An author’s life is an incredibly busy one. The easy part is writing your book. It’s what happens after you hit publish that can have you running around doing a million things at once. Whether it’s family, friends, the household budget, chores, appointments with the dentist/doctor/etc, and things like car repairs, we are already busy.
Now, add to this the job we have of promoting our work. We must juggle social media. We must answer emails. We must update our website and/or blog. We must line up things with editors/cover artists/formatters (or do these things ourselves), though I would advise to never do the edit yourself because it’s hard to catch everything when you’re reading what “should” be there instead of what is actually there. On top of all of that, we have to keep track of our expenses and our income for tax purposes.
There is so much we do. I don’t know about the rest of you, but it seems that for every one thing I accomplish, two more things pile up on my “To Do” list. So how are we to cope in a world that is constantly demanding our attention?
Keep Writing or Write More
Sadly, this is the one thing we do that is easiest to push back because the other things require us to do something for other people. All of our promotional efforts focus in on others, and we often put others before ourselves. (I’m not saying this is always a bad thing, but if you don’t take care of yourself, then you won’t have the emotional reserve to take care of others.)
For most of us, we need to write. It is the only thing that keeps us sane in the middle of our stressful lives. So if we were to “not write”, then we would only get stressed out even more. Writing has a calming effect on us. It clears our minds and helps us focus. So I believe writing needs to be at the top of our priority list in order to help us do everything else.
How much writing should you do? That will depend on your particular situation. A good rule of thumb is to figure out how much time you need to write in order to feel calm and relaxed. For me, it’s two hours minimum. Once I hit the two hour mark, I feel at peace with the world around me. I don’t have to do this every day, but I can’t go for longer than two consecutive days without getting irritable and restless. Your own threshold will be unique to you.
It’s Okay If You Don’t Answer Emails, Blog Comments, or Facebook/Twitter/Google Plus/Etc Comment Today
Unless there is an emergency to tend to, it’s okay to push all of these aside for when you have more room in your calendar for them. One thing I have found helpful is to write 250-300 words, answer 1-2 emails or comment from a social media site, then go back to writing another 250-300 words.
This way the social end of my writing business doesn’t take away from the actual writing. Of course, it requires some discipline. It’s easy to get distracted by a funny picture or video. So if you need to be offline while writing, then wait until you’re done writing in order to get to the social stuff. On days I don’t write, I’ll carve out 1-3 hours to catch up on the social side of writing.
Whatever way works best for you is the one to go with. Just because the tips above helps me, it doesn’t mean they’ll work for everyone.
Say No To Things You Can’t Handle
We all have our limits, and knowing where yours is can be a huge life saver. It is hard to say no when someone wants something from us. (This something is often our time.)
Carefully weigh the pros and cons before saying yes. Can you still get everything on your list done if you say yes? Will you have the energy you need later on in the day to do your work? Will the creative flow still be there? Do you feel like everything is in order, so when you come back, you’re not going to feel stressed out? If you say can yes to those things, then you can say yes to the person’s request. If you say no to any of them, see if you can do the thing for that person at a more convenient time. (Unless you don’t want to do it. Then, by all means, just say you can’t do it.)
Prioritize Your Tasks
I like to have a calendar next to me where I can keep notes on what I need to do and on what day they need to be done. I plan out this calendar a week in advance unless there’s an appointment I scheduled six months in advance (like a trip to the dentist). You may be able to plot out your writing and social media tasks for a longer time span. My attention span is pretty short, so I need to keep my timeline short.
I don’t keep a detailed list. I know some people who do, but I would go crazy if I did that. I take 2-4 main things I want to do that week. I don’t write down the every day things I do. I just write the things I do once in a while, such as “make blog post for newsletter blog,” “write up letter for email list recipients,” or “update website.” Then I make those the main focus for the next coupe of days, and I do these in addition to my writing.
However you want to handle your list is up to you. There is no right or wrong way to do it as long as it helps you keep focused on the main things you want to get done.
Well, those are my tips on managing stress. I know there are the proper sleep and taking care of our health components involved, but I wanted to stick mainly with the writing part of our stressful lives.
What do you do to help cope with stress as a writer? Got anything you can add to the things I mentioned? I’d love to hear your thoughts!