Trying to do all things is the surest way to get none of them done.
I know this well.
Because I am a victim of burnout.
It can happen to anyone.
Burnout doesn’t discriminate by age, sexual orientation, gender, career, religion… it just exists. It’s this giant ugly debilitating thing that gets us stuck rather than moving forward. Burnout is paralyzing — like being surrounded by your to-do list while simultaneously sinking into quicksand.
It’s funny that I’m writing about this now.
As an author, the expectation from readers, bloggers, from yourself, from your peers, is that you are a multi-tasking genius.
It doesn’t matter if you’re with a big publisher or if you’re indie, it doesn’t even matter if your big publisher tossed a great advance your way — you’re still expected to market yourself, brand yourself, write the book, revise the book, do the takeovers… the list goes on. And the hardest thing about this list that we give ourselves?
We feel if we don’t complete it, our careers are over (not true), because burnout causes this “all or nothing” mentality that isn’t true of our circumstances — but ends up being the only thing we see when we look up from our computer.
At least I’ve had those thoughts. I still answer all of my emails, all of my messages, tweets (if I can make it that far) and in the beginning, it totally worked. But that was ten years ago when social media was still pretty new.
Now? I look at my Facebook messenger and get chest pain.
I check my email with coffee in one hand and wine in the other (kidding).
And on top of all of the things you’re expected to do as an author, the one thing that we don’t seem to have enough of is the time it takes to do them.
How can you finish a book plus still interact with readers? And do edits? And answer Facebook tags, and Instagram tags, thank your bloggers, answer questions, keep your website up… I wish I was kidding when I said I spent upwards of 6 hours on social media answering questions, talking with readers, other authors, making sure marketing is “on point” for the next release, and that doesn’t even include the writing aspect.
And I have a TODDLER.
So how do you prevent it? How do you keep your head afloat in an over saturated over socialized market where your next book release greatly depends on organic buzz created by the very people you need to be talking to rather than writing?
It’s a tough question.
And I know I don’t have all the answers. But here are some simple tips that you can add to your daily routine to keep yourself sane.
1. Say no.
You can’t do it all. I have to tell myself this every day. I’m a total “yes” person. I want to help everyone. I want to talk to everyone. I genuinely enjoy chatting with readers and other authors and gushing about all the books all the time. But, as my husband’s told me, you can’t be everything to everyone. You can say no to book signings that are too far away if you are on deadline.
You can say no to that takeover in that giant Facebook group and gift out a few books instead. Learn the power of no and wield it like a sword. That doesn’t mean you turn into a “no” person. It just means you choose your mental health and your craft over pleasing the entire world, which even if you tried your hardest — would be an impossible task.
2. Write two books at one time.
Be patient with me on this one. One of the biggest stressors for authors is a book deadline. I hear that word and start sweating. When your publisher gives you a date you best hit that date, my friend. When you give yourself a date and put your book up for pre-order… you don’t want to upset readers. So why add more to your plate? I have a reason, I promise because I’m dealing with this now.
Whenever we are forced to do something our brains stop being creative and start rationalizing things. And the, if you’re a procrastinator, you’re like, “oh hello Facebook! I’ll just go talk to readers for ten hours.” Writing two books (in different genres if you can) keeps your writing fresh. Keep one book for a “deadline” book and the other one FOR YOU, something you’ve been wanting to write, something that flows and is easy for you to write.
When you do that, you’ve just opened up that creative door again because you aren’t being forced into anything. I promise it works really well and you may end up having a happy accident where you publish that fun book and it sells really well!
3. Give yourself permission to EXIST.
A good friend Lauren Layne (also an author in New York) said she was going to choose 2018 as the year that she enjoyed life. And if you ask her how she’s doing, she’ll tell you she’s the happiest and healthiest she’s ever been. She writes at least a few words every day and then she has her cup of coffee or her glass of wine over an amazing dinner with her husband. She’s choosing herself first, because if you choose everyone else first, your health–both physical and mental–will suffer. And then your books will suffer and nobody wants that. We need your books!
4. Punch something in the face.
Okay, maybe not the face, but enroll in a kickboxing class, go for a walk, do YOGA (author Audrey Carlan is a huge advocate of doing Yoga in order to clear the mind and help with mental stress. She even wrote a series called The Lotus House about it). Exercise turns your brain off, it releases endorphins, and sometimes it’s the best way for creativity to hit. I always think of good ideas when I’m out for a walk or on a bike ride. Do something to get your blood pumping and get your mind off books for a bit.
5. Everything you do is an accomplishment.
I started to get into this mindset that if I wasn’t writing my book I wasn’t ‘working’ hard enough. My husband was kind enough to remind me that I woke up and got my son breakfast. Meanwhile, I’m like, that’s just expected, the kid’s gotta eat! But he chooses to look at everything you do–even washing your car!–to something that you’ve accomplished that day. Heck, my husband says napping is an accomplishment because you’re resting your mind!
Allow yourself small victories throughout the day. So you wrote ten words. FANTASTIC. So you wrote ten thousand. Even better! So you washed your hair (raises hand), that still counts!
6. When you’re done, you’re done.
This is a hard one. But it’s one of the most important.
When you are done for the day, turn off the computer, don’t log onto Facebook messenger on your phone. Maybe even delete those apps. Don’t go to bed with your phone in hand (guilty) with the bright screen blasting in your face, and decide to answer just a few emails…that just turns your brain right back on, and makes it harder to fall asleep. I’ve started putting my phone under my bed so this doesn’t happen.
7. Find an App that works!
Okay, so you deleted Facebook. Now what?
Download an app that helps with deep breathing and meditation. I downloaded the Calm app and it changed my life. There are several fun audiobooks read by soothing voices that put me to sleep before I even realize what’s happening. They guide you through a full body relaxation and tell you when to breathe. It’s amazing. And there is a free version too!
So you don’t have time to do all the things? Make a list of what is stressing you out and see if you can either hire or do a book trade with someone in exchange for some extra help.
Maybe you need help with Twitter, but can’t afford a PA just yet. No biggie. Talk to a reader or someone you’re close with and give them free ebooks and paperbacks whenever you release, send them a random Amazon gift card when you can (obviously, don’t abuse their time). They get books in exchange for helping you with emails. It’s a win-win.
There is no right way to do this job.
It’s a hard job some days, but most days it’s one of the best adventures you will ever have! Don’t let the messiness of the book industry–and all that comes with it —hinder what made you fall in love with writing in the first place.
Remember why you wanted your voice heard, remember why it’s important that people hear it, dig your heels in, and change the world one word at a time.
About Rachel Van Dyken
Rachel Van Dyken is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author of Regency and contemporary romances. When she’s not writing you can find her drinking coffee at Starbucks and plotting her next book while watching The Bachelor.
She keeps her home in Idaho with her Husband, adorable son, and two snoring boxers! She loves to hear from readers!
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