Thursday, October 8, 2009

Balancing Act
Peggy Webb

As a writer, I am constantly trying to balance writing versus promotion, holing up in my ivory tower/office versus hitting the circuit of booksignings, lectures and writing conferences. For me, the choice is always difficult. I’m an extrovert who loves meeting people, discovering new places, taking the podium, giving interviews, networking with fellow writers, chatting with agents, editors, booksellers and librarians. Plus, I hate saying no.

Fans energize me. I always return from a tour with a renewed excitement for telling stories, stringing together the perfect words, diving deep into the psyche of characters and bringing them to life.

I can hear your wheels turning. If traveling is so wonderful, what’s the downside?

Promotion outside my hometown means logging miles behind the wheel of my Jeep or in the air, my long legs cramped into a space too small as I inhale the stale, germ-laden air of fellow passengers. Interminable waits in airport security lines, hotel check-in lines, cab lines. Often returning home with a stubborn virus that refuses to leave for six weeks.

Travel also means crunching more writing into less time in order to meet deadlines. It means stopping a story in mid-stream, leaving behind the high energy that flows between author and character when the writing moves smoothly from one day to the next, and then trying to recapture that same mood, that same energy, days later.

Travel can also mean high stress and drama. On a recent trip to New Hampshire, I was scheduled to fly home through Atlanta the day the city flooded and shut down its airport. Plus, I was very sick from an airborne virus I’d contracted on my initial flight through Boston. Stranded along with thousands of other passengers who had missed connections in Atlanta, I did some deep thinking.

It seems to me the choice is not always about promotion versus writing: it is also about giving myself permission to simply be. I am more than a writer. I am a woman who loves sitting on the front porch swing in the warmth of an October sun, watching a cardinal swing on the branches of the Lady Banks rose that festoons the white porch columns. I love making green tea chai or hot chocolate from scratch then curling up with a good book for a few blissful hours. I enjoy sitting at the keyboard of my baby grand playing blues or Broadway show tunes or the haunting old spirituals such as Give Me Jesus.

I’m trying to learn when to say yes and when to say no. I’m trying to achieve balance not merely by weighing writing versus promotion, deadlines versus travel, but by putting myself into the equation, by adopting a Zen-like approach that allows time for meditation, simple pleasures and simply being.

I’d love to know how other writers achieve this balance. I’d love to hear how fans feel about meeting authors, both your old favorites and the ones you’ve newly discovered.
And I’d love for my guardian angel/spirit guide to talk a little louder so I’ll know how to make the perfect choice.
Elvis and the Grateful Dead on sale now. Visit


JLC said...

Congratulations for having the need to consider those choices! Think of those of us who are budgeting our writing time in part by the energy left to us after getting through the daily ordinary chores of living.

I've recently begun to try to write poetry again, and while I'd love to have to make a choice like yours (when my second novel comes out), I find there's enough tension in my life just in the effort to put words on a page!

Lest you think me envious and/or unsympathetic, I really am neither. You couldn't be more right about making time just to BE! Thank you for what amounts to a nudge of encouragement from someone who is succeeding. I needed that!

Deb Webb said...

Peggy, how beautifully put! It's so difficult to remember to take time to simply be. On the other hand, there is no one I'd rather be traveling with any time, any place than you!

Peggy Webb said...

JLC, how right you are. I'm lucky! When I see only part of the picture (the part that affects me, naturally), I can count on other writers to illuminate the rest of it for me.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and the best of luck with your writing and your own balancing act.

Peggy Webb said...

Ditto, Deb. We've had some high heel times on our road trips! You're the reason I often choose travel over office time.

In the spirit of simply being, I planted a hydrangea today. Got a little sunshine, exercise and beauty, all rolled into one.

Vicki Hinze said...

Peggy, wonderfully put.

I too feel that tug. Initially, I thought I had to do it all. Then realized doing it all equates to doing nothing well. These days, I expect signs.

If I'm supposed to do this, let me know.

If not, let me know that too.

Oh, I had to amend that to BIG SIGNS--ones that even I can't miss.

Strange as it sounds, it's worked out.

The most recent sign was being dragged into posting on current events. I felt the tug but resisted for all the obvious reasons. Then I got over 1,000 emails in one day on current events.

That was a big sign, all right. So I'm posting on current events, even though I really didn't want to do it.

I have found that's stemmed the flood to my inbox, so it's really more efficient.

Guess I need to ask for help reading those signs, too. :)

Peggy Webb said...

Vicki, as always, your comments are insightful and on target. And I love that you get signs - big one that you can see. I'm asking for loud ones that I can hear. Aren't we a pair! I think my trick for hearing angel voices is slowing down enough to really listen.

Dru said...

I love going to book signing and meeting and chatting with authors. I love discovering new-to-me authors. I love to read.