On Being Fruitful

I had a conversation the other evening with a fellow member of my writers’ group. We were discussing the consequences of being “slow writers,” which we both are. She’s about to release her first novel and was lamenting about how long it took her to get it done. I replied that she should keep in mind how long it took me to write mine—close to 20 years.

Then she said that when she looks at my stuff, I appear so prolific. I said, “What are you talking about? I released one novel two years ago. Compared with other authors, that’s pathetic.”

Then she said, “But you do so much other stuff.”

This has been a topic of conversation a lot lately, not just with me but with others as well. And I’ve seen some other writers blog about it. It would seem that everyone is comparing themselves to each other.

This is bad. Very, very bad. There are so many reasons why writers are able to release different volumes of work, and everyone’s life is different. To compare ourselves is to put expectations on ourselves that may not only be unrealistic but very likely unfair.

For those of you who compare yourselves to other writers, ask yourself how you are different from them, or how your life differs from theirs. You may not know that answer, but you may ask yourself some questions that might help you understand yourself better. For example, does the other author have a full-time job? Does she have children? Or aging parents? Does she have a spouse who can support her while she writes full time? Does she take the time to write quality work? Or is she blathering all over the page, just pumping out crap, and publishing it herself? Is she allowing an editor to review her work?

Then ask yourself the same questions. If what you come up with amounts to a full and busy life, then stop all the comparisons. It doesn’t do any good. Me complaining about how I can’t write as much as so-and-so doesn’t change anything in my life. The circumstances of my life remain the same.

I just found it interesting that my friend thinks I’m prolific. I guess it’s all relative. To her, I’m prolific. Compared to some authors, I’m a lazy bum. But none of that changes either my life or my friend’s life. So the best thing that both of us can do is just write, and when we’re done, we’re done.BookStack

 

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30 thoughts on “On Being Fruitful

  1. Your posts are always worthwhile, R.G., and this one particularly hits the spot for me. My first book took years (not quite as many years as yours, reassuringly!), and I am still only halfway through the second (first draft). The productivity of others sometimes makes me anxious, although I know it shouldn’t. I am a very slow reader also (see the tottering stack at my bedside), as I like to appreciate style and content, and tend to flip back to check things. And with the writing I go over each chapter or part thereof again and again, making wee tweaks and changes; it gets very labour-intensive! Enjoyable though. Lifestyles differ so much, as you say, and I have to try to ringfence writing time – doesn’t always work, of course. Life *shrug, rolls eyes*!

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  2. Thanks RG. I remember the conversation we all had about this topic at our meeting. Each of us has different life circumstances that affect how much we can write and how often we can publish, so the comparisons often don’t make sense and just make us feel badly about ourselves. OK, then, no more shame about word counts.

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    1. Yes, that conversation was one of the things I was thinking about when I wrote this blog. It just seems like everyone is doing it. It’s just not productive or helpful. No, no more shame!

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  3. Well I am JUST embarking on writing my very first book…a book I might add has been bouncing around in my head for years…many stories have been bouncing around in there and want out…I find myself musing over my characters and what they’ll be upto on any given day…maybe I’m going crazy or maybe it’s just the way I write but when a thought comes to me, I write it down..that’s how this books came about I had a dream one night and it was a compelling dream..I woke up with the distinct feeling that my life was about to change…because that day instead if thinking about writing I just sat down and did write..pen in hand..blank paper and wrote..wrote until I felt my arm would fall off. Since then I have been researching and writing notes on character development and scene plots and how the story will unfold. I have wild tangent thoughts somedays and those days I just write down what my brain is fleshing out..it maybe a scene or character in my book or it maybe a whole different story and plotline but it needs to be addressed and written down.
    I have heard that some prolific writers get an idea for a story and they write it down and then come back to it later if they find they’re having trouble developing a full story at the time. That some writers have multiple works on the go and write multiple stories at once….I can honestly say that that could well be me as sometimes my story ideas seem random at times and then I lose interest in that plot or idea.
    So to me some writers prolifacy is actually an inability to stay on one story too long and…like an ADHD writer on caffiene with wandering thoughts ,clamoring to get out of the brain, they just write and they find they have 5-10 stories and not the one that they first thought they had.
    For me of late, I have started this one story but within that story there are mutliple stories that may one day be stories/books on their own..but for today they’re part of this one story/book and it’s main characters….maybe that’s how series are developed or how prequels and sequels are born..I’m not sure but I know that within this one story I want to tell I have many smaller stories wanting to get out..wanting to be told.

    Now how long it takes me to write my stories/books will tell the tale of whether I will prolific in someone else’s terms or whether I have many books out there that take many years to write and get read by others….getting published?? well that is a whole different ball of wax.

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    1. You will finish your stories in your own good time. When a writer rushes through stuff, it often bites them in the ass. Take your time and do it right, and when you’re done, you’re done.

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  4. I really love this post. I think it doesn’t even just apply to writing….but all aspects of life! One of my favorite books, since I was in the 5th grade is called “Walk Two Moons” There is a phrase in this book that says “Don’t judge a man until you walk two moons in his moccasins.” How many books have you written?

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    1. Good point, Marcy. This principle can be applied to anything in life. I’ve written only one novel, but I have a novella, I’ve co-edited several anthologies, and have a bunch of short stories out there.

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  5. Good post on something that really needs to be addressed, especially to new writers! I remember reading as much as I could about my favorite authors and their processes. Sometimes it was depressing to attempt to follow their ways and techniques only to fail. Everyone needs to remember that there are millions of ways to approach writing and publication — each one tailor made for the individual!

    Thanks for the post!

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  6. Thanks for this reminder R G. Very well said. Making comparisons is pointless. This was brought home to me when I was on a writing course last year. As an opening exercise we were all given the start of a sentence and told to write for five minutes. We then each read our piece out and everyone in the group had written something very different – starting with the same five words. Some pieces were longer than others, but they all had merit.

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    1. Interesting, Jen. It’s fascinating how you can give different people the same excact tools and they will use them completely differently. That’s why I love watching Chopped. Four chefs all get the same exact ingredients in a basket, and they come up with 4 completely different dishes.

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  7. Amen! You are absolutely right, though I still feel inadequate compared to others. Especially on Facebook. Five minutes spent on FB is not only five minutes not writing, it’s five minutes to see everyone else is having a way better time! 😉

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  8. Needed to read this blog 🙂 thanks!! It can be frustrating to see others pounding out books, while I wrestle for time and energy to work on mine.. But, as you say, each in her own time 🙂 (Still, I need to “buckle down” and get at it, as my mom would say … )

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  9. I’m not a writer but that sounds like great advice to me. Putting too
    much pressure on yourself may also effect your writing 🙂

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