Monday, January 16, 2017

Contemplating an End to a Writing Career

How does someone know when to turn off the creative juices? Assuming, of course, such a thing is even possible. Is there a moment in time when you just say, “I’m done” or, “I’ve got nothing else to say”?
                            
Having recently reached the twenty-year milestone in my career, it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Given how late I started my life as a published author, I’m grateful for the many years I’ve had. And, based on contracts already signed, I know I’m not going anywhere at least through 2017 and most of 2018.

This year I’ll reach another milestone...twenty-five published romances (as I said, late bloomer, slow starter, etc.). That silly, but coveted, pin from Romance Writers of America will be mine.

So, again, I ask ... is it possible to turn off creativity? Or, will my head be plagued with plots and twists and the search for the perfect HEA long after I’ve traded my computer for a Kindle loaded with large print editions?

The publishing industry is not what it used to be. In some ways it’s better. In others, not so much. Finding a home for your work, especially if you’re already ensconced with a publisher, is not difficult. Self-publishing has now become a healthy portion of the market. However, making money is getting harder than it used to be. There are only so many readers with only so many dollars to spend. And at least 100 times more authors vying for those same dollars than when I began.

Promotional expenses have skyrocketed as well. Twenty years ago an author’s biggest expense was printing and mailing (yes, mailing) out a newsletter. Now, it’s Facebook party giveaways, blog tours, and hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars worth of swag.

My first instinct is to pare down. Instead of writing for four publishers, choose two. Instead of checking out each and every submission call, concentrate on the genres that I enjoy writing the most. Put all my energy and focus into making these last few years more about quality than quantity.

When I retired from the outside world at the end of 2013, I paced myself for the year prior. I looked forward to making those last few months count and partied like a crazy woman at my retirement luncheon. Yet somehow, I think, retiring from this strange but wonderful career known as “romance author” won’t be nearly as easy.

In 2013, I published five books, in 2014 another four. In 2015 it was five again and then last year I managed four. (I think I’m seeing a pattern here.) With four books already scheduled/contracted for 2017, I believe now is as good a time as any to start planning for a second retirement.

While all you beginners, or mid-career authors, are (hopefully) setting goals and outlining strategic plans, I’ll be re-defining what I want to write and for whom. My goal as it stands now is to wrap it all up at 30 (another RWA pin!) and then sit back and relax.

However, writing is an addiction and I’m just not sure I can stop!

I’d love to hear from other authors. How long do you plan to write? How easy do you think it will be to retire?

Until my next visit to the blog, remember to be good to yourself...whether it’s writing that perfect book or reading it!

Nancy


13 comments:

  1. I think about this a lot. I'm nowhere near as prolific as you are, but I wonder with each contract if this will be the last. So far, I don't think so. Like you said, we're going to write anyway--it's a definite addiction.
    Great post, Nancy!

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    1. Thank you, Liz. What I'm finding to be true is that I'm not as annoyed as I used to be when my writing time is interrupted. That may be a sign.

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  2. I retired last year. For the first time in a long time, I'm loving the creative process again. I do think we go through periods of just wanting to stop the sometimes frantic pace we set for ourselves. For me, the well of creativity has to stay full or I start shutting down. That's when I take a break and go walking, go to a tea room. Whatever makes me feel good again.

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    1. I agree, Karen. We definitely need that re-charge. For me, it's time with the grandchildren. They tire me out, but they also revitalize my brain!

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  3. I used to wonder if no one read my work, would I keep writing. And I've discovered the answer is yes. Some of my self pubbed titles have yet to be discovered, and while that makes me wonder I could do differently on the marketing end, it in no way diminishes my enjoyment of starting the next book.

    I don't think the vast emptiness of my mind in retirement will improve my life...I will always have to fill the space with characters and plots.

    I recall a famous author retiring when she'd met a financial goal. I was flabbergasted and have wondered ever since if she's truly happy and fulfilled not writing.

    Gives me the squidgies just thinking about it.

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    1. Assuming I can retire (like you, I'm not convinced), I will always have my blog. My grandchildren would like to see me writing "their" books.

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    2. I love that phrase "no way diminishes my joy in starting the next book." I feel an indescribable joy when beginning a new book, too, Bonnie.

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  4. Great post, Nancy, and no easy answer. I think most of us will write forever in one form or another. Otherwise known as 'scrawl away'.

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    1. Thank you, Kathleen. I don't anticipate never writing. I just foresee a day when deadlines become more than I want to deal with.

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  5. I think if you ever reach the point where you don't care whether you write another book then you're done.

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    1. I honestly hope that day never comes, but if it does, I want to be prepared!

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  6. Since my husband retired two years ago, I have wondered about retiring but love that I have a job I can do the rest of my life. I could never not write. However, I gave myself permission to "chill" all of 2016. In a period of almost five years, I put out an average of five titles a year. In 2016 I had five novellas and one novel released, but only two of them were written in 2016. I wrote two novellas. That's it. I can write a novella in three weeks. So, basically, I spent a little over six weeks writing fresh stories. But I filled my well. I traveled to the Greek Islands. I stayed in Venice. I went up the coast of California. And I went many more places. And as the year was winding down, I sat down and wrote the first chapter of that novel that has eluded me for two years. The joy of writing is back! If you have the joy, Nancy, you can never retire.

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  7. Sometimes I think we just need a break. I once took a 5 year break and wondered if I would ever write again. It took me a couple of years to "get back into it" but I finally did. Now, I can't imagine not writing. I didn't write so much this past fall but managed to plot a few stories and do a lot of writing "work." Once I got started back again after Christmas, the muse is overflowing. Thing is, I still have voices in my head so I have to write their stories... (I don't think I ever want them to stop talking to me!)

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