Tuesday, February 3, 2009

How to Publish a Book/Writer's Burnout

Today, I'm being lazy and posting a video link from the digital marketing group at MacMillan USA. It is obvious that they have too much time on their hands, but it provides for entertaining videos. I can't help but wonder. If digital marketing groups have time to do this kind of stuff, why aren't we seeing more book trailers that might actually sell books?

On second thought, here's the real post for today:

Writer's Burnout

Passion is the spark

That starts the blaze.

Passion is the stone

That ripples the lake.

Passion is the twinkle

Before the smile.

Passion is the luster

Of finest gold.

Passion is the heart

Of every story.

Passion is the hope

When all is lost.

Rachelle Gardner recently asked about passion and training. Her question dealt with how naturally talented authors can learn the craft of writing without losing the passion. A number of people responded. Among those was Brandilyn Collins who stated, “And here's the other side of the coin. Your passion will not always be there.” I thought this post was going to be about how an author needs both passion and skill to produce good work—and it may still be—but I started thinking about the other side of the passion coin. If we pull our passion coin out of our pocket and flip it over, what do we see? That’s right. We see our old friend burnout.

Passion is like the fame of a candle. It will burn out when it has too much wax or not enough. Let’s imagine that publishing contracts are like wax. We unpublished authors are like the wick. We can burn for a while without wax, but if we go long enough without receiving a publishing contract we’ll burn out. Some of us get a publishing contract and we have a renewed excitement. We have received the validation we’ve been looking for. They like me. They really, really like me. Then our agent calls and says, “I’ve got you a two book deal, if you can get the first one done by April.” Sure, we can do that. “And the second one done by May.” That’ll be great. I’m a real author now. Now the wax in our candle is about to smother the flame. Who has time for passion when it’s all you can do to churn out the manuscripts by the deadline? How did we let this happen and how can we fix it?

Burnout is a result of us getting out eyes fixed on the wrong goal. The reason unpublished authors are passionate is because they have something to say. It’s a whole lot easier to focus on the story or message when you really don’t expect a major publisher to look at your work. We have our dreams of what life might be like as a contracted author, but that seems no more real than the world in which we have set our story. But then we set our eyes on the contract or the deadline or book tour or whatever. The result is burnout and our writing suffers.

To avoid burnout we have to realign our goals. Why did we write in the first place? Was it to get published? If it was, we’re just asking for burnout because we didn’t have a worthy goal. Our passion should be to take what we have to say and communicate it to our authence in a way they can understand.

We should schedule our time wisely to reach our goal. Sure, we want to make money. Sure, we want to help a publisher and our agent make money, but we should never let that become our primary goal. There are other authors who would love to have the opportunity to make our publisher and our agent a little money. We should then schedule our time to get the things done we need to get done. As we make up our schedule, we should allocate enough time that we are free to write with passion rather than out of obligation. Let’s not starve ourselves or overwork ourselves to the point where we lose our love to right.