The Promise of Fall: How to Achieve a Balanced Writing Life

Labor Day has come and gone, marking the end of a summer that went by so fast it gave me whiplash and the beginning of fall, which has always been my favorite season, even here in Southern California where September is often the hottest month of the year.

I was one of those odd kids who loved the return of school days, as the nights grew cooler in my Pennsylvania home town, my blood ran faster, washing away the sluggish dreaminess that a summer spent reading had produced. Adulthood, and a teaching career that mimicked the rhythms of my youth, meant fall continued to represent a time of increased activity.

This summer I was supposed to make serious progress on my second historical mystery, Uneasy Spirits. I was supposed to make so much progress that when fall came, and I went back to teaching (albeit a reduced load since I am now semi-retired), I would not falter, but continue to write with the goal of finishing a first draft by winter break. But this did not happen.

I did get 8,000 words written, at the very beginning of the summer, but then nothing. I can blame the two trips out of town and the two weeks on jury duty, which ate away over nearly half of the summer, then there were my husband’s two business trips and the increased responsibilities that this created, but none of these life distractions can explain why I didn’t write at least an hour every day.

So what did happen?

What happened was I sank into my life-long summer pattern-I slowed down. I read, I chatted with friends, I read some more, I upped my rate of exercise, I read, and in between I worked on marketing the book, Maids of Misfortune, which I published last December. I spent hours reading through the various blogs I now subscribed to, reading the threads of comments, writing comments when I thought I had something to add. Off and on during the day I wandered through the chat sites and forums I now belonged to, looking for places to put in my 2 cents. I worked on my own blog, updated my author web-page, and obsessively checked to see how many books I had sold each day. And by August I was now selling, on average, 10.8 books a day.

I had created a nice, healthy, balanced life–and my marketing strategies seemed to be working, but writing–the main point of all this activity–just wasn’t happening.

So, it is fall again. I can feel myself speeding up. And I have decided to experiment with cutting back on the time I spend marketing my first book in order to spend more time writing my second.

This is my promise to myself. I will not work on marketing after 7:30 am or before 6 pm.  The only exception is that I can spend up to 4 hours on Sundays working on a blog post and/or my next marketing initiative, which is to reach out to San Francisco books stores in preparation to my attendance at the mystery convention, Bouchercon, in October.

I will be curious to see if these limitations will harm my sales numbers, and I certainly hope they will help me progress on the second book.

I am also curious, what do you all do to ensure your marketing doesn’t interfere your writing? I would love to know.

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