Sunday, September 27, 2015

Navigating the Strange Dichotomy of an Author’s Life

by Andrea Zuvich

I recently gave a lecture about the Stuart influence upon Kensington Palace’s gardens to a lovely group of people at the Kensington and Chelsea Forum recently. During the course of that lecture, I explained that a historical writer’s life was a strange life – to be mostly alone (be it in archives, typing away on a computer, etc) and then to suddenly have to switch into a polar opposite mode: public speaking. I was very stunned and delighted to learn that, as interest in the lecture was greater than expected, they had to change venues to accommodate the larger audience. That’s great, but if you don’t like public speaking, a larger audience may make the whole experience that much more daunting.

That’s the thing that I would advise potential authors about: you need to be ready, and comfortable, to do both. Without live events, you tend to not reach members of the public who would otherwise not have heard about you. Even in 2015, there are many who do not have access to the Internet (or choose not to use it). Public events are excellent ways of interacting with potential readers. Despite being inherently quiet and sometimes shy, I’m really pleased that I find public speaking relatively easy (this is probably because of my background in acting). Don’t worry if you find it hard at first; like most things, it gets easier with practice.

It was this sort of thing that made me think of the other things a historical fiction/nonfiction writer has to keep in mind, and I’ve listed them below:

Socialise in real life, not just on the Internet.

I’ll be the first to admit that the Internet has made it so much easier to find like-minded friends. Skype is great because you can see and talk to someone in real time. That being said, there is nothing like a face-to-face chat in person. Do not underestimate the importance of basic human contact. Go out for lunch or coffee. Go see a film, go to a concert. Just get out of the house. This way, you can relax your mind and get back to your writing with renewed zest and energy.

Try to lead an active lifestyle

Another, probably more important, aspect of a writer’s life is unquestionably a sedentary lifestyle. Unless you are one of the few gifted with a fast metabolism, you will notice a change in your weight. Some writers get so lost in their work that they forget to eat. Others, and I’m in this category, get heavy. That’s why it is imperative to do something active every day. I force myself to do at least 20 minutes on my cross-trainer and I also walk to and from the supermarket 15 minutes away. This helps to address the overwhelming majority of the time that one is seated writing. That being said, I have a few friends who have switched to standing desks. Whatever works for you is good, but staying as healthy as you can be helps a lot.

Take screen breaks.

I suffer from both migraines and very poor vision – the latter needs to be checked regularly. My ophthalmologist recommended that I look outside or towards the far side of the room every fifteen minutes to reduce eye strain, and this works (when I remember to do it). RSI and carpal tunnel are possible side effects to your work. I like to use a mouse pen instead of a normal mouse because I can get constant pain in my wrists when I am writing a book.

Love your subject.

I can’t emphasise this enough. When you love your subject, it shows. When you have enthusiasm and passion for your topic, it’s contagious. Why did I choose the 17th century? Oddly enough, I had been interested in that century even before I knew it. Like many, I was taught about the Tudors and found that really exciting. My teachers, however, went from the Tudors straight to the Victorians, whilst I personally enjoyed aspects of the 17th-century. It’s often said that nothing can kill your passion for a subject as quickly as formal study of it, and that happened to me. After several years of university (and one absolutely horrible professor who made my life so difficult, I labelled that time my “semester from Hell”), I had to have a break. It was – it later proved – to be fortuitous. Leaving the academic world was the best thing I ever did, because after a year of not having anything to do with the subject, my love of history returned. And it’s only increased and strengthened with time. Now that I’m older, I no longer believe that academic credentials are important. Passion and a rigorous determination to learn as much about your subject as possible are invaluable.

At the moment, I’m hard at work promoting my new release, The Stuarts in 100 Facts, which means I am constantly giving talks, interviews, and writing articles for magazines. It’s wonderful to get to interact with people in person and online. I’m fully on “public” mode, but that will soon change at the end of this month, when I go back into “hermit” mode to continue and finish writing my next book, A Year in the Life of Stuart Britain.

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Andrea Zuvich (aka The Seventeenth Century Lady) is a seventeenth-century historian specialising in the Late Stuarts, historical advisor, and historical fiction authoress. She has degrees in History and one in Anthropology. Zuvich has been on television and radio discussing the Stuarts and gives lectures on them throughout the UK. She was one of the original developers of and leaders on The Garden History Tours at Kensington Palace. Zuvich lives in Windsor, England, and is writing A Year in Stuart Britain (2016).

Please visit her site at www.17thcenturylady.com


6 comments:

  1. A lovely post, thank you. Excellent advice too.

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  2. Thanks for this post - wonderful stuff!

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  3. I found myself nodding with each tip. You set down great fundamentals to help others
    be more successful and in better health....which go hand in hand. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete