(Pictured above: Writer’s Digest and HOW editors/designers, promoting “Art of Manliness” project)
“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his
work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body,
his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He
hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence
at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or
playing. To him he’s always doing both.”
—James A. Michener
Early in my career, I often read articles and heard people talk about the mystical “work-life balance.”
More recently, I’ve heard a term that makes a lot more sense: “work-life blend.”
It is hard to answer people when they ask what I do for fun or how I
spend my spare time. Much of what I do off the clock is the same exact
thing I do on the clock. I’m reading, writing, engaging online, talking
about transformational issues that are confronting creative people,
particularly in the publishing industry, and the interesting
So it always brings me back to earth when I speak to writers about
marketing/promotion (especially when it comes to social media), and
they say, “But how can I find the time for that!”
Here are five questions that occur to me when faced with this dilemma.
I wish there were an easy answer, but everyone has to figure it out for
1. Why are you writing? If it’s just for validation, catharsis,
family/friends, or money, then of course you’ll be worried about the
time it takes to do everything required to be a successfully published
author. It takes enormous time and energy—not to mention the patience
of a saint—and only those prepared to devote everything will make it.
And I can assure you the reward will NOT be monetary.
2. If you don’t like the idea of spending time online with social media
or figuring out new technologies, then what other strengths do you
bring to the table? Hands down, online tools are the fastest and
easiest way for unknown writers to begin building an audience, get
better at their craft, and network with others who can make a
difference in their careers. You don’t want to spend time doing that?
Then you’ll likely have to find another area of your life (another
strength area) that can help give you an advantage in the publishing
landscape. For instance, do you have a phenomenal network through
churches or a wide-reaching organization? Do you have expertise in a
media channel that will help you spread the message about you and your
work? Do you have friends in high places? You need something other than
luck and a fool’s hope to help you in the publishing journey. (As the
F+W CEO likes to say, “Hope is not a business strategy.”)
3. If you don’t have time to spread the message about you and your
work, then who will? The best promoter of any book is its author.
Period. And unless you are best friends with Oprah or TV/radio
producers, the best tool you have to spread your message is through
4. Are you willing to make sacrifices for your writing and publishing
career? I often tell writers that getting involved with
marketing/promotion doesn’t take nearly as much time as they might be
imagining. On the other hand: Yes, it will require an investment, and
maybe your time is extremely limited and precious. In that case, decide
what you’re willing to give up. Sleep? Exercise? TV shows? We’re all
given the same amount of time in the day. You decide and control how
you spend that time. (For advice on getting more stuff done, visit Zen
5. Do you have discipline? This blog is no stranger to the words
“persistence,” “passion,” even “chance.” These can all be essential for every writer. But the most boring secret of best-selling writers I know is discipline. Discipline to put in the time it takes, and
discipline not to get sucked into time-wasting activities. (Discipline
means checking e-mail at predetermined times each day and keeping it a focused
activity. Same with Facebook, Twitter, and other online media.) Being
able to focus on a task to the exclusion of all else is fast becoming a
Finally, for me, there is an intangible element here of work as play.
Authentic author marketing and promotion, the kind that builds on your
strengths, should be a labor of love. (See here.)
Your audience/readers shouldn’t feel like you are “working” when you
are interacting and communicating with them. They should feel like
you’re at play.
That’s what you’re shooting for. Or that’s what I shoot for.