Monday, 30 April 2018

When being a writer doesn’t mean writing – Lari Don

I am a writer, therefore I write books. That’s my job. Simple! Or not so simple…

It was a slow-dawning realisation for me, after the publication of my first book, that the job of a writer isn't that simple. That as well as writing books, I have to promote those books: school events, book festival events, bookshop signings, writing workshops, blog tours, maintaining a website, being cheerful about writing on Twitter…

All of that promotional activity, time-consuming though it is, at least has a direct connection to my writing and my books, and sometimes even to booksales. But recently I’ve noticed I seem to be doing more and more things that I never anticipated doing as a writer, and that have very little direct connection with my own writing.

Here are some things I've been asked to do recently: 

judge and write feedback on work by members of writing clubs

mentor a teenage novelist / storyteller

create a storystarter for a digital learning project

tell stories to librarians at breakfast

take part in a photocall to promote a book tour (not my book!)

take issue on late night telly with an academic study on how kids read books

and give a lecture on Why We Love Monsters alongside scientists talking about dinosaurs.

I’ve also realised that I’m rubbish at saying no! Mostly because these all of these projects seem interesting, challenging and potentially inspiring.

I should stress that I do sometimes say no, and that when I say yes, I'm usually paid the going rate for doing these projects. I should also stress that a couple of the projects above have been genuinely wonderful and creative experiences.

But it does throw up a few questions:

How do writers balance all these demands on their time, and still find time to write?

How do we choose which things to say yes to and which to say no to? (I find the Kessler equation handy, though I suspect I don’t use it rigorously enough.)

Why do people think writers can do all these varied things? What is it about writing books that makes people think we can do so many other things too? (Or that we would want to…?)

And what odd things have other writers been asked to do?

Almost all the things I’m asked to do have at least a tangential link to writing, though not always to my own writing or my own books. and I’m usually delighted to be asked. But this is not what I thought I’d be doing when I started on the path of being a writer. I thought I’d be sitting at home with endless clear hours ahead of me to play with stories and to imagine worlds, rather than snatching time to scribble down dialogue while travelling between school events and judging panels…

However, I believe stories can do anything, and the more unusual projects I say yes to, the more I test that belief. And the more readers, writers and booklovers I meet, while doing all these slightly odd and unexpected things, the more my own love of stories is expanded and enhanced.

But right now, I’d better get on with writing the next book! Because despite all the other distractions and demands, that is still the heart of my job…

Lari Don is the award-winning author of more than 20 books for all ages, including fantasy novels for 8 – 12s, picture books, retellings of traditional tales, a teen thriller and novellas for reluctant readers.

Lari’s website 
Lari’s own blog 
Lari on Twitter 
Lari on Facebook 
Lari is on Instagram as LariDonWriter


Moira Butterfield said...

Thank you! Today I am feeling overwhelmed by social media pressure, and so this - and the link to Liz's blog - has helped me feel back in control.

Lari Don said...

So glad this was useful - Liz's formula still keeps me right! And all the best with trying to find the right balance between writing and 'being a writer' Lari

Alastair McIver said...

The thing about the academic study on how children read sounds really interesting. Could I have a link?