Of the many maxims that are proclaimed as being essential for success as an indie author, few are as commonly accepted as this: You need to write and publish a lot.
Of course, that's a general statement, which means it will hold true for the vast majority of self- published writers. Naturally, there will be outliers, but few of us can count on being the next Andy
Weir and hitting it out of the park with a debut novel like The Martian. (And it looks like it's going to be a fantastic movie!) So where does that leave the rest of us? Sitting in front of our computer screens, of course, banging away on the keyboard.
The thing is, though, none of us write in a vacuum. The world doesn't stop spinning, time doesn't come to a halt, our lives aren't put on pause just because we're working on the Next Great American Novel. That being the case, you have to accept the fact that you may have to miss some things. Or more to the point, give up some things. For me, it was television.
I freely admit it: I'm a TV junkie. Even 10 or so years ago, when I had 300 channels and there was almost nothing good on, I was addicted to TV. I've still got 300 channels, but now there's almost too much good stuff available to watch. And I love it all, everything from Storage Wars to The Walking Dead, from Episodes to Game of Thrones. And yet, I've essentially given it up.
I previously posted on this blog about how to become more productive, and one of the things I noted then was that the average American watches 34 hours of television per week. It's essentially a second job. Thus, when I looked at where I could carve out more time for writing, easing up on my television habit was one of the first things to jump out at me. It wasn't easy, and sometimes - like now, during football season - it's still painful. (My football viewing these days mainly consists of refreshing the Yahoo Sports page in order to update my fantasy football stats.) However, I think it's a worthwhile trade.
Nevertheless, despite my noble sacrifice of the tube, it still feels like I should be finding more time to write. But where to get it? I've still got the day job, which I actually like and am well-compensated for (and that's a rare combination). I've got a house full of kids doing various things: sports, scouting, music, etc. I've got a spouse who's made it clear that if I plan on staying married (at least to her), then there are going to be limits to how much of my day gets devoted to being an author. Thus, after analyzing everything, it seems like the one area in which I've got disposable time, so to speak, is my leisure reading,
Needless to say, I am loathe to give this up. Reading has been one of my favorite pastimes for as long as I can remember. More to the point, my love of reading is one of the factors the motivated me to try my hand at writing (and also, in my opinion, one of the elements that has influenced my success). So the question is: am I willing to give up my reading - even temporarily - in order to write more? Or, put another way, given the volume of work I'd like to produce, do I still have time to read?
There's an old adage that I like to say to my wife whenever she mentions wanting to spend money on something we don't need: If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Like the goose that laid the golden eggs, the current system is working for me, and leisure reading is a part of that system. That being the case, I'm a little wary of changing it. Sure, I could probably crank out more books if I spent a little less time engrossed in page-turners, but there's something to be said for stopping to smell the roses every now and then. I really like writing, and I've been blessed to enjoy a small dollop of success as an author, but I feel that it's important to find and maintain a certain amount of equilibrium - a balance - between cranking out novels and engaging in the other things that bring me joy. Ergo, with that in mind, I think I'll have to continue making time to read. I may write less than I would otherwise, but I believe I'll enjoy my success as a writer more in that scenario.
On a side note, I mentioned the television show Episodes above, but I'm well aware that many people may not have heard of it. It's a hilarious send-up of Hollywood and the television industry, and if you've never seen it you are missing a rare treat. Although not exactly the center of the story, Matt LeBlanc is absolutely hysterical as a fictionalized version of himself. Here's a clip of him deciding to cut his father off financially: