IWSG - Modern Author Problems

Hey, gang! It's time yet again for another round of Insecure Writer's Support Group goodness. What is the IWSG? It's a band of merry scribes who gather once monthly to share worries, encouragement, and perspectives on the creativity-enduced madness we call writing.  

Sound like a good time? Click the pic below for more info, a list of bloggers who participate, and details on how to sign up!

Modern Author Problems

Like certain types of sharks, it seems the modern author has a motion problem. Well, a lack of motion problem anyway. If we aren't moving, we die.

Well, maybe more just sink to the bottom of the Internet ocean to settle on the bottom with all the other scuttled things. Which is troubling to folks who want their words to stand out, or at least float enough to be snagged in a reader's net on occasion.

This has been on my mind of late after I read THIS fantastic post by the inimitable Anne R. Allen. In the article, Anne confronts the popular notion that, for indie authors specifically, you have to write quickly to survive. That if you're not constantly bolstering your catalogue, the tide will surely sweep you away.

I loved this little bit of wisdom she shared:

"Because a writing career is not a race or a contest.

It has to be a source of joy. It doesn't pay well enough to be anything else."

She cited one of our dear blogging-writing friends (and the dude behind this IWSG thing), Alex J. Cavanaugh, as proof of this concept.

Alex is an admittedly slow writer. He works full time outside of writing, he plays in a band, and is an insane blogger. But he's also a bestselling author, even though he's only putting out a book (or less) every year. 

Then there are stalwarts like George R. R. Martin, who puts out another volume in his popular Song of Ice & Fire (Game of Thrones) series whenever he damn well feels like it.  

Ultimately, I definitely agree with Anne when it comes to the actual writing, and I sure hope we're right.  Because some of us struggle to do it any other way. 

Sometimes the words flow well for me and I can crank out a few thousand words in a sitting. Other times, I'll labor over a single scene for hours. But there's definitely no consistency to what I do.

However, when it comes to a successful writing career, there's unfortunately just more to it than the writing nowadays. (Which Anne is definitely aware of, by the way--I don't want to suggest that she isn't.)

Alex is one of the most prolific bloggers in existence. He's everywhere, so much so that there've been entire blogfests devoted to trying to uncover his ninja-like methods. :) That guy is moving.

Anne mentions that she is a 'slow blogger', meaning she doesn't post every day. She, along with her co-blogger Ruth Harris, has defied popular logic that content generation is key by winning bunches of awards and amassing a large following. 

Well let me tell you, that lady is a mover too! Her Twitter account is a must-follow, her G+ account the only one you really need in your feed if you're a writer, and her blog posts are like going to school. 

And Martin has an unbelievably popular television franchise keeping us well aware of his universe even when there's nothing new to read. Not to mention, he's been in the writing game a LONG time.

I have to think those things play a part in their publishing success as well. And it has led me to this conclusion: We, the authors building our careers right now, will be successful to the extent we are active. 

If we aren't writing, we need to be blogging, tweeting, pinning, or reading (and sharing what we think about our reading). There needs to be an almost constant awareness of what we're up to or we're essentially perceived to be up to nothing.

And that's where I get all sweaty and gross, because being perpetually engaged is tiring and sometimes just downright unpleasant for me.

I call it a modern author problem, because I don't think authors of yore faced this dilemma. It was expected that you wouldn't hear from an author until their next greatest book was ready to be read. Maybe they'd do the occasional interview on TV if they were really famous, but that's about it. The book WAS the author in that way.

Now, we can (and are) identified by so many other things besides our actual writing that we are forced into a tireless loop of performing if only for the sake of not vanishing completely.

And I don't know about y'all, but it puts me in an ongoing state of inadequacy when it comes to my writing aspirations. There's always something more I could be doing, or doing better, it seems.

What about you? Do you feel any pressure to constantly be present? Are you a slow writer, blogger, etc.? What's your impression of the successful authors out there? Are they pumping out new work at a breathless rate?



  1. Thanks, EJ! When I saw her post, I laughed, because I'd forgotten she'd emailed me for my response to that question.
    Constant movement. I think you're on to something. And it doesn't have to be all writing. There are many things we can do to further our careers.
    Which is good, because I'm still a really slow writer...

    1. I agree, Alex. It does comfort me to know that it doesn't JUST have to be churning out books that keeps us relevant. You and Anne are both great examples of that.

  2. I do feel that pressure so your post was a good one for me to read.

    Martin is one of my idols but I can't deny I wish he'd write faster! I so want to read the next ASoIaF book LOL.

    1. I'm the same, J! :D I NEED the next ASoIaF now!

      I don't expect the pressure to go away or anything, because I really do believe it's just reality if you're trying to build a career out of this. Some folks aren't in it for that, which I respect. If you've only got one or two good books in you and you just want to share them, I think that's terrific. But most of the writers in my circles are aspiring to something more.

  3. I read that post, and I've definitely felt the pressure! Book promotion can be exhausting and it seems that every day there's some new form of social media to get involved in - it seems impossible to keep up with it all! I think all writers work at different paces, and that's OK - if we write quality stories, readers will find us anyway. :)

    Though I am impatient for George R. R. Martin's next book. :P

  4. Can we go back to olden times?

    *Cough* I mean, right. All about the movement!

  5. Life can get hectic with everything demanding our attention.
    Alex must not require that much sleep to keep up the things he does.

  6. This is a really great and timely post. Yes. I do feel the need to be present. And I worry about what will happen if I can keep cranking out books. Right now that insecurity is worse because of all the publishing and marketing preparations I'm having to make. I'm not sure I'll want to do much for a while after this is over.

    I recently went on hiatus and reduced my blogging frequency when I returned. There were a few friends who popped in immediately and welcomed me back (thank you!), but mostly I watched my traffic drop off. It's growing again, but it's definitely proportional to the visits I make.

    Of course, life is what it is. Sometimes we have to take a break or slow down. The most important thing is that we see that and forgive ourselves, and that we find a balance with it all. If we're a good writer and we treat others kindly when we do interact (recent email to you excepted. LOL), it'll work out.

    IWSG #268 (until Alex culls the list again or I goof and get myself deleted. :P)

    1. That should have been 'can't'...can't keep cranking out books. blek

  7. That is a great quote by Anne. I definitely feel the pressure too. It seems best-selling authors are churning out books like it's nothing. Right now I am racing to write the sequel to Hurricane Crimes because I don't want a long period of time to go between them. I am also stressing myself out with blogging and posting on Facebook.

    All of this technology can help us to promote and get out there, but it also can drag us down.

  8. Thanks, EJ, for voicing something so true!! We are under so much pressure to be everywhere online, all the time, and still also somehow WRITE. It's good to remember that it's OK to write at our own pace, when we can :)

  9. If I book a year is being a slow writer...then there is noooo hope for me. But more power to the Amazing Alex and all his "movement." He does it right...because he doesn't just do it to benefit himself. He wants to help others too.

  10. Thanks for the shout-out, EJ! I'm jazzed to see that my post inspired you. (As Alex inspired me. I thought of writing this post when I saw him outselling Asimov.)

    You are right, of course, that we feel just as much pressure to social-mediate ourselves constantly as well as churn out the fiction. I feel that pressure myself. The way I handle it is timing myself. I have 30 mins for social media one day, an hour the next. I have to fight constantly for my writing time and my "people" time. It's an ongoing battle. I don't think the pressure will let up, unfortunately, so we have to draw the lines ourselves.

  11. I am a slow book writer too. I work full time out of the house and do some freelance writing so my book writing time suffers. I am hoping to leave the out of the house job later this year...fingers crossed, hoping and praying:)

  12. There are days when I feel like a slow blog writer...

  13. I'm a slow blogger; I usually only post once a week, but that's because I've been blogging for four years and don't always know what to blog about. I just joined Twitter a few months ago and usually Tweet several times a day; I like Twitter because it's much easier to come up with a few funny lines rather than an entire post.

  14. I don't think "constant" is as important as "consistent."

  15. "Sometimes the words flow well for me and I can crank out a few thousand words in a sitting. Other times, I'll labor over a single scene for hours. But there's definitely no consistency to what I do."

    That's me in a nutshell. Yet I struggle as much with that consistent movement as anyone. Being constantly visible just isn't in my nature. Except at work - the day job - and maybe being noticed too often there isn't really a good thing, lol.


  16. I love blogging but I'm a slow writer. No matter what it's the love of writing that matters, not your speed. You can write crap or greatness at any pace.

  17. Yes. I feel the pressure and have clammed up somewhat. But not on writing my novels and stories.

  18. Hi EJ, just stopping by to say how delightful your blog is. Thanks so much for sharing. I have recently found your blog and am now following you, and will visit often. Please stop by my blog and perhaps you would like to follow me also. Have a wonderful day. Hugs, Chris

  19. The year I had three releases I did a lot better than the years I only put out one. But I don't have time for that sadly

  20. I do feel the need to show up regularly, but everyone knows how life is and so if I have one of those life explosions I just post that I'm gone for X amount of time. I appreciate when people let me know they can't blog as usual, so I do the same. Consistent is good and easily read is excellent. Sometimes when a post is terribly dense, I can't make it through. I love to actually read the posts, so I guess you'd say I'm a slow comment person. :-) Thanks for Anne's message.

  21. As a comic-creator, I definitely feel this kind of pressure. Disappearing from the online world for too long always seems to have negative effects for me, so I try my best to stay present in some form, even though it can be really hard sometimes. (Like this past week!)

  22. It really was a good article and so was this. Thank you!

  23. As much as I love reading, I do feel like it is now a part of my "job" and feel guilty when I can't fit it in. I am now writing a ton but it's the first time I've ever been this intense. It's FUN but stressful at times. Oh to be Alex... :)

  24. Sweaty and gross is right! I'm at the point right now where I may spontaneously combust at any minute. And to think I have to crank out novels at lightening speed just sends my heart into palpitations. I know it's what works, but at the same time, I just can't make it happen. I've got a life. You've got a life, Alex has a life. We can only do so much.
    And for me, quality writing doesn't come in the first draft. It comes over months and months of tweaking and re-reading and rewriting. Makes me wonder how people possibly manage to get out decent stories in 3 months time.

  25. This is very interesting. I never think about this but you're right I can in fact, only be at so many places and do so many things at any given time. I guess I've come to terms with it. I have not mastered the skills of ninjas. I blog when I feel like, I write how I want. Selfish? Of course not, this is how I ensure quality and fun in the thoughts I share. It is my life after all. Today might be a new novel, tomorrow might be editing a ten year old one. Will this affect my career? Probably. I'd rather have a career I enjoy living than dying trying for one I know I can't attain. But you know me, I always opt for the fun route.
    Thanks for the great thoughts.

  26. Oh, the pressure to be constantly present is tough to fight. I'm trying to cut back on blogging this year . . . but this week, I'm back to three posts. Hopefully, next week I'll be back to just one or two posts and more novel writing and revision time.

  27. I think you're right that we have to pick where to concentrate. This year, I took a step back from blogging and became more of a slow blogger and am concentrating on the writing. I think about marketing crap while writing a lot and get distracted. I got distracted today with a new idea... It's so shiny. lol Anyway, I keep trying to figure out how to work smarter and keep building. Truth is, it keeps getting harder and harder. In the end, we do have to love what we do. There's no way around that.

  28. Yup! I feel the pressure to be constantly present. I post once a week and host guest bloggers every Friday (if you're interested message me @NatashaHanova). This helps me keep my blog going, while also allowing time to write.

    p.s. Thanks for stopping by and commenting on my blog today. :)

  29. Sometimes I just get so tired of the game... because that's what it fees like sometimes. A game. I'm tired of always having to keep up a happy-everything-is-perfect presence--even when I'm being real and open. It's exhausting, all of it, really. And this is just the outward parts of being an author. The inward struggle is even way more exhausting--the mental battle that comes with doubt and ability!

    I can't count how many times I've been so close to deleting my blog, twitter, everything... just because it's all so much!


“Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.” ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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