My writing partner, Kelly Davio, and I got together today over coffee, work-shopping, and of course, some good-natured Po-Biz gossip. I treasure these times together, and am positive that I never would have finished writing my book without her. She has become one of my dearest friends, and I trust her literary opinion implicitly. Eventually, while each trying to form a plan of action for our respective projects, we started talking about the things we do as a writer, in order to be a writer, that involve no actual writing. The research, outlining, plotting, planning, promoting, organizing—there is so much that goes into writing a book, a story, poem, review, or article.
To be honest, most days I feel like I have three jobs: my “daylighting” job as a copyeditor with Expedia, my writing, and then the promotional work I do to support my writing. After finishing my eight hours droning away on the unceasing Expedia content (and taking the dogs to the park, of course), I work on whatever new writing or revisions need some attention. Then I get started on all of the web presence/promotional necessities that this floundering economy, low-budget publishing climate, and ever-dumbing culture requires me to do in order to stay alive as a writer. This last one didn’t really start taking up so much time until recently, though I now realize that I should have tried to get a much earlier start on being my own publicist and entrepreneur. It definitely takes practice, and some getting used to.
I heard things like “platform,” “book proposal,” and “marketing plan” fly around during my MFA program on Whidbey Island, classes at the Hugo House, and even during my undergrad writing classes at UPS. Because I am so unbearably paralyzed by all things business, I figured that I would have to be content with mediocre, regional fame and simply forgo all the entrepreneurial aspects of being a writer. But then I got my first poem published, and I was hooked. I wanted more. As my addiction grew and my dreams fattened, I realized that at some point I would truly need to dip my toes into this marketing pool. So then I started saying that I would do all these things—speak at conferences, visit hospitals, submit articles, etc—but now I’m at the point where I actually need to start doing these frightening things! Lord, help me.
There is so much more to being a writer than just writing. We immerse ourselves in the writing community, trying to be good literary citizens. We attend readings and conferences, subscribe to literary journals. We surround ourselves with other artists, hoping to absorb some of their creativity and passion. We read EVERYTHING. We watch films. We listen to music. All these things we do, we do them not for funsies, but because we hope they will enrich our writing and keep us grounded by our artistic forbearers. So fellow writers, I say this to you: when you cancel plans with friends because your day is booked with three jobs or when you finally fall asleep at three AM after revising the 37th draft of your book proposal, you are fulfilling all that it means to be a writer, and you are not alone. Kelly and I are awake at three AM, too.