Jenny B. Jones

Jenny B. Jones writes Christian fiction with equal parts wit, sass, and untamed hilarity. When not writing, she’s living it up as a high school teacher in Arkansas. Since she has very little free time, she believes in spending her spare hours in meaningful, intellectual pursuits, such as watching E!, viewing Will Ferrell movies, and writing her name in the dust on her furniture. She is a four-time Carol Award–winning author of new release Save the Date and the Charmed Life series for young adults. You can find her at

The Life Of An Author

The life of an author is so glamorous. I usually wake up early in the morning and watch the sun rise. The deer graze as I sip a skinny latte and thumb through People magazine. After eating a light breakfast of egg whites and something else disgustingly healthy, I wander into my office, where I write for two solid hours, producing exactly one chapter of sheer brilliance. I spend the rest of my day counting dollar bills and answering e-mails from adoring fans and telling my assistant-slash-Cabana Boy, that I am still not taking Oprah’s call.

Oh, perchance to dream.

We’ve all heard the depressing realities of publishing: few authors make a living at it. Or if they do, they get a “real” job for insurance, or for a few hours of sanity and contact with other humans. I fall in there somewhere.

By night I write romantic comedies for women and YA novels for teens that appeal to at least five documented readers, and by day I teach speech communication to high schoolers in Arkansas. I’m incredibly blessed in that the last few years I’ve been able to cut my teaching hours by half, but I wrote most of the books while working full time, and even at part-time, it’s still beating me up on a regular basis.

I’ve learned a few things along the way that have helped me:

1. Take care of yourself. When writing deadlines hit, it’s usually about the time work deadlines hit. I recently had a book due over the course of Thanksgiving break, finals, school projects, and Christmas break, and I thought I was going to lose my mind. Give yourself permission to take some “you” time. Work out. Go to a movie. Read a book. Watch some brainless TV. Let yourself rest, guilt-free, at least in small doses, amid the chaos. God offers us rest, but so often we decline. I can’t say I’ve ever come out a better person or created a better book for doing so.

2. Plan ahead. I know when crazy times hit, so does my dialing finger—to my favorite Mexican restaurant. But eating junk only exhausts me even more in the long run (though I can’t deny the fifteen minutes of happy I get from some cheesy, chicken-y quesadillas . . .), so I try to plan ahead. Though I cook a lot, I’m no gourmet chef, but my biggest time saver tip is to take a few moments on one day of the week (for me it’s Sunday) and plan your meals, if you are responsible for food in your house. Use that Crockpot and throw in a roast. Bake and freeze. Soup is my favorite survival meal—it freezes and reheats easily, and it feeds a lot of people. And you can throw in all sorts of stuff that is nearing extinction in that refrigerator. And some weeks that’s the closest I come to anything resembling cleaning.

3. Build your support network. We writers do lonely work, and the people at your day job probably do not understand what you’re experiencing. My coworkers still think I’m teaching out of some sense of charity or a bid to finally snag that Disney Teacher of the Year Award. (Um . . . right.) God totally moved in a big way last year when a fellow writer felt led to connect six of us authors together and create a group for support, prayer, accountability, and writing help. I did not know most of these women, but now I talk to at least one of them daily, and their prayers have delivered me through many a stressful hour. Just knowing I have people in my corner is a comfort and help. It took one brave writer to suggest the idea of a partnership, yet it was an answered prayer for all six of us. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others and find some solidarity and support.

4. Constantly ask yourself, “Am I present in this moment?” Often when I am at school, my mind is on some plot problem. Or when I’m computer-bound, my brain drifts back to some student situation I need to resolve. My least favorite “not here” moment is when I’m at a family event, and I’m there as a “favor” to them, as if they are lucky I showed up because if they had any idea how much work I left behind…

With the transition of this new year, I have resolved to work at being present. I want to enjoy my time with my family. I want to

give my day job the time and attention it deserves. And I want to sit down at my Mac and get wrapped up in my story and not worry about some unresolved issue at school. But it takes work on my part. My brain wants to be five places at once, but God created us to use our talents and do them well, not to give everyone our leftovers. I don’t say that as someone who smugly has it together. I say that as someone who’s been practicing that for a matter of four weeks. And already failed at least a handful of times. I’d like to blame that on Cabana Boy…

5. Focus on the positive of what that “day” job offers you. For me, it’s time with adults, water-cooler conversation, interaction with hilarious high schoolers, the thrill of writing detention slips, bennies (as in insurance and retirement—not drugs), snow days, scheduled pay that I can count on, using a different part of my brain, and a reason to comb my hair and wear matching clothes in the morning.

6. To quote Christi Lynn and her perm, one day at a time. Give yourself permission to screw up, let go of the guilt and just take it day by day. God makes his mercies new every day. I’m given no more and no less than what I need to handle today. Make a list of that day’s things to accomplish. If you want to have a master list, fine. But for now, look at that day’s agenda and focus your energy on that. When you go to bed, tell God (journal, verbalize, yodel, mime, whatever) that you are giving Him any remaining problems. List them. Then let them go.

Working that day job while pursuing writing is tough. I know my dependence on chocolate and Miss Clairol has grown because of it. There’s a line from a song from Wicked that talks about how getting your dreams can be complicated, that there’s a cost to pursuing dreams. The dream is never exactly what we thought it would be. It’s messy, it’s complicated, and it can throw you down just as easily as it can lift you up. The Enemy will come at you with everything he’s got to wear you down. Find a plan that works for you, because for many of us, clocking in at that other job is a reality that’s not going away.

If God has put a story on your heart, take steps now to avoid burnout. We’re no use to God, readers, families, and publishers when we’re just going through the motions. Get your support system and survival techniques in place, and find your own ways to thrive. Your readers are counting on it.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must go back to fielding Oprah’s calls…


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