For me, writing is solitary and, once engaged, pleasurable. I like to be in a quiet place, alone, and I like to keep at it for three or four hours at a time. Even if I stop to pour a cup of coffee, I avoid anything that could break my concentration. I don't turn on the radio while reheating coffee. I don't check e-mail. I don't glance down at newspaper headlines. I don't even let the sound of my own voice escape. Silent sneezes! Toilet flushes? OK, I do that out of courtesy to Jim. Cats meowing? Well, I haven't tried muzzling them yet but I have made Lila a bed beside my computer to keep her off my keyboard and by extension, off my
hands that are working to export my thoughts. A 12-pound cat that insists on napping on my forearms can be accommodated for maybe a graph or two, but after that, enough.
Lisa, Scot and I get ready to record a clip for YouTube
and my Web site (to come mid-February).Here, we talk about the questions Lisa will ask.
There's something I do in my head, too, a kind of brain activity holding pattern where I stop thought momentary while I tend to my physical needs. Then, once back at the computer, I open the spigot again. If I do it right, I can re-enter right where I left off.
The part of the writing process I'm thinking about this morning has to do with how you get your writing to be read by an audience. Writing must not remain a solitary experience. The process isn't complete until you publish and subsequently interact with your readership. Publication and readers inform the process, like a circuit that completes and reinvigorates itself. Until "Free Fall," I've had ready-made audiences — through a magazine or newspaper's circulation, for instance. "Free Fall" has no readership awaiting when it rolls off the presses. It's up to the publisher and me to let people know that "Free Fall" is available and worth checking out (publication date: April 6).
A lot of this is done, not on book tours, but virtually. It's a proven tactic and I need to embrace it and find a way to develop social media habits that feel authentic. That's hard when you've not done this for yourself before or when you aren't even sure if your friends, often Baby Boomers, tweet and blog and create Facebook pages. It turns out some do and it occurs to me that part of the process is educating others like myself who are sandwiched between work and parenting and significant others and parents who need their attention, as well.
This post-writing process with "Free Fall" has been much harder than I expected. I have amassed hundreds of links — "you should read this before you start tweeting" or "develop a presence on this Web site" or "get to know these excellent book bloggers" — that are important to be aware of when you start publicizing your book. Also, Jim and I bought a bunch of books from Amazon about marketing books, blogging, tweeting, Web site design. One book alone provided a lifetime's worth of excellent tips. Combine all the research and learning with getting a Web site up, a blog or two going, figuring out how to get a Twitter following when most of your friends don't tweet, etc., and my reliably calm, organized and systematic functioning exploded. I've been a zombie, groping about, day-in, day-out, in a state of paralytic static. It's been awful.
There's simply too much to do that's new. And (this is huge) one link leads to another link to another link and before you know it, a precious hour has passed and that first task on the to do list is still unchecked.
So I picked up my phone and began calling friends and asking for help. The Web site alone has been a major stumbling block because I vacillated between using an iWeb template and designing it from scratch. I attended several iWeb workshops in SoHo and realized there was no reason for me to re-invent the wheel when all I had to do was use the software I already had. My very creative friend George (his design business is called, in fact, Courage Creative) agreed to help and since then we've made great progress. I think I'll have the Web site up in another week or so.
Every person I've turned to has said or done something I feel I couldn't have thought of or done on my own. My daughter Ardis, a feisty and smart library manager who has a large Twitter following of authors, bookstores, librarians and others, and uses social media often and deftly, came to Chelsea and sat next to me for three days as I got this blog, my Twitter and Facebook accounts up and running. I'd still be spinning my wheels if Ardis hadn't conducted this rescue mission!
I got a great idea for a Web page from Lisa. That one idea takes my Web site from "normal" to something fun and playful. Stephanie told me to be sure to work in the right search words and more importantly, she advised me about how much is too much. George is doing a second round of wonderful, colorful design. Hope, our library director in Rockport, has given me many of the most important and useful of all the links I've come to amass, as well as names of author Web sites to check out, and so much more.
And last night Lisa and Scot, two editors and journalists I've known and worked with for years, came to my house in Rockport. I provided a Tex-Mex repast, Jim made the fine martinis, and Scot taped the interview Lisa conducted. What I thought would be scary and downright impossible turned out to be easy and fun. From his winter digs in the Florida Keys Rod Philbrick (just awarded the Newbury Honor Award for his book "The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg") has been sending me suggestions for proven publicity tactics. Lynn, Rod's wife and a good friend, calls and writes and offers stabilizing assurances and information I act on.
Jim is the best cheerleader on the face of this earth. Last night he stood beside Scot, as Scot set up the camera, to help out. He reads my book reviews, even via pdf from his truck on a construction site, to make sure there are no typos. He brings me coffee when I won't do it for myself. He cleans the cat litter and washes the dishes and takes my side, even when I screw up.
My publicity agent Andie from Seal Press has given me hours of her time and made numerous calls and conducted investigations on behalf of "Free Fall."
Authors of first books and readers everywhere: Moving the book from the printing press to the hands of not just any reader but the readers for whom the book is intended is a big and daunting task. For me the paralysis wouldn't have relaxed had it not been for friends, family and the help of Seal Press.
This blog post is one way I can say thank you this bright Sunday morning.