At the professional writer lunch today, a lot of the conversation on writing turned to how the industry is changing, bookstores, and so much more about the future. Great conversation.

And tonight on a nifty program on the Travel Channel, I learned a little about how books were sold door-to-door after the Civil War and up into the last century. It was a major way books were distributed, and publishing company sales forces were basically door-to-door salesmen.

When I came into the business in the early 1970s, the major publishing sales force had morphed into selling to bookstores, and only encyclopedias were sold door-to-door.

Wow, has publishing changed. (grin) Now major publishers no longer have sales forces to speak of, other than to sell to major wholesalers.

And most books published back fifty years ago wouldn’t even be written well enough to be publishable for the most part now, with a few exceptions. Writing craft has changed along with the industry itself.

Part of the conversation we all pretty much agreed on at lunch with was how the writers of old (who only wanted to be taken care of by publishers) would be gone in the future of publishing. They will become a relic of the past of publishing right along with the door-to-door salesmen.

Writers going forward need to have multiple skill sets on the publishing side and be better storytellers on the writing side.

Well, here we are at the first of the year when resolutions and goals are often set. I put up the Heinlein’s Rules in hopes it would help a few people kick-start their escape from some of the myths.

But as I did the workshop letters last night, I realized that January had the fewest sign-ups of any month of workshops we have ever done, even back in the beginning when we only did five workshops in a month. (Even the interiors workshop we brought back special on request for two months only has one person signed up for it.)

It dawned on me that Kris’s blog post about the year of writing was very accurate. Writers this year were going to focus on writing. I’ve been hearing that a lot.

Only on writing.

Oh, oh… Danger Will Robinson! Danger!

Just focusing on the writing without also balancing the learning at the same time will lead you in a large circle. You will find yourself at the same spot at this time next year. Typing without learning is just typing.

In my opinion, learning needs to be balanced with the writing, no matter how you get the learning. Workshops, blogs, conferences, and so on.

And business learning and skills also have to be brought in at the same time.

Spending a year doing nothing but writing sounds wonderful on the surface, but it won’t really help you get forward, even though it sounds like it should.

Just as spending a year doing nothing but learning and publishing stuff won’t help you without the writing at the same time.

Balance.

That’s the key.  Writing focus is first. Sure, I have always said that. But spending a year writing and learning craft and business at the same time will move you forward in a balanced way.

So, in my opinion, New Year’s resolutions need to include both. (Mine do, if you noticed in the January 1st topic.)

The writers of fiction going forward have to be balanced in skills. And wow is there a lot to learn. But learning is fun. And it can be balanced with the writing without hurting the writing.

This is not a black or white thing. Honest.

So give a look at your resolutions over this next month and make sure the year includes learning, lots of learning of craft of storytelling and the fun of business combined with a focus on the writing.

The one fact we all agreed on at lunch today is the writers that only wanted to write and be taken care of will be long gone in a number of years. The new publishing system won’t allow them to exist, any more than door-to-door salesman exist in publishing anymore.

It’s a new world.

Balance the writing and the new focus on more writing with a new focus on learning at the same time. And in a year you will be surprised how much farther along the publishing road you are.