An article has been making the rounds recently with an interview of author Danielle Steel, and my friend Sieran Lane asked me what I thought of it. As the headline points out, she’s written 179 books, about 7 novels (not short stories, but novels) a year…which is obviously a lot.
Stories (and especially numbers) like that can make us doubt ourselves. We might feel like we’re not doing enough or are failing to act like a “real” author.
But we have enough other issues causing our self-doubt or impostor syndrome feelings that we shouldn’t have to worry about measuring up to impossible standards too. So let’s make it clear: When it comes to our writing schedule? You do you. *smile*
What’s a “Real” Writer?
All we have to do to be a writer is write. It doesn’t matter if we write one story or a hundred. If we’re putting words to a (virtual) page, we qualify for the term writer.
Ever feel the pressure to write *more* and prove you're a “real” writer? Click To TweetIf we want to be fancy with our usage of the word author, we’d likely get everyone to agree that we qualify if we’ve published. It doesn’t matter if we released our book through a big publisher, small publisher, or self-published. Heck, I started calling myself an author once I started publishing this blog—I’m the author of all those posts, after all.
And guess what? There aren’t any police ready to give us a ticket for using the words either. *grin* So there’s no reason to think that we need to measure up to those kinds of numbers to prove that we’re serious enough about our work to “deserve” the title.
But…Shouldn’t We Try to Learn from That Kind of Success?
Success means something different to everyone, and the path to that success is going to be different for each of us. In addition, some claims of success aren’t always what they appear.
In some cases, authors with lots of releases brag of their extreme productivity (sometimes even selling books or workshops about how to be like them), and the truth is that they use ghostwriters.
As we’ve talked about here before, there’s nothing wrong with using ghostwriters. But anyone using ghostwriters while claiming their method of being efficient or productive is the answer to their writing output—especially if they try to sell their “secrets”—is really just being fraudulent and manipulative.
We don’t want to get in the habit of measuring ourselves against others, as their success might not be what it seems. And while we often can take lessons from others, not every lesson is about trying to emulate someone as a virtual mentor. Sometimes we learn what doesn’t work for us or isn’t a good match for our life.
What Are Our Priorities?
In addition to our different definitions of success, we all have different life situations and priorities. Some of us want more life balance than others. Some of us work multiple jobs or have other responsibilities. Etc., etc.
If our choices work for us, they’re not wrong. *smile*
Danielle Steel’s Choices Aren’t for Everyone
In Danielle Steel’s case, the answer to the question of how she gets so much done is that she writes All. The. Time.
That might sound great and dedicated until we hear the details:
- She writes 20-22 hours a day, sometimes more.
- She sleeps 4 hours a day…on a good night.
- She doesn’t have time to read and rarely “has fun.”
Obviously, her idea of work/life balance—or the lack of any—isn’t for everyone (or most). Contrary to her attitude in her interview that life quality isn’t important until we’re retirement age, many people don’t want to wait, and that doesn’t make us lazy or spoiled.
Personally, I’ve learned that chronic health issues can strike at any age, and I’ve known far too many people who die before ever experiencing the joys of retirement. But if her approach works for her, that’s what matters.
Neither Are J. Michael Straczynski’s Choices
Another writer without much work/life balance is screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski (known for Babylon 5, Thor, and Sense8):
I get up, stagger into my home office, switch on the computer, and unless I have to leave for meetings or business dinners, that’s where I stay…12-16 hours a day, every day…sometimes average 5 pages per hour depending on the breaks. https://t.co/1J6cvgK9VI
— J. Michael Straczynski (@straczynski) May 13, 2019
Those exceptions stopped being exceptions many many moons ago. https://t.co/lf3E3MfvCR
— J. Michael Straczynski (@straczynski) May 13, 2019
I’ve been trying to remember, but if we’re defining a vacation in terms of going more than two straight days without writing, it was somewhere in the mid-90s. https://t.co/h7z5UZ4pME
— J. Michael Straczynski (@straczynski) May 14, 2019
In his case, he’ll admit to being a homebody, especially as a visual depth perception issue prevents him from driving, even though he lives in one of the most car-centered places in the country. Again, if it works for him, that’s what matters.
What Works for Us?
We have allow ourselves the same leeway and not measure our productivity against others’ choices or lives. If how we prioritize our writing and work/life balance works for us, that’s what matters.
How we prioritize writing is up to us and shouldn't be measured against others' choices Click To TweetWe’re not weak for making choices that are healthy for us and our lives. And we shouldn’t judge our ability to match other’s lives when their choices are likely impossible for us, given how much we all have unique situations.
In my case, I’m simply a slow writer. No matter how many hours I put into my writing, I wouldn’t reach the word count numbers of others. Maybe not even with Hermione’s Time Turner device.
We can certainly keep an eye open for insights or advice that does apply to our situation, but for the rest that doesn’t make sense for us? Don’t worry. You do you. *grin*
Did you see the interview with Danielle Steel earlier? What was your impression of her approach to writing? Have you ever felt like a failure for having different priorities after reading articles like that? Do you know and understand your priorities? Are you able to see how we all need to find our own path?Pin It