(Title should be sung to the tune of Carrie Underwood’s “Undo It.”)
I love my job. LOVE my job. But years ago, I didn’t know all of the little side things that would come along with it. Most great, some…not as good.
Once upon a time I wrote books. Just books. I never really concerned myself with anything else. I put my baby/toddler/preschooler (all the same child—this pattern repeated itself for four years) down for a nap and spent the next two hours creating stories on an old desktop computer. Then later in the evening, I put that same child to bed and resumed writing. Maybe the television was on in the background. Maybe it was just me and some popcorn and a candle burning nearby. But it was simple. Routine. Pretty much stress-free. There was no contract and no expectations and no extra demands on my time.
Don’t get me wrong; I spent almost all day every day longing for contracts and expectations and demands and I am GRATEFUL to now have them. My dream has been realized (though I still have a long way to go) and you’ll never hear me complain about it. If someone asked me if I would want to go back to those days—pre-agent, pre-publishing house, pre-book-in-my-hand— my answer would be a resounding no BECAUSE THE WAITING WAS AWFUL.
But things were innocent back then. I didn’t know how much things would change. I mean, I did know, because I remember hearing well-known authors speak at conferences and deliver lines like, “Enjoy the simplicity of being unpublished, because one day when you sign that contract all this dreaming becomes a lot of hard work. There’s much more to becoming an author than just writing books.” I remember these lines well. I also remember wanting to punch the people who said them because they had books in their hands and I really really really wanted my own book too.
Funny thing, turns out they were right. Being an author is a lot of work. And so much of it has nothing to do with writing. Each day when I send my kids out the door, I generally have six hours to work before it’s time to pick them up again. The first two of those hours are spent reading emails, answering emails, updating two Facebook pages, reading and answering messages from both of those pages, updating my Twitter status, reading messages on Twitter, heading over to Instagram and uploading a new photo, then opening my direct message folder to see which messages to answer there (right now I have more than 100 messages from strangers on Instagram that I haven’t even opened. I can read them without the sender knowing, but I haven’t answered. Some messages are simply to say hello, some are requests to review and share their work, most are complimentary, one last Friday wasn’t real nice. Someday soon I will get to all of them, at least that’s the plan). Then I head to my website to check stats, make updates, and remove spam. And now I’m on Snapchat because apparently it’s the place to be, so it’s off to upload a video there because the video part is the only thing I’ve figured out so far. After that and depending on the day, I send books to contest winners and people who have ordered signed paperbacks. And a few of those things I already mentioned? They have to be done all over again in four to five hour increments at least one more time during the day.
Because being an author is as much about “platform” as about writing books. Platform refers to your social media presence—or in simple terms, your numbers. Number of followers, number of hits, etc. I once lost a contract because my platform wasn’t big enough. Every author I know has missed out on something at one time or another because their platform wasn’t big enough. But the facts are unavoidable: numbers sell books and the bigger the number the bigger the sales. As for my own numbers, I have a target to hit by the fall. It’s kind of big, and it will take work. But I have a job to do and that’s just the way it goes. So I will continue to post and continue to answer and continue to update and continue that pattern two or three times a day for as long as I’m given the very real privilege of doing so.
Again, why am I telling you this?
Because for this week, I’ve decided not to care.
This week I’m under deadline, and deadlines make me crazy enough. Last night I cried about my back yard being messy, and I never care about that. Just ask my neighbors. They wish I would care more.
This week is my older daughter’s last week of school, and I have a lot that needs to get done before she and my other kids are home full time. This week my brain needs a break. A break from thinking about my next photo. A break from thinking about my next quip. A break from wondering why my last post didn’t get enough “likes.” A break from spending too much time worrying about things that don’t matter and not enough time thinking about things that do. So this week I’m going to do things the old-fashioned way and just write. Then I’m going to focus on friends and going for walks and watching a sunset and hopefully listening to the rain. Then I’m going to get myself right with people who matter and then work on getting right with me. This week I’m going to clear my brain and force myself to calm the heck down about everything. Because right now I’m not calm, and I’m normally a freaking calm person.
I really am, if I remember right.
As for my Facebook author page, I’ll still be there for our Monday night chat. As for Instagram, I’ll be back Friday in time for the book giveaway. As for email, I’ll still answer. As for Twitter, I’m signing off for the week.
I hope you all have a good one. And I hope it rains in your town if you like that sort of thing. Which you totally should, because rain is the best. I still don’t know why I’m not living in Seattle. I’m going in June, and I might not come back…
PS: You know what’s funny? I just realized that I’ve always wondered why people announce they’re taking a break from social media. I mean, can’t they just do it without the fanfare? But here I am, doing it myself. There’s just no end to the obnoxiousness of it all… 😉