I've written here before about the amount of time published writers spend on marketing/reactive activities versus the time they spend on actual writing/creative activities. A few days ago, author Lionel Shriver published an essay, How to Succeed as an Author: Give Up on Writing,
that deals with the same subject in the New Republic. (I question, myself, whether she is responsible for the subheading "The Rancid Smell of 21st Century Literary Success." She wasn't that embittered in the essay, and it sounds an awful lot like clickbait.)
Now Shriver has achieved a high level of international success, and the average published writer isn't going to have to worry about being overwhelmed with invitations to lit festivals all over the world or two-week tours in foreign countries. But published writers of all levels do lose valuable writing time to prepping for both income and nonincome generating appearances, getting our names onto blogs and websites by pumping out content for them, and coming up with marketing schemes to make ourselves better known so that we can hit some of those faraway literary festivals. Shriver is writing about a very real time demand that many, many writers understand.
Unfortunately, many of her commentors focused less on the universality of the experience Shriver is describing and more on the fact that she is very successful and has no business complaining. In hindsight, including information from a few other writers with similar time constraints might have been a good idea, so the essay would have been less about her and more about the situation she's describing. In hindsight, she might have also played up these points that she did make:
"...with the exception of a few select luminaries whose reputations are
assured, in this business you’re only as good as your last book. My
livelihood started out shaky; it is still shaky."
"A frenzied calendar is my fault. It is the natural consequence of a
profound insecurity that, during a dozen long years when I lived a
hair’s breadth from having no publisher at all, worked its way into my
very bones. That insecurity, some of which is economic, seems to have
induced a permanent terror of turning anything down—anything that will
make money, fortify my name recognition, or support book sales."
"Sure, there’s no precise requirement that authors put themselves in the
way of all that froufrou. But this is a high-anxiety occupation. With
publishers’ recent hanky-twisting over whether there will even be a publishing industry in ten years, that anxiety has gone into overdrive. Could we authors learn to “just say no”? Perhaps. Still, how many names that the public has learned to recognize will it soon forget? More than by ambition, “just say yes” is powered by fear."
With those excerpts, I think Shriver does an excellent job of explaining how writers end up spending a huge chunk of their time not writing. I sure saw the anxiety and fear behind this essay. Other readers, though, only saw that Shriver's going to Bali.