Reflection on Being an Idle Author

Writing is a lonely existence much of the time. Because certain life situations have made it difficult to travel to conventions over the past decade, it’s easy to feel out of touch with the rest of the SFF community. That’s why events like the mass author signing at Poisoned Pen Bookstore this evening are so important to me. Those are my opportunities to network.

Of course, I have to be respectful of all the fans who came to see their favorite authors, so I gravitated toward the authors without a line, though I did manage to meet everyone. One I already knew, many I knew from social media and other online venues, and many I have never met. It was good to see Sam Sykes again. It’s been years despite living in the same city. I finally got to meet Beth Cato, Cherie Priest, Chuck Wendig, Kevin Hearne, Naomi Novik and Wes Chu, all people I’ve been dying to meet for years. I also met for the first time Andrea Phillips, Brian McClellan, Delilah Dawson, Django Wexler, Jason Hough, Myke Cole, Richard Kadrey, and Stephen Blackmoore. (Hi to any of you who manage to find this. Google alerts, doncha know.)

It’s events like this one that make me reflect on what I have done and the struggles I have had to compete for writing time. The years I couldn’t write because I was way too damn stressed out. The years I was frantically job-hunting only to find age discrimination is a real thing. The years when nothing seemed to go right and I found it difficult to find motivation to write. It would be easy to be jealous of standing on the wrong side of the table. Really easy.

But, I’m not jealous at all. It’s more like frustrated with myself for not pushing through those difficulties. When I’m producing work, I get traction. Not writing is a good way to lose traction. Everyone behind those tables busted ass to get those book written. Not that I haven’t. I have three novels I’m proud to have on the market. That I opted to go the indie route with them doesn’t detract from the work. In fact, in some ways I had to work much harder because I needed to understand the publishing side, too. And the indie route comes at a cost, because it’s easy to be buried in anonymity. That’s a fatal flaw for an introvert who is also the world’s worst self-promoter.

As I was driving home from the event, I was thinking about this in the car. What do I need to do in order for my writing career to get out of neutral and back on track? Well, write, for one thing. I haven’t been completely idle because I write on the business side all the time. In fact, my current WIP is indeed a non-fiction business title I started over the Memorial Day weekend. There’s a huge list of novels in my head that need to come out. I just have to prioritize them and put words on the page.

As an author, you often reach plateaus that seem to go on forever. Everyone faces them, but those who work consistently get past those plateaus faster. I need to get back into that habit. No more laurel-resting.

Jealousy is an amateur emotion in a writer anyway. It’s far more productive to focus on your own problems and work on those than it is to worry about somebody else’s career. Look at all the attention John Scalzi’s big contract with Tor attracted. To me, it’s like his blog: whatever. John works hard, does good work, and he has a publisher who believes in him. More power to John, because it takes nothing away from anyone else, certainly not from me.

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