Now let me get this clear from the outset – I haven’t joined a circus (although I can actually juggle which I’m rather proud of), but I have become a published author. And this has meant being able to perform, juggle and do a lot of balancing.
My debut book, ‘Grace-Ella: Spells for Beginners’ published mid-September. I had a fantastic launch day for my book, which I’ve already blogged about. For quite some time, I floated on my very own pink, sparkly fluffy cloud …
I had worked hard, sweated, cried, done a lot of dramatic sighing and hidden under my duvet for lengthy periods of time, but I had finally achieved my dream. I am a published author … So now it’s time to lounge around reading leisurely, supping expensive champagne, casually jotting down notes for my next book as there’s no hurry because my bank account is kerchinging incessantly and the holiday home in France is on a not too distant horizon.
Sigh. Of course, this is not the reality. Well, not for the majority of us. Having your book out there in the world is a massive achievement. And every time I see it on the shelf in a bookshop, my heart does a little flippety-flip and a rather silly smile adorns my face.
But this is only the start of the journey. I want to write more books. Yes, I may well be a published author now, but what I really and truly am, is a writer. I love to write. I love words – the way they sound, the way they feel. I love the anticipation of a story beginning to take root and flourish in my mind. I write because I couldn’t not write. Being published is the absolute gold-plated icing on the top.
My intention, if I was able to get ‘Grace-Ella’ published’, has always been for it to be the first in a series of books. This of course means sitting down and writing the second book. But since publishing ‘Spells for Beginners’, I’ve had invites to do storytelling sessions and book signings and I haven’t wanted to turn them down, as the more I get out and about promoting my book, the more copies of my book will sell (hopefully).
So this is where the circus tricks come in. If, like me, your writing time is fairly limited due to work/ill health/family, then finding the right balance is crucial. How much time do you give to the promotional events of your book and social media, and how much time do you stay at home and write? It’s not an easy balance to achieve.
I have never been the best person at saying ‘no’ to others. So when my book came out and generated a bit of a buzz, I got swept along, buzzing away like a busy bee. Yeses have popped out of my mouth like bubbles from a goldfish. I’ve juggled childcare around these events, but I have forgotten all about finding the right balance.
Now suddenly it’s December and I’ve barely had time to sit down and write. Book 2 has been hollering, but the hollering has been drowned out by the buzzing. This means that all of a sudden, panic has set in (along with the dramatic flailing of arms and throwing myself onto our new sofa – well I had to be a little self-indulgent for achieving my dream). I had planned on finishing a rather polished first draft of Book 2 by the end of January. Argh!!!
Once the panic subsided a smidgen, I sat myself down and gave myself a talking to (in the comfort of my own living room, on my new sofa, so as not to generate too many funny looks). Look, I said, it’s time to stop the performing and the juggling. It’s time to find that balance. It’s time to flex those fingers and get writing. You need to write Book 2, I said, and you want it written by the end of January. Your writing time is limited to four mornings a week. You have enjoyed most of the events, but I’m afraid you have to start saying no. You have to get into that beautifully decorated office, sit your bottom on the chair and write.
After my stern talking to, I have made the decision that I will do no events during January, but will burrow myself away and get Book 2 written. The events I have done, I feel proud of and feel that they have promoted my book and have been beneficial. If I can get a first draft written of Book 2 by the end of January/early February, then I shall be free to do some events once again.
I already have two events lined up for March – ‘Spread the Word’ festival for World Book Day and then Cardiff Children’s Literature Festival *excited squeal* I also intend on doing several more school visits (because I love them).
Despite having been a primary school teacher for thirteen years, doing an event as an author has been completely different. After my launch day, my first ‘event’ was a Halloween writing workshop. I dreaded it in the days running up to it. How was I going to be able to be not-teacherish? But, once I started and the children responded positively and enthusiastically towards me, I began to settle down. I began to perform. I wasn’t Mrs Jones the teacher, or Sharon who has suffered a catastrophic life event. I was Sharon Marie Jones the author. And I had a fantastic day. Yes, I was absolutely exhausted at the end of it, but for the first time in a very long time, I had enjoyed being with a room full of children. They were fantastic.
So followed more storytelling events which I thoroughly enjoyed, simply because the children were so excited and enthusiastic – it would be impossible not to enjoy being with them. And that’s how I got swept along, saying yes to book signings, storytelling sessions and school visits.
But, following a rather disastrous session, where I met a living, breathing Veruca Salt, who’s parents sat beaming proudly at their angel as I wrestled with her for my magic wand and ducked from flying potion bottles, I made my decision that I would have a break from events.
January will be given solely to writing, before the performing begins once again. Events are fantastic. Seeing children get so excited by your book is an amazing feeling. Hearing these children beg their parents to buy a copy of your book is an amazing feeling. And if you want your book to be a success, for the majority of us, this does involve lots of self-promoting and hard work. But there has to be that balance. Being published doesn’t stop us from being writers. And writing needs time and its own space.
My advice to new authors? Find that balance and stick to it. Decide on which events you’ll do and which you’ll inevitably have to either turn down, or put on hold. Make that decision and stick to it, because after all, we may be published authors, but underneath that wonderful title, we are writers. We write because writing is so important to us. And something that important needs time set aside specially for it, to nourish and care for it, to let it grow into a shiny new story.
So yes, go ahead and perform and juggle, but find that all-important balance. And always remember the roots of this wonderfully exciting circus act … the writing.