Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Pedal to the metal... by Cathy Ace

LIFE: Most writers have had other jobs. What’s one thing you learned in an entirely different professional setting that you’re grateful for?

Honored to be made a Freeman of the City of London, 
in recognition of my career in marketing communications

Oh…a past lives question…lovely! The only job I’ve had for the past nine years has been that of a full-time author. Within that job description lie a host of duties (yes, duties) other than plotting, researching, writing, editing, and polishing books, and those are the bits of this job that are the hardest work for this author. They steal time from the “truly writerly” parts of the job, which makes me dislike them. Oh to be able to focus 100% of my time and effort on JUST those fun parts of being an author, but, no, other things are required…even moreso, now that I self-publish my work.

I don’t know how much laboring through the night shift on the packaging line at the Smiths’ Crisps factory (where I specialized in Monster Munch snacks) helped with my writing, but I know I put my months working in the Netherlands as a bulb-peeler to good use in terms of scene-setting in The Corpse with the Garnet Face. There are many other times that my life as a peripatetic trainer of non-marketing managers who needed to move up to become marketing managers, within many organisations across Europe, has stood me in good stead regarding location selection, too, because when you stay in a place over and over again, across many years, you really get to know it well. I worked in Budapest (The Corpse with the Ruby Lips), on cruise ships (The Corpse with the Diamond Hand), and in the south of France (The Corpse with the Silver Tongue).

The real apartment in Nice, France where I set my first novel -
my beloved chum, who I met in 1994 when I was working there, still lives there!

I also lived in London, England (The Corpse with the Granite Heart) for almost two decades, and that was where my time working in marketing communications agencies, as well as running my own, meant I learned how to write to a deadline – whether I was in the mood to do so, or not. Now that’s a really useful skill for an author, because that “muse” so many wax lyrical about can be a pretty elusive character. So, yes, generally learning how to communicate succinctly, and getting something done by the time it needs to be done, were both things I spent twenty years doing – great training.

Of course, the fact that my previous career was in brand building, advertising, and public relations doesn’t hurt, either. Yes, I literally “wrote the book” on marketing communications planning and implementation…twelve of them, to be exact! And what they don’t tell you when you aspire to become an author is that a great deal of time and effort will be expected of you in terms of being the builder and promoter of your own “brand”.

All that being said, if I had to choose one thing that I think is the most important to me nowadays, that I learned during my previous careers in business, then academia, it would be: I know that I am capable of putting in the long hours to get a job done well. If I don’t have a deadline, I won’t start; I need to be pressed for time to be able to turn out what – for me – is my best work…otherwise I just amble about, being half-hearted about something, and that’s NOT the way for me to work efficiently, or effectively. I am – as anyone who knows me will tell you – very much a 200% person!

As incoming Chair of Crime Writers of Canada

This new career has taught me that being an author isn’t all about writing what I fancy when the mood takes me, it’s about having a work schedule which I stick to. Interviews, blog posts, answering emails, making phone calls, doing zoom chats, being at conventions, participating in panels, being a mentor, giving time to various organisations within our community, supporting other writers, connecting with readers and our community through social media, reading works by other writers, keeping up to date with publishing industry news, staying abreast of what’s happening regarding self-publishing platforms, researching cover design trends, constantly monitoring sales and planning and implementing promotional pushes…and so much more. THIS is the working life…then, at night, I get to live the writing life, tapping at my keyboard until the small hours, when the noise of the “work world” has died down for the day, and I KNOW I can do that because of what I KNOW about myself.

It took twenty years across two other careers for me to learn what I’m capable of, and now I get to apply that self-knowledge to my author’s life. How wonderful!

Want to check out my work? Here you go:

1 comment:

Catriona McPherson said...

Brilliant summary of the difference between writing and working at being a writer!