There are times when I understand why authors used to, years ago, simply retreat from the world to do what they loved most: write. The publicity, the marketing, even the personal appearances went away once they reached a certain level of success. I’m on a different path: if anything I feel too visible at times. Everyone knows I am an author, nearly everywhere I go. Much of the time I deliberately reach out, in groups, by organizing conferences, and even holding author events like potluck BBQ’s with no agenda other than easing the journey we are all on, and steering others to avoid the many mistakes I have made along the way.
As writers, it often helps us to realize we are not alone. Kristen Lamb has built an entire model based on the principle: WANA, with an annual on line conference and thousands of followers. But sometimes to be effective at what we do, we need to be alone. In fact, there are times when I am sitting in a room with you, talking writing, sharing stories, while at the same time dreaming of being alone on an island, with nothing but me and my computer, and occasional but limited bursts of Wi-Fi.
The public eye is scary. Yes, it is great to feel a sense of community. But people can be cruel and petty. Jealous of each other’s success, and under the odd impression that everyone has it better than they do. And then there are those who simply do not like your work, or you as a person. There’s not a thing you can do about it, and no matter how good or nice you are, those people will exist.
Anyone can tell you they don’t take those things personally, but more often than not, those who say so are lying. The insults and cruelty, even indifference, hurt. And sometimes for writers, who often have large but rather fragile egos, it would be much easier to hide out and just be alone.
Creative people are often rebels. We are told, and rightly so, that to sell books we must be in the public eye. And we must, to one extent or another. On line, in person, or both. But when you tell a creative like a writer they have to do something, often the tendency is to do the opposite just to prove we don’t have to do anything “they” tell us. As necessary as it is, fighting that instinct is hard for us to do. It takes effort, and that kind of effort actually makes you tired.
Even a conversation, when I would rather be writing, or my muse is knocking at the back of my head with ideas can be not only exhausting, but infuriating. But there is no socially acceptable way to respond, especially if you don’t want to alienate fans and even your family. So I often smile and nod, while the whole time placing the person addressing me into a gruesome scene in my next novel.
We are busier than you think. Working at home as an author is far from easy. Not only do we have the responsibility everyone else has, but you must keep writing, every day. We must market the work we have already written. Most of us do other things to make money, like editing. We must study our craft, get better at what we do. We need to meet with other writers. Some of us must source cover designers and editors, maintain websites and blogs, and interact with you, our fans, on social media.
Being a writer is one of the greatest things you can do with your life. But it is far from the easy life some picture it to be. I’m not complaining, mind you. I often work really long hours many days in a row. But if you could see me when the words are flowing, when the stories stir within me, you would see I cannot contain my joy.
So in that way, at least, being a writer is the “easy” life.