The last couple of months have been insane in my writing world.
In a good way.
I’ve been managing a new book launch, working on the edits for my next novel, creating and launching a new website, and more, all at the same time.
These activities are fun and positive for my writing career, but they are also time-consuming and at times, overwhelming.
While all this was going on, I got a chance to chat with another author who said she gave birth to a new baby about the same time that the edits on her new novel were due.
Okay. She wins.
The point is that when we’re doing what we should as authors—regularly planting seeds for future growth—eventually, our efforts will bear fruit. It’s wonderful when it happens, but be prepared, because it often happens all at the same time.
Having gone through this latest crazy period myself, I have a few tips that may help you the next time you’re facing this happy but often overwhelming situation.
Help for Writers Managing Too Much at Once!
1. Help for writers: Realize you’re going to have to step it up…and be grateful.
There’s no way around it—when everything comes due at the same time, you have to increase your productivity. This will likely mean working longer hours and being as efficient as you can.
What helped me was reminding myself that I was grateful for everything that was going on. These are all things I’ve wanted to do—publish my third nonfiction book, sign a contract for my next novel, create a new website, etc.
So when I found myself grumbling because my days were going on longer than I liked, I stopped for a few moments to thank my lucky stars that my writing dreams were coming true. This helped me to get back to work with a better attitude.
2. Help for writers: Don’t sacrifice self-care.
Getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising—all of these acts of self-care are critical to managing a significantly increased workload. The problem is, it’s harder to maintain our commitments to living well when it seems every moment is filled with another important task to complete.
I had many nights when I couldn’t get to sleep, for instance, or days when I just couldn’t fit in my usual exercise routine. Here’s what helped me:
- Scheduling days when I could catch up on my sleep, like weekend days and one day during the week.
- Giving up those activities I didn’t have to do. (Yes, the furniture got dusty and the bathrooms dirty.)
- Catching up on exercise with a long walk or bike ride on those afternoons when things let up.
- Fixing meals on the weekend so I wouldn’t have to cook during the week.
- Keeping healthy snack foods around like dark chocolate, mixed nuts, sliced cheese, whole-grain crackers, and Greek yogurt.
3. Dump anything that’s not necessary.
I have two writing websites that I typically add a post to every week: Writing and Wellness and Writer CEO. I’m very disciplined about keeping these going with original posts and author interviews. I hated to back off on them, but I quickly realized that something had to go. So I took a break from writing and posting for one month.
I also backed off from posting YouTube videos every week to once every other week. I just started my YouTube channel this year, so that was a painful step too, but necessary.
It’s amazing how letting go of just one activity can free up your time. You, like me, may feel a little guilty about doing it, but you’ll be grateful when you can get to bed on time or take a little walk!
4. Help for writers: Breathe and tackle one thing at a time.
When your “to-do” list starts piling up, your natural response is to experience increased stress. You can feel it in your tight muscles, racing thoughts, and upset stomach.
It’s during those times when your career is firing on all cylinders that you have to push your brain to focus on only one thing at a time.
Narrowing your focus is always the solution to stress. You feel stressed out when you’re thinking about all of the things you have to accomplish in a short period. Change your thoughts to focus only on the next thing you need to do. When you’re done with that, move to the next thing.
Keep your brain from spinning by refusing to allow it to think about anything but the here and now and your stress levels will go down.
5. Keep copious notes…everywhere!
I don’t know how any writer gets through a book launch without having pieces of paper scattered all over the house, car, office, etc. There is always something else you realize you need to do.
Update the website with the buy links. Tweet about a new guest post that just went up. Let your newsletter subscribers know about your upcoming video chat. Post your new reviews. It’s never-ending.
Add to that the inevitable difficulties that are bound to come up (example: Amazon was delayed at getting my “look inside” feature up and I had to email the help center and follow through) and you have to have a way to keep track of every new task that needs to be completed.
I used sticky notes, a notebook in my purse, my cell phone (emailing myself), and a planner to make sure nothing fell through the cracks. It helped free up my mind so I wasn’t quite so stressed out.
6. Help for writers: Do what you’ve gotta do.
Sometimes it all gets to be too much and you have to say “stop!” Just for a minute.
I had to miss a rehearsal, for instance, for the musical production that was going on at the same time as everything else was. I felt bad about not being there, but it was taking place on a Saturday morning and I’d been up until 4:00 in the morning for three nights that week. I needed to crash. Badly.
So I emailed the conductor and told her I’d be there the following week. This is another important part of self-care. When your body and mind are screaming for some relief, you have to give it to them, even if that disappoints someone else. I felt much better the following week because of my choice.
I also had to make peace with the fact that I was making only sporadic progress on my new novel. I’m in the second draft and was going along well until all of this started happening. I was feeling guilty for not being able to work on it every day, but I had to let that go and just snatch a few minutes whenever I could.
Take a day or half-day off work. Sleep in. Get someone else to take the kids to school. Accept that this is a crazy time and that some allowances will have to be made.
7. Schedule a writing retreat!
One of the best things I did while all this was going on was to schedule my writing retreat for the fall.
I typically take a trip to the coast every year to refill my creative well. I didn’t get to take it in 2020 because of the pandemic. I wasn’t sure about whether I would go this year (2021) until I found myself in the middle of this exciting but overwhelming time in my writing life.
It was clear I was going to need that retreat, and badly!
So one day when I had a few moments, I made my reservations. I was unsure right until I pushed the “reserve” button. But after that, I felt such a huge sense of relief accompanied by an anticipatory joy. Well worth it.
Research has found that the anticipation of a vacation can provide just as many benefits as the vacation itself. I know that to be true because after reserving my time away, I felt much better about the time I was going through. It would end, eventually, and I’d find myself by the water breathing in the salt spray.
Help for Writers: Plant Your Seeds, then Enjoy the Harvest!
It’s common for writers to plant the seeds of success and then wait for years before anything happens. When it does, it may catch you off guard. Hang in there, take care of yourself as best you can, and remember to enjoy it.
After all, things will quiet down again soon enough. And then you’ll be wishing for a little more excitement once again!
How do you manage overwhelming times in your writing career?