The Most Important Thing
I partly go to thinking of this because my dear friend and CP Robyn Thomas just sold to the Indulgence line at Entangled Publishing. Also, I was thinking about it in general because you do see a lot of blog posts about what writers should do. Also, I was thinking about it because there has been epic angst on the interwebs lately. (if you missed it…have a cupcake. You’re probably better off.)
What Robyn inspired was my realization of (remembrance of?) how much there is to do when you first sell. All the things you never had to think about before that suddenly are AH OMG SO IMPORTANT. There’s the directly-writing related stuff. Edits, cover art forms, release information, back and forths with your editor. Then there’s the fringe (but also…important) stuff. Getting your website set up, Facebook? Twitter? Other social media site? There are loops to join, boards to post on, and to a certain degree, it never seems to end.
If you let it, it might not end.
BUT here’s the thing. As important as those not-directly-linked-to-writing things are, it’s important to remember that they are never more important than writing itself. And anything that is the enemy of your writing is your enemy. Kill it ded with a stick.
Actually, I had a chat with someone on Twitter the other day who was asking if it was important for unpublished authors to blog. Her issue was it would take away from already valuable writing time. So, I told her (and I think it just reinforced what she already felt like she should do) that nothing is more important than her writing. If you can’t get a book finished, you can’t sell it. Simple as. And then what’s the point of the blog?
That applies after you sell as well. If everything steals TOO much of your time, and you find yourself crunching around deadlines and basically trying to bite the hands off everyone who comes near your keyboard…what’s the point?
But in the digital age publishers want people who are on social media ad nauseum blah blah blah. Yeah. If you’re good with social media and it helps move your books…then yes, I’m sure they do. However, publishers need people who can write books. And that comes before everything else.
I love social media. Follow me on Twitter and you’ll realize that. Twitter is my favorite, and then there’s Facebook. And I have my website. I don’t bother with much else. (Pinterest, but I’m just playing. And I have a Tumblr but that quickly devolved into me posting pictures of half naked men.) But the thing is, I enjoy the amount of social media I partake in (enjoyment matters!) and the amount I engage doesn’t affect my work negatively. I do think there’s some amount of web presence that MUST be observed. (I’m not a website Nazi. I’m not going to tell people YOU MUST HAVE THIS ON YOUR WEBSITE. But…if I’m looking desperately for an author and information on her books she doesn’t have a website? I get stabby. Because I shouldn’t have to work that hard to buy someone’s book. I want the information. Just as an aside.)
Social media CAN be great. It can also steal too much of your time. It can also put you in a foul mood. (I observe the rule that politics and other things ought not to be tweeted from my fingertips, but not everyone does and I can leave Twitter ready to put my fist through a sheet cake with a picture of someone’s face on it.) On days when social media makes you want to punch a face cake? Back away. Not good for your creativity. And really (not that I’m completely innocent here…) there’s no point in debating in 140 characters or less. Everyone ends up sounding angrier/less reasonable than they would ever be in person.
Speaking of drama, that brings me to my next one. Loops! There are loops. There are loops everywhere. Loops that hold valuable information/connections and stuff. I quickly joined quite a few loops when I sold. And then I quickly unjoined quite a few loops (not yours). Because for me, as valuable as the information in some of those are, there is fighting too. There is DRAMA. Some people are fine with that. They either enjoy engaging in debate, or they just aren’t affected by it. I am. I get upset. I get serious anxiety. I can’t write. So all that valuable information is completely negated by the fact that I now have hives and am pacing around the house subjecting my husband to a rundown of all the drama.
I know it doesn’t work for me. Am I missing stuff? Probably. But I would rather miss some stuff than be all wound up. So that’s my method of handling it.
Message boards, historically, worked out the same way for me. But that’s just me. Those things, the things that happen on them, are damaging to my productivity, they may not be to yours. But like so many things in this business, it’s all about knowing yourself and knowing what helps you, and what hinders you.
Above all, your writing is king. Feed that. Grow that. Do that. Before anything else. Because if the books aren’t written, if the books aren’t good, and if you don’t enjoy it anymore, the other stuff doesn’t matter at all.