The Writer's Mailbag: installment Ninety-Three
Welcome to the Show That Never Ends
I’m back, you’re back and all is normal in our world. One thing you can always count on….the Mail will be delivered.
I’ve been good….busy but good. I hope you can say the same. I’m about to publish my second novella…this week…and the third is moving along nicely. Once I finish that one I’m going to start in on my fifth novel.
So, busy but good!
Let’s get right to the questions.
Exercise and Writing
From Mary: “I have another question for a future mailbag. This is regarding exercise for the writer. In an interview I watched with Janet Evanovich, she said she does daily pilates because she sits in front of a computer for long hours. I know your work on the farm and other jobs keep you busy but for other writers is there a good rule of thumb? Even in a place of employment people are given breaks to keep them mentally strong. It is easy to get caught up in writing and sit in the same position for a couple of hours or more. Do some people use a timer to avoid this?”
Hello again, Mary! You’re becoming a regular questioner here on the Mailbag and I appreciate it.
I heard somewhere it takes a month to either stop a habit or develop a new one. We get into routines and it is very hard to get us out of them. I’ll take it a step further, talking about me, and say I get downright testy when I’m forced out of a routine. And the habit you’re talking about is so very important.
This writer becomes stale and boring if he doesn’t get out and do something on occasion. I need to break up my day of writing with periodic ten or fifteen minute breaks. Otherwise, my writing begins to sound like blah, blah and more blah, a sad shadow of what I am capable of.
It seems to me you do whatever it takes to form that new habit. Have a relative text you every two hours. Set an alarm. Put post-it notes up around the house as a reminder. Whatever works on an individual level should be done. For me it was post-it notes. I have a set of weights in an area I have to walk by often. I also have the animals, as you noted, and I’m constantly feeding and watering them out of necessity, so that makes it pretty easy for me.
A Question About the Mailbag
From Denise: “Great questions and answers. This is a very cool idea. How did you start it? Where do you send questions for this venue? Am I asking too many questions? I love your writing style. It's like I'm in your living room sipping a cool glass of tea with you while you talk. Inspiring.”
Hi Denise and thanks for the question. The Mailbag began when I found myself with several questions from followers and friends. The questions had been piling up and I decided to just answer them all in a hub. Then the same thing happened the following week. The response had been so good for the first one, I decided to do another…and another…and another….and here we are closing in on one-hundred. It seems to be popular.
You can submit questions in the comment section or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll see either one and I promise I’ll include your question in the next Mailbag.
And thank you for your very kind words at the end. That’s how I set out in writing. I wanted my voice to be conversational, like an old friend talking to you in person….so I really do appreciate your affirmations.
From Petra: “A friend told me of a local arts and craft fair being held in our town in June and I was thinking of possibly renting a booth for that fair and featuring my books. Do you think that’s a good idea or would it be a waste of time?”
Well, Petra, I’m doing the same thing in August here in Olympia, so obviously I’m on your side.
Listen: writers need to get creative with regards to marketing. What you are suggesting is a risk, of course. You will shoulder the cost of your books, plus the cost of the booth, and you might not sell a book…but….you might sell fifty books, too, and you’ll never know if you don’t try.
What I do know is that people like to support local artists and writers, and just getting out in public is a good thing for any writer. For me, the cost of the booth is $50 for a weekend. The books cost me$4.50 per through CreateSpace….I will sell them for $15 each. You do the math on that. I may make money, I may not, but I’m going to meet literally thousands of people that weekend, hand out an equal number of business cards and also flyers, and I think it’s worth the risk.
I say go for it!
Another Marketing Question
From Steven: “I’ve been reading the Mailbag for quite some time now. I don’t usually comment but I want you to know I enjoy it. Having said that, I remember you talking about writers needing to be their own marketing managers in today’s literary world; do you have any suggestions for some creative marketing within my community?”
I suspect, Steven, that quite a few people are going to be interested in my answer because this is a problem for most writers who have books to sell. I’ll start this answer by saying you’ll never know unless you ask.
Check out the answer above. That’s creative marketing. I have gone around town and simply asked local shops if they will give my books a display. Yes, there is an initial cost, and in many cases you have to split the profits with the shop, but it’s worth it for name recognition.
Go to the library and schedule a reading/book signing. Go to local independent bookstores and do the same. Go to local high schools and middle schools, introduce yourself as a local writer, and offer to speak to the Language Arts classes at those schools. Go to your local public broadcasting station and ask to be interviewed. Go to your local newspaper and ask to be interviewed. Hell, set up a booth on a street corner and ask for donations. Go to community centers and teach a creative writing course. Go to retirement communities and give readings.
The point is this: get out there and let the locals see your face so they can connect your name with a real person. I honestly believe writers have to do things like this in order to eventually see some gains.
Get out there!
From Ann: “Do you ever hit panic level when there are so many things to read and so many things to write that your head is spinning and you don't know what to do next? How do you, or how would you, cope with it?”
Ann, one of the hardest things for me to cope with, almost on a daily basis, is the knowledge that I can’t accomplish everything I want to accomplish. It’s just impossible. And being totally honest, I feel frustrated most days because, at 67 years of age, I feel like time is running out for me and I still have so much to do. That may nor may not be a realistic view of my life, but that’s how it feels to me.
Do I panic about it? I don’t think panic is the right word….more like constantly deal with frustration.
And how do I deal with it? When I’m being rational I just tell myself to take a chill pill, I’m only human and there is only so much I can physically do in one day. When I’m not being rational I sit and pout.
How’s that for honesty?
Empathy and Inspiration
Again from Ann: “Which writer's style do you feel the most empathy with and why?”
I don’t know that I’ve ever been asked this before, Ann, so thank you. I would name three: James Lee Burke, Harper Lee and John Steinbeck. Steinbeck and Burke because of their ability to delve so deep into the human psyche, and also their ability to see the good and the bad in all characters. I have always been fascinated by the conflict of good vs evil within all of us, and those two writers did that so well. There is a lot of those two writers in my writing….get down and dirty, feel the gritty, see the grime of society, be part of the bad and yet exhibit so much of the good of humanity…..superb writing!
Harper Lee for her ability to say so much in such a simple manner. She was not interested in dazzling her readers with six-syllable words or her intellectualism. She told a meaningful story, her pace was remarkable and in the end the characters were people you actually felt as though you knew personally. Man, if I could do that I would be in hog heaven.
More Next Week
Great questions this week. I don’t know about you but I love the Mailbag. I learn from the questions and I learn from those of you who leave comments sharing your own experiences. We all learn in a safe environment where we all understand what each is going through. I think that is a win-win situation for us all.
Thanks to all of you! I’ll see you next week.
2016 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”