Talking about finding our balance in life in 2021 can be quite a daunting topic. So, no, I’m not going to talk about balancing the myriad important tasks such as protecting ourselves and others from COVID or working from home with multiple distractions or any of the other huge topics.
I’m going to be talking about a very narrow topic for writers, although the same discussion could be had for many other occupations.
Balancing our writing with improving our craft, marketing our work, and research:
Whether a fiction or nonfiction writer or a screenwriter for film or TV, the “pulls” can be so numerous for 1) improving our craft, 2) marketing our work, and 3) researching our writing topics and our target markets besides actually writing.
Let’s start with improving our craft:
Unless we are talking about the very best writers in the world, we all need to continually work on improving our craft.
And even the best writers could improve as the following example illustrates:
I love the novels of P.D. James for her elegant writing style, her plots, and her characters. Yet in one book (DEVICES & DESIRES) she ended the main plot too soon and started the subplot too late in the novel. And how do I know my opinion is sound? In the subsequent TV mini-series of the novel, the main plot ended much later and the subplot started much sooner.
Now I suspect that when a writer has become as famous as P.D. James had, an editor at a publishing house is loath to recommend changes to such an established author. Yet it would have made for a stronger novel if someone had suggested this change to P.D. James.
Thus on the topic of continuing education for writers – we can find numerous resources online. In fact, one lemonade serving of the lemons of the pandemic is that many more writing courses and webinars are now available online.
And here is where balance comes in: If we try to gobble up as many of these courses and webinars as possible, we may have no time remaining to actually write. Yet to only write without trying to improve our writing risks a result of stale writing.
Marketing our work:
Writing is always only part of the business of being a writer – and I do mean business. Because writing by itself doesn’t get that writing in front of readers or viewers. And isn’t that why we writers write? To share stories or thoughts with others.
Perhaps a first step is knowing about the actual business side of book publishing or screenplay writing. And this step can be covered relatively easy by reading books and articles or by attending webinars.
Assuming you’ve got the business side covered, what can you do to help move your career along (marketing) without taking too much time away from writing?
Networking is good – even remotely. It can be a first-time “meeting” or a relationship that builds over time. Online places to network during the pandemic can range from Zoom meetings of meetup.com groups to those of national and local organizations. (Just be sure to try to help others as you want others to help you.)
Then there are writing competitions and other opportunities for getting your writing in front of the appropriate people. I participate in both free and paid programs of www.RoadmapWriters.com for screenwriters. And this company has recently started www.RoadmapAuthors.com for book authors. (Note that these are NOT affiliate links.)
For 2021 consider reviewing the effectiveness of your LinkedIn profile. If you want ideas on how to improve your LinkedIn profile, check out this free LinkedIn webinar I did for Roadmap: www.roadmapwriters.com/collections/webinars/products/webinar-marketing-series-social-branding-using-social-media-for-your-professional-writing-career
As a writer, there are two main elements of research. The first one – doing research for an historical project or, for example, on a contemporary location that you can’t visit – is straightforward (although you do need to know when enough is enough and you should start writing).
It’s the other kind of research that can really play havoc with our balance in life: How many film or TV shows must a screenwriter watch to stay “current” or how many bestsellers – whether fiction or nonfiction – must an author read?
That’s the $64,000 question as we used to say (I’m dating myself) – and one we all have to contemplate for 2021 in order to try to find our balance in life.
Wishing everyone a safe and productive 2021!
Phyllis Zimbler Miller is an author and screenwriter in Los Angeles. She can be reached through her website at www.PhyllisZimblerMiller.com