When I speak about my books and writing, the thing that becomes apparent to me is what people don’t understand about the career of a writer.
People often envision me sitting in solitude, devising sentences and paragraphs, fully immersed in my stories.
If all I ever had to do is write, life would be amazing.
But alas, that is not the case, and I thought yesterday was an excellent example of what the life of a writer actually looks like.
The majority of my day was spent reading my next novel, The Other Mother, and making my final tweaks to the manuscript. The tricky thing about making these passes on a novel is that you actually need to read the novel as you make your edits, which takes just as long to read as any other novel.
Reading an entire novel in just a couple days isn’t easy, even when you wrote the damn thing.
When I needed a break from reading, I switched over to Storyworthy 2, the followup to my first book on storytelling. I began writing the next chapter, but as the day went on, some of my beta readers began sending back the first 50 pages of the manuscript with comments, so I also spent some time reviewing their thoughts on the book.
In the middle of the day, I had a tech run for a storytelling show that I’ll be performing in next week. Lighting, sound, and positioning of the laptop to make me look and sound my best. I have three other tech runs later this week for a book festival, a corporate gig, and another storytelling show.
The pandemic has given birth to a new, annoying task that needs to be done again and again.
In the afternoon, I wrote a column for my “Ask a Teacher” column in Slate. I returned to this column just before bed to make final edits and read aloud to Elysha for her thoughts. Then I sent it off to my editor.
Just after lunch, I received an email from a translator in the Czech Republic. She’s translating Twenty-one Truths About Love into Czech and had a few questions, including:
- Could you please specify what exactly does the “oil” and “gas” in monthly lists of expenses mean? At first, I took them for two different kinds of car fuel, but it seems the “gas” would rather be the natural gas for the gas heating (?): however, there are zero “oil” entries for several months (December, April, May), which is a little confusing, considering there’s no mention whatsoever about any of the two cars being out of order.
- Also, I’m not sure about the phrase “The saddest of all the ribbons is the white ribbon.” Does it concern the symbol of violence against women?
Translator questions are always hilarious.
I explained to her that in the United States, we fuel our cars with gas and heat our homes with oil. They do the same thing in the Czech Republic, of course, but use different words to describe each.
I also explained the stupidity of the white, participation ribbon, which she confirmed is not something done in the Czech Republic.
After responding to this email, I completed paperwork that made me an official employee of a corporate client so their accounting department could pay me as an employee rather than a contractor. I fill these kinds of forms out all the time and hate every second of it.
Later, my Czech publishers sent me the cover for Twenty-one Truths About Love. I love it.
In the afternoon, I had a 45 minute Zoom call with a food and travel writer and social media guru. We were connected via a mutual friend who thought we might be helpful to each other. She wanted to pick my brain about storytelling, and I wanted to pick her brain about using social media well. The result of the call:
I should be posting on Tik Tok.
Just before bed, I spoke to my friend and screenwriter about his latest screenplay. I had spent the weekend reading it and sending him notes, but the phone call was to speak about some of my more global thoughts on the movie.
Of course, I started my day by writing a blog post, like I did with this one.
In between all of that, I made breakfast for the kids, cooked dinner on the grill for the family, biked for about eight miles, wrestled with Charlie on the couch, ate a bologna sandwich for lunch, listened to several podcasts, researched drivers on the internet, watched a collection of videos with the family after dinner, and washed and folded laundry.
I’m not complaining, of course. Every time I even come close to complaining, Elysha smacks me back into reality and reminds me about how fortunate I am, but I always tell folks who dream about a writing career that it’s a business like anything else.
There are many moments of creativity, inspiration, and excitement, but there is also paperwork, emails, and phone calls. Social media and technology struggles. Collaboration and negotiation.
The nuts and bolts behind the scenes that keep the machine moving.
It’s a job. I’m so fortunate to be able to do it.