I will confess, being a writer is THE best job in the world. But, I’d be lying if I didn’t ALSO admit it can feel like we’ve been strapped to Hell’s Tilt-A-Whirl. 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.
In fact, Spawn used more toilet paper than a crew of high school football players rolling the house of a rival team’s quarterback. And he flooded the bathroom. And I still have to clean the mess, but the liquor stores aren’t open yet.
So yeah, that is the glamourous job of an author.
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. We weep over Instagram and mortify our teenagers by trying to tackle Tumblr.
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.
If our GOAL is to summit Mt. Everest and we are trudging up Mt. Shasta? Helloooo? Helps to be on the correct MOUNTAIN.
For instance, my life DRASTICALLY changed when I decided to unschool Spawn. Instead of having six hours a day, five days a week where it was QUIET because he was in preschool? I have him here ALL DAY, EVERY DAY.
Thus, I’ve had to rework my routine and sharpen my focus. In between lessons, I let him play X-Box. BUT, it is not uncommon for me to be writing and have to stop and yell:
“Conserve your ammo! Single-fire or burst fire! Those aren’t Hollywood guns! They actually run out of ammo and spraying like a ganbanger creates too much muzzle-walk….”
Okay, where was I? *stares at computer”
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 and I REALLY goofed a few times during those months with Shingles, 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/failures than we ever will our successes.
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, or maybe life just CHANGED (Hey, I didn’t PLAN on being in an ER three times from Shingles) and then we must be 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. 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).
For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook.