Social media is bright, fun, shiny, and it can also feel like the Chuck E. Cheese from Hell. As writers of the Digital Age we have a much higher chance at success than any writer in history, but we also have more work than any writer in history. And, to make matters worse, spouses, bills, kiddos with snotty noses, dust bunnies and car troubles don’t go away the day we decide to become professional writers.
RDD Can Make Us Nuts
RDD is what I like to call Reality Deficit Disorder. Like the flu, this disease seems to explode January of every year, normally brought on by New Year’s Resolutions. We vow to be 18% body fat, debt-free, have an immaculate house, build a perfect social platform with a bazillion fans, and win the Pulitzer…all by March. We seem to collectively go crazy and forget that we can only do so much.
Many writers experience RDD when it comes to social media. We sign up for Facebook, and build an author page, and link to LinkedIn, and pin on Pinterest until our pinners are dull from wear. Vowing to do everything, eventually we do nothing. We become paralyzed in the face of all we’ve committed to do.
Time to Get Real
Thus, the first step to preventing being overwhelmed is to be realistic in our goals and expectations. If we’ve already blown that, the trick to pulling ourselves out of the tail-spin is to sit down, rework our priorities, and commit to being more realistic.
Goals are written on paper not stone.
Successful people don’t just make a list of goals ONCE. The list of goals is always a living document in need of modification, reordering, or even being scrapped altogether.
Persistence is a wonderful trait. Persistence is noble. But persistence can look a lot like stupid.
Time to Face the Music
I tend to be a person of my word…to a fault. If I promise to do something I will half-kill myself to get it done if need be. But sometimes this is just plain DUMB. I’ve learned that most people will understand if we have to back out of something we’ve promised to do, but we MUST be honest with them and vow to make it right.
Look, Sally. I know I promised to blog every day for a year to raise money for all the starving children in Africa, but I am out of my depth. I overestimated what I can do given the demands of my schedule. I apologize. I was so caught up in wanting to help you, I didn’t think. Please forgive me. Is there anything I can do that might be a smaller job? Can I help you find other bloggers to fill my spot who do have time to blog every day for all the starving children in Africa?
Many times people will be forgiving (probably because they’ve oopsed a time or two themselves). If we just face the problem and offer to be a solution, more often than not, other people will be reasonable. Whey they aren’t reasonable is when we just don’t show up, disappear or dump a mess in their laps without any offer of help to remedy the problem.
And, as a warning. Don’t do this stuff too often. Professionals always need to take time to think before they agree to doing things. I still struggle with this, so as I have one finger pointed at you guys, I have three pointing back at me. Likely, this will be a lesson we continually learn and relearn throughout all our lives (especially Helpful Hannah personalities like mine :D). But we DO have to be careful or others won’t want to work with us because we are, essentially, flakes.
No one expects us to be perfect, but they do expect us to be honest and kind. We can do that. Yes, it is scary. It’s tough facing when we’ve erred, but making mistakes is just part of the game and how we learn. We will learn more from our mistakes than we ever will our failures.
Time to Face the True Causes of Our Angst
Making too many commitments and then (mistakenly) believing we can’t change is one of the major causes of feeling overwhelmed. It’s okay to be flexible.
Fortune Cookie Moment: The stiff oak breaks in the strong wind, but the reed that bends endures.
Remember, the commitment you made to yourself, that list of goals? It can be redone. The commitments to others? Those can be changed too, IF we are brave enough to admit we goofed and courageous enough to make things right.
Go around the leaf.
~Pixar’s “A Bug’s Life”
Have you made a list of goals that is nothing short of ridiculous? How did you come to your senses? Did you feel guilty having to rework your list? Do you struggle with being over committed? Do you struggle telling people “no”?
I love hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of January, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.
At the end of January I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!
I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.
No one expects us to be perfect, but they do expect us to be honest and kind.
Why in the world does this sometimes seem so hard? It is simple and direct. How can we not love it?
Last year was a big awakening for me in what you’re talking about. For three months, I had the equivalent of an additional full-time job as overtime on my regular job. Then my husband was out of town in a series of business trips for most of the last six months of the year. And through all of that I kept believing in the delusions that I could keep all my commitments- to writing, to working out, to my family, to whatever. Well, I totally couldn’t. I could manage to make sure the kids were fed, that I worked out enough to stay sane, and I could get to work on time. And the small platform I had built up mostly disintegrated, but that didn’t really matter as I wasn’t writing anything. So now I have redone my goals, and my priorities, and I’m hitting it all slowly. I know from past experience that as I have small, slow successes towards little goals I gain momentum. At some point everything explodes exponentially- hopefully this time in the positive. Great post.
Know the feeling…..
Gee. You listed all my resolutions. How embarrassing. Last year I went crazy trying to finish several books and start a jewelry business on the side, not to mention aiming to be the top volunteer at my Church. I’m always certain I’m not working hard enough. (Guilt over being able to stay home and work.) When I saw how much I hadn’t accomplished and how many volunteer efforts I had to bow out of, I knew I was setting myself up for failure. I’m lighter on the goals this year, but I’ve also upped the commitments to others to help me meet the goals I made. I set up a date with my editor to have the book ready for a first edit. I’m going to make that goal this Friday, because I’m better at finishing things if I think it’s for someone else. I bit twisted, but it’s working. 🙂
Thank you, Kristen — so nice to hear someone besides that Other Person who lives inside my brain saying this. I don’t blog (gasp!) because I write books & somehow cannot do both–but I will tweet you like crazy. I’m a new follower, and I have already decided that you are a gift to writers. Off now to revise those goals!
I consistently fall short of my ridiculously low goals, but, hey, I’m consistent.
Thank you for the advice. I do not think that my list of goals is overreaching, but I recently lost an old friend and have been grieving this past week. I haven’t wanted to write a word, and I haven’t even thought about what to write, anyway. At first, I felt lazy for not meeting my own stated goals, but now I realize that the opportunity to write will always be there and that I can get back on the horse when I am ready.
This is excellent advice. When someone asks me to take on a task, I now ask for 24 hours to think about it before I decide. I have learned to say no because it gives me a cooling off period before I shove myself out on a limb. Thanks for the excellent articles.
If I’m a flake I’d like to be a snowflake please 😉 I kind of like blogging more often and I’m hoping that blogging in waves inconsistently becomes a new trend lol.
Excellent advice. 🙂 I tend to be a “Helpful Hannah,” too.
How very apropos that you post this just after I got done thinking of a good descriptive name for This Year (as in the Year of Research) for a comment Stephanie Nickels made in our ROW80 group.
For me, this is going to be the Year of Awareness–aware of my limitations and aware of ways to get things done well within them; aware of other people’s needs and feelings; aware of solutions and aware of problems.
Great post, Kristen. Thank you.
I’ve just made a commitment to myself and my readers to blog every day for eight days, and there’s a contest for my readers to get involved and win prizes. I’m not sure if this is going to be one of those way-out-of-my-depth and overwhelming things or not, but I thought I’d give it a try. I’m hoping I can stick with it because I’m not doing anything *else* during my writing/blogging marathon; it’s a single, huge, commitment, and I’m trying to accept that it won’t leave much time for anything else. Still, I’m thinking this will either be a really cool thing that gets people involved with my blog in a new way, or a total flop. It’s too early to tell which!
I love A Bug’s Life. “Go around the leaf.” Such a good line! Great advice.
Amen! I think we all go through phases of social media burnout. It’s all just too much. Now, please excuse me while I go share this on FB and twitter.
Sometimes I’m so embroiled in what I intend to do, I don’t realize that I haven’t done it. I’m constantly revising my plans. I do what I can and can what I do. Certain stats help me, though: Klout, Brandyourself, and my sense of hysteria that comes if I feel I’m not doing enough. That usually prompts me. Not sure how to link back to your blog…when I’m writing about weight loss and maintenance…but I can certainly relate goals and maintenance to having to go around the leaf…readjusting goals of what I need to weigh when. 😉 It certainly does apply in the Big Picture of goal setting. 😉 Look for me posting and linking back and forth to: http://www.thefatandtheskinnyonwellness.com/
Great advice. It is so hard to find the balance. I know I spend too much time on blogging and reading blogs but I feel like I want to be a good friend and comment. And I’m not even on Twitter. It’s so hard to set limits. You’ve got a great idea to set some concrete goals.
Timely post. Just when most of us are ramping up for another year with long range goals (I don’t make resolutions, I just make to do lists and plod away like a turtle), we can get overwhelmed with all we want to accomplish. I’m probably on the other side of the coin; I hesitate agreeing to take on anything, because I know how life interrupts and then I feel awful to disappoint when I can’t get a thing done. Finding that balance is part of our yoga as a writer.
So true! Yup. It can seriously feel like “Chuck E. Cheese from Hell.” Love that phrase. That’s why I advocate Slow Blogging. Blogging less often on a regular schedule can get more readers than frenzied blogging and then silence. Ditto FB, Twitter, Google+ presence.
I like Eden’s comment above. I have labelled this year as the Year of Balance (and ROW80 is one thing I dropped – sorry, guys), but Year of Awareness is good too. Cuz you can’t have balance without being aware of it. And since I’m also a Helpful Hannah, I’m right up there with you, Kristen, on saying Yes too much.
I think a big thing that gets forgotten is that while we all have the same 24-hours in a day, and we all have too much to fit into that 24-hours, we’re not all equal at how much time we can schedule and _still have our mental health_. While some can schedule 7 hours of work into 8 hours of the clock, some of us can’t. And yet we compare ourselves to what everyone else is getting done. I need to recognize how much I can do and how much downtime I need, and set my own drumbeat.
Thanks for another great post, Kristen.
Another great post! The hardest thing to learn is when to push that big red NO button. I’ve gotten better at it but still slip up once in a while. 🙂
Yes! I over commit. This past year I read a devo about pruning plants. There is only so much sun, water, nutrients in the soil that a plant/tree can take in, if the plant’s stems/tree’s branches are only producing leaves, but not fruit, that’s all they will produce. They need to be cut in order to make way for possible healthier stems/branches that will produce fruit. So it is with us. we only have so much time, energy. What are we spending it in? Is it producing the fruit we need or is it sucking us dry leaving us with nothing to show for it. Which leads me to try to figure out which stems/branches I need to cut from my life…haven’t figured that part out yet. 🙂
Perfect timing, Kristen. I was complaining about this to my daughter last night. My life has turned into a Chuck E. Cheese (love that) nightmare as I try to complete blog posts, finish my sequel, and attend author events and volunteer at local non-profits. And exercise, cleaning house, blah blah blah. When I started jogging in place while I typed a new chapter, I realized I’d gone over the edge. Thanks for the reality check!
This is so right on. I often berate myself for my scattered thinking and loose ends, and then I look at the tabs on my computer and realize that I’m midway through reading eight articles and six comics and am responding to nineteen different comments on the blog or twitter or fb, AND am writing two short stories and a novel. Sheesh. No one can do this. Or, at least I can’t. One of the things I LOVE about Mac Freedom is the quietness of thinking that it provides.
Luckily, it takes almost no time to come back to reality after the New Year’s giddiness. Already reality, and the amount of hard work needed to actually accomplish what I set out to do, is using it sledge hammer. I read this blog, and others like it, because it helps to dull the pain of the reality blows, and teaches me ways to streamline.
Couldn’t agree more. We need space in our lives for some ‘nothing’, so we can fill the well that helps us create. Never too late to reevaluate goals and rewrite the to-do list.
I struggle saying no but I am getting better at it. I have learnt the hard way about overcommitting yourself. Great post and thanks for sharing,
Thanks for this reality check! I keep thinking about opening a Twitter account. Then I remind myself that I can barely keep my two blogs going and check my two main email inboxes. Twitter? I must be crazy.
Of course, this is more of a problem for people like me, who are no longer young and invincible. My ability to multitask is nonexistent. All of us, regardless of age, have to be realistic about the fable that we can not only do ANYTHING we want, we can also do EVERYTHING! Our professors in college had it right when they asked us to choose one major and one minor. Some can handle a double major, but beware.
This was the perfect blog post for me today. I’ve been down with flu and way off schedule. I’m racing to catch up and feeling that i’m out of balance. Thanks for bringing some sanity to my world and reminding me to take a breath and make a plan.
I don’t struggle with spending too much time on social media (although I certainly used to.) What got me to get real was committing to writing blog posts that I was deeply passionate about AND limiting my SM activities to the sites where most of my and my boss’ subscribers hang out. That way I can be effective without being stretched too thin. 🙂
Say no to something? It’s so hard for me, but I’m getting better at it.
I have a vision for where I’d like to be, and that doesn’t shift much. Unfortunately, I cannot control the market, or agents, or readers–I can only control what I choose to do or not do. Opportunities and obstacles arise, so it’s smart to be agile and flexible and thoughtfully consider — does this get me closer to the vision or not, considering what it costs me to do it? It’s ironic that “no” is often the first word we learn and the first we forget how to use.
I don’t feel as guilty anymore when I re-write goals. It’s gotten easier over the years and 2013 is no exception. In fact, I had hoped to finish the re-writes my agent gave me by January 1st. That didn’t happen. Then I set the goal for the 15th…nope, missed that one, too. Then I set it for the 31st.
I finished the entire thing, and added nearly 30,000 words to a previously published work, two days ago 🙂 Yay!
If I beat myself up about missing my deadlines it would have gotten me nowhere. Instead, like you and Pixar’s adorable bugs said, I went around the leaf and kept going.
Sorry for the absence of late.
Glad to be back and thanks for your wisdom!
Have a great evening 🙂
Huge thanks for this timely dose of reality. (Facing) the truth really does set us free, however bumpy the path to it. Good wishes, Phyllis in NH
Thanks Kristen. Honest and insightful! 🙂
I like what you said about social media being “Chuck E. Cheese from hell”…lol. I’m usually pretty good with it, but the last couple of days it was exactly that to me.
So well timed! I came out of peaceful December break and dove back into the routine. Yeah–I forgot to factor in life too. I am now readjusting and redefining. Balance young padiwan.
You always bring it home Kristen. Thanks!
I like what you said about social media, the more interconnected we become the more lonely we sometimes feel. We always try to replace human interaction with ,sms, email, phone calls, video calls, but nothing and i mean nothing can replace a strong hug, or a shoulder to cry on.
Fantastic points Kristen! Do you think social media may be the root cause for America’s decreasing engaging verbal articulation, i.e. less face-to-face and live (on the phone) communication…particularly in our teens & young adults? Everything has to be done so fast at the expense of quality, or artistic value! Example, what is the average time an internet browser spends on a webpage? I think it’s like 12-15 seconds? This whole social media trend has made me appreciate more the classic and Victorian literature; content that stimulates my brain in a non-hyperactive & non-attention deficit way! “Whoa there kid…that’s fine wine, not Gatorade! You sip it and savor it!” LOL 😉
Facebook, Twitter and all those great blogs I’ve signed up for. I miss a day or two on my computer, and there’s sixty emails–and those aren’t my friends, those are from business, writers and great bloggers like you!
Brilliant, Kristen! (Not that brilliance is new here. It’s a common occurrence.)
But I also love that song Rubberband Girl by Kate Bush: “See those trees bend in the wind. I feel they’ve got a lot more sense than me. You see, I try to resist…If I could learn to give like a rubberband, I’d be back on my feet.” That always inspires me to be flexible, be resilient, keep looking for how to bounce back.
Wonderful entry! I had the same lovely fever at the start of 2013. I had all of these great plans to blog at least every other day…on two different blogs. I was all set to go. Then my job quickly stepped in and started taking over my evening writing time (either with work to take home or from staying later at work). I quickly realized that I was going to have to set boundaries, something that us all-or-nothing types have a hard time doing. For now, I update my blogs every weekend, but I am starting to arrange my work schedule to open up my evenings. You know, because you’ve got to have priorities…
I am just catching up on this series and loving it. I use the Pomodoro Technique to make sure I only ‘reward’ myself with a bit of social media work (yes, it’s fun as well) for a certain time and then get back to doing the real work. Thank you so much for this series. I will link back to your series as it is very germane to my post. Thank you!
Reblogged this on My Rants.
Thanks for the link back. And stopped by actually to say I bought your Social Media Book and you are a life saver. Love the wicked humor you impart to make us ‘serious writers’ less serious!!!