The two biggest challenges for an established writer


Famous? No. Rich. Definitely not. Established? Check.

If you’ve been writing a while, been around the block, had a few titles published under your byline, you get to the point where putting sentences together become, well, while I won’t say easy, I would say tolerable. Writing the blamed story isn’t your biggest challenge. You can probably sit down and crank out a relatively straightforward story without batting an eye. But that doesn’t mean writing is any easier.

From the perspective of someone who has been writing professionally since the early 80s (yes, I’m that old), here are the two biggest challenges that established writers face.

1. Marketing. I hate marketing. That doesn’t mean I hate people, or that I hate talking to people. It’s just that marketing your books is like dropping rocks down a black hole. It never stops and never seems to make a difference. Further, the target shifts as technology changes and as other writers catch on to what works. Get one writer using e-newsletters and it’s a great idea. Get a hundred writers doing the same thing, and it’s junk mail. The battle is non-stop, yet it’s a necessary evil.

2. Distractions. I have a quote from Alan Dean Foster on my computer that I stole off of Twitter. It says: “The thing all writers do best is find ways to avoid writing.” And commiserating with Apostle Paul, I find myself saying, “I am chief among sinners.” I’ve written and published 22 books, but in retrospect, I have no idea how in the world I ever got them done, especially while working a full-time job and raising a family. Each time I start on a project, I find myself second guessing myself. I wonder if I chose the right project, whether I know enough to write the book, whether I should be doing “something more productive” with my time, or whether I really, truly know how to write. In the meantime, I suddenly get interested in other book ideas, something on TV, a movie that I want to watch, that book–or books–that I am reading, a conversation that I left hanging with my wife, or the sudden need to walk the dog. And there is the constant distraction of social networks.

What’s with the distractions? Well, I have a couple of theories about that. Many writers say, “I hate to write, but I love having written.” There are sometimes when I enjoy writing, especially when the ideas are coming smoothly and easily. But a lot of it is actually work (imagine that!) and can be tough going. And being the naturally lazy people that we are, we want to avoid work. After all, that’s why we aren’t all road workers or construction workers, even though we probably would make more money that way.

The second theory is that the subconscious sometimes needs time to refine your ideas. That can be good and bad. Give it a little time, and you might have a better story. Give it too long, as I have done on occasion, and your story grows and mutates until you have something you can’t manage (“I’ve created a monster!”).

The bottom line is that writing never gets easy. There are always new challenges. But if you are a true, dyed-in-the-wool writer, you wouldn’t do anything else, and you’ll always find a way to write, come hell or high water.

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