Friday, February 15, 2008

You Gotta Love It

I complain a lot when I have a pile of things to do--I get overwhelmed and can't believe I decided that writing was a good profession.

Case in point: I have a manuscript due March 1, but also have revisions for another book due March 1, plus have to go over copyedits for a novella (due Feb. 19), plus stay on top of all the marketing for the book I have coming out in April. Not to mention getting workshop handouts to the conference coordinator for an April conference and buying the bags for said conference. (I'm buying them myself and donating them.)

When I start running around with my eyeballs rolling in mad circles, my friends and family tell me "Calm down, and for today, don't write."

Wait. What?

Don't write?

You might as well say "Don't eat." or "Don't breathe."

Because when it comes down to it, I'm a writer because I love to write.

I am a professional writer because I found a way to take doing what I love and turn it into a career. In other words, now I get paid to do what I enjoyed doing anyway.

I can talk on this blog or in my workshops about how you can make a living as a writer (working your butt off is a big requirement). I have ambition--I want to stay a bestseller and sign more contracts and make more and more money.

But even if no one ever bought a single book from me again, I'd still write stories. I'd pass them around to my friends or post them for free on a website.

I write because I love telling stories. Some days I know I have to sit down and write (and do a good job), and that dismays me. Some days I'm not in the mood. But most days, I sit down excited to be back at it. It's the first job I've had where I look forward to Monday.

I've lost track of how many books I've written. I wrote about seven before I got published (that's the number I tell everyone, and I think it's right, but the truth is, I can't remember). Book number 20 is due to come out in April 2008, and that's just paperbacks published by NY publishers. I have also published four books and four novellas at an e-publisher. I have another book coming out sometime this year at the e-publisher, plus two more NY published books, and then four NY books and a novella in 2009. And that doesn't count the other e-books I plan to write and the proposals for the next round of contracts. All in five years.

And this doesn't even count the number of stories I've started and then decided weren't good enough and pushed aside (although I do take good ideas from unfinished stories and use them in the ones I know will work). Plus those seven (about) unsold manuscripts.

My point is that I've done all that (when, I have no idea), and I still love to write. Story after story still pours into my brain, and I look forward to getting my hands into it.

I don't think I could have survived this long writing so many books if each one wasn't special to me. It has nothing to do with how much money I might make, how many good reviews I might get, how many awards I might be up for.

I seriously just love it.

When I write the book money, reviews, awards, etc. aren't even in my brain. I'm in the story with these people waiting to see what they'll do. (This is probably why I never outline first--it's much more fun to "watch" it happen.).

Some books I've made a pathetically tiny amounts of money on. Some books have earned me nice, fat royalty checks that make me smile. And you know what? I don't love the money-earners any more than the non-money earners, or the award winners more than those that never even got nominated.

For each book, something in that story spoke to me, and made all the stress of marketing, revisions, edits, proofs, contracts, blah blah blah worth it. If you take all that stuff away, the joy of writing is still there, at least for me.

I don't know how much help this is to aspiring and new authors, but I think I'm trying to reassure everyone that you can do this job and get paid for it without that taking away the wonderfulness of why you wanted to do it in the first place.

You gotta love it.


Gillian Layne said...

You've made it into the perfect career, Jennifer, by taking your passion and mixing it with loads of hard work and dedication. How wonderful!

Congratulations on the 20th NY pub. milestone. Hope you're doing something special for yourself to celebrate.

Jennifer Ashley/ Allyson James / Ashley Gardner said...

Let's see, I'm celebrating by writing book number um....twenty-five, I think.

Seriously, once I finish the March book and all these revisions and copy-edits, I am taking time off. Maybe I'll find a beach--I don't care if it's raining, I love the ocean.

The trouble is, whenever I find myself with a day off, I go to a coffee house and write something! It's usually something I don't "have" to write, but there I am still at the keyboard. It's a sickness. :-)

Colleen Thompson said...

Hang in there, Jenn. You can whip those deadlines and make it to those days off!

And you're exactly right, it "is" all about the writing.

Congrats on #20.

Bonnie Vanak said...

Great post Jennifer! Congrats on number 20. I'm awed.

And you're right, it's the stories that count. That's what we have control over - the stories we write.

If you need a beach, you're always welcome to ours. Hint, hint. :-)

Anonymous said...

Well, I do admire you Jenn, and I'm in awe of your output. But frankly I'm not one of those writers who would write if I didn't get paid for it. I'd spend my time reading the couple of hundred books in my bookcases instead.

Jennifer Ashley/ Allyson James / Ashley Gardner said...

There is something to be said for kicking back and reading what other people write, because writing is a lot of work, no question!! When I'm done with a book, I'm eager to pick up a book off my stack and read something not written by me!

But I know myself--I'd get this idea that wouldn't let me go until I wrote it down. I'm betting I wouldn't be quite as prolific as I am now without deadlines and a career to stimulate me, but I'd still write the stories. It's a sickness. :-)