I submitted another of the cozy audiobooks for approval the other day so I’m back to the “what next” stage where I read a few books and fiddle with numbers before launching into the next project. This always generates random thoughts about various things.
First, it occurred to me the other day after I wrote that post about my pre-writing career progression versus writing that maybe that “job” mindset could be useful when applied to writing.
Years ago I remember a woman on Kboards who had done well enough with YA romcoms who decided she was going to move into a completely new genre. And at the time I thought, “why?” because she was doing better than most people there at the time.
But just like sometimes people need to move to new jobs to get better opportunities or pay or challenge, sometimes authors need to think about “quitting” their current writer job and moving to a new one.
I know more than one author who started writing one thing and moved to another over time and did better at the second genre or topic. A friend of mine had been trying to juggle two very different pen names the last couple years but realized that it was time to let go of that older name and just focus on the new one that was doing so much better.
As writers we (universal we, not me particularly) have a fan base that would like us to keep doing the exact same thing we’ve been doing. But that’s really no different in a sense from an employer who would really like you to keep working for them. I guess the only difference is the employer accepts that you moved on to something new, whereas the fans send the occasional “when’s the next book coming out” email.
And, of course, with writing someone can circle back to an old series twenty-plus years later. So in writing no door is ever permanently closed. (Not even when an author dies, really, as evidenced by all the names that have been continued by ghost writers or co-writers.)
But it seems to me that maybe writers should be better at letting go of what doesn’t work.
In a sense I’ve done some of that. Three of my pen names are basically dead. The content is still out there but I don’t advertise them at all. Occasionally I might do a new cover, but that’s more the fun of doing covers than anything. I also did do some short audio on two of them last year as a build up to doing the full-length novels.
They bring in a trickle of money, about $500 in profit last year, but at some point I decided that my time was better spent moving forward than trying to bring everything I’d ever written along with me. There are only so many hours in a day and letting go of things is as important as choosing where to go next.
The other thought I had was around burnout. A few years back I became a Gallup-certified Strengths coach because I found Strengths so incredibly valuable in helping me understand myself that I wanted to know ALL THE THINGS about Strengths. (I could’ve saved myself a substantial amount of money if I’d realized the coaching packet could be ordered without taking the very expensive class, but, well, there you have it.)
Anyway. Every year they have some special sessions for the coaches and one of the sessions this year revolved around burnout. I think they’ll be publishing those findings in early March to the public, so definitely keep an eye out for that.
But what was interesting to me listening to that talk was comparing my writing life to my pre-writing life. I am an Achiever with high Responsibility so I don’t actually burn out from having too much to do. I burn out when I can’t get things done because of politics or bureaucracy. Or when someone is indecisive so the goal posts keep shifting.
Set me a target and I will get it done. But don’t tell me the target is A on Monday, B on Wednesday, and C on Friday because I will glare daggers at you for not knowing your shit.
One of the things I thought about, though, listening to that talk was how many writers I do know burned out in the last five years. Because they were full-bore ahead, cranking out a novel a month in a popular genre that maybe wasn’t a natural fit for them.
I can’t count the number of authors I knew five years ago who’d say, “well, I’m writing X because it sells but someday I’d really like to write my true passion, Y”. It was all over the place back then.
I think sometimes it isn’t the career that’s the issue when it comes to burnout, it’s how we approach the career that drives it. Or it’s the specific employer. Or department. Or manager.
There has to be an alignment between the person and the role. I know some writers who absolutely revel in writing spicy stuff so high-heat romance is a perfect niche for them. It would not be for me. And if I tried to force myself into that box to make money I would eventually burn out.
So if someone out there is feeling burnout, figure out what it is about the current set-up you’re in that’s driving that and see if you can fix it. It doesn’t have to mean walking away entirely.
(I have a few friends in non-supportive marriages with young kids and high-powered jobs who really can’t fix things so much as endure until the kids get older. So sometimes there is no short-term fix. But oftentimes there is one if you step back and think about it.)
That was one of the interesting lessons of that burnout talk. For executing-type folks, their default for dealing with stress is to just dive into the work or exercise. And it does help.
I think it was the influencing-types whose default was to spend time with friends and family. And again, it helps.
But for both they would be better off sitting down and thinking about the situation and how to improve it.
(Don’t quote me on that, by the way. I may be slightly off in how I interpreted that presentation. I just remember walking away with the idea that people would be better served taking a bit of time and thinking through how to better address their situation.)
Finally, I continually circle around this notion that the world, at least the one I live in, has the wrong focus and priorities and it makes things worse for so many. But that to reset that would be highly destructive and disruptive for probably fifty or more years.
So what do we do? Go on squeezing more and more people to the breaking point while a very small number live very good lives?
It’s the constant issue. People choose not to experience short-term pain or suffering only to ultimately choose even more pain and suffering long-term as a result. Because ultimately we’re all tied together.
Also, I think very few people actually see what can be versus what is. Strategic is theoretically one of the top five Strengths around the world, but…hm. I don’t know.
Then again, there is a vast difference between saying, “this is the top way in which you can be successful out of 34 choices” and saying “you are the strongest person at this way of seeing or approaching the world.”
Kind of like the difference between “your best feature is your eyes” and “you have the most beautiful eyes of anyone I’ve ever met.” Yeah?
Anyway. I’m off to probably not be productive. Then again, it’s Sunday here so that’s probably an okay thing all in all. Although it pains my Achiever soul nonetheless. Haha.