This past month or so has been trying, and that’s putting it mildly. As most of you know, my mother is elderly. Fortunately, she is extremely healthy for a woman her age and we haven’t had to worry with some of the terrible mental issues so many her age seem to suffer from. Sure, there’s the occasional lapse in memory about something but it hasn’t become a problem. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that she fell while on vacation in June and tore up her shoulder. So far, surgery hasn’t been necessary but it is becoming clear with every day that passes that the issue isn’t “if” but “when” it will be. She still can’t drive more than a mile or two. She can’t do many of the things she is used to doing and, well, she isn’t handling this decline in her independence well.
Not that I blame her one bit.
But it has meant adapting on both our parts. For her, it’s meant having to adapt her schedule so that I am available to take her wherever she wants to go. For me, it’s meant a complete change in writing habits because I do have to take her almost everywhere. One thing I learned very quickly was that she needs to do as many of her usual activities, such as volunteering, as possible. It keeps her mood up and that, in turn, helps my mood.
It has meant making sure I always have a laptop or tablet — or both — fully charged. Today, it’s not necessary. I dropped her off earlier this morning for her volunteering gig and will pick her up in a couple of hours. Total road time, assuming no problems with traffic will be less than half an hour. That’s not bad.
Except it interrupts the writing process.
Tomorrow, on the other hand, she has a doctor’s appointment. It’s set for mid-morning. Drive time there and back will run about 1 1/2 hours — and that’s assuming no problems with traffic. We’ve never waited less than half an hour for her to be seen at this particular doctor’s office. Add in at least another half hour in the examining room waiting to be seen and then for the exam. Then we’ll probably stop for lunch on the way home. At best, that’s a 3 hour chunk out of my day.
Now, I can hear some of you saying I could write once we get to the doctor’s. There’s one problem with that. It doesn’t matter if we are the only ones in the waiting room, Mom insists on sitting right next to me. Then she talks. Or asks questions about what I’m working on. Or comments on the music or the TV playing or whatever. I know it is nerves as she waits but, well, it impacts the writing. The best I can usually do until she is taken back is edit. But create something new? Nope, not gonna happen.
Monday through Friday on a normal week right now sees at least three days when I have to put the work away to either run errands for her or take her somewhere. It has, as I said, led to adapting my writing process. Part of that means I am getting less sleep. I get up early and write before we have to leave in the morning. I stay up late and write after she goes to bed. I keep a laptop and tablet charged, with charging cords, packed in a backpack at all times. That way, in case I’ve forgotten an appointment, I can grab and go.
This has meant making sure my work is consistently backed up to Dropbox. It works, especially using Scrivener. The only requirement is that I keep my cellphone with me or I find a wifi hotspot.
In a lot of ways, I feel like I’m back to the days of being a single parent with a baby/toddler. Back then, I had to find time to write when my son wasn’t needing my full attention. That meant getting up early and going to bed late. It was difficult but it worked — and it wasn’t anything other parents haven’t done some form of for, well, forever.
This need to adapt is something we, as writers, have to do when it comes to publishing as well. There are fewer publishers than there used to be. That means there are fewer slots available, especially for new writers. Agents, because of that, are harder to find and sign with. Agents have also become the gatekeepers that editors used to be. That’s something that’s been happening over the last decade or so.
Traditional publishing hasn’t been adapting, at least not with speed and conviction, to the new reality of the industry. Indie publishing has offered an alternative to writers — and readers. But even that part of the industry hasn’t been static. As more and more writers find their way to the indie side of the publishing tracks, new tech has evolved that makes it easier to publish a “professional” looking book. Markets have opened and closed. Promotional opportunities have come and gone. there is so much more, but you get the idea.
To succeed as an indie, you have to do more than just write. You have to adapt, at least part of the time, into being a businessman. You have to look at your bottom line. You have to look at the quality of your work (not just the writing but the appearance) in relation to other titles in your genre or sub-genre. You have to evaluate and then re-evaluate what you do for promotion. You have to keep up with what the current sales trends are.
Most of all, you have to not be afraid to go back and change your older work so it looks fresh. That might mean redoing a cover. It might mean rewriting your blurb. It might even mean reformatting. The first and last are especially important for books that have been out for several years or more because genre covers have changed and the ability to be fancier (and, in the minds of many readers, more professional) with your interior formatting has become easier.
It is important to remember that, as indies, we can and must adapt. We can do so much quicker than traditionally published authors. It might hurt some — after all, most of us resist change. But it is necessary.
Now, while I have the house to myself for another couple of hours, I’m off to get some writing done.