Balance. Moderation. These are not just words, but the keys to pretty much all aspects of living a healthy, full life from eating to drinking, and now completely applicable to writing. And it makes complete sense! As I’ve heard from wiser people than I, “It’s a marathon not a race.” Killer Nashville guest blog author Kay Kendall shares her own awareness for her desire to sprint, but recognizes that writing is a long-term commitment and, though we stumble, we all need to honestly look at ourselves to find our own sense of balance.
Bottom line: Enjoy; you’re probably doing fine! Take confidence, continue the race using what works for you, and until next time, read like they’re burning books!
By Kay Kendall
Before I began my second career as a mystery writer, I spent twenty-five years as a public relations executive. That time — combined with eight years in college and graduate school—taught me a lot about myself. My preferred work habits featured intense bursts of creativity and fascination with a large, innovative project, followed by fallow periods when I regrouped. That was exciting. Maintenance projects bored me. I was a hare, not a tortoise.
When I set out to become a mystery author, I realized I needed to smooth out my habits. Sure, I could probably produce one book in a frenzy of late nights, caffeinated days, and ignored loved one. But that was no way to build a sustainable career, writing book after book. So, I plotted my new path.
As I moved along toward the publication of my debut novel Desolation Row in 2013, I developed new patterns that enabled the publication in July 2015 of Rainy Day Women, the second in the Austin Starr Mystery series.Remember the old axiom “slow and steady wins the race?” Those are my watchwords now, and here are the turtle-esque rules I use to keep me focused on that new way of living.
Maintain balance in your daily life. Don’t give up anything that you really enjoy. Fit that activity into your writing life. If you are going to be a full-time author over the course of many years, you can’t give up going to movies.
Enjoy them. You can’t give up gardening. Keep doing that, too. Besides, your mind needs a breather. Some new plot twist may well pop up while you’re pulling a weed. I admit that the old myth of the author writing a book in a white-hot fit of inspiration still appeals to me, but I’ve trained myself to see that sanity and calmness and balance have their rewards too.
Make time for your pals. Writing can be a lonely pursuit, and trying to get published these days is a killer. I need all the support I can get, and my friends have stayed right beside me on my journey. They keep me going through the darkest days and share my joy upon publication. I’ve also made new friends by joining writers’ critique groups and associations. Many writers are said to be introverts, but I’m not. Two new pals who write mysteries are extreme introverts, and I keep in close touch with them and actively encourage them to mingle with other writers. I’m a staunch believer in the truth of what Barbra Streisand sang back in the Sixties. Remember this? “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.”
Physical activity is essential. Keep walking the dog—or running, spinning, or dancing. Whatever exercise you used to do before you became an avid or full-time writer, don’t stop. Health gurus insist that sitting all day is a terrible habit that can lead to early death and/or dementia. Besides, when I’m on my exercise bike, I zone out and then, given enough time, ideas for my writing zone in. The mind-body connection is worth protecting with sufficient exercise. Even when I’m on a deadline, I try to stick to this rule. However, it’s time for a true confession. I have trouble actually walking the talk on this.
Keep reading. Just because you’re writing your own book, that doesn’t mean you can stop reading other ones. In fact, I’ve read more, not less, since I began to write fiction. I submerged myself in the mystery/suspense genre for almost two years before I started Desolation Row. Picking up tricks of the trade by osmosis suits me better than gulping a dozen dry how-to tomes. Of course, I read a few of those too!
Believe you can achieve your aims. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” I first saw that quote on a coffee mug for sale at Whole Foods and was scared to touch it. How dare I think I could write a novel? Yet I forced myself to buy that mug and drank from it while I wrote. When my first manuscript didn’t sell, I wrote the second, which got published. My friends (see comment above) helped keep me going. I really did “get by with a little help from my friends.” (*Footnote—the Beatles.)
Keep on keeping on. Once you find what works to make your writing life roll along as smoothly as possible, keep on doing it. Sometimes I find guidelines in how-to articles suggesting that my way is not the right way. The best writing coaches add the caveat, though, that there is no perfect method of writing a novel.
I’ve now been at this venture long enough that I’ve come across some authors who do have habits similar to mine. For example, many experts advise you to write a first draft as rapidly as possible, not editing as you go. But I just cannot do that. Just can’t. Feeling a little guilty, I write my way through manuscripts, editing and re-editing as I go. And recently—lo and behold—I read about a bestselling author who said he always begins his day by editing what he’s written the day before. What a relief! I am okay after all. So, as we used to say back in the day, just keep on truckin’.
Kay Kendall, the author of Desolation Row and Rainy Day Women, is a reformed public relations executive who won international awards for her work. Kendall lives in Texas with her Canadian-born husband, three house rabbits and spaniel Wills. She has degrees in Russian and Soviet history, and her book titles show she’s a Bob Dylan buff.
(To be a part of the Killer Nashville Guest Blog, send a query to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you. Thanks to Tom Wood, Maria Giordano, Will Chessor, Clay Janeway, and publisher/editorial director Clay Stafford for their assistance in putting together this week’s blog. And for more writer resources, visit us at www.KillerNashville.com, www.KillerNashvilleMagazine.com, and www.KillerNashvilleBookCon.com