull it all together. I like to think big. My scout troop is going to London this year, and guess who is planning the bulk of it…

So life is full. Life is good. But in 2010 I resolved to PUT WRITING FIRST!  One thing I know about myself is that once I start working on my fiction, I’m instantly on a roll. Four hours, six hours, ten hours. I can sit there forever and time flies. Because of things like meals and kids and sleep, I really can’t write like I want to. If it were up to me and only me, I’d write all day all night, and someone would slip great food under my door until a novel is complete. I don’t live and write in a bubble, but what if, instead of checking all those on-line sites, answering all those emails, and doing all that promotion, I simply start my fiction first? What if I didn’t play spider solitaire? Or follow up on what’s happening in the industry everyday? Or didn’t book so many appearances until I’ve finished a manuscript? Wouldn’t I have so many more manuscripts to put out there in the world? Wouldn’t I be happier?

So here’s the goal…first thing in the morning I go to the computer, forget about going on line (this is going to be a tough one), forget about playing spider solitaire-solitaire-minesweeper-hearts (this is going to be even tougher), and I will spend the next few hours writing. Just writing. Not press releases, not feature stories, not emails, just fiction. And then I can do everything else. AFTER.

Okay, I’ve officially put my resolution in writing. I’m ten times more likely to accomplish it now. I feel mighty. I feel like playing a quick game of spider solitaire. But no. I’m redoing my writing life. I can do this. I can!

To my fellow writers, be bold, be organized. Remember we do have some control over what we actually create, and we CAN make better use of our time.  2010. A new year. A fresh beginning.

May all of your writing dreams  come true.