Sunday, July 08, 2012

Real Connections (Or How to Stay Sane as a Writer)

I’ve had a lot of good advice in recent years about the benefits of social networking, and I’ve tried to do my best with blogging, guest blogging, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, AuthorsDen, LinkedIn, and others. I’ve been to my share of writing events, held a book launch this year, co-presented a workshop on ebooks and marketing, and worked on my novels every day.

I love this life, but every once in awhile, I need to take a good hard look at things, see if I’m making the best use of my time as a writer and promoter. In other words, I give myself a reality check.

I’ve never quite been able to nail down a clear definition of what being a successful writer is, and I don’t want to waste hours doing so. It’s a personal thing that’s different for everybody. I do know that if I write every day, take my work to my critique group, and put on a positive front, that I’m probably on the right track. Most of the time it feels right, but sometimes it doesn’t, and then I start driving myself a little crazy by wondering if this is the right track at all.

Whenever this happens, I do what works best: I have coffee with a colleague or two, or three, who have similar issues or questions, and we talk it out. It’s immensely beneficial to have others listen, to help you put things in perspective.

Staying connected through social media is one thing, but the physical connections are the ones that keep me sane. It’s incredibly helpful to lay one’s cards on the table and share how publishing and marketing is really going, or not going, in our lives. Sure, social networking and virtual friends are great, but face-to-face contact, where you don’t have to smile and pretend it’s all fun and perfect and productive is often better. Sometimes the writing life kicks you to the curb through bad reviews or no reviews, low sales, nonexistent royalties, or merely unrealistic expectations. Face-to-face friends help you back on your feet and don’t expect you to smile every time you type 140 characters.

Oddly enough, shortly after I went through my recent reality check, TouchWood Editions offered a contract for my third Casey Holland mystery. Beneath the Bleak New Moon will be released in the fall of 2013. I’m very excited and happy about this. Of course, once it’s been released and I’ve completed a few weeks of promotion, I imagine another reality check will be necessary at some point. But that’s okay. They keep me sane.

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