by Seleste deLaney
I have this author friend. She's seen a bit of success and has picked up an uber-fan. Not quite Annie Wilkes (Misery), but an uber-fan nonetheless. This fan keeps poking at my friend about the next book. At first I shrugged it off because it looked like it had only happened a couple times, but lately it's happening more often. A couple weeks ago, she made the "mistake" of posting about something on her social media that *gasp* wasn't writing. Uber-fan basically told her to get back to work.
Um... excuse me?
First, no one works 24/7. No one. I'm a mom, and even I get a couple hours away from that job every night to sleep. Everyone needs sleep, food, exercise, and a bevy of other things that aren't work. As much as writers joke about how we never stop writing (not entirely a joke, but I'll get to this in a bit), we don't spend all day every day at our computers tapping out stories. It is a job that most of us spend more than the normal 40 hours a week at, but it is a job.
Second, an author's job involves a lot more than just writing. If all we had to do was type out stories, we could (most of us) churn out 6-12 books a year, no problem. Most of them would be crap, but we could. You see, we also have to make time for editing, which can take as much time as writing. We also have to make time for querying/submissions/paperwork/etc--all the businessy parts of dealing with publishers. We also are supposed to be active in promoting our work. That means blogging and book tours and social media. Unless an author is making a solid six-figure plus income, they're probably doing most of that solo, which is more work. And none of this even takes research into account. Authors do the job because we love the job, but there's more to it than just writing the story, and all of it takes time.
Third, (and I am a classic case of this) if all a person does is work, they will burn out. That well of stories in their head? It will dry up because everything will sound like a crappy idea. They won't be able to write because the idea of sitting in front of the keyboard and creating a world out of nothing is exhausting. It's ceased to be a joy and it's become drudgery. At that point, the author that you love? They're not only going to not be working on the next book in the series you're anxiously awaiting; they're not going to be working on anything. Maybe ever, but certainly not for a while. Everyone needs to recharge sometimes, and writing can be incredibly emotionally and mentally taxing.
Lastly, that bit about how writers are always writing? It's both true and false. It's false because of all the things I've mentioned above. It's true because when we listen to music, we often find inspiration. When we see a movie, watch TV, or read someone else's books, we're learning new story-telling paths. When we go on vacations, we're finding new and exotic places to authentically include in our work. When we spend time with our children, pets, family, friends...we're having actual interpersonal connections that we can bring back to our work and make it more alive.
Writers are all readers. We know the frustration of wanting the next book now. As often as not, we wish we could write faster so we could get more stories to our fans, because we appreciate you and your excitement. But we also know the reality that no matter how fast we write, some things are out of our control (release dates included).
We're all on the same side here, believe it or not.