Writing for the long haul: a blog series

I’ve been thinking for a while now about what it means to write for the long haul.

I’ve been writing professionally for more than two decades now, rebooting and restarting and rethinking my career–as well as the reasons I’m writing in the first place–many times. I’ve watched other writers do the same, and I’ve wondered at all the varied shapes our careers have taken.

I’ve also watched writers stop writing, and I’ve wondered at that too, because there doesn’t seem to be any one formula for when writers continue writing and when they move on to other things. It’s not as simple as the most successful writers lasting the longest, or the rest of us stopping after we hit some set number of challenges or bumps in the road. Whatever it takes to keep writing, it’s something more complicated than that.

What does it take to keep writing for the long haul? Much of the discussion of writing online is about how break in, or else about how to manage a career for the first few books or the first few years. Those perspectives are valuable, but I’m also interested in seeing an ongoing discussion of how writers survive beyond that–not just from a business point of view, but also from an emotional and life balance point of view.

So I started asking novelists who’ve been in this field for at least a decade (often far longer) why they’re still here and how they keep writing.

Starting tomorrow, I’ll post their responses as part of a new weekly blog series. I’m already enjoying the range of takes that I’m reading, and I’m looking forward to sharing them.

I’m hopeful that, wherever we are in our individual careers, we all can learn from each other.

13 thoughts on “Writing for the long haul: a blog series”

  1. So… I was turned on to your blog by a friend of mine. Her name is Joy and she lives in the Great State of Arizona. As we discussed your work, I realized that you and I are traveling a bit of the opposite path. It seems you moved from New York to my home state of Arizona and I moved from Arizona to New York. (Elmira, New York. Mark Twain is buried here.) I have to say I haven’t read any of your work yet. However, I do put a high value on the opinion of my friend, so I look forward to picking up one of your books.

    I’m interested in reading the Long Haul articles on your blog. I am someone who views my writing as my career. No matter what other jobs I do in my life, that is secondary to my writing. I’ve been a ‘professional’ writer since 2010, though what I get paid for is mainly website content. It isn’t easy and often frustrating but it is the career I have chosen. I’m going to go through and read the blog posts you have with a keen interest.

    Thanks,in advance, for putting all the work in to these. Even if you didn’t write them all, I do know what goes in to getting people to write for your blog.

    1. Good to meet you, Warren! And hey, I know where Elmira is … I have family not too too far from there. (I grew up on Long Island, but much of my family has since moved upstate.)

      Hope you enjoy the series! I’ve really enjoyed seeing all the different ways in which writers build a writing-centered life. (You might especially enjoy Steve Miller and Sharon Lee’s posts, where they talk about all the different kinds of writing they’ve done, and Betty Birney’s, where she talks about doing several different kinds of writing in turn, too!)

      1. I honestly can’t believe I’m in New York. When I left Arizona in 2012, I had planned on making my home in Missouri. Life takes some interesting twists…

        I am looking foward to reading through the whole series. I did write a blog post with the idea of writing for the long haul in mind, if’n you are interested in reading it: http://warrencbennett.wordpress.com/2014/01/15/tappity-tap-tap-thinking-about-the-long-haul-part-1/

        I plan on following it up after I get through all the posts. Thanks for replying, I appreciate it. *tips hat.*

        1. Always! Glad you’re enjoying the posts so far!

          I love living in Arizona. It’d take a lot to get me to head back east again, though I know people who are deeply happy on the other side of the country too, of course. 🙂

          I actually spent a few years in Missouri (St. Louis) en route to the west, too!

          1. I don’t know if this will be my permanent place of residence. I do miss the desert very much. However, this is where I need to be right now so here I am. My plan is to travel this summer, so I should be spending a few weeks back in Arizona. I have relatives down in Tucson so I might bunk with them for a few days. Plus I’m attending the Phoenix Comic Con in June. You can take the boy out of Arizona…etc. heh.

  2. I’m looking forward to these, too, Jannie. There’s so much excitement and noise when you sell your first book. Then comes the pub date, and more excitement! Then the silence sets in, and you think, “What now?” The question always should be, “What next?” and it has to be asked the minute you send in a manuscript. We are only as good as our next book. Talk about pressure.

    1. As good as our next book, or good regardless of what happens with our next book, which we can’t control? I think I started off thinking the former, but have been slowly moving toward the latter.

      But yes. There’s lots of guidance for the first book or two, but less for staying here over time, for all the different things staying here means!

  3. What a great idea! Looking forward to hearing a variety of perspectives. One of the things I love about Portland is hearing regularly from writers who’ve been at it for a long time.

    1. I think any area with a good-sized writing community is great that way! After a week of retreating, I’m reminded that in-person contact is still the best writer connecting of all. 🙂

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