Creative Careerist: Robin L. Donovan

About the Creative
Robin Donovan is the author of the blog, Menologues, a humorous yet informative look at the trials and tribulations of menopause by someone who’s been there. Menologues is republished on two commercial sites: Vibrant Nation and Alltop, and has won regional honors for social media at the AMA Pinnacles and PRSA Paper Anvil awards. She is also the author of Is It Still Murder, Even if She was a Bitch?, the first novel in the Donna Leigh mystery series.

Donovan was born and raised in New Jersey but lived and worked in Connecticut for a number of years before moving to Nebraska in 1999. Starting her career as a high school English teacher, Donovan moved into advertising in the early 80’s. In 1999 she accepted a job offer from Bozell, an Omaha based ad agency. In late 2001, she and three colleagues purchased Bozell from its New York based parent company.

Donovan lives with her husband and three bulldogs, Jasmine, Roxi and Sadie.

What does an average day look like for you in your creative career?
My “creative career” is a weekends and vacations only scenario since I am otherwise employed on weekdays. As such, on writing days I run around trying to get the chores out of the way so that I can focus a large chunk of hours on my writing. I get comfortable at my writing desk, on my favorite leather chair with a laptop desk or out on my deck and I just start to write.

I don’t sit down unless I’m feeling the urge to write—I never force it.

What usually happens is that I look up, at some point, and I’m stunned at the number of hours that have gone by—the writing is more fun than I would ever have guessed. If I’m still writing at 5 p.m., I pour myself a glass of sauvignon blanc and just keep going!

How did you get to where you are now in your career? What key moments, decisions or circumstances brought you here?
I majored in English in college and taught high school English for a few years, that, combined with the fact that I switched over to an advertising career and then went on to buy into an ad agency gave me the background for writing and the ability to handle promotion—both so important in today’s world of an author.

My blog on menopause had been picked up on Vibrant Nation and Alltop, suggesting that a book with a menopausal protagonist could have something of a built in following.

The fact that social media is such a large part of my ad agency life and that it has enabled the average person to achieve widespread awareness without an outlay of cash was an enormous factor in my decision; if I was going to create this work I wanted it to have a chance at broad reach. Before social media it took a miracle to get the kind of exposure that’s now possible.

The fact that a publisher became a client of my ad agency and enabled me to get answers to some of my more pressing questions created the perfect storm.

When I added all of these factors I knew it was now or never.

What is its greatest challenge for you?
The fact that everything takes time. Editing, proofing, scheduling engagements, getting interviews, selling books. Patience has always been a challenge for me.

How do you get your best ideas?
My best ideas come from almost anywhere. Sometimes I think of what other authors have done and I try to think of something very different, very unique. Sometimes location inspires me. I was writing a segment that would involve a conflict taking place on the side of the road in Connecticut. Having lived there it occurred to me that the yuppy/preppy crowd is all about beautification and the state flower is the Mountain Laurel—which is protected by law. It seemed only natural for the altercation to take place between two overzealous yuppies fighting over whether or not to plant Mountain Laurel in the roadside turnabout. That would never have occurred to me had I been writing about North Dakota or Texas!

Sometimes I think back on things I observed throughout my life, either in person or in the movies.

Whatever the idea, I always try to put my unique spin on it.

What do you do when you get stuck?
I force myself not to sit down to write. On days I’ve earmarked for writing this is difficult for me; I am determined to let a day pass rather than to force creativity if it just won’t come.

So far, this has been very effective. If I had thought about starting to write at 11 a.m., but I’m just not feeling it, I do a laundry, water some plants or answer a few emails. So far, this delaying tactic has worked very well; the few times I’ve had to use it I’ve been able to get started with my writing within a half an hour or so. I think it just takes the pressure off so that the creative juices can flow freely.

How do you make sure you make time for creativity in your life?
Since I started writing novels in January of 2010 there is almost no time when I do not have a book in progress—in fact, I think June and early July of 2012 may have been the only time so far. While I don’t have set deadlines, I do have interim deadlines in mind. That enables me to plan my weekends around writing. If a weekend is particularly full, I often choose not to write since I never want the writing to become a burden. In that way, the next weekend—one that can be devoted to writing—becomes all the more precious.

The creativity process, however, is never out of my mind. I keep notebooks as I write. I use them to ensure that I leave no clue unaccounted for and it also serves as a repository for ideas and thoughts that come up on non-writing weekends or during the week.

What advice do you have for other aspiring creatives who want to follow in your footsteps?
Never underestimate the pure joy of the writing process. There is so much work connected with being an author, but the writing is incredibly fun! Evanovich wrote a book about writing and promoting books. One of her FAQs was “what happens if I write my book and nobody will publish it?” Her response was “stick it in your dresser drawer and write your next book, we don’t write books for money, we write for the pure joy of writing.” She also went on to comment that once they get a book published it’s likely that the dresser drawer book will also be deemed worth publishing.

And do your homework early on—there are tricks and tips that can help if you know them right up front. If you wait too long it can be too late. I didn’t find out until after my book was published that in order to be reviewed by the library publications you have to submit your manuscript three months prior to the release date. By the time I found that information—it was too late for my novel.

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2 thoughts on “Creative Careerist: Robin L. Donovan

  1. Thanks for having Donovan who has offered such wonderful tips.
    I’ll be sure to check out her blog. Love the subject.
    I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who doesn’t write when not in the mood. It must be menopause. 🙂

  2. Robin, thank you for sharing your practices with us! My husband and I write at a local cafe, so I free myself from that “must produce right now” feeling by taking my cup outside and staring at the sky or McDonalds being torn down and rebuilt across the street. Oh the beauty of living in the 4th largest city in America!

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