I came across this via John Scalzi’s blog. Writer Steph Swainston (author of many well received fantasy novels) decided to take a break from her career as a fantasy writer and go back to school to become a teacher. You can read the story in the Independent.
I think the story serves as a nice reminder that writers — just like surgeons, police officers, firefighters, and career soldiers, etc. — sometimes find the work they’re doing a bad fit, and give up their careers to take other work they deem less stressful, or that otherwise better squares with their expectations/desires for their life. Everyone makes that calculation on the basis of their own idiosyncratic desires/goals/stress tolerance/etc. and I wish Ms. Swainston the best.
I want to comment on one of the quotes attributed to Ms. Swainston in the piece. She said:
And it’s as if authors have to be celebrities these days. It’s expected that authors do loads of self-publicity – Facebook, Twitter, blogs, forum discussions – but it’s an author’s job to write a book, not do the marketing.
She’s absolutely correct about this. In the age of social media, publishers understandably expect this of authors. These days, it’s the author’s job to write a good book and self-promote. Many authors, however, are introverts and therefore ill-suited by nature to that kind of work. I think that adds to the pressure/fatigue associated with the demand to self-promote. And if/when that becomes too much to bear, stepping away seems sensible.
For my part, I dig interacting with readers and other writers online, so it doesn’t feel much like work. But I certainly understand those who find it a bother.