Wednesday, January 22, 2014

5 Lessons Learned From My Sabbatical as a Full-Time Writer

Gigi Pandian

For the past three months, I've been a full-time writer. I'm using a sabbatical from my day job to complete my latest mystery novel. I have just over 10 days left of the 100-day sabbatical. Here are some of the surprising things I've learned so far:

1. Time does not equal productivity. 
I don't believe in waiting for creative inspiration to strike before I begin writing, but that doesn't mean I can be creative for 8 hours straight. I would often find that 3 hours of focused writing would amount to a better output than a full 8-hour day.

2. Having freedom is both good and bad.
It's nice to be able to meet a friend to socialize whenever you feel like it, spend a leisurely afternoon reading a great book, or cook a new recipe from the Post Punk Kitchen for lunch—but there are still only 24 hours in the day. Writing "full time" can easily create a false sense of endless time. If I want to get things done, I have to set my alarm to get up each morning and create writing goals for the day.

3. It's lonely out there!
I'm fortunate to have so many full-time writer friends who I can meet up with to both socialize and write. If I didn't have that support network, I'm pretty sure I would have gone crazy by now. In my day job, I share an office with one of my closest friends, and we're always bouncing ideas off each other. Without that structure, it's easy to become a hermit without realizing it's happening.

4. Shifting your writing process is possible.
I thought I had it all figured out. I was completely convinced I was a "cafe writer," someone who had to get out of the house to be disciplined enough to write. It turns out I can write at home—as long as I set goals and turn off the internet.

5. "Living the Dream" in reality isn't the same as the fantasy. 
I've realized I have no desire to write all the time. I feel incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to try out being a full-time writer on a temporary basis. It has taught me some surprising lessons about what I want out of life. I'm still in my post-cancer "seize the day" mode, so I had wondered if I would find myself wishing my sabbatical could continue—but on the contrary, I can't wait to get back to my normal life. I've learned that the life I've set up for myself is the one I want: surrounding myself with amazing friends and family plus keeping a fulfilling day job that gives me a few mornings a week to write mysteries.

Today also marks 20 days until Pirate Vishnu (Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery #2) is released!

A century-old treasure map of San Francisco’s Barbary Coast. Sacred riches from India.
Two murders, one hundred years apart. And a love triangle… Historian Jaya Jones has her work cut out for her.

Here's one of the fun promotions that's going on leading up to the book launch:

Two chances to win one of two signed copies of Pirate Vishnu along with an India wall-hanging that has a pocket to hold letters or magazines:

Chance #1: Sign up for my email newsletter by February 10. All subscribers are automatically entered.

Chance #2: Like my Facebook page by February 10. All new Likes are entered, and all existing fans who comment between January 1 and February 10 are also entered.

And if you're in the San Francisco Bay Area, you can also join me at the book launch party!

Pirate Vishnu Book Launch Party with Gigi Pandian
Sunday, February 9
6 p.m.
6120 LaSalle Ave., Oakland CA
(in Oakland's Montclair Village)


27 comments:

Sara Rosett said...

Very wise insights to the writing life, Gigi. I remember the day I realized my dream writing novels was a job--a job I love--but a job nonetheless! Glad the next book is out. Looking forward to reading it. :)

Gigi Pandian said...

Exactly, Sara! This sabbatical wasn't a break but was another job -- a fun one, but still a job. And I have to say, one of the best things about being a writer is finding out that authors whose books I love, like yours, enjoy my books as well :)

Sophie Littlefield said...

Loved this, Gigi! You are a very wise woman :)

Lisa Hughey said...

<3 <3

Marlyn Beebe said...

Darn, I wish I could make it to your book launch, but it's just too far away. I will see you at LCC, though.

Gigi Pandian said...

It will be great to see you at LCC, Marlyn!

Kait said...

Wisdom wrapped in honesty. No wonder I love reading your blog. Thanks Gigi!

jan godown annino said...

This validates what many around- the- clock book creators know. And for those who can't devote all the time to their book/story goals, it is empowering to hear that a gifted writer who went "cold turkey" from the Real World, is all smiles about twirling on the office chair once more.
This is an unusual post, which I feel is your trademarks in your fiction - unusual settings, plot twists & memorable characters.
Enjoyed J.J. adventures in ARTIFACT & I'm guessing it will be a wild ride to follow her through PIRATE VISHNU,
Brava!

Gigi Pandian said...

Thanks, Kait! I'm glad the Pens are blogging again :)

Gigi Pandian said...

What a lovely way to put it, Jan. Now I've just gotta keep up the wild ride writing the next book in my paper notebook on my commute to work!

Elise M Stone said...

I was nodding my head as I read your entry, Gigi. I retired last July with the idea of writing full time and found some of the same issues as you did. There is a limit to how much time I can spend writing and/or revising and it's in the 3-4 hour range. After that, my brain is mush and I need to get away from the computer. I think writing as a part-time job is the most I can handle.
And there are times when I go three or four days without talking to a live person. Definitely a weird feeling. Fortunately, I have church and weekly Bible study and SinC chapter meetings that assure I get out of the house sometimes.
Thanks for reporting back on your experiment.

Gigi Pandian said...

Elise, I'm with you. Being a part-time writer is just perfect :)

Gloria Alden said...

Gigi, one of my biggest complaints is hearing "But you're retired" meaning you can spend as much time as you want doing what you want. Like you, I find that two or three hours a day is all I want to write, and some days I don't even write that much. I actually write better at home because I'm easily distracted and can't concentrate if I'm anywhere else. I'm really looking forward to your book coming out soon.

Susan C Shea said...

So well put, Gigi. I especially liked what you said about the life you have created for yourself away from the sabbatical being, finally, the life you want.

Gigi Pandian said...

Gloria, I feel very lucky to have been able to try a sort of retirement for a few months -- now I know more about my preferences for the future!

Gigi Pandian said...

Susan -- You and my SinC sisters are a big part of that life :)

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