Back in 2001, I visited the Writer's Digest offices in Cincinnati, OH and pitched my idea of a publishing industry news column to David Fryxell, who was editor-in-chief of Writer's Digest and Writer's Digest Books. He liked the idea, so I started my column in January, 2002.
Back then I was writing a lot of nonfiction articles for print and online magazines, so the research overlapped with market research I was doing anyway. I got into the habit of surfing the publishing industry news sites (this was before Twitter and Facebook) first thing every morning and keeping an eye on industry trends. It was fun and also helped me find new markets for my own work.
Over time, however, the focus of my own work began to change as I began attending SCBWI conventions and I began pursuing my initial passion (writing for young people) more seriously. Then came the summer of 2010, when a rejection turned into a book contract with Simon & Schuster and a spot in the SCBWI Illustration Mentee Program. Not having any formal art training, I've been in sponge-mode this past year, immersing myself in the world of children's picture books, learning as much as I can AND working on illustrations for I'M BORED, a new picture book by Michael Ian Black (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, 2012). And then Jen Rofé of Andrea Brown Literary Agency nominated my YA novel-in-progress for the Sue Alexander Award.
I didn't win the award, but the nomination was a great honour and also helped cement a decision that was already in the works: I needed to find more time to focus on my own book projects. The decision to give up my Writersmarket.com column was tough because (1) of the regular income, and (2) Robert Lee Brewer has been a fantastic editor to work with.
BUT not having the column would mean that I wouldn't have to go online first thing every morning. This may not seem like a big deal to some of you, but the following comic (originally posted in Writer Unboxed) summarizes my own experience:
A while back, I posted in Inkygirl about cutting down on my online time. Well, that plan fizzled out within a few days…mainly because my Writersmarket.com work has me in a mindset where I need to be online enough to know what's going on in the publishing industry: not just kidlit but in general. Plus I need to go online first thing every morning, which inevitably gets me into catching up on various blogs and Twitter and Facebook and Google+ and e-mail and and and…well, you get the picture. And it's so easy for me to justify any online time by thinking, "well HEY, it's part of my work!"
So I'm removing my own safety net.
Yes, I'm nervous. But also really excited.
I'll still be online way more than most of you. BUT I'll be cutting back my usual frenzied surf/read/Twitter/FB posting. It's going to be hard, I can already tell. The biggest challenge for me: being okay with NOT always knowing the latest publishing industry news and trends. I need to take all that energy, time and focus and put it into my own creative projects instead.
I just posted my final Market Watch column in Writersmarket.com today. It's been a grand ten years and I've enjoyed working with a site that has so much great info for freelance writers, and I've especially enjoyed working with Robert Lee Brewer.
My current plan: to do an e-mail check in the morning for anything that needs an urgent reply (my agent, editors, art directors, etc.) but then STAY OFFLINE until I get some solid, focused work finished. I'm sure it'll take some experimenting before I find a schedule that works for me, but my overall goal is to spend less time online. At this point, I'm sure some of you out there are thinking, "See? Social media and the Internet are eeeeevil!" but I'd disagree. Almost all of my career opportunities have, directly or indirectly, been the result of connections I've made online or information I've found online.
I think every person needs to find their own balance.
My goal: to find mine. Wish me luck, eh?