Stress: How To Cope When the Mountain of Work Only Increases

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.

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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.

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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!

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10 thoughts on “Stress: How To Cope When the Mountain of Work Only Increases

  1. This is excellent advice. Recently I’ve had to accept that my days of writing long complicated books are over for the moment. That way, burn out lies because the demands of Real Life are too great: caring, from a 140 mile distance, for my octogenarian parents who both have dementia while also being mum to an 8 year old. On top of that the menopause is giving me memory issues too. It!s possible the nipper might join some after school clubs at some point and extend the school day but otherwise, for the next five years at least, things are only going to get more stressful and demanding.

    But like you, if I stop writing I will curl up and die.

    So, To try and help keep a track of my writing I have started learning to use scrivener. It is actually really good. I bought a very expensive course to help me which is also a life saver – couldn’t have worked it out on my own – the 365 day guarantee on the course is what swung it but definitely glad I splashed out. I’ve also tried to change the way I write so I have a bit more of an idea as to what is going to happen in each scene before I write it. Aaaaaand I’ve tried to ensure I look at my writing and do something on it every day so that I don’t spend 1 hr 55 mins of my big two hour weekly writing session on a Friday reading it back to work out where I am and running out of time to write anything new.

    So far I have about 19,000 words of a spin off novella to go with my series. I was aiming for a 20k short but it’s getting complicated and I think it will pan out at about 40k. If I can I may manage another one this year, or, at least, break the back of one. And I have 50k of good stuff set in a dystopian future that looks as if it’s going to be a series of three or four books.

    So that’s my twopennorth on this one, if it helps anybody!

    Cheers

    MTM

    • That’s awesome! I love your plan on how you’re tackling the writing despite everything that’s going on around you. You definitely have a lot going on! I can only imagine how stressful all of that is, especially looking after your parents while raising a child and going through menopause. I’m not hitting menopause yet, but in a few years, I will be. I heard it can make life more difficult.

      I’ve heard a lot of good things about scrivener. I haven’t used it, but I heard it’s great on many levels. 🙂

  2. Great post! I tend to just live in a sort of disorganized chaos and when it gets to be too stressful I find the best thing for me is to step away from everything. Even writing. And go for a walk,spend a day playing games with hubby, something completely unrelated. I’ve tried about a hundred different organization methods, tricks, schedules, you name it, and none of them will ever stick. I think chaos is the only way my brain functions, sadly.

    • I wish I could sleep when I get stressed out, but the opposite happens. I have to get things in order so I can sleep. Doing something like walking or playing a game does help relieve stress, though.

      Some people do thrive on chaos. My husband needs it to stay motivated. If things are going smoothly, he tends to lose momentum. 🙂

  3. This is an excellent and much needed post. These all make sense to me.

    I’m a little different about emails. I make sure I check my emails every day now. I’ve missed a couple of really important emails from clients by waiting a couple of days. I use Gmail, which has an option where you can have different tabs: primary, social, promotions, updates, and forums. This is really helpful because I can check my primary email for people who have emailed me directly. I usually check my updates, too, because that’s where editing inquiries come from the website. I usually check the social tab when I have time. But I always check for email if I’ve got an ongoing project with someone.

    This can all be so overwhelming at times, and I’m trying to use Stephannie Beman’s planner as much as I can. She created a great way for authors to keep up with things. Now I just need to use it the way it was intended. 🙂

    I just wish I didn’t have the full time job. I think that’s what’s sucking out my creativity. I’m so tired when I get home from work. I still have a few years before retirement, but I’m looking forward to it. Writing and editing full time would be such a dream job for me!

    • In your situation, I can understand why you need to check emails every day. I was thinking more of answering comments on a blog or on Facebook. Sometimes when the inbox piles up, I feel like I have to tackle those comments right away, but if I start doing that, I won’t get any writing in for the day. I need to write first thing or else I won’t get to it. I don’t know if I could write after coming home from a day job. I used to do my best writing at night before I had to get up early with the kids to see them off to school. Now I go to bed early in the evening. My best writing time is now in the morning. So I can see how you would be exhausted by the end of the day.

      I wonder… Do you have an iPhone or something you can speak some of the story into? I’ve been speaking part of my story into my iPhone using the Dragon Dictation program when I’m in the car. I can usually get in 500 words doing that. (Yes, I do have to go and edit them, but it’s better than nothing.)

      I’ve been using her planner, too. I like keeping track of my writing progress in it.

  4. One thing I do is watch and/or listen to relaxing videos on YouTube. They actually help me focus on writing as well as relieve stress.

  5. Ron Fritsch

    I’m another one who can’t imagine a life without writing. My rules are these: take each day as it comes, adhere to my exercise schedule, eat two healthy planned meals, get as much writing work done as I can whenever I can, try to be kind to the people around me offline and on, go to bed at a reasonable hour, and hope for the best. I can’t say I have a stressful life.

    • I love the way you fit eating well and exercise into your routine. I bet that goes a long way into getting the other rules in. I need to get back into exercise again. It made a huge difference in how much energy I had.

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