Aspiring writers are often told something like the following: you need to write a story, submit it, and start working on the next story. As soon as the first story comes back, submit it somewhere else. And don’t stop writing. They are essentially told that the writing cycle is “write and submit.” And they are told the same sort of thing about novels as well: write one, submit it to an agent, start writing the next one. But still the cycle is “write and submit.”
My writing life is nothing like that. And honesty, I’m not sure how far you can get following that advice, because the writers I know, the ones who are doing well – their writing lives are nothing like that either.
I was thinking about that today, and thought I would describe what my writing life is actually like in case it helps any of you think about what you want to do with your own writing lives. So, my writing life. Here is what I’ve been doing this week.
At the moment, I have three projects I’m working on. The first (by deadline) is my Folkroots column, which will be on vampires. I think it will start with the line “I don’t like sparkly vampires.” That’s due in early January. I haven’t started on it yet, but I already know which sources I’m going to use. After all, I’m teaching “Carmilla” and Dracula next semester. I really should rename my Spring course Vampires 101. The second is a story I’ve been asked to write for an anthology. I was having difficulty coming up with an idea for the story, but today it came to me – a completely different way of looking at the project that should be fun and interesting to write. That’s due in mid-January. I have a month for both, which means I’d better get on them. Like, yesterday. And finally, I have a story I want to write – the first in a while that I haven’t been asked to write. I’ve already mentioned it, “Elena’s Egg,” and even though right now it’s just a mass of notes, I’m already thinking about where I might place it, because it fits on the boundary between mainstream and fantasy fiction. So while there are a number of magazines where I might send it, places I’ve published stories that are interested in this sort of thing, I might actually start with a mainstream literary magazine, who knows. I’ll have to see how the story turns out.
Earlier this week, I proofed two interviews that I had done for Clarkesworld and Booklife. I talked to an editor about a project I had worked on some time ago, an introduction to an anthology, and made sure all the stories were lined up so the anthology could be published. I promised to write a blurb, which I will do this weekend. (Fair warning: I’ve been terrible about blurbs this year, because my schedule does not allow me to read books. I could only write this one because I was already familiar with the manuscript.) Also this weekend, I need to register and reserve a hotel room for ICFA. And, I almost forgot, I just received my invitation to Boskone.
Every day, I checked facebook, wrote blog posts, and posted links to my blog posts on facebook.
So, what is involved in my writing life? Writing stories, essays, introductions, and blurbs. Doing interviews. Contacting editors and other authors. Updating my website. Keeping in touch with the writing community on facebook. Preparing for conventions.
That’s a lot more than “write and submit.”
But the writers I know who are doing well, the ones whose names you will recognize, are all doing the same sorts of things. Some of them found magazines. Some edit anthologies. Some go on tours with singers. All of them are actively involved in the writing community, and actively forming their writing lives. All of them have multiple projects going on at one time, because they know that any one project can fail.
So when you think about your own writing life, imagine it not as a repeating cycle, but as a sort of vine that grows and branches. What sorts of things can you do? What can you reach out for, what can you propose or create that others will find interesting? Be imaginative. After all, being imaginative is (hopefully) why you became a writer in the first place.