Sunday, January 22, 2017

How Many Books Can You Write In A Lifetime?

I’m not quite sure how it happened, but these days I’m overwhelmed with the reality that I’ve been juggling six different writing projects, including four novels and two novellas, for some time. Actually, one of them I haven’t worked on at all this year, but that needs to change.

There are different ways to look at this. One is that I’m a professional writer. I write, publish, and sell novels, and am paid through royalties and direct sales. For me, working on more than one book at a time is how I continue to be a professional. The other upside is that pretty much all of 2016 was spent writing new work, which isn’t something I can say every year. In hindsight, it was a pretty awesome experience.

But the downside? Well, given that I also have a 5-day-a-week part-time admin job, a mother with dementia who needs more attention, and a 2,500 sq. ft. home that requires cleaning now and then, it all becomes a bit much at times. On these short, dark, damp winter days, I feel my energy and my spirits wane, especially after one of my regular bouts of interrupted sleep.

After weighing the pros and cons, it comes down to two things: I still love writing, and I can choose to stop anytime. I created this life. I can also dismantle it. These are my choices, and on those overwhelming days I find myself wondering about the latter.

It was invigorating, therefore, to come across a blog this week on Quartz Media, about how Isaac Asimov, author of nearly 500 books, wrote so much, and yet struggled with some of the same issues that plague me. It was good to know that I’ve already been using some of his strategies, like working on several works in progress.

The piece of advice that resonates with me most is Beware the Resistance (part of this means being paralyzed by persistent insecurities about one’s writing). For me, editing a book to a satisfactory, publishable state is challenging. Maybe I should adopt one of Asimov’s other strategies, which is to not strive for perfectionism.

In Asimov’s world, taking on six writing projects is normal and necessary. So, maybe I’m on the right track after all. I just have to keep figuring out ways to play down the negative self-talk and stay focused on completing some of these projects. This year, the plan is to publish two books. We’ll see how it goes.


Judy Penz Sheluk, author said...

too many books to write is a great problem to have, isn't it Debra? I'm in the same boat! I would say this: the more time I have on my hands, the less productive I am, finding all sorts of ways to procrastinate. Give me deadlines! Enjoyed this post very much.

Debra Purdy Kong said...

Thank you for your comments, Judy. Yes, your experience with time was also my experience, which is partly why I went back to work on a part-time basis. Keeping a schedule and knowing that I only have say, 45 minutes to write before the day job, helps me focus and get right to it. Having the whole morning ahead just didn't work all that well for me.