Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Be Careful Spreading Yourself Too Thin

I have heard a lot of workshop sessions, as well as read articles about the "benefits of writing in multiple genres." I would like to say, these authors are in no way wrong about what they are talking about. There are indeed a lot of benefits. I am not, however, going to spend the time today talking about the benefits. Instead, I want to look at the opposite side of that situation.

Let me first say, when you read articles or hear people speak of the benefits of writing for multiple lines, we have to consider who the authors are. These are people who are probably pretty fast with their writing. They can come up with ideas with relative ease and know how to craft that story so that there will be very few times where they have huge revisions.  They are probably also in a place in their career and life where writing can be their entire focus of the day. I remember talking to an author at RWA Nationals one time and she was in awe at how one of the keynotes had the ability to write so many pages every single day and still look calm and relaxed. This shell-shocked author went on to say how she was still working full time and had one or two kids. It was at that point that I noted the keynote speaker had all kids through college and husband was something like a neurosurgeon. Makes a lot of difference, doesn't it?

And it is this time factor that comes into play when you start thinking about writing for multiple houses or in multiple lines. Your 24 hour daily schedule is not going to change. Your writing will and now both will require that amount of time. Let's look at a regular 7 day a week schedule". Let's assume you are still working, we'll throw in a kid (I'm going to to lend you my kids for this one and will show you the time breakdowns for each - you only have one), and we'll even throw in the fact that you have a few books so far published.

  • There are a total of 168 hours to play with in total.
  • 7 hours a night of sleep 49 hours. We're down to 119
  • 40 hour week. We're down to 79 hour
  • Let's say you devote 2 hours a day to writing and we'll do that 6 days a week, totally up to 12 hours that week. We are now down to 67 hours.
  • Now to the kids. As promised, I am lending you my three kids. Pick one that seems to be representative. 
    • 15 1/2 year old swimmer: He has swim practice 6 days a week at 2 hours a night. Commute time is 30 minutes each way making it 3 hours of time daily - 18 hours a week. This brings your total down to 49 hours in the week. Add in now 2 hours of weekly homework and misc. errands you are down to 46 hours
    • 13 1/2 year old rider. She (and the gender at this age DOES become the issue), rides horses so spends 4 days a week at the stable. Because of her age, we need to be with her there so that totals up to about 4 hours of time (prep the horse, ride the horse, clean up etc.). We're now down to 51 hours for the week. Add in homework 1 hour daily for 5 days a week and we're down to 46 hours. Add in the misc. "girl" things and we lose 2 more hours - Bam! 44 hours left.
    • You now have a 9 year old dancer. Dance team takes up 1.5 hours daily for 4 days a week totally up to 6 hours total. This brings your 67 hours down to 61. Homework is about an hour a day bringing your new total down to 56. But because of her age you cannot just throw her in front of a TV or a computer game so devote easily 1.5 hours a day for her which would be reading time, personal attention or something. This is 10.5 hours gone bringing your new total down 45.5.
  • Either way you have about 46 hours left in the whole week. So here are the other misc. things that will suck up your life:
    • Church - 2 hours each week
    • Grocery shopping - 2 hours each week
    • Housework - 2 hours each week
    • Meal prep - 2 daily totals to 14 hours each week (I'm going to total up breakfast, lunch and dinner here).
    • Going to the gym or working out (1 1/2 hour daily - factoring in showers etc.). This is 10.5 hours a week
    • This brings your grand total from 46 hours left down to 15.5 hours for the week.
  • But since you are a professional writer and you are published, you also have to factor in marketing time. I have heard authors devoting 1-2 hours daily BEFORE they write to do this. For the sake of this post, we'll round that to 1.5 hours daily for 6 days a week. This is 9 hours a week bringing your weekly hour total to 6.5 hours left.
This means you have a total of 6.5 hours total of free time all week. This is assuming you have that schedule perfect, there are now random new things happening. and so forth. You will notice I did not factor in social engagements (coffee with friends, RWA Chapter meetings, bridge, etc.). You can't get sick here, your boss cannot have you do anything extra and your one child cannot suddenly ask for you to bake something for their sports team.

But here is the problem. This is all for ONE book.

When you add in a new publisher or a new line you want to write, it requires the same amount of time you are spending on that first line. You will have marketing, you will need the time to craft things for your story. AND this is an important one to consider, your productivity for the lines CANNOT decrease. If you tell Editor #1, who launched your career, you guided you to this point in your life, who was your foundation, that you are now decreasing your writing for her so you can pay more attention to Editor #2, you might find some problems. But this also works for Editor #2. They want just as much of you. Last time I checked, you only had 6,5 hours left.

Look, I am not saying you can't write for other houses or other lines. I am also not saying there aren't benefits of doing this. Just remember that you cannot just add hours to your day. You are going to have to make sacrifices. Someone or something else in your schedule is going to have to give up the time you have allocated to them, so you can do this.

Just something to consider.

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