Do you want to be a more relaxed author?
There are plenty of books and tips on writing faster, learning more marketing tactics and strategies, trying to maximize your ranking, hitting the top of the charts, juicing the algorithms, and hacking different ad platforms. While these are all important things — which the authors themselves regularly write and talk about — it's also important to recognize that your author journey is a marathon, and not a sprint.
Joanna Penn and Mark Leslie Lefebvre have been in the business long enough to see authors burning out and leaving the writing life because they turned what they love into a hamster wheel of ever more production and marketing tasks they hate. It doesn't have to be this way.
This book is a collection of tips on how to be a more relaxed author — and return to the love that brought you to writing in the first place. It includes Relaxed Writing, Relaxed Publishing, Relaxed Marketing, and Relaxed Business.
Chapter 1: Write what you love
Joanna: The pandemic has taught us that life really is short. Memento mori — remember, you will die.
What is the point of spending precious time writing books you don't want to write?
If we only have a limited amount of time and only have a limited number of books that we can write in a lifetime, then we need to choose to write the books that we love. If I wanted a job doing something I don't enjoy, then I would have remained in my stressful old career as an IT consultant — when I certainly wasn't relaxed!
Taking that further, if you try to write things you don't love, then you're going to have to read what you don't love as well, which will take more time. I love writing thrillers because that's what I love to read. Back when I was miserable in my day job, I would go to the bookstore at lunchtime and buy thrillers. I would read them on the train to and from work and during the lunch break. Anything for a few minutes of escape. That's the same feeling I try to give my readers now.
I know the genre inside and out. If I had to write something else, I would have to read and learn that other genre and spend time doing things I don't love. In fact, I don't even know how you can read things you don't enjoy. I only give books a few pages and if they don't resonate, I stop reading. Life really is too short.
You also need to run your own race and travel your own journey. If you try to write in a genre you are not immersed in, you will always be looking sideways at what other authors are doing, and that can cause comparisonitis — when you compare yourself to others, most often in an unfavorable way. Definitely not relaxing!
Writing something you love has many intrinsic rewards other than sales.
Writing is a career for many of us, but it's a passion first, and you don't want to feel like you've wasted your time on words you don't care about.
"Write what you know" is terrible advice for a long-term career as at some point, you will run out of what you know. It should be "write what you want to learn about." When I want to learn about a topic, I write a book on it because that feeds my curiosity and I love book research, it's how I enjoy spending my time, especially when I travel, which is also part of how I relax.
If you write what you love and make it part of your lifestyle, you will be a far more relaxed author.
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Mark: It's common that writers are drawn into storytelling from some combination of passion, curiosity, and unrelenting interest. We probably read or saw something that inspired us, and we wanted to express those ideas or the resulting perspectives that percolated in our hearts and minds. Or we read something and thought, "Wow, I could do this; but I would have come at it differently or I would approach the situation or subject matter with my own flair."
So, we get into writing with passion and desire for storytelling. And then sometimes along the way, we recognize the critical value of having to become an entrepreneur, to understand the business of writing and publishing. And part of understanding that aspect of being an author is writing to market, and understanding shifts and trends in the industry, and adjusting to those ebbs and flows of the tide. But sometimes, we lose sight of the passion that drew us to writing in the first place. And so, writing the things that you love can be a beacon to keep you on course.
I love the concept of "Do something that you love, and you'll never work a day in your life." And that's true in some regard because I've always felt that way for almost my entire adult life. I've been very lucky. But at the same time, I work extremely hard at what I love.
Some days are harder than others, and some things are really difficult, frustrating and challenging; but at the end of the day, I have the feeling of satisfaction that I spent my time doing something I believe in.
I've been a bookseller my entire life even though I don't sell books in brick-and-mortar bookstores anymore—that act of physically putting books in people's hands. But to this day, what I do is virtually putting books in people's hands, both as an author and as an industry representative who is passionate about the book business.
I was drawn to that world via my passion for writing. And that's what continues to compel me forward. I tried to leave the corporate world to write full time in 2018 but realized there was an intrinsic satisfaction to working in that realm, to embracing and sharing my insights and knowledge from that arena to help other writers. And I couldn't give that up.
For me, the whole core, the whole essence of why I get up in the morning has to do with storytelling, creative inspiration, and wanting to inspire and inform other people to be the best that they can be in the business of writing and publishing.
And that's what keeps me going when the days are hard.
Passion as the inspiration to keep going
There are always going to be days that aren't easy.
There will be unexpected barriers that hit you as a writer.
You'll face that mid-novel slump or realize that you have to scrap an entire scene or even plotline, and feel like going back and re-starting is just too much.
You might find the research required to be overwhelming or too difficult.
There'll be days when the words don't flow, or the inspiration that initially struck you seems to have abandoned you for greener pastures.
Whatever it is, some unexpected frustration can create what can appear to be an insurmountable block.
And, when that happens, if it's a project you don't love, you're more likely to let those barriers get in your way and stop you.
But if it's a project that you're passionate about, and you're writing what you love, that alone can be what greases the wheels and helps reduce that friction to keep you going.
At the end of the day, writing what you love can be a honing, grounding, and centering beacon that allows you to want to wake up in the morning and enjoy the process as much as possible even when the hard work comes along.
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"For me, relaxation comes from writing what I know and love and trusting the emergent process. As a discovery writer, I experience great joy when the story, characters and dialogue simply emerge in their own time and their own way. It feels wonderful."
"Writing makes me a relaxed author. Just getting lost in a story of my own creation, discovering new places and learning what makes my characters tick is the best way I know of relaxing. Even the tricky parts, when I have no idea where I am going next, have a special kind of charm."