Quitting gets a little easier every time.

marlboro_red1[Cross-posted at my personal blog.]

I used to smoke regularly. It started when I was 13 with a Marlboro red 100 (if you’re going to do it, go big). My friend D and I sat at the top of a long set of stairs leading down to a narrow path that cut through my small Neckarsteinach neighborhood, and she pulled one from the soft pack. “Are you sure you want one?” she said.

“Yeah. Just give it to me.”

I was an automatic inhaler. I didn’t even know how to puff. I’d take a drag, and then I’d blow out the smoke, cough, and spit.

“Are you inhaling?” she said.

I said I didn’t know.

“Try just puffing,” she said.

I pulled on the filter and the smoke crawled down my throat. I shrugged, blew out the smoke, coughed, and spit. She laughed.

I switched to lights and smoked off and on until 9th grade, when I started for real. (Cigarette in the morning before school, “nic fits” before I could run outside with friends to have one during the long break between second and third period, cigarette or two after a chili-fries and egg roll lunch, etc.)

I tried quitting at 18, and I was almost successful. My boyfriend at the time and I  both wanted to quit, so we stopped bringing our cigarettes with us in the car, and I remember I even had a successful night downtown – not one cigarette. (“Downtown” means “at the bar” – Germany, 16 legal age.)

I don’t remember when or why I started up again, but I did.

I tried to quit again at 26 by cutting down to no more than four cigarettes a day. It was working very well – I’d just gone down to three a day – and then, on the morning of September 11, I broke away from the TV after watching for two hours to rush to the gas station for a pack.

At 29 years old, I was still smoking. My hair had also gone through enough highlighting to have turned all of it very light blond, and I decided I did not want to be the 30-year-old cigarette smoking bleach blond. Before my birthday, I dyed my hair back to its natural color and started to quit smoking again by cutting down. (Cold turkey doesn’t work for me – it’s too rigid.)

Something similar is happening with my efforts to quit marketing Homefront.

The addiction to marketing started out slowly enough – I made a MySpace page, designed a few fliers.

As I learned more about the many marketing avenues there were, I gradually and increasingly immersed myself in promotion for two years. (Minus the time spent working one of those years.) Making phone calls, sending emails, arranging readings and signings, and so on. And on and on and on.

Before Homefront, I’d been writing all kinds of things. Short stories, articles, essays, flash fiction. When I finished one project, I would send it out for rejections and start a new one.

For over a year, I’ve been trying to quit marketing Homefront so I can get back to writing new things. I tried once in late 2008 after starting Dan Palace my first week living in Connecticut. I figured I’d write while I looked for a job, and when a few weeks later I started working for the newspaper, I was successful, for the most part, at forgetting about Homefront. My days were too busy to worry about marketing. Every now and then I’d dip into it if something occurred to me that I hadn’t tried, yet, but the activity was very sporadic.

A year later, when I moved to Tennessee, I was going to take a year away from working to write. Not market, write.

It worked for a little while. Then I’d hear something on the news that applied to Homefront – something allowing me a lead-in for a press release – and the writing would be set aside for the marketing.

Several months ago, I was almost successful at letting go again. I finished writing Dan Palace and the editing was coming along. I was determined to let Homefront sit for good.

But then we got this news we were moving again, and I was too busy to have any real zone-time for editing/revising/rewriting Dan Palace, so I thought I may as well use random hours here and there to market Homefront

Thank goodness for wise people.

One of them told me yesterday that if I can’t let go of Homefront, I won’t be able to enjoy working on something new.

This person is absolutely right.

I’ve done all I can with it, and if I want to be a career writer, I have to be able to put my energy into the creative writing process. I have to be able to enjoy it the way I did when I was writing Homefront and everything that came before it.

Besides. The last thing I want to be is that person clinging desperately to the one thing she did years ago because it felt so good and so right. You can get away with being a bleached-blond smoker when you’re young, but the day comes when it just starts to look ridiculous and it’s time for a nicotine patch and a trip to the salon.

  • Right before I published my collection, Will Shetterly, who became something of a mentor to me, in ways, gave some of the best advice I got: “Be careful not to get so caught up in promoting this book you lose sight of your other work.”

    Especially true for self-publishing. Too many self-published authors hope to sell enough copies of the self-pubbed book that some corporate publisher will buy the rights. I still think this is the wrong approach.

    • I agree. I’d rather write than do the rest, and I finally decided my ROI on time spent marketing isn’t worth putting me behind on building a backlist.

  • steeleweed

    I can’t do much about your addition to Homefront, but I can tell you that you’ll never really give up cigs – or any habit/addiction – without changing your mindset. Instead of trying to not smoke, try to become a non-smoker. There is a difference. It has to do with how you are willing to see yourself. Can you imagine yourself being the sort of person who abuses children? Probably not, and if you try to see yourself that way you would be disgusted. But you can easily see yourself as a smoker, right?. Try to make that self-image as repulsive as a being a child abuser.

  • Thanks, Steelwad. The thing is, I don’t believe in abstinence. I enjoy having a cigarette now and then. I smoke the same way people eat dessert food and candy (or, should eat dessert food and candy) – in moderation.

    But the marketing thing…that is hard to do in moderation because it requires shifting to a certain way of thinking, which removes me from the “writing” way of thinking. Smoking in moderation I can handle (and have been doing with ease for five years); marketing may have to be a cold-turkey quit until I’m done with this latest project.

  • People talk about how self-publishing is hard because you have to do your own marketing, but for me my addiction was to getting accepted by a traditional publisher – watching the mailbox and email for a response from an agent or an editor. For me, going my own way with self-publishing was a way of cutting out an unhealthy addiction. Frankly, I’m probably not as addicted to marketing as I probably should be.

  • K Crumley

    As far as writing, my vice is that I’m a compulsive revisionist. I have been accused (in an online writing group no less) of actually killing a story by revising it to death. I cut out stuff that should be left in, I change things that were fine in the first place….

    I guess I just have to learn when to leave well enough alone! LOL

    With Wisfhul Thinking I had to really test myself, and draw a line in the sand as to how much is actually real, thurough revising/proofreading/copy editing and how much is “compulsive editing.” I honestly almost changed 2 (very minor) characters’ names right before creating the pdf. But I did rewrite two whole sentences that IMO sounded bland, after recieving the proof copy.

  • My personal strategy/opinion is to do a hard concentrated marketing push for 2-3 months after a books release, then do little things as you see them, just basically social networking and keeping your eyes and ears open for opportunities but not running them down with a steamroller or anything.

    But once the next book comes out, all marketing focus shifts to the new book, hard push for 2-3 months, then minor stuff.

    Lather. Rinse. Repeat.