Finding my balance between promotion and writing

On Thursday, Luke put up an honest, heartfelt post about the realities of being a writer (please go read it right now—all the way to the end!). There are often many years spent waiting—writing, revising, submitting, revising again, submitting again, writing something new, repeat—the quiet, largely unrecognized work behind the scenes. We long for that golden ticket, that recognition, that validation that will make all of that effort worth it.

Then, finally, success: we’re published! We think our new status will make things easier for us somehow, like we discovered the secret formula and can just apply it over and over whenever we need to produce a publishable manuscript. In some ways it does: people do take you more seriously when you’re published. But in many other ways, it actually makes things harder.

I’ve seen writers with a successful first book struggle with the second, fearful that it won’t live up to their previous work. Others want to write something completely different, but feel pigeon-holed in a single genre. An unlucky few are so stung by negative reviews that they have a hard time putting themselves out there for more. Still others spend so much time promoting the first book that they simply don’t have time to write another one!

My challenge was similar to Luke’s: It’s so exciting to check on the status of your book, so compelling to want to nudge it out into the world a bit more, so easy to pop in and do quick, light promotion. And there’s always more you can be doing pre- or post-launch to get the word out. You’re constantly wondering what else you should be doing, who else you should be talking to. It’s easy to completely lose yourself in the world of that first book.

It’s not so much that you don’t have time to write anymore. You really don’t have to do all of those things. It’s more that all of the checking, nudging, and promoting feels necessary. It seems important. In fact, it feels like a betrayal of your first book—and, heaven forbid, of that first publisher who took a chance on you and made all of your big dreams come true!—to do anything less. It’s exceedingly difficult to switch gears and go back to the waiting; back to the quiet, largely unrecognized work behind the scenes; back to the writing.

This was actually one of the scariest and hardest parts of the whole journey for me. For months after Be a Changemaker came out, I worried that I’d never be able to write again, never be able to get myself back into that mindset, back to the focus and discipline needed to dive into writing something new. It was part of the process that I wasn’t at all expecting, and it took me completely off guard. Fortunately, I had other author friends (mostly Emus!) to discuss it with. They all said things like, “Yep, the same thing happened to me. Don’t worry, you’ll figure it out.”

And, you know what? I did. I’m back to writing, and I’m loving it. I still do promotion, and I’m loving that, too. But, I’m finally starting to find my balance, discovering ways to foster the creative beginning of the process with one project while at the same time managing the more analytical business end of the process on another.

As I told the kids at the school visit I did last Friday: “Writers write. Period.” And, eventually, we discover that the writing itself is what makes it all worth it. We realize that we can’t NOT write. And we get back to work.

Writers write

Laurie Ann Thompson head shotLaurie Ann Thompson’s debut young-adult nonfiction, BE A CHANGEMAKER: HOW TO START SOMETHING THAT MATTERS, was published by Beyond Words/Simon Pulse in September, 2014. Her debut nonfiction picture book, EMMANUEL’S DREAM, was published by Schwartz & Wade/Penguin Random House in January 2015. MY DOG IS THE BEST, her debut fiction picture book, will be available June 9, 2015, from Farrar, Straus, & Giroux/Macmillan. Maybe then they’ll finally force her to retire from Emu’s Debuts, unless…

Please visit Laurie at her website, follow her on Twitter, and like her Facebook page.


Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Colleagues, Creativity, Discipline

8 responses to “Finding my balance between promotion and writing

  1. mariagianferrari

    Thanks for the sage advice, Laurie! I’m still new at this, and struggling to find balance, but even with limiting myself to certain aspects of promotion, it sometimes feels so overwhelming. Deep breaths. One day at a time. Some days go better than others… Time to get to work 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  2. My head spins with all the talk of promotion. I feel like a butterfly flitting here and there trying to do it all. Only not graceful and pretty like a butterfly. More like flitting and knowing I landed somewhere for a minute but not long enough to consider it marketing because no one else even knew I was there. Then when my head spins, I can’t find the creative state of mind I need to write. So it’s good to hear that all writers struggle with this and that I will find come out on the other side 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. tamaraellissmith

    Just like I needed Luke’s post, I needed this one, too. Thank you Laurie. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I need to keep hearing this message so that I don’t lose faith. I have not made the switch back into the writing place, and it’s so scary. I’m so glad to hear that you are finding balance. It heartens me.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Christine Hayes

    Yes, yes! The switching gears thing is hard! We have to learn to wear different hats, but then we also have to decide when to wear them, and for how long. Loved your insights here.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. It’s a fact that our brains get better at whatever we do with them. It’s so hard to flit right after we’ve been deep in creating a book. Then, the more we flit about, the better our brains get at flitting, but that means it gets harder and harder to focus and concentrate on writing. I felt like I had to almost relearn how to think deeply and do the hard work of creating. With practice, though, fortunately, you’ll eventually get better at both, and at switching between them.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Ohmagosh, this is such an important post, Laurie. You articulate the balance so well. I needed this.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Luke Reynolds

    Thank you for this powerful example of your journey, Laurie. Indeed, it is so heartening to hear that you are in that place of balance–and feeling how to hold both creating and sharing with such mutual respect and do them both whole-heartedly. Inspiring to read this–thank you!!


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