Monday, August 23, 2010

Dust Devils

Have you ever seen a dust devil? They're rather amusing to watch as you're driving across Texas. says that a dust devil is a "strong miniature whirlwind that whips up dust, litter, leaves, etc into the air." I've seen quite a few of those in the last few weeks. We point and slow down and talk about it until the thing is out of sight.

Occasionally I feel like a little dust devil. I move very fast, and I stay quite busy, but I'm not sure that I'm doing much more than stirring up dust, litter and leaves. Whether my passion is writing or knitting scarves for shut-ins, I'd like to think I can be more productive than that. So what measure can we use to determine if we're making progress? After attending the RWA conference last month, where many of the best and brightest and MOST SUCCESSFUL in the industry were gathered, I came home and re-assessed. This is the list I came up with.

1) Is what I'm doing resulting in more sales? As artists, we often avoid this direct question, but I think it's a valid one. At RWA Nationals, I went to many workshops by where industry leaders challenged me to think like a business person. If I'm spending a lot of time and energy on things that don't really produce, then I need to re-assess.

2) Am I using my time effectively? I like to think that I have unlimited time, but of course I don't. I have the same amount of hours in my day as Nora Roberts. If I waste 90 minutes of mine on Facebook, that would be my mistake. Facebook is no doubt a great marketing tool, but I need to set a timer, and limit my minutes there.

3) Am I refining my craft? I went to a workshop by Deb Dixon and was astounded. I've taught writing at the college level for 12 years. I didn't really think I had anything to learn about point-of-view, but I'd heard so much about Deb that I stopped by anyway. My goodness was I surprised, and I have pages of notes to prove it. I saw quite a few bestselling authors in the audience as well, and I have no doubt that's part of the reason why they're bestselling authors.

My list is longer than this, and some of it is specific to me, but I want to challenge you to look at your passion and determine what you can do to move yourself forward. Success is defined in different ways for all of us, and I wish you the very best of success in whatever you choose to do.



Jacqueline Seewald said...

Very helpful, Drue! Your list is one I'm going to adopt. As you can see, I'm probably spending too much time reading and responding to blogs, including Facebook. As I get older, I realize how precious time really is. Like you, I don't want to scatter dust devils, I want what I write to count for something.

Terry Odell said...

Drue, such good ideas. Of course, it's really hard to judge #1 in this industry, because we don't see results of our efforts via royalty reports, etc., more than twice a year, and who's to know exactly what triggered that sale. And so much else about this business is slow, slow, slow. Cast a wide net is about all you can do.

Deb Dixon's a marvel, isn't she? I think part of what makes writing "fun" is that we're always learning--at least I am, since I'm not one who had lifelong aspirations to be a writer, so things are still new.

Terry's Place
Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Drue: Your post made me think. I think I fit the mold. My time is scattered, and I always feel like I'm racing to keep up. I used to write every morning, and got way more done, before FB and blogs. Now I scramble to get in 1000 words a day. I think I may start setting aside certain periods for social networking, and try to stick to it. Thanks for the great post.

Anonymous said...

Ladies, I think you're all wonderful. Know that I was blogging to myself! One of the best things I heard was to set a timer when you're on FB (the stove timer or the timer on my new PHONE works just great). Staying focused isn't that hard. It just requires a bit of planning. Best of luck to all of us!

Jacqueline Seewald said...


I do read all Author Expressions blogs. I believe we have an intelligent, diverse group of writers here. Our ideas and our novels are all first-rate.

Jacqueline Seewald
TEA LEAVES AND TAROT CARDS, published by Five Star/Gale Expressions line August 2010

Molly said...

Assessing and reassessing are fine arts in themselves. Thanks for the reminder to stay focused - or to refocus, Drue!

Anonymous said...

Great post, Drue! I once heard the late Lawrence Sanders speak about his amazing productivity. He said he always had projects in a number of stages. One composing, one roughing out in his notebook, one polishing, several in print and several circulating. If the circulating ones got rejections, he brought them back in, edited if necessary, then sent them back out again. Seven, he said, was the magic number. Seven projects at all times in one of the above stages.
Thanks for the post!

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

Great post - my life has been in such a whirlwind since the beginning of 2009 that even I can't keep up LOL - so I definitely needed this reminder.


Jenny said...

Thanks for the great reminder that "busy" does not always equal "productive." Using time wisely is the big one for me.