Thursday, October 6, 2011

This or that? Now or then? More or less? Yes. No. Maybe.

Four times now over the last few weeks, I've had phone, online and in-person conversations with writer friends, all dancing with the same questions: Start a blog, or not? Develop a group blog with a few other writers, or go it alone? Forget about blogging, concentrate on the book manuscript and/or publishing more short pieces? Submit the manuscript direct to contests and small presses, or try other agents? Go to an upcoming writing symposium, or use the funds to hire an editor, and/or the time to get more revisions done? Spend time researching additional publication venues, or get busy submitting and research more later? Teach, or not?

Write today, or go to Target instead? And maybe swing by Dunkin Donuts too?

In other words, all of the same questions writers everywhere ask themselves –torture themselves with?—each and every day. Let me be clear: No one was coming to me for "answers". And good thing; I don't have any. We were simply picking one another's brains.

A few things stood out. A group blog sounded like a wonderful way to spread out the work, and fun, of maintaining something as insatiably hungry as a blog; or it's a way to avoid building a personal online presence. One writer's attendance at a conference is considered to be an "investment" in his craft; for another writer, it's classic procrastination M.O. Contest deadlines can represent thrilling opportunity, or intimidation-inducing paralysis.

Finally, all we could conclude was that there is no "right" time to do, or not do, any of these things, only what feels right at the time, or what makes sense in the larger context of the writer's life and goals, time constraints and interests.

Which either means we are all, always, back at square one, and – or? -- that there is a lot (maybe too much) freedom in this thing we call a writer's life. Decisions, decisions. More of this? Less of that? Now? Later? Maybe? Ever? Never?

Obviously, I waver on some, no make that all of the many dizzying options and possible paths. Readers of this blog know that sometimes I'm here several times a week for weeks in a row, and then I go missing for a week, a month, more. Sometimes it's a conscious decision (if I am working to meet a client or editorial deadline, say), and sometimes I simply feel that it's the right time to be putting all of my writing energies elsewhere.

I don't claim to know the right, best or most intelligent way to apportion writing time and energies across all of the activities I mentioned above – blogging, submissions, revisions, new drafts, research, contests, teaching-- only that it's necessary to engage, every day, in the activity of trying to sort it out. Some days, doing what feels right at the time. Other days, doing what needs to be done because I've agreed to deadlines, signed a contract, accepted students, made promises to clients, editors, publishers.

In the meantime, in the background, I have been mulling over something I heard. A writing acquaintance told me he quit nearly all online activities for a year because, "The blog ate the book (manuscript), and then Twitter ate the blog." Interesting. And not necessarily in a good way. I take what he said seriously. And yet I also know that I'm the kind of person (kind of writer?) who usually gets more done when I have more to get done.


Over the past week or two, the four writer friends with whom I talked about these pesky time-and-energy-apportioning questions have made some decisions, put off some decisions, decided to not decide on other issues.

Me too.

So I'll be here, but sometimes not, because I'll also be researching, writing, teaching, submitting, editing, revising. Deciding, every day.