I've had several people write to ask me what's up with the changes… You see, on Facebook and Twitter, as well as in a lot of personal communication, I've explained that I'm making some life changes. First, I cut out the news. I did this earlier in the year, when I stopped watching TV for Lent. Just seemed like I needed to have less negative crud filling up my mind each day. So I trimmed it from my life, found myself less stressed, and I've kept it up. (Yeah, I know that Ted Kennedy died. It's amazing how you still hear stuff.) Anyway, my second step was to get rid of my Blackberry. Frankly, I felt I'd given people permission to contact me any hour, day or night. In some ways that's okay (I'm friends with the people I represent, and we all call friends during times of trouble), but it had begun to feel like I was always on my Blackberry. My life had become email. So quit. I turned it in on a regular "candy bar" phone — just a stick that you can talk on. I still get text messages, so if it's crucial, I can still be in touch.
But you know what? Much of life isn't crucial. We work in an industry where you turn in a manuscript today, and it comes out in a year. Not much of what we're doing requires something be done RIGHT NOW. So I gave up my Blackberry, and I admit I like not seeing emails all the time. I'm more relaxed.
Third, I decided to do emails once per day. So instead of sitting and checking emails constantly, I'm trying to sit down once and blow through them all, giving responses and getting stuff done. Then I'll go back tomorrow and see what more needs to happen. (Okay, I'll admit I've not mastered this part yet. I'm still peeking at emails regularly. But I'm taking steps…)
Fourth, I'm trying to do the same with online browsing. There's not that much stuff on the web that I really need to check (Facebook once a day is enough for me, and I do the various wandering to youtube, The Ooze, and other favorite spots every few days). To be honest, it seems like much of my time wandering through websites is wasted — like watching mindless TV sitcoms. The fact is, I keep up with a lot of friends via email, and I don't want them to feel cut out of my life. But I also don't want to think my life has become JUST online relationships. I've felt a need to be in personal touch with my authors more, and to make sure I have breakfast with Mike, and dinner with friends, and that I meet with Sandra Bishop face-to-face regularly. I think a lot of those online relationships may not be real — they just have a veneer of relationship, but don't require much investment, so they feel like business acquaintances instead of actual "friendships." (There's nothing wrong with having a lot of business acquaintances, but I also want to make sure I have people who know me, and who I help in the real world.) So all this "taking away" is being balanced by trying to "invest in." I'm hoping to invest in more people in my life, and take time to help them.
Fifth, we're moving to a small town. I have some reservations (I'm a city guy, and I like being able to walk to dinner and show), but there's something about the pace and quietness that sounds appealing. The town is on the Oregon coast, where it's gray a lot and pretty slow anyway (except on sunny summer days when Cannon Beach is having a sandcastle contest, or somebody is throwing a blues festival). We've also downsized, and have tried to cut back on all the stuff and toys. Okay, maybe in a year I'll be going stir crazy, and I'll come back and admit my mistake. But for now, we're going to give it a shot.
Sixth, I'm trying to read more for pleasure. Understand, I read all the time in my job, but I want to read books for pleasure more, and not just to see what the authors I represent are producing. That means turning off the TV at night and cracking a book (okay, this isn't that big of a sacrifice for me, but it ALSO means cracking a book instead of "going back to do more work").
What's driving this? I want to lead a quiet life. I want to find more peace, live with less stress. Get up, run on the beach (even if it's raining), drink my coffee, and take care of the authors I'm lucky enough to represent. It's funny, but some folks really don't get this. I've gotten plenty of people writing to say I'm cracked, or to offer advice on how to do things better ("Don't give up your Blackberry — just ignore it in the evening!" — that sort of thing). And the truth is, they may be right. I still like cities, and still enjoy the rush of the business. I still love to travel, and there's nothing I enjoy more than talking books with people. I'm still driven to be the best agent out there. But I don't think I want to live for my work any more. I want to settle down and invest in some friendships. I want to be involved in more hands-on ministry with people, I think. I want to be debt free and live a simpler, less noisy life. And I want to have the time to learn to play the bass guitar and work on my crappy golf game just a bit. (Not a lot. Just a bit.)
So now you know. And, starting tomorrow, we'll be back to answering your publishing questions. I've got a backlog of nearly 100 questions people have sent in — I promise to get going on them, and to offer some advice as I can. Feel free to send in any questions about writing and publishing, and we'll get to them in the next couple weeks.