Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Switching hats too frequently

As anyone who visits Type M regularly is more than abundantly aware, I’ve been out flogging my new novel, The Fallen One, since early September. Since I’m hardly a household name, this has meant attending any number of book signings where absolutely no one knows who I am. The way I figure it, if I sell a book to someone and they really like it, I may well sell more books to them. One sale at a bookstore may lead to 2, 3, or 4.

My signing schedule is pretty much in lockstep with traffic in the stores, meaning that weekends are the only really good opportunities, so every weekend I’m generally out at two stores, one on each day.

The real issue I’m having recently is when I’m back in my studio for the five remaining days of the week. That’s when I have to switch from being an author (selling my latest) into being a writer (working on my next latest).

Is it just me, or does anyone else find that switch very difficult to do? Anyone who’s joined me on a book signing foray knows that I’m pretty good at it. I know how to engage people, I have a good sales pitch worked out and very polished, and if I’m given a chance by the punters, I have a better than average chance to move a copy.

Book signing requires an author to be very “public”, and sitting alone in a quiet room to scribble requires a skill set that’s almost completely the opposite. You must be quiet and composed to write successfully, not glib and a bit on the loud side.

Lately it’s been getting worse. I have tried segueing into my writer’s headspace by doing a bit of practising first since I find that tends to calm my scattered brain and get it to focus completely on something. I’ve had only limited success. I don’t dare read a bit, because my tendency is to then start parroting the style of the book I’m reading – which is why I generally don’t read anything when I’m able to find time to write. I remember well the time that after handing my wife some chapters of a work in progress, she turned to me after about fifteen minutes and said, “You’ve been reading Nero Wolfe this week, haven’t you?” Guilty as charged. My first-person character had suddenly begun to sound just like Archie Goodwin.

So, I repeat my question: does anyone else have trouble switching between being an “author” and a “writer”? If so, have you come up with a solution you’d like to share, or am I just a pathetic wretch who is going to have to figure it all out by myself?

6 comments:

j welling said...

Bloody hell.

I loved the bit about reading and writing. Dostoevsky was my problem. He showed up well, though.

No clue for advice. I haven't to do the publicity run. I dread it but it's been a non-issue so far.

Melodie Campbell said...

With you on this one (as usual) Rick. Publishers require two different personalities shoved into the same body. Back in the magical 90s, I didn't have to peddle my own work, so could relax into being a wacky, somewhat eccentric comedy writer in public. Now I have to pull out the PR persona, and that fights with writing comedic novels. My only coping mechanism: I don't do both on the same day. (write and sell)

Rick Blechta said...

It's the back and forth thing that's killing me. If I could stay in one space or the other, I'd be fine. But every time I sit down to write, I have SO much trouble getting into the correct headspace. It's irritating and frustrating.

And my publisher is barking at me for the new novel!

Rick Blechta said...

Melodie – how about "right and cell"?

Charlotte Hinger said...

Rick--I struggle with this too. I like both roles but I find promotion wears me out. Maybe it's because I have to drive everywhere by myself.

Rick Blechta said...

I actually enjoy driving to promotional things (except in the ridiculous traffic we have around Toronto) because I'm in a "book headspace" and that gives me time to write in my head. I sometimes bring a small voice recorder with me (something I should just do as a matter of course) to note down plot ideas. I've even "written" whole scenes of dialogue on occasion.

But it is fun to have someone else onboard, I must admit.