Thursday, October 15, 2009

Because there’s one main problem with working with books...

Actually, like any career, there’s more than just one potential problem, but while the crazy and rude phone calls and everyone I’ve ever met in my life coming out of the woodwork to tell me they’ve written a book! is sometimes annoying, it’s not anything I can’t handle. (I mean c’mon, I was a high school teacher before this, I can handle almost anything at this point).

But what I’ve come to worry about is my love and enjoyment of reading.

Don't worry I haven't lost my love of reading. But I've heard a few people mention how their own love of reading changed as they got into the industry, and that worries me.


Before publishing, I was the type of person who spent waking weekend moments nose buried in a book, who read every book in one sitting, and managed to read 11 books in five days during that silly week off we got from school in February. When I moved from California, the 16 ft truck I rented to transport my belongings cross country was 75% filled with boxes of books, and the TBR room – formerly known as my bedroom – is even bigger than it was a few months ago (see pictures here). Trust me I still am this type of person.

That’s why I decided I wanted to switch careers and go into publishing. I distinctly remember joking with one of my students a few years ago when I was first thinking of going in a different direction. She asked what I would love to get paid for doing, and I’d said reading. But I’ve realized reading is like many other hobbies, when it becomes a job some of the things you love about it start to taper away.

Now don’t get me wrong, I still love my job. There is nothing better than finding a manuscript that I can obsess over, a manuscript that keeps me awake at night because I’m so hung up on what’s happening in the character’s lives, and then finding the right editors for that manuscript, submitting to them and hoping, praying, and waiting on the edge of my seat while trying to get that manuscript published. But wading through all the queries and requested manuscripts does take a toll on people and lately I’ve found myself ready to fall in front of the TV and zone out for a few hours on the weekend before picking up that manuscript on top of the TBR pile. I'm procrastinating - putting off reading!

I don’t want to turn to TV to procrastinate reading – that’s never been me. So I’ve thought a lot about it and realized the best way to stave off the manuscript blues is to make sure I’m reading actual books as much as I can. This might seem like a duh! option, but even just this week I’ve fallen pray to manuscripts. I started reading Beautiful by Amy Reed last week, and I really want to finish it, but the manuscripts are piling up, and every time in the last week when I get on the train and the two hours of free time present themselves, I choose to try to catch up on work rather than read the book.

I need to find a balance, self-impose some sort of limits, so that I don’t go all “psycho workaholic crazy” as one of my students used to say (while not the most creative phrase, it did accurately describe my behavior at the time), and don’t lose the very reasons I wanted to go into publishing in the first place.

13 comments:

Ash. Elizabeth said...

Look at how far you've come in the publishing world! Balancing your time will be a piece of cake for you. I'm sure the new career just takes some getting used to. I have no experience in the matter though, so feel free to ignore me :)

Susan Adrian said...

Nooo, don't stop loving to read!!

Well, I know you won't. You're right, you'll just have to find a balance!!

(I need you to read my books too, after all) :)

suzie said...

I hope I don't sound to negative - I still really LOVE to read. :)

And don't worry Suze I look forward to reading your books!

Amanda Hannah said...

You don't sound negative at all. I think it could definitely be an easy job to burnout on if you don't give yourself breaks.

Pretty books already wrapped up in their covers are enjoyable because you don't have to read it from an agent's frame of mind. It's not work, but enjoyment.

Take the weekends and evenings off like most others do! You deserve a break every now and then too :)

Cassandra said...

Suzie! Give us interns your piles of work and go take a load off this weekend! Go read something that's already been amazing-fied and let us weed through the slush for a while.

RKCharron said...

Hi Suzie :)
Thanks for sharing today.
Great advice from the other commentors.
I can't add any better.
:)
All the best,
RKCharron
xoxo

Julie said...

As another former teacher who was a workaholic then and now, I completely understand your goal to achieve balance. For me, it's balancing the 40-hour work week, my writing, and getting out and having a life. It's tough, and I think the hardest part is accepting that I can't do everything. I've had to accept that in order to have a life, writing and marketing are moving along at a much slower pace. It still chafes, but so does not having any balance, writing all the time, and not getting out into the world (other than for work).

So, trust me, you're not alone and it's okay to slow down and breathe.

Thanks for the post.

Victoria Schwab said...

I think eyes change when the line between passion/pleasure and work blurs. I know that when I was in school, learning about design, my vision began to shift. Suddenly I couldn't just enjoy signs, or graphics, or type, because I needed to understand WHY they were successful (or not) and what made them tick. And with writing a similar shift happened. When I was reading a great book, some small piece of me remained rational, going back through to figure out WHY, and HOW. You bring to the table a new awareness, for better or worse.

But the good news is that I bet the really, really promising books still make your heart flutter, and you can still fall away in a great piece of writing. Maybe it just takes an even BETTER piece to make that happen, and maybe you've got one foot in the professional ring at all time, but you're so passionate, and I know you'll find and hold on to the good parts of the venn diagram that is your work/pleasure life.

But if you do ever need an escapist movie, or show, let me know :p

Lisa Dez said...

I can see what you saying because I love to read more than anything (except writing, of course) but I have a huge aversion to reading anything I HAVE to read. (ie: work realated journals, etc.)


You absolutley need to take care of yourself, and part of that is reading for pleasure if that's how you relax. Maybe designate a couple of days a week on the train that you'll read what you want to, not what you have to.

Michelle said...

I've always wondered how agents balance reading for pleasure and reading for work...or "work", if the manuscript is great! I LOVE reading, but I can totally see how you'd feel a little burned out every now and then.

Plus I think procrastination is a natural thing for anyone to do, whether they love their job or not!

Alexia561 said...

Think it's hard to find a balance no matter what you do, but must be doubly frustrating when your work reading crosses over into your pleasure reaings. Good luck!

Nerine Dorman said...

Tsk. If I read one novel a month for pleasure now it's a lot. I review about two or three but they're not "it" novels I WANT to read. Then there's the fact that I edit. I sometimes read the same novel four or five times.

Then, sometimes, I break my own rule when people say to me, "I have/my niece has/my mom has written this novel, can you please read it and give me your opinion?"

Sometimes I have to resist reaching for the red pen when reading published novels because even then I see mistakes and spots where grammar could have been tighter.

Ah, the woes of an editor... **sigh**

Joanna said...

Ugh. I know, Suzie! We should start an office book club to keep it up. Hey wait...we should really do this...

!!!

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Five Random Things About Suzie

1. I drink so much orange soda, it's probably running through my veins. I've been known to go through a twelve pack of diet sunkist in a day.

2. I'm legitimately nocturnal (or a vampire). I will be so exhausted at two pm that I'm falling asleep standing up - it has happened before, at Six Flags no less - but as soon as the sun goes down I'm wide awake.

3. I have a gorgeous unused $6000 Reem Acra wedding dress hanging in my closet, and it showed up on my doorstep the same day my (now ex) fiance broke up with me. And thank God for that. I wouldn't have wanted to waste that dress on him.

4. Social anxiety plagues me daily. I write a script and practice in front of the mirror when I have to make a phone call, but most people who interact with me have no idea how nervous I am (or perhaps they lie) because I've worked so hard to try to overcome it.

5. I'm actually worried that I will never love my children (when I do have them in the far off future) as much as I love my dogs. I just like animals better than people - they're sweet and innocent and soft and furry - is that so wrong?