Hint: it’s not the work.
The Long Hours No One Sees
Maybe you’ve heard of authors who perch briefly in front of a screen and spew an entire book within mere days or weeks; I suspect foul play there, in either the process or the product.
My two rotting novels, both of which have never seen the light of day, came to me as if transmitted from the beyond; and although they required huge hefts of energy, the gist of each one took less than a year.
However, my four nonfiction books each entailed about three years’ labor to get from outline/proposal to publication. And that’s all right with me. Working long hours deep into the dark of night, losing my life balance logging too many hours during the weekend, and toiling through dozens of drafts long past any reasonable human’s standards, appeal to me in a bizarre way.
Along the way, I’ve lost count of the number of people in my life who’ve insisted they will someday write the book that bounces around inside their head. Why don’t they just put in what I call “butt in the chair time”–even if only an hour here and there–and get it done? Because writing requires extreme dedication and persistence.
The Safety of My Home Office
Interviewing people for the MY JOB book series took me literally around the world (to many places I probably shouldn’t have gone), but after collecting material in the field I was able to limp home to the safety of my own desk, coffeemaker, couch, and blankie.
Perhaps you’ve only recently discovered, compliments of COVID, the joys of working from home; but for me, my cozy writing corner has always saved me critical amounts of office expenses and commuting time. Far more importantly, working from home has enabled me–up until now–to dodge the most terrifying aspect of writing a book.
The Terror of Being Seen
Bear with me for a moment: I loathe being in front of a camera. People I like, and my career as a nonprofit writer has helped me over the hump of speaking to groups (usually small) about the art of storytelling. Even the ubiquitous Zoom lens can be bearable if I feel comfortable with the others onscreen and remembered to brush my hair.
But to put my headshot at the top of my new author website, because that is best practice and people want to glean something about their authors’ personalities through their faces … to post YouTube videos of myself stuttering about my book series … It’s petrifying.
Why? Because as anyone who’s close to me will testify, I am a card-carrying, full-blown introvert. So much so that for years I wrote under the stealth name of “S.R. Skees” with no picture at all, then for decades wrote under the guise of a “MyJobStories.org” website, Facebook page, Twitter, and Instagram accounts, all featuring my book’s logo rather than my face, and the narrators’ images rather than my own.
Now that I’m all grey-haired and wrinkly and have packed on my personal pandemic twenty, I find I can no longer avoid coming out of my cocoon. Why? Because no one else will reach out for me to connect the incredible heroes of the MY JOB stories with readers who, I believe, will gain hope and inspiration, human connection and job resources, from the pages of these books.
Why I Force Myself Anyway
I’ve thought about this a lot, and I’m pretty sure it’s not ego, but I detest being in the spotlight.
Turns out, the vast majority of writers are introverts, according to this blog, which cites my exact point in the words of a famous writer: John Green, the author of The Fault in Our Stars, points out,
“Writing is a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story but don’t want to make eye contact while doing it.”
If you consider that over four million books are published each year in the U.S. alone (and 880 million worldwide already in the first four months of this year), and if you presume that most authors wish their books would be magically discovered by massive audiences but have no desire to market them, then the lamentable fact that most books never sell more than 250 copies makes sense.
That’s not the fate I desire for Muhammad the rickshaw puller, Robin the horse coach for at-risk girls, Mayra the itinerant-farmer-turned-coffee-farm-owner, Mike the comedian-counselor, Tanya the beautiful dancer, and the scores of other amazing people whose stories I spent ridiculously long hours editing but that are told in their own voices in MY JOB books 1 and 2.
That’s not the future I wish for over one hundred young professionals featured in MY JOB Gen Z who either struggle to make ends meet, like Theo who could not earn a decent living before becoming a pornographic webcam model, or Chase who waitresses while dreaming of being a photographer; or Gen Zers who’ve already have achieved massive wealth, fame, and social impact, like the young inventors of TikTok and the Black Lives Matter movement.
That’s why, striving against my own inner nature, I’m teaching myself how to create Instagram templates and edit YouTube videos. That’s why I’m spending untold hours forcing myself to record myself reading aloud from MY JOB Gen Z and talking about jobs.
So, if you stumble upon a picture of me on my website or cringe while watching one of my amateur videos, please do me a favor and think of these faces instead.
P.S. If you’ve recently joined our virtual “MY JOB” community, I encourage you to read backward on this blog, because you’ll find a multitude of excerpts from MY JOB Gen Z, resources for job-hunters, and vignettes on unique people in a vast range of occupations.
Going forward, I’ll post a variety of content–but never more than twice a month–for example:
- Job Spotlights
- Job Resources
- News and Events
- My Story
Please write to me if you have suggestions for my new website or this blog! — Thanks, Suzanne
Cover image by camila-quintero-franco-mC852jACK1g-unsplash.jpeg of Unsplash.