Yesterday on the Pink Heart Society, new author Mira Kelly blogged about deadlines and how suddenly she could not do the things she wanted to. Writing had become a job rather than a hobby and this meant changes and have to forgo things because of deadlines. Lots of people are sympathetic but I wanted to put my head in my hands and go ARGH!
When you write, there is always talk of deadlines. Some authors get so het up about deadlines that they forget to have a life and this can lead to burn out, particularly if they have overestimated the number of books they can produce a year. Over production is a good way to get writer's block and burn out. Burn out is something that all authors want to avoid.
Some deadlines are movable feasts and others are precise. Before your book is accepted, in general, deadlines are movable if you speak to your editor in advance. After your book is accepted and you are dealing with things like Dear Reader letters, and Author Alterations (aka copy editors) deadlines are cast in stone. You miss them, these things are not included in the book.
The trick is knowing which is which and speaking with your editor.
The editors do know about burn out. They are human. They understand that authors go on holiday. They go on holiday as well and surprise, surprise they do not take manuscripts to read! They would be appalled if you took work, sat in a hotel room in some exotic location and wrote, ignoring your family. One hotel room looks very much like another. There are no prizes for being masochistic. In fact the cemeteries are full of people who were going to take a break but never got around to it.
In fact, if you speak to your editor and tell her that you are going and when, she will attempt to make sure you do not have work. She will tell you to step away from the computer. The last thing she wants is a productive author to become unproductive because she forgot to have a life.
Equally life circumstances change. For example -- illness and other serious stress can through your work into a spin.
Communication with your editor is key when you are on a multiple book contract. She wants to know if there are problems because she can help. She can also help more before rather than after the fact. Editors are not going to drop you because you take a holiday. They want your books. There are always more places in the schedule for an author whose voice they love.
With writing, you do need to prioritise and if you need to be at your children's play -- schedule it and go! You will probably be more productive for having taken a break. You will feel less guilty and while you watch or have dinner or whatever, your mind works. You might even solve that intractable problem.
Equally you have to learn to say -- no, this request is going to eat into my scheduled writing time. Scheduling your writing time is important. If you are going to schedule class plays etc, then you also have to schedule your writing time. Block out the time. Ring fence it but be flexible for things that take high priority. Let your family know your schedule.
Communication is key. Learn to make priorities. Simplify your life. Decide what is important and what is a time waster/eating into your time.
If you start constantly avoiding the manuscript, you have to ask why. The reason is probably several fold. You may have also over written a theme. Writers typically enjoy writing certain themes. When they become overmined, writing can suffer. You might have to start writing other themes. Or it may have to do with you taking a wrong turn, or some other problem. It may not have to do with all your other obligations. Be honest. Is it your work or your outside obligations? Sometimes you do hit a dry patch. It is far better to turn out a good book than to churn.
So have a life. Stop blaming deadlines. Learn how to set priorities and schedule. It is part of the bit about working for yourself. It is in your hands. Organisational skills count.