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on time and the not having of it

March 28th, 2012 by erin

This post has been a long time coming and I suppose that’s fitting, since it’s mostly about not having time to write. Apparently that includes proper blog posts. Though this is not a proper blog post, this is a long rambling thing about what my life has been like lately.

I am not saying this is how it goes for every author, the more authors I meet the more I realize that it’s a strange sort of career where everyone’s experience is unique despite some overlapping elements. There’s a lot more to being a writer than writing, between book promotion and public speaking and signing things.

The Night Circus came out last September. I spent the weeks leading up to it doing interviews and Q&As and trying not to freak out about the whole thing. I’d also moved over the summer so I was still in cardboard box land.

From September until mid November I was on book tour, or doing book-related things abroad. This involved near-constant travel, I was never in any one location for more than a couple of days at most. I was on more airplanes in the first month than I’d been on in my entire life beforehand.

Here’s the thing about book tours: Yes they are fabulous and exciting and it’s wonderful to meet people in so many different cities but they are also physically and emotionally exhausting. I’m not sure it can be properly explained, it’s likely one of those situations that is near impossible to understand unless you’re the person in it. I feel like I have a better understanding of it now, having gone through it, and a better idea of how I react and what I need to do to keep myself sane, but it was a learn by doing sort of thing.

(And by “learn by doing” I mean “learn by having a near breakdown in the middle of an airport.”)

I am endlessly thankful that having a theatre background makes the whole public speaking thing easier to handle, but being a writer still involves more talking than I’d expected. And it’s hard to find a balance when I’m relating the same stories and answering similar questions, I start to feel repetitive and awkward and sometimes my social anxiety kicks in despite the actor training.

The strangest thing, for me, at least, and this might warrant a separate thoughtful post of its own, is the sudden transition between being the center of attention in a room filled with people to being alone in an unfamiliar hotel room.

(Side note: in two hotel rooms on my tour the concierge left a bottle of wine and two glasses. I still cannot decide if it would be more or less depressing to have a single glass. Which one is a harsher reminder that you’re alone?)

December should not count as a month off because it has holidays in it, and for most of January I was too tired to function.

At the end of January I was on a mini-tour, in a different city every day for a week, and then I had a few days off and then I was in Toronto in early February, which was actually lovely because I heart Canada.

But that means it was mid-February before I was really able to start properly recovering from tour mode.

And it would have been fabulous if that meant I could sit down and work on my next book that has been languishing for months but I also have long-neglected email to deal with and extra content type things to work on for various upcoming paperback editions. More Q&As, this time from more countries, and now people send me books they want me to read and say nice things about and did I mention that there are a few cardboard boxes kicking around from last summer and I’m likely going to be moving again this fall? I’m also just tired, still, and some days grocery shopping or laundry or putting on shoes takes more energy than it should.

Also, my desk chair is broken.

All these things take time. Sure, a lot of the individual things aren’t that complicated or time-consuming but once you start adding them up they eat a lot of time. And I need to allot time to blogging and tweeting and try to have a life in there somewhere, too.

It gets hard to separate work time from non-work time with this sort of job. I have an office (I ordered a new desk chair) but it’s not like I’m in there from 9 to 5 because I don’t have typical days so I end up feeling guilty at 10pm when I’m sitting around eating gelato instead of answering emails even when I’ve spent all day working. This is a mental thing I’m aware of but I still struggle with it, a lot. I’m trying to be better about taking weekends off.

And then there’s that added complication of having people actually waiting for this book. No one was waiting for the circus. I got to write the circus in a bubble, and now the bubble is gone, it will be the only bubble book, ever. I am thrilled that I already had several other stories in varying degrees of not-yet-novel-shaped because if I was staring at a blank page right now I know it would be worse.

For comparison: the circus took five years to write (and rewrite), and I wasn’t dealing with book tours and outside pressure while I was working on it. I am hoping that I will have a draft of my next novel done at some point this year, but right now I have a few months and then a fairly busy summer (my sister is getting married in August, yay!) and then I’ll be touring again in the fall and then it will be Mayan calendar end of the world time and then 2013 because when you reach the end of a calendar you get a new one.

I’m also not going to write faster just for the sake of having the next book out sooner. I want to write the best book I can despite the complications of time and the general busyness my life has taken on. If I can do that this year, that’ll be fabulous. It’ll also mean the earliest that book could possibly be available would be very late next year or more likely sometime in 2014, because once I’m done with it it’s still a long way from being a finished shiny book.

So yeah, that’s the rough idea of why I don’t have as much time to write as I’d like.  I am learning to make time for it, though, all of this is a learning process. I have a whole new life and I’m trying to get the hang of it but I’m still a toddler so I have tendencies to fall down and cry and need a cookie and a hug.

And if blog posts are few and far between and I’m slow on email replies for the next while, I’m sorry. I’m trying to write another book, because really, that part is my actual job.

If you read this whole thing I’m impressed and I feel you deserve a picture of a kitten. (If you skimmed just to get to the kitten, that’s okay, too.)

 

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23 Responses to “on time and the not having of it”

  1. Erin, The Night Circus was beyond brilliant. I devoured every page and tried to read slow because I didn’t want it to end. Bravo for writing a true break-out novel! I didn’t have any idea how exhausting was the aftermath that comes with NYT bestseller status. I appreciated this post for its honesty and for the insights you shared. Best of luck to you while juggling the travel and promotion, and of course with the next book. Looking very forward to reading it!

  2. Jenna says:

    I think you are very talented – and I look forward to your next work, whenever that may be and however long it takes :) wish I could give you a cookie!

  3. Please, take your time. Eat cookies, drink milk, take naps. Wait until you are happy with it. I loved Circus, I look forward to whatever is next.

    I can also recommend reading Justine Musk, she says a lot about writing, and life, and she never disappoints. http://justinemusk.com/

    Can I be a fangirl for just a minute? Night Circus was amazing! Good work! It is now tied with Bridge of Birds for my favorite book.

  4. Crochet By Megs says:

    The Night Circus was the best book I’ve read in at least 5 years so I’m not surprised it took you that long to write it and I would happily wait another 5 years for another such literary treat! Enjoy all your success and try not to stress because what you’ve done is amazing!

  5. Rhiannon says:

    Ah Erin! Doesn’t the kitten just make it all better in the end?
    I don’t know how you managed the tour, every time I hear an author talk about them I think about how badly I would miss home, and kitties, and tea, and of course the hubby. Kudos to you for getting through it and being so lovely (saw you twice and you were never socially awkward! I was the one that got embarrassingly choked up! cringe).
    Think happy thoughts and pretend you still have a bubble, everyone will make due with what ever else gets published in the meantime. Now go have a lovely purring snuggle and rest up!

  6. Renee says:

    I hope your life starts to feel less stressful soon and you have more time for writing!

    I’d like to thank you for writing this post though. As an outsider, it often seems that authors are living the dream (writing wonderful books, getting paid for it, traveling on book tours) because no one says otherwise. Sure reading this makes my dreams of publishing someday a little less bright and shiny, but that would have happened sooner or later. Writing is a real job and, like all jobs, it’s rough sometimes. It’s good to know what I’m in for (if my big dream ever comes true).

    Good luck with your next novel!

  7. Stephanie SFC says:

    Kitten!! :)

  8. brianne says:

    Here’s a hug, a cookie, and a cup of tea. :) Hope balance happens soon.

  9. Alex says:

    Erin honey, you are perfect and don’t forget that for a single minute,and im so so so so so very sorry that your exhausted. Now that you’ve done it you know what to expect ,and so it makes the journey predicable now and therefore no nasty suprise ahead. Your not alone because alot of people have been touch by your imaginative mind, and so it’s like you’re a part of so many different families by being in so many hearts and thoughts. Just sit back, eat something sweet,drink tea ,and listen to Florence + The Machine. I say this because i’m a huge Florence fan, I believe her music just opens up the soul and frees it. So please be like the end of a fairy tale and live happily ever after. Don’t forget that awesome factor you have!

    • Alex says:

      It just popped into my cranium,”Are you a Tim Burton fan?” I’m just extremely currious because I am, and his style or Burtonesqueness really inspires me. ps Don’t forget how fantastically awesome you are.

  10. Alex says:

    Im so sorry to bother you at this time of exhaustion and mental anguish, but I have such a thirst for your life. To me it is elegant and wonderous,but on to the pressing question now,”Can you please talk about the books you like and what you are reading, your favorites for this year,and ultimately im currious about that gigantic mountain of books on the table with the raven mug,and the only problem I face is I can’t tell what they are to look them up and hopefully want to read them because the picture doesn’t show the titles and covers close enough?” Ps Don’t forget how much you’re truly charished as a magnificent writer.

  11. Felipe says:

    “If you fall, take a break, then get up again”

    I always say that to myself, the problem with this is that sometimes the ground is too comfortable.

    Just take your time and let things flow, your job is great.

    You’re great :)

  12. Myra says:

    I, for one, am just glad that you wrote The Night Circus. It’s rare that a story sticks with me and makes me think about it months after reading it. Thanks for sharing the touring process with it. It’s definitely not as glamorous as it seems.

  13. Nanci S. says:

    Erin, I first got your book from my library, but after forty pages realized that I had to own my very own copy; I just needed to read an edition that was all mine. I have been a voracious reader ever since my mother taught me how at age 3, and of course have many favorite authors, along with beloved books that I read over again… but I have NEVER been “in love with” a book the way I fell in love with The Night Circus. No pun intended, but it’s pure magic. You have an utterly outstanding way of putting just the right words together to create a perfect image in the reader’s mind. For once, I didn’t skim as much as a sentence – I cherished every phrase, every description. I even read entire paragraphs over again (which I never do!), in pure delight. I was sad to leave the world I was so wrapped up in for days, but left it knowing I would, indeed, be back.

    Please, please, we who so genuinely love this book and your writing, want you to take your time on your next one. Don’t let anyone make you feel rushed, stick to your guns! A cliche is a cliche for a reason: good things DO come to those who wait.

    Also, seeing that you went to Smith College, maybe you could put Northampton on your next tour? I have worked at the Old Courthouse on Main Street for many, many years, and can only assume we have most likely passed unknowingly on the street, in a shop, in a restaurant… This world being the small one that it is!

    Thank you for your book. AND the picture of the kitten. :-)

  14. Deirdre says:

    Honest, heart-felt and a smile; that’s before I got to the kitten! Thanks for sharing!

  15. Aly says:

    You certainly deserve a break, woman! That’s a huge change in the last several months. I admire you for all you’ve done so far and for what is yet to come. This may sound crazy, but there are authors, and then there are authors that make me want to keep pushing myself to write, grow, and attempt publication so I can join them. You’re one of the latter for me. The circus was like reading my own dreams, and it has inspired me to work harder. Thank you, and thank you for blogging about the frustrations as well as the joys. :)

  16. marie says:

    i love the night circus! i also commend you for saying what you really feel. i’ve seen how fans get crazy on other book sites waiting for the next book so i understand how it can be frustrating. like i always say, do it right or don’t do it at all. take your time; i’ll wait patiently… sorta :)

  17. Marcheline says:

    When life gives you a bottle of wine and two glasses, fill both of them and invite an imaginary friend for a chat.

    I was a flight attendant for five years, and spent innumerable nights alone in strange hotel rooms. I would have been dead chuffed if they came with complimentary wine, regardless of glasses.

    What I did instead was take the art off the walls and draw gnomes and fairies and gremlins peeking out from behind things, then hung it back on the wall. Once there was a Janet Jackson concert on the tele, so I jumped up and down on the bed while singing along. There are so very many ways to keep oneself occupied in strange hotel rooms… but staying “sane” can’t be the goal, really.

  18. Mandy says:

    I read the whole thing. Your writing is just so readable I would find it hard not to read ;)

    The whole aftermath of The Night Circus sounds exhilarating and chaotic and I’m wondering if I could ever handle that?
    For one thing… I’m not sure I could leave my animals (of which there are many) for that long… :(

    I can’t wait for your next book, but totally understand the desire to take your time to write it well. In the mean time, I will happily read flax-golden tales, no matter how few and far between the become while you do all the other book stuff :) You’re awesome!

    Cute kitten!

  19. Ami says:

    Carve out time for yourself as best you can and then guard it…fiercely. Chocolate helps.
    Hugs from Nova Scotia.
    A.

  20. Beth says:

    I just want to say – you are an inspiration to me! Reading The Night Circus was an experience I treasured, it was clear that you poured so much heart and care into your work. It is very meaningful to read your blog and get honest insights on the writing process and your journey. What an accomplishment – thank you!

  21. Surya says:

    Wow, congratulation for your sister. :)

    And this part. Whoa, that’s… Okay. First, breathe.. take a cup of tea.
    Just take your time.

    Chat with imaginary friends while drink wine? Good idea, probably. And yes! Waiting super patiently for another bedtime story. Like, baby steps. :) *bear-hug*

    And also, kitten! o(>_<)o

  22. Jon says:

    I awoke in the middle of the night and could not sleep, so at 2:30 this morning I trundled down the stairs to the livingroom, flopped upon a couch, turned on the reading light, and accepted a cat on my chest before opening for the last time “The Night Circus”. I read the final 90 pages or so, which I enjoyed plenty. Thank you for this novel, Ms. Morgenstern.

    For a little work break this afternoon I looked up your site and read through a few posts. This one has a nice question in it, regarding the two glasses in the hotel room. When I was much younger I read a story called “The Three Day Blow”, in which two boys drink some whiskey. A bottle is emptied, and they contemplate opening another. “My father says opening bottles makes alcoholics”. The other boy replies, “My father says drinking alone makes alcoholics.” And they open the second bottle. I’m sure I am not entirely accurate in the quotes, but am sure I am pretty close.

    I never begrudge anyone for drinking a glass of wine (or beer or whiskey) alone, though I have found that nice tidy rule a fun one to follow myself. For whatever it is worth.

    Thank you again for your fine novel. It was a pleasure.