A Writer Hanging Up Her Pen

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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.

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3 Comments

  1. Self-publicity in the long run helps the author and it never hurts to reach out to people who would otherwise not even have heard of your work. While this involves invested time, noone expects the write to go online everyday and post something.

    In the old days, the author was just a name on the front cover. Now readers can communicate and even know of the writers thoughts since most choose to communicate back. They suddenly become very REAL people whom you kinda get to know and even grow fond of (although most have prolly never met them in person).

    I can imagine that most authors would like to know what their readers think of their work (and not just the renowned book critics). It’s important for them to know that their work can have a great impact to their readers, that writing memorable characters gives much needed enjoyment to all of us, that they’re not just writing for themselves.

    So quite honestly, how can that be too much to bear? It’s just a few minutes in your day, afterall.

    • Pearl,

      Good to see you hanging around again. 🙂

      • It’s good to be back, Paul. ‘Tis a good thing I ordered Crosscurrent in Amazon.de coz there were only 2 copies left. I’m expecting them anyday now.

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