Friday, May 5, 2017

Getting a Life

by Linda Rodriguez

Yesterday I just crashed. I slept late. I couldn’t get myself moving on anything I had to do, not this blog post or another guest blog that’s due, not my usual stint on the WIP, not any of the several business emails I needed to take care of, not trying to clear some of the clutter and mess that have collected in my house as I’ve launched and promoted two books while writing yet another, taking care of a slew of freelance commitments, and preparing and teaching several workshops. Usually I rise early, take a deep breath, gird my loins for the day’s battle with the endless to-do list, and kick into overdrive, but yesterday I couldn’t muster the energy or the will to do much of anything productive. This is not like me.

While driving with my husband past Kansas City’s Plaza, which is a premier pedestrian shopping mall/outdoor art gallery full of fountains, intricate and colorful Spanish tiles, ornate buildings, and beautiful sculptures, I reminisced sadly about the good times we used to have walking the Plaza and sitting on one of the many benches to watch the parade of people. I reminded my husband of the fun we had taking picnic lunches to some of Kansas City’s many great parks to enjoy after a refreshing walk. I waxed nostalgic over the weekend day trips we used to make to explore lovely small towns all around the Kansas City area—I’ve given many of their best features to my fictional town in my Skeet Bannion series of novels. The strange thing is that, though we don’t do any of those things any longer due to lack of time, we used to do them when I had an ultra-demanding, 60-70-hour per week university job. Now that I’m a full-time writer, however, I have no time to enjoy leisure activities with my husband or any of the other things I used to do to make a real life—cooking, fiberart, gardening, going to Shakespeare or concerts in the park, lunches with friends, etc.

How did this terrible imbalance in my life occur? Isn’t one of the joys of being a full-time writer supposed to be the flexibility of time that allows you to lead a fuller, richer life? How did I manage with that old job and all its hours and responsibilities to weave in time for recreation and fun, time with family and friends, time to feed the creative well inside me, yet now I can hardly find time to even wash dishes or do laundry, the minimal tasks required to keep us from sinking into total chaos?

If I were just writing my books, I would have time to enjoy some of these activities still, but I have to promote those books in an effort to constantly increase sales. Publishers are dumping, left and right, amazing writers who have received impressive reviews and award nominations because their sales are just not spectacular enough. So I have to work harder to try to get the word out about my books and persuade new people to try them. The writing and publishing (with its line edits, copy edits, and page proofs) when combined with the promotion and marketing (with its touring, social media, conferences, and events) are two full-time jobs. Since my writing career is still not earning enough to support me, I must take on freelance writing/editing/evaluating/judging/teaching contracts, yet another full-time job. It’s no wonder I’m so tired!

I’m hardly the only writer in this predicament. Writers who are far more successful and have been doing this for far longer than I have are facing the same dilemma. The Sisters in Crime listserv periodically rings with the cries of authors who have run out of steam trying to do all of this. Some are even seriously thinking of giving up writing, which they love, because they just don’t think they can do all of it any longer.

As a country, we are moving more and more to a freelance or independent contractor environment, where we don’t have paid vacation and sick days and where we can find ourselves working all the time—or feeling as if we ought to be. How do we make a go of this kind of career and still have any kind of life outside of work?

I’m the first to admit I don’t have the answers to that question. I will be spending my next few days trying to find some, however. How we spend our time is our actual life, even if we think we’re just doing it until we bring in enough money or reach a certain level of success. I intend to find a way to bring those elements of a real, lived life back into mine. Can I do it without shortchanging the efforts I need to put into my writing and promotion of my work to create a successful career? I’ll have to find a way.

How do you manage that career-personal life balance that can be so difficult to get right?




Linda Rodriguez's Plotting the Character-Driven Novel, based on her popular workshop, and The World Is One Place: Native American Poets Visit the Middle East, an anthology she co-edited, are her newest books. Every Family Doubt, her fourth mystery novel featuring Cherokee campus police chief, Skeet Bannion, will appear in autumn, 2017. Her three earlier Skeet novels—Every Hidden Fear, Every Broken Trust, and Every Last Secret—and her books of poetry—Skin Hunger and Heart's Migration—have received critical recognition and awards, such as St. Martin's Press/Malice Domestic Best First Novel, International Latino Book Award, Latina Book Club Best Book of 2014, Midwest Voices & Visions, Elvira Cordero Cisneros Award, Thorpe Menn Award, and Ragdale and Macondo fellowships. Her short story, “The Good Neighbor,” published in the anthology, Kansas City Noir, has been optioned for
film.


Rodriguez is past chair of the AWP Indigenous Writer’s Caucus, past president of Border Crimes chapter of Sisters in Crime, founding board member of Latino Writers Collective and The Writers Place, and a member of International Thriller Writers, Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and Storytellers, and Kansas City Cherokee Community. Visit her at http://lindarodriguezwrites.blogspot.com

12 comments:

  1. I guess everyone else is too busy to comment :). It is ironic that you posted this on a Friday. I work two jobs for about 70 hours a week. Fridays I work both jobs. I am out of the house at 7:00AM to drop off my children at school. Then off to work at job one. At 4:00pm I will clock out and head to job two and clock in at 5:00pm. Today will be a little extra fun. The road between job A and job B is still 20 feet or so under water. Typically job B, delivering pizza has a 2:00AM clock out time. With luck I will be back at my house by 3:00am. And then of course, starts Saturday.

    I make the most of the time I get to spend with my children. Yes this means sometimes the clothes are a little wrinkly, but it was a nice day and we had ice cream instead.

    Carve out some time. Schedule in a lunch in the park with hubs. Pad a book signing to take in the area. And sometimes, you have to say no even when you want to say yes.

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  2. Alan, I think you definitely have the right set of priorities.

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  3. Linda--
    I've encountered a similar experience. Although I now teach only three classes, staying afloat while grading, promoting work(with which I am able to spend far less time than you do), writing,serving as the faculty advisor for THE CURRENT, and keeping my house in order have driven me into melt-down mode. Sigh. Two more classes of portfolios to grade and many, many folders to dump, then, perhaps, I'll catch a few leisurely walks again. :)

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  4. I know, Lindsey. We don't go to nearly as many literary and community events as we used to. I have simply had to face the fact that, since the cancer hit, I haven't the same levels of energy and stamina that I has. It's all I can do to do what I must do. Going to have to find a way to slow down the pace of work and deadlines, I think.

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  5. comment. ha ha. hi Linda glad you're back. i'm back too.

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  6. Linda, I struggle. You make it seem doable. I admire your passion for writing. I've decided I'm not a cleaning lady or cook. I'm a writer; but tell my husband and house I'm a writer, ha ha. You have been such a tremendous inspiration for me and many writers. I wish I lived nearby so I could go make you pancakes with blueberries and pinones.

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    1. Oh Juliana, what a sweet thought! We'll get together again, I'm sure.

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  7. acutally, I tried to make pancakes and write this comment and I burned my frickin' pantiecakes. uhg.

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    1. As long as you didn't burn yourself. I leave my electronics out of the kitchen when I cook for that very reason.

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  8. Remembering the end-of-school-year frenzy to complete tests, grades, recommendations, I am feeling sympathy for former colleagues. I recall that I scheduled all possible personal business for the summer months. Retired for health reasons, I tried the "reinvent yourself second career" concept, but am now focusing on human be-ing, not human doing . . . and if something isn't emotionally rewarding and/or necessary, it's way down the list. Reading great books like yours are at the top of that list. Hugs <3

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  9. Mary, I envy you, but I could never give up writing. So it's my own fault.

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