"Everything is changing fast. We call it progress, but I just don't know." - from "Grandpa" by the Judds
Sometimes I miss the “good old days.” (Quotes are necessary because, you know, they weren’t really all that good.) When I first started writing—well, for a long time after I started, as a matter of fact—I wrote in longhand on yellow lined paper then typed what I’d written, editing as I went. My final draft, the one I mailed to the publisher with my fingers crossed in the hope and prayer that this would be the time, was nowhere near as clean as my nearly-there drafts are now.
I spent much more money on return postage than I could afford. I subscribed to Romantic Times and very nearly haunted the mailbox waiting for the monthly issue to arrive. I went to one writers’ conference a year when I could afford it, none when I couldn’t. I bought books. Oh, Lord, did I buy books. There was a Walden book store in the mall near where I worked. I had a long lunch break—need I say more?
I communicated with other writers only at the monthly meeting of the RWA chapter writer Jenni Licata spearheaded. In time, as the chapter meetings moved to the city that was convenient for more of the membership but prohibitive for me, I counted on the RWR and Romantic Times to keep me up on what went on in the world of romantic fiction.
I was a wife who worked a fulltime job and had a houseful of teenagers, but—y’know what?—I wrote all the time. Thirty-page weekends were the norm, with a couple of 50-pagers thrown in for excitement.
But when I had an agent, she did the legwork, the business part of the business that I disliked and didn’t know how to do well. And when I got published, the publisher did most of the promotion. I worked hard at what I did well, and loved every pad of yellow-lined paper and every keystroke of it.
All these many years later, I can barely sign my name in longhand. My kids are grown, I’m retired from my day job, and I submit all my work electronically. I like that part of the way things are. I like it a lot.
Contact with other writers is easy and nearly constant. I can almost always find someone to talk to. Of course, it’s almost all on-line, but it’s contact and I treasure it. I like that, too. A lot.
But 50- and even 30-page weekends are a thing of the past. Partly because, honesty compels me to admit, age has taken its toll on my creativity. But partly because I do my own legwork and promotion. And, just as other authors help me by having me to visit their websites and saying “hey, look at this cover—give her a read” when I have a book out, I host others and leave glowing (and well-deserved) reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. It takes a lot of time. I don’t very often just write—there’s usually a screen open where I’m typing a blog post for here or my own blog or someone else’s.
I feel guilty because I can’t keep up with the sheer number of new authors who enter the field thanks to self-publishing and the small publishers who open (and close) doors nearly every day. This does not mean these authors aren’t everything that is good and professional; it means I can’t keep up and I can’t find things that hold my interest. Seldom does a book keep me up till 2:00 AM reading or have me weeping heartbroken or laughing so hard I snort and look around to see if anyone hears me. Even though I load my Kindle with as many free and 99¢-$2.99 books as anyone else does, the truth is I don’t finish all that many of those books. Those authors deserve better from their readers, but I don’t have it to give.
I don’t have any answers, I guess, only questions. I’m glad and grateful for the changes I’ve seen. For computers and social media. For electronic readers and iPads. For all the authors I know online so that the solitude of writing isn’t so solitary as it used to be.
But sometimes, when I’m doing promotion or looking for something to read that engages my whole heart or trying to justify the expense of a writers’ conference when I don’t really need to go for contact with other writers…sometimes, I miss the good old days. Without the quotes this time, because some parts of them—yeah, they really were that good.