Workaholic? I wish!

Last Saturday I attended the RNA’s annual conference (on Zoom) and the first of many excellent talks was an interview with best-selling novelist Dinah Jefferies, on ‘Building Writers’ Resilience’.

Dinah, by the way, didn’t start writing until she was 60 years old (so one of the obstacles she had to overcome – at least in her own head – was the thought that the publishing industry is only interested in bright young things).

Oh, and during the pandemic, when some of us were running around like headless chickens, she wrote two books! I am in awe.

Dinah talked about coping with rejection, feeling jealous of other writers (that ‘why them and not me?’ feeling) and how perfectionism can block your writing. Then, she was asked whether – apart from her morning walk – she had any writing routines or rituals that helped her to focus and get into the ‘writing zone’? She laughed and admitted that she’s a workaholic who often has to be ‘surgically-removed’ from her desk.

And I must admit to a pang of jealousy then. Why her and not me? (Answers on a postcard please).

And in the same week, in the newsletter that I received from best-selling novelist Clare Mackintosh (one of many writers’ newsletters that I subscribe to), she made a plea: ‘Does anyone have a cure for workaholism?’

Before getting published as a novelist, Clare set up the Chipping Norton Literary Festival (ChipLitFest) with a friend and had a column in Cotswold Life magazine (which started life in a blog, apparently…) and now, she’s working to a deadline for book six.

As soon as that’s been zapped off to her editor, she’ll be switching to a non-fiction book and will be writing 2000 words every afternoon for a month to get the first draft done (!) and then, in September, she’ll be making a start on book seven. She’s struggling to switch off, not surprisingly. Clare is a self-confessed workaholic (she also has a family so I’m really not sure how she fits everything in!). I would quite happily relieve her of a bit of that drive, self-belief and getting-on-with-it-ness.

And for the sake of balance, let’s mention a workaholic male writer: Alexander McCall Smith can apparently ‘turn out five novels a year’. The tip about the notebooks is a good one though. Read all about it here.

As I edge a little nearer to my dream of being a published novelist (and there *may* be some news about that soon….), I have realised that I might have to start acquiring some workaholic tendencies. So, my plea of earlier, as to how I might do that, is no joke! If anyone’s got any ideas, let me know.

Blooming Murder – Winner
On a different subject, the winner of Simon Whaley’s book ‘Blooming Murder’, which was the giveaway in my last post, was Margaret Mather and the book is now winging its way to her and may in fact, already have landed.

Well done, Margaret and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

Phew, it’s hot, isn’t it? Have a picture of paddling Bonnie to make you feel a little cooler…

The best way to cool down in a heatwave

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9 Responses to Workaholic? I wish!

  1. I use the notebook regime when I’m writing a novel! It’s so much easier to scribble down an idea or a plot point than turn on the laptop. Not that I don’t revel in the wonderful Scrivener, as well, though. I love that.
    But, I must stress I’m NOT someone who churns out a novel a year (let alone more). For a start, life’s too short to be chained to my desk! And anyway, I like novels to grow slowly, and I always need to do lots of research and background reading, for my books, anyway. (Close to publishing, is the time it gets intense).
    Sometimes I think it’d be fantastic to be able to write them quicker (my readers would be delighted!) but even if I could move it on faster, I know I’d have to sacrifice too much, so I won’t go there.
    I worry slightly about workaholics. I remember reading on a forum once on a bank holiday, someone boasting they weren’t having a holiday, they were going to write. I commented, yes, it’s great to love writing so much that you want to do it all the time, but someone else in your life might have been looking forward to spending time with you on a “day off”!
    I wonder how many authors have reappraised their writing life during the pandemic?

    • Thanks, Wendy for your very thoughtful and thought-provoking reply. I agree with you about not wanting to work 24/7. A couple of publishers that have shown an interest in my book wanted to know how many novels I could write a year – many of them, as you will know, want writers who can produce 2 novels a year and I’m not prepared to do that! As you say, life’s too short and there are lots of other things to do! Perhaps if I was 20 years younger and this was going to be my career and could lead to me giving up the day job, then I’d have been prepared to be a full-time/over-time writer but not now!

  2. pennywrite says:

    I’d agree writing can be all consuming… even when *not* actually with keyboard before me, I find myself noting names, places, events or music which might be useful. But that’s fine. Someone once told me this kind of stuff is simply ‘life enhancing,’ and so to be welcomed. Well into retirement now, I find myself content with the serials and stories I enjoy writing… and (luckily) that PF sometimes still accept!
    An interesting post, thank you!

    • Thanks for your comment Penny (and apologies for taking so long to reply!). The definition of ‘writing success’ is, I’m sure, being happy with your output and your work, whatever that might be. For some, it’s producing 2 or 3 novels a year – and good luck to those who can do that – for the rest of us, it’s something a little less intense, perhaps! Oh and enjoyment, that’s a big part of it, definitely.

  3. Sharon boothroyd says:

    Crikey, if someone asked me to write 2,000 words every afternoon for a month, my creativity would freeze up – even if I was commissioned!
    I wouldn’t be able to cope with that kind of pressure, so a full- time novelist or a scriptwriter role is not for me. I wouldn’t want to be a workaholic myself.
    To me, that suggests a thread of obsessiveness. I expect that approach will please your publisher or agent but we are people, not production machines.
    Agents and publishing teams are people too, and I bet they enjoy being with their families and going on holiday. The writers who make them money should too!
    Your life – and yes, even your writing life – does not belong to them, it belongs to you.
    Bill Bryson has recently retired from writing, and I don’t blame him. He’s realised that there’s more to his life than churning out a product every year.

  4. Eirin Thompson says:

    While I agree that workaholism is not desirable, I recall the notion – Stephen King’s, I think, in ‘On Writing’ – that writing can be a kind of play. In this sense it can be a fun and nourishing activity and one which is often a pleasure. When weighing up whether to ‘work’ at writing or ‘work’ at, say, cleaning the bath, I know which I prefer! Of course it is also demanding, and absolutely worth being paid for and I would not wish to underestimate either of these.

    • Thanks for your comment, Eirin. I must admit, that there are times when I would rather clean the bath than try to write! But it should be fun and it should be enjoyable and perhaps, if it’s not, we should be asking ourselves why we’re doing it…!

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