As the title implies, I hit overload the other day. Writers overload. You know where you want to fall in a screaming heap on the floor? I’ve been on such a trajectory this year that I’ve stopped taking time to smell the roses and to feel good about me. And that showed in the way I dealt with some of the more negative aspects of a writer’s life.
What happened? My 7th title for the year released and I was knee deep in a blog hop which included reviews. I was also planning the next 2 blog hops for the following 2 books and wondering about the cover art for the final 3 which I hadn’t set anything up for yet (12 books one year = Big Workload!) I visited GoodReads and saw a 2 star review for my book.
My heart stopped.
My stomach churned.
I wanted to cry to scream.
I went to amazon next to see it sitting in the mid teens. And nearly had heart failure!
It was almost too much to bear. This was my baby! My work of art. A piece of my soul that I’d polished and polished and polished. That my editor had loved and wanted! What was going on?
That should have tipped me off to the fact that I was too deeply in “my world” to cope with the external pressures.
I whinged to a friend, utterly devastated. And you know what? She gave me the best piece of advice. Not everyone will read the book in the same way… Not everyone can enjoy every book.
Nearly a week on… including one day with no access to computers… I can see what she means. I’d become a cyber rank stalker. Constantly checking on the ups and downs of my sales records, checking reviews. Unable to step away in case something happened that would change my ranking or status.
It’s been such a massive year, where I’ve worked myself almost to a standstill that I needed an intervention. No… I don’t mean an “it’s time to stop writing for good” kind of intervention. It’s more a “You need to step away. You need to find balance in your life” kind of intervention. The funny thing is that I say that to my husband about his 60 – 70 hour a week job. But I’d lost sight that I’d begun to work those kinds of hours too. Because it just felt natural to work while he was away.
I was the guest at a library “meet the author” forum yesterday and someone asked me about needing to write and I told her I felt it was almost a compulsion. I don’t think that’s far wrong for a lot of authors I know. We have to write. Those characters are constantly demanding our attention and telling us they can’t wait. That’s very hard to walk away from. But we have to.
That’s where I made my mistake. I stopped walking away. And I’m going to go out on a limb here and say, I’m probably not the only one who is guilty of this. (Yes… I’m talking to you…)
By default, an author’s life is lonely and insular, (by lonely I do not mean that you, as a person are lonely) but that our profession requires us to live within our own minds, shutting out the outside world. So we become inwardly focussed.
So where do I (and other authors who also suffer from this writing compulsion) go from here? Well to my mind, there is only one way forward. It’s to call a spade exactly what it is. A spade. It’s to firstly realise that we have skewed the scales the keep our life balanced.
After that we have to come up with ways to balance our lives so we don’t get into that negative spiral again. That isn’t easy. But with attention and effort we can achieve a work life balance.
So here are my Top Tips for balancing a writer’s life.
- Set sensible and achievable goals. For me that means saying I’m only going to write for maybe 5 hours all up, for a day then take a break – walk away from the computer and play with the dog. Go sit in the sunshine for half an hour or settle in with a good book.
- Set a limit for the number of times a week I visit review sites.Sure, as authors we need to be aware of what people are saying about our work, but constantly revisiting them is a bit like picking at a sore. It won’t help you feel better about them. You might be able to learn something the first and even the second time you look at them, but realistically, you won’t feel good if all you see is that same negative review.
- Make time to recharge your batteries. Read a book, view a painting, if you can get away! Do something that will make you mind roar with ideas. (Just don’t forget your notebook for jotting them down!)
- Organise your time into tasks that need to be done.And set them either a time or a time limit. If you blog, maybe set one day a week where you deal with those things. That might be the day for looking at reviews and studying them instead of checking them on an hourly basis (like me)
- Make sure to turn off that computer at a reasonable time.You aren’t letting anyone down if you turn it off at 9pm or even 8pm. You are making “me” time. Or “us” time. And as writers, and for many romance writers, we have to remember that we have to keep our own personal sparks flaring brightly.
- Keep a diary/timetable and use it to keep your workload smooth.Twelve releases in one year is a lot – between editing, cover art, blogging and marketing I feel like there can’t really be any break. I ended up with that many because I didn’t space. I would work on something, then jump to something else, and once I had a day or several I would return to the first piece and polish before “flicking” it off, without considering my own personal time table. As a result up until August is crazy… Then I have a small break before I begin again in November. Don’t get me wrong, some people can cope with that kind of constant workload but I have other commitments which mean I needed September and October free… but it only worked out that way because of chance… not by design.
- Don’t forget to be social.I need to thank my husband for that. About the only regular social thing I do that makes me leave the house is to attend the service group we belong to. But I forget that I need to talk to others outside the writing community, to foster other social outlets. Don’t fall into that same trap, because it does become very confining.
Wife, mother and mad pet wrangler