Author Expectations Versus Reality

I’ve been writing one way and another since Miss Lowe told me off for using ‘again and again’ repetitively in my story about a man climbing a mountain circa 1978. I don’t think I’ve ever really thought of myself as ‘a writer’ or an ‘author’. It was always something I was going to become in my future.

I’m nearly fifty now and my first book was published about eighteen months ago with JMS Books. My second was published this year, I have two ‘official’ works in progress in the same series and two more in my head. The future is here… but I still don’t really feel like a ‘proper’ writer. It’s a strange sort of disconnection. I’m published, people bought the first book and presumably quite liked it because they went on to buy the second. But I still don’t feel like a real author. Not that being published or not published is a distinction, at all- if you write, you are a writer. But for me it’s a confidence issue.

It’s not that I expected to lay on a chaise in a negligee a la Barbara Cartland and have a crowd of beautiful persons of all genders peel grapes to hand-feed me whilst I dictated to my pug. But somehow, I expected that by this point I would feel more at ease with the idea that people like my work.

I didn’t expect to spend so much of the time writing-but-not-writing. My non-family time is carved out with a pickaxe around medical and education appointments and home schooling and the care of a severely disabled child. My own health limitations compound that. So sometimes I have three hours in the day to work, sometimes I have none.

The thing that has really amazed me, naively probably, is that I spend as much time on social media, marketing and networking as I do writing. I blog and I have Facebook and Twitter presences that need keeping fresh. I don’t think there’s much point having them if you’re set on transmit the whole time and don’t interact. And I like interacting. I make graphics using Canva for my social media. I write my newsletter monthly. I have just set up a Ko-fi page and restarted my Instagram. I am not sure about the benefits of some of these – Ko-fi and Instagram might be a step too far for me to maintain. I use Facebook mostly to chat with other genre authors rather than reader groups and I use Twitter to ramble about life in general rather than having a closely curated online personality.

Sometimes I feel spread very thin. On the other hand, if I don’t have enough head space for writing or for research, still being able to write and schedule a blog post feels like I have achieved something, even if it’s not another thousand words of my work in progress. For example, I’m writing this with a child sat beside me attempting to deconstruct my glasses and get me to watch Mr Tumble on her iPad, because she’s home sick today. It’s unlikely I’ll manage many actual words, but a post like this I can pick up and put down as required.

I think I did expect to meet more people in person. It can be very isolated when it’s just you and your brain and a keyboard in your workplace. There’s no way I can justify either the cost or the time away from home to travel to cons. However, I have recently linked up with some of the UK genre author crowd for a few lunches and plan to go to the UK Meet next year. A lot of my support network is online. That was something I expected- I’ve had an online presence one way or another since the mid-nineties and as far as I’m concerned there’s not much difference between online friends and real friends. But sometimes it’s nice to sit in a room with actual warm bodies and kick ideas around and I guess that is happening slowly as I get to know people and they get to know me. The online aspect is good for me because as I’ve said previously, we are in a rural area with poor transport links. So perhaps my expectation was another naïve one.

I perhaps didn’t expect there to be such a community feel. The first group I ever joined was a Goodreads writer group and I got such a lot of support from there that it really did give me the confidence to submit for publication. I don’t think I would have if they hadn’t been so supportive. (Thank you, if any of you read this). I think QRI and groups like it are a fantastic resource for authors to support each other.

We are essentially lone wolves, but it’s nice to have a pack when you need one.

2 thoughts on “Author Expectations Versus Reality”

  1. I think I’ve made different choices about social media, which are right for me. I tend to think of it as draining, not as a thing that takes up time that could be writing, but something that actively inhibits writing because it takes so much energy up. Obviously some people are more social than I am. 🙂

    When a person has limited energy, it seems there’s a number one task, or perhaps two, and then other things just have to stand in line and wait their turn. 🙂 Obviously, health and children, things like that–they’re number one.

    But after that, I think social media can never via for place with writing. Because there’s nothing to sell if you don’t write, and I’m not convinced social media sells anything anyway. (Some would call me a luddite. Some days, I’m okay with that.)

    Thanks for sharing your experiences and thoughts.

    • I think it fills a gap for me between ‘having the spoons to write’ and ‘having the spoons to interact’. I’m quite isolated socially – we’re very rural and I no longer drive – so social media does fill an important gap for me. It’s so important to find what’s right for yourself personally, though, and not try to fit in to anyone else’s paradigm.

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