Booklife and Booklifenow: The Search for Balance in a Writer's Life
This fall and winter I'll be touring behind my novel Finch and my new writer's manual Booklife: Strategies and Survival Tips for the 21st-Century Writer, just out this week and accompanied by the roll-out of a new website for writers, Booklifenow. Highlights include stops at MIT and the Library of Congress, among over 30 events. (I'll be reporting on my adventures periodically right here on Omnivoracious.)
Booklife is a little unusual because it isn't a book on craft and it's not a book on career exactly, either. I often describe it as being about living a sustainable writer's life--creativity and career--in the age of new media. In addition to discussing the actions you can take to gain visibility for your work, Booklife takes on issues like envy, despair, rejection, and success from the perspective of working in an environment irrevocably changed by the rise of the Internet.
You'll also find information about new media tools in the book, but the focus isn't on the tools themselves. Why? Because the biggest problem facing most writers today is that they are operating on a tactical, not a strategic, level.
Writes get on Facebook or Twitter and they mistake the tool for a strategy, and they wind up chasing their tails. In fact, the most successful writers of the future may be the ones that don’t allow such fragmentation to occur--who are able to take the long view career-wise, and stop responding in Pavlovian fashion to our current need for that little food pellet in the form of a response to blog entry, Twitter line, or a Facebook status message change. Along with that, there tends to be a bleed between your Public and Private Booklife that can ultimately damage the depth and ambition in your writing. So, Booklife both sets out the options in this brave new world so you can take advantage of them, and delineates the dangers versus rewards of certain actions.
As for the future of the books industry, and thus the future of writers, we really know only a few things: (1) pulp is being at least partially replaced by the electronic, (2) individual home-grown content providers are supplanting the established “professional” hierarchy, (3) authors will have more control over their public persona/profile (and therefore carry more risk), and (4) that we cannot really predict what will happen in the next five minutes let alone the next five years.
In this environment, I do think certain qualities will serve writers well: the vision to see five or six moves ahead; the adaptability to stop on a dime and reverse direction as necessary; the mental toughness to take risks while maintaining a safety net; being brutally honest about yourself and your work; and the centeredness not to panic in times of uncertainty. But the most important thing will always be: create something unique and from the heart.
As I tour the country in November and December, I'll make sure to not just report back on my experiences, but on how others perceive the future of the book. (More next week about the tour and my coverage here.)