Saturday, December 24, 2005

No Vacation for You

I haven't had a vacation in four years, and I don't expect one next year either.

This July, my family demanded some 'together time' so I took them up to a cabin in Michigan. Along the way I did signings. And I brought my laptop.

My two closest friends, whom I've known for 26 years, coerced me into taking a three day weekend off to go on brewery tours. I went with them, but managed to fit in a library event while they were boozing it up.

The kids have been off school for a week, and I managed to do some bonding. But I also did some editing, some writing, some website updating, and a few blog entries.

Am I missing out on life? In a word: Yes. And since misery loves company, I want you to miss out too.
  • Can't find an agent?
  • Can't sell your book?
  • Getting a lot of rejections?
  • Stuck on that short story?
  • Book not selling well?
  • Disappointed by your numbers?
  • Haven't finished that novel?
  • Unable to find a new publisher?

My question for you is: How much time have you put in?

Remember listening to your grandparents talk about the Great Depression? They used words like "Sacrifice" and "Hard work."

Writing involves sacrifice and hard work. That means denying yourself some things, like friends and family and free time. If you want to make it, you have to put in the hours.

I'm not going to argue that your writing is more important than your children---that isn't true. Family is far more important than career. But if your family loves you, they'll also understand how important your career is, and give you time to pursue it.

If you want to succeed in this biz, be prepared to make sacrifices and find the time to get things done.

Here's a handy list of some things you can sacrifice:

  • Vacation
  • Friends
  • TV
  • Going out
  • Reading
  • Surfing the Internet
  • Sleep
  • Eating

The harder you work, the better your chance at success. This is a business about persistence, not talent. Asimov wrote 400 books. James Reasoner just finished his 185th. How many have you done?

Now I fully expect some vehement disagreement. Replies that speak of values and priorities and happiness and importance, and examples of authors on the bestseller list who take plenty of time off. I'm sure plenty of folks will feel sorry for my family, or for me for not 'getting it.' Some of you will insist you can have your cake and eat it too, and some of you may indeed do that.

But the next time you're lamenting your career, ask yourself two questions: What have I done so far? & What have I sacrificed?

If you've never finished a novel, have only gotten 50 rejections, and plan on using the holiday break to relax, are you entitled to the disappointment you feel about the state of your writing career? Or if you published your book, then did minimal self-promotion, can you really feel betrayed that you sold so poorly?

Here's an axiom that no one likes, me included, but I adhere to it anyway:

"You can always do more."

And the next time you're relaxing, pick up a copy of Who's Who, or crack open a history book, and look at all of the successful, famous people that our society reveres. How many of them are in there for being good parents? For taking vacations? For watching a lot of television? For partying with friends?

Happy Holidays! I gotta get back to work.