Writing Anxieties: Prolificacy and Productivity

In April I made huge plans to write 5-6 new pieces and submit them. It felt like a challenge, but doable, sacrificing only a little bit of sanity. Unfortunately, I was knocked somewhat sideways by a small blow up in my personal life, and that took its own toll on my ability to sit down and write. I got some work done after I went on leave (am back at work as of today), but not as much as I’d hoped or planned.

Life does get in the way of writing and work from time to time, it’s true. Still, I felt I’d let myself down by a) not being as productive as I’d hoped, b) not meeting the goals I set (I did get two thing submitted last month, but still – I’d promised myself a pretty orchid if I met the goal – so, no orchid) and c) once more not being as prolific in my output as I’d hoped.

Why worry about it? Well, as I’ve been getting more into this so-called ‘life of a writer’, I’ve been watching, quietly from the sidelines, and there are some writers who seem to be just everywhere; books coming out, blog posts, guest posts, tweeting, Facebooking, participating in conversations on all these networks, and somehow, in the midst of this, finding time to write and having things published very frequently.

And I gaze upon all this activity and I can only think ‘how on earth do you do it!’ And ‘how can people expect that kind of constant productivity!’

Taking the latter point first (and it’s kind of related to Donna George Storey’s comment on this blogpost at ERWA), I wonder if this pressure to produce is perhaps particular to erotica and erotic romance? It’s just, I can’t imagine anyone ever wondering where the latest book by [insert name of your favourite, or most hated, New York Times best-seller] on a monthly or even twice-yearly basis. For a lot of published writers by the traditional method, prolific is deemed a book a year. I read a little while back the advice it was an idea to get out 4 books a year so people don’t forget your name, while doable…the amount of work needed for that just makes me woozy.

It does also make me wonder if people do actually expect that kind of output, or we just think they do. As nice as it is to hear ‘when’s the next one coming out’, would a reader prefer a constant stream of kind of ok work, or would they prefer a less frequent output of really decent, enjoyable writing? That does assume it’s not possible both have good work and be highly prolific, but if there is a choice between only the two, I’d certainly prefer the latter as a reader. And I suspect, despite my best efforts, I can only manage that as a writer. And I have to tell myself that that’s ok.

The thing to remember is that people have different lives. Some, particularly women writers, are married and don’t have a job outside of writing, but am guessing take on a greater share of the household chores even so, and often even have kids, which has got to be an enormous pressure. I’m single and childless, so don’t have the pressure of a relationship or the care of another highly dependent on me, work part-time and have other commitments related to the dancing that I do. Others manage a full-time job and still are able to get work out, others yet are ferociously committed because this is all they have to earn a crust.

Keeping these things in mind calm me down. Remembering too I’m my own person, work at my own pace. I occasionally think I’ve found what that pace is, and then try to push myself that bit further…and it doesn’t seem to quite work. So how am I going to deal with this? Well, my New Year resolution to submit at least one new thing per month has so far worked, and perhaps I need to just keep doing that, rather than set myself insane goals. I have a m/m novel in the works which I really do love and care about, and there is always the Dragon novel, but that really is on hiatus as I slowly research it better and in a more focused way than I was before (I hope to share the fruits of that research at some point on this blog). So I suspect the plan is to stick with my one-short-story per month, keep on going with the m/m novel, and keep plugging away at dragon research. It may not be as productive or prolific as some, but perhaps it’s the thing I need to keep from panicking about it and then not producing at all!

(Then there is the small matter of the ‘Emerald and the Grey’ web serial I really want to do…um…*scampers off for another small rethink*)