Friday, August 20, 2010

Eat Pray Whine

By Deborah Sharp

Aspiring writers are always advised to bring balance to their fiction: A mix of action and narrative. Dialogue and description. Short, punchy sentences leavened with longer ones of a more leisurely pace.

Just finishing up my fourth book in this new career as a mystery writer, I have a pretty good handle on the balance issue. Okay, some might quibble I'm a bit heavy on dialogue and a bit light on description. But overall, I've learned pretty well the lesson on balance in writing.

So how come I've lost track of the balance between writing and life?

I usually try to be funny when I post here. But I don't feel funny today. I feel tired and stressed. Overwhelmed. Unsure how badly I want to keep racing along on this gerbil wheel that can be the writer's life. I know, I know. Some of you out there who dream of being published are tsk-tsking me about now.

''Oh, poor Deborah. She's on her fourth book, and her life is sooooo busy.''

Well, to you I say this: Be careful what you wish for.

I just saw Eat Pray Love today, so maybe I've got balance and self-fulfillment on the brain. Tomorrow, I may be sorry for this self-indulgent rant; ashamed of whining about a life that many unpublished writers yearn for.

Absolutely, seeing your work published is fantastic; a thrill like few others. But, honestly, a lot of the stuff that goes along with getting published can be a time-sucking pain in the rear. The blogging. The message boards. Keeping up on Facebook, and Linked In, and Good Reads and Book Tour. I've got so many different passwords, I feel like a high-security military installation. And then there's the travel, the press-release-writing. The showing up at a bookstore to a disappointing crowd; or, even worse, showing up with an encouragingly large crowd, only to discover the bookseller only ordered a few of your books.

It's exhausting.

Some of my author pals are superhuman dynamos. I watch all they accomplish, and wonder why doing less seems to take so much out of me.

Maybe I need some vitamins. Or more caffeine. Or better balance.

For the mortals out there, for the writers with kids, family obligations, full-time jobs, or health issues ... how do you decide where to draw the line between the writing life and the rest of life? Do you ever want to just disconnect from everything electronic, sit down someplace quiet with a pen and a journal and just write? Not for a blog. Not to post on Facebook. Not even for your contractually required next book.

How do you find your peace and quiet? Your time to think? Your time to breathe? How do you find your balance?


Lisa Bork said...

"I've got so many different passwords, I feel like a high-security military installation."

LOL, LOL! I have a list of passwords--now if I could just find it.

Deb, you know I've opted out of a lot of promotional activities. They just suck the enjoyment of writing right out of me. I'm not on the best seller list, but I sleep well at night and am happy.

As for EAT PRAY LOVE, read the book. Not a fan. That author and I have next to nothing in common.

Alan Orloff said...

For someone who doesn't feel funny, you sure ARE funny. As usual. Balance is overrated. Just do what feels right.

Beth Groundwater said...

I've been where you are, Deb, and it made me pull back some on my on-line activities. In fact, I'm starting a rough draft next week of the third Claire Hanover gift basket designer book. I'm setting my yahoogroups to No Mail, so I have to go to the website to check them. Those daily pages are going to be my top priority.

Also, I've put a sticky note on my computer, "If you had 1 year to live, would you put this on your calendar?"

That's stopped me from viewing countless YouTube videos and reading countless blog posts!

Jess Lourey said...

What I like best about Inkspot, Deb, is the balance it has--writing insight, writing highs, writing lows. This honest post of yours strikes a chord with me, and I bet it does many authors. For sure it's great being published, but it's also overwhelming and an incredible amount of work, usually on top of the full-time job, kids, partner and the rest of the stuff. You have to be committed (or you should be committed--to an institution) when choosing the writing life.

Two years ago, I gave myself permission to not jump on every promotional opportunity out there, and my books are selling better--I think because my writing is better because I've carved out more time for them--than when I was twitbookbloggoodsigning.

Best of luck to you.

Jess Lourey said...

p.s. I talk about my balance on my upcoming Tuesday blog post. :)

Darrell James said...

Deb- As my grandmother used to say, "Shoeing a horse will get you farther than shooing a fly!"

I have no idea what that means except, do what's important and don't sweat the rest.

I can't imagine a better way to make a living.

Keith Raffel said...

Deb, who better captured our plight in song than the Fab Four?

If you really like it you can have the rights,
It could make a million for you overnight.
If you must return it, you can send it here
But I need a break and I want to be a paperback writer, paperback writer.

Despite the literal meaning of the lyrics, I hope it brings you a smile.

Deborah Sharp said...

Thanks, my fellow Midnight Ink'ers. Y'all have great perspective on this issue, which I guess many of us face at some time or another (Can you say ''Burn-out?'')
And, PS: Thanks, Keith ... now I'll be humming Paperback Writer for the next several hours!

Vickie said...


Jess Lourey said...

Wait, Darrell's making a living at this?

Kathleen Ernst said...

It's an ongoing struggle.

G.M. Malliet said...

Saying no to things that throw you off balance gets easier with age. Trust me on this, Deb.