Tuesday, April 12, 2016

New Beginnings

By Narelle Atkins

Today I’m starting a new part-time day job after working in my previous part-time role for nearly a decade. It’s an exciting change for me, and I’m looking forward to new challenges and opportunities.

Sydney Harbour Bridge, Australia.

When this post goes live, I’ll be interstate in Sydney and I won’t be able to reply to blog comments until I return home to Canberra on Wednesday afternoon (Aussie time). My phone and Blogger won’t play nicely together, and it’s not worth the time and frustration involved in trying to post comments using my phone.

Which brings me to my next thought that I’ve been pondering. Are authors expected to be ‘on’ and available all the time? Social media doesn’t sleep. International authors who live around the globe and publish in North America will know that this means something is happening in their online world 24/7, 365 days a year.

Many years ago I was at a conference where an editor from a New York publishing house said that she expected her authors to be available during NYC business hours. My initial thought was how do authors with full-time day jobs manage these types of expectations? My second thought was I’d need an agent to meet this expectation because 9am-5pm during the USA summer months is 11pm-7am in my Australian time zone.

If you have a Facebook Author Page, you’ll know that Facebook compiles data on how often and how fast you reply to messages sent to your page. This data is readily available to readers who visit your page. Facebook recently advised me that I could set up an auto-response reply to all new messages, but that’s not how authors usually interact with readers. We prefer to provide personal responses to readers who reach out to us via Facebook.

Central Oregon Coast near Depoe Bay, USA.
Last month my family and I enjoyed a fabulous vacation in Hawaii and Oregon, USA. International data is expensive. I had a data limit that needed to last for the duration of my time in the US when I didn’t have access to free and secure wi-fi. I kept my social media rolling by using Buffer and scheduling tweets. I was online for only five or ten minutes most days, and I loved the break from social media and being ‘on’. My children, on the other hand, have grown up in an online environment. They struggled with the whole concept of not having access to the internet for long periods of time. 

I know I'd finish writing my books at a faster rate if I was online less. It’s a balancing act to manage the expectations on authors to interact online vs. actual writing. My author friends who write full-time are clocking up the writing hours in front of their computers, and they face the same challenges those of us with day jobs have in managing our online time. 

I’m now reassessing how much time I spend online. I’m not taking on any new writing deadlines until I’ve settled into my new job. In the coming months I’ll work out how to restructure my writing schedule in a manageable way that includes time off for vacations.

Have you found a comfortable balance between your writing time and your online social media and marketing activities? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

A fun loving Aussie girl at heart, Narelle Atkins was born and raised on the beautiful northern beaches in Sydney, Australia. She has settled in Canberra with her husband and children. A lifelong romance reader, she found the perfect genre to write when she discovered inspirational romance. Narelle's contemporary stories of faith and romance are set in Australia.

Twitter: @NarelleAtkins https://twitter.com/NarelleAtkins


  1. "I know I'd finish writing my books at a faster rate if I was online less. It’s a balancing act to manage the expectations on authors to interact online vs. actual writing."
    Amen! this is one I continually have to work on, reminding myself I don't have to check my e-mail or facebook every time I pop on to research something for my book...or sit down in preparation to write. Like right now. :) I should get back to it! Good luck with changes and balancing!

    1. Hi Angela, It can be tempting to procrastinate online by doing writing-related things instead of actual writing. All the best with balancing your writing time :)

  2. Narelle, trust the first few weeks in the new job work out well and you soon feel at home.

    The online world can be all consuming and I struggle to switch it off. I now every few months take sabbaticals to social media to help myself to disconnect. I do admire those very disciplined people who are able to limit themselves to specific allotted times each day to go on s/m.

    1. Hi Ian, I agree, switching off to the online world isn't an easy thing to do. It definitely requires discipline to stick to a s/m schedule. Your sabbaticals sound like a great idea that I should try and organise for myself. :)

  3. Congrats on your new job, Narelle! I hope it feeds your family, your soul, and your creativity.

    As for social media, it surely does have a siren call! When I'm in first draft mode, I USUALLY have the self-discipline not to check FB until after I've written at least 2,000 words. If my brain is firmly in story world, it is much easier to come back to it than if I start my day with online pursuits.

    1. Thanks for the tip - maybe that's my problem. ;)

    2. Hi Valerie, Yes, I've also looked at my best creative times of day. I try to write when I'm fresh and do social media/admin things when I know I'll be feeling tired and less creative. That siren call is strong :)

      Hi Iola, I hope Valerie's tip will help you :)

  4. "I know I'd finish writing my books at a faster rate if I was online less. It’s a balancing act to manage the expectations on authors to interact online vs. actual writing." I'm quoting the same part as Angela! We also have expensive Internet and rely on our WiFi which is only available when we're home (or with one of our sons :-) )

    And of course, we have the same time hassles as you have. Here in S.Africa, we are in the middle of the time challenges. By the time I wake up, you're into the afternoon, and Americans are about to go to bed. I do think in today's highly global market, editors etc need to understand that.

    My son has his own Internet graphic business, and is very strict about switching off his Internet router at 5 pm as he has two babies. Some months ago, he had a Skype Call from an unknown number at 10 to 5, so he switched off, knowing whatever the call was about would take him past 5. The next day he discovered he'd hung up on the CEO of a huge Internet company in the States!

    But guess what? The man emailed Steve and asked him what time they would be able to talk. This resulted in a large contract for Steve and a satisfied CEO! Maybe I need to learn from my son . . . but the genes work the other way! I would be scared of missing something important!

    1. Hi Shirl, Yes, the time zone differences with the US in your part of the world are very challenging. I'm glad your son landed the big contract :)

      Yesterday I bought a fully enclosed case for my new work phone. This means I can't see the screen when it's switched off outside of work hours. I'm hoping this will help me to be disciplined and ignore the phone when I'm not working.