Category Archives: Time Management

The Research Quagmire

 

Happiest of Scribe Days to you! What’s Scribe Day? July 7, of course. Seventh day of the seventh month. Seems like a good day to celebrate!

The Scribes have come a long way since that fateful day in 2011 when we launched this blog. We are all now published or, in my case, about to be published–FETA ATTRACTION releases January 6! Cover reveal coming soon, I promise. Yeah, I’m the caboose on the Publication Train, but I hope it’ll be worth the wait.

One problem I never thought I’d have three years ago was being on deadline. Oh, of course I’d heard of other writers being in a mad race to finish and turn in a manuscript to an editor–I just never really considered that someday I’d have a pony in that race.

So here I am, in the middle of the third book of my series, which is due in a couple of months, and I’ve found myself bogged down. I haven’t been writing. I’ve been researching. Ah, research. My Strange Addiction. I keep waiting for the producers of that television show to call me.

I’ll say it now. I. Love. Research. Love it. Give me a computer with an internet connection and I’ll happily research anything, for hours on end. Genealogy and local history are my two danger zones. And both of those topics feature heavily in my Greek To  Me Mysteries, set in the Thousand Islands, situated between New York State and Canada in the St. Lawrence River.

My latest research obsession? Don’t laugh. Salad Dressing. Thousand Island salad dressing, to be exact. Next time you open a bottle of that pink creamy stuff to pour over your greens, you might be interested to know that the origins of this dressing are shrouded in mystery. There are three competing versions of its Creation Myth, all with a northern New York connection. And based on my hours of poring over old cookbooks at Project Gutenberg and Archive.org and some more obscure digitized public domain materials, I think I’ve come to a decision about which of those myths is the most likely to be true. Not that I can reveal it just yet, LOL! But if you’re interested in a summary, click here.

But for a book to feel authentic, a writer needs to do her research, right? So the hours were necessary. Well, yes, but only up to a point. My story only needed a minimum amount on this topic–and yet my investigative journalist-like nature overtook me and I wanted to get to the bottom of the mystery. See, I’d like to be the one to break a story like that. Someday, I just might do it.

Research can enhance your storytelling. Or it can be a huge timesuck-slash-avoidance behavior.  The research doesn’t mean much if you don’t get the words down on paper and out the door to a waiting editor.

So, I am allowing myself one more hour of research on this topic–for now, until book 3 is finished. I ordered a DVD of a local PBS documentary which claims to have found the smoking gun in the Thousand Island dressing and when that comes, I will watch it. But no more hundred-year-old cookbooks. No more searching the Internet for contemporary accounts of salads. Pinky swear!

Do you do research for your writing? Can you stop anytime you want or do you get obsessive? What’s your favorite salad dressing?

 

 

 

 

Looking Out For Number One

Hi, Scribelings. Suze here. Welcome!

We usually keep things light here at the Scribes but today’s topic is serious. I’m talking about transitioning from your day job to your full-time writing career. Let me explain.

MV5BNzA1MTYwNjUyOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDQ3MDQ2OQ@@._V1_SY317_CR12,0,214,317_AL_[1]Like virtually all writers and wannabe writers out there, I started out doing something else. For a couple of decades I worked for a medium-sized company as a staff person. When I sold my first series (debuting January 6, 2015 and available for preorder now!), I figured I’d work for a few more years until I was (hopefully) making enough to live on from my writing. Well, that was a nice plan. But it didn’t happen.

I’m here to tell you, unless you own the company you work for, no one is indispensable. (Depending on the type of company and the structure of management and boards of directors, even the owner might not be indispensable). I don’t care how much you think they like/love/respect/can’t function without you, you’re wrong. Everyone is replaceable or do-without-able. Everyone.

And once people at your day job find out that you’ve sold your novel, you might be replaceable sooner than you think.

thumb_money_bag_green[1]See, everyone thinks writers make scads of money. I went to a job interview recently and the interviewer said, after having seen that I had a book contract, “I thought you must be a millionaire.” Um, seriously? Do you think I would be interviewing for a part-time job with you if I were a millionaire? Don’t you think I’d be sitting on a tropical beach somewhere, wearing oversized designer sunglasses and wrapped in an expensive silk sarong while a buff, half-naked island man served me cocktails and gave me suggestive looks? But this is the kind of thing you are going to get handed to you. A lot.

And the other thing you will probably face at some point is that not everyone will be happy for you, maybe not even members of your own family (not the case with me, thank goodness, but it happens). Because when you take steps toward living your dreams, it causes other people to examine their own lives, and when those lives are less than dreamy, it can foster resentment. Even active, malicious sabotage, which actually happened to me.

Think about the people in your circle. How many of them are doing what they really want to? How many of them are moving toward fulfilling their dreams? I hope it’s lots of them, because there are so many opportunities now that make things possible (see below for more explanation on that). But the truth is, it’s probably almost nobody.

So this post is about Looking Out For Number One–You, Yourself, and You.

Despite being under contract for three books with a Big Five/Six publisher (the biggest one, LOL!), and having something else in the works that I’ll be able to tell you about soon when the ink is dry, I don’t make a living wage from my writing. I think I will, hope I will, in the next few years. But for right now, I would have liked to have kept that day job for a while longer. However, someone else made that decision for me.

So here’s my advice to every writer out there who still has a day job working for someone else:

Consider very carefully whether you will disclose to your employer and your coworkers that you are writing on the side. Consider even more carefully whether you will tell them when you sell. I opted to tell, figuring that for various reasons it was going to get out anyway and I’d rather they hear it from me. I also showed my supervisors my contract, so they could see exactly how much money I was–wasn’t–making. Didn’t seem to matter to them, they let me go anyway. But you might work in a company (perhaps you work at home, and never or almost never see your coworkers) where you can remain relatively anonymous. In that case, I’d keep it quiet. What they don’t know, they can’t use against you. Share your success with your writing peeps and your close family and friends. Otherwise, don’t. Your boss, the administrative assistant, or the accounts receivable person at your office probably won’t buy your book–may even perversely enjoy not buying your book–so why bother?

Start NOW developing a side business, not necessarily writing related.  A person would be foolish to invest all of her money in only one stock–smart investors diversify. Well, if you’re not at the point yet where you’re making enough at your writing to satisfy your needs and at least some of your wants, think about having something else in place in case your day job goes bye-bye for whatever reason.

Need editing or proofreading? Stop by! www.crazydiamondediting.com
Need editing or proofreading? Stop by! http://www.crazydiamondediting.com

I’d be willing to bet that most all of us have a skill/talent that could make extra money. Me, I do editing for indie-pubbers at Crazy Diamond Editing (click here for more information).  Now that my unemployment has run out, I’ll be looking to expand that business. And I’m also thinking about resurrecting a handbag-making microbusiness I had a few years ago. Does all this take time and planning and organization? Yes. But you’re working for you, and I can’t tell you how satisfying that is.

But Suze, you say. I don’t have the kind of skills that people will pay money for. Are you sure about that? Can you read a label? Why don’t you go around to tag sales and look for consignable clothes? You could sell them on Ebay or ThredUp. Have you got stuff around your house you could list on Ebay or Craigslist? Can you knit or crochet or make beaded jewelry or other crafty items? These skills are not hard to learn and you could set up a table at a flea market or farmers’ market or sell online at Etsy. Can you garden? You could grow flowers or vegetables and put them out by the road to sell. Do you love animals? How about developing a pet-sitting, grooming, or dog-walking business? Have you got a skill you can teach someone else? Look into your town’s Adult Education department or local community college’s Continuing Education program and see if you can put together a class.

Think outside the box. I’ll bet you can come up with more ways of making money than you know.  (And for even more ideas and inspiration, check out Barbara Winters’ Joyfully Jobless website–there’s lots of practical and motivational stuff there) The more diverse your interests, and the more you put yourself out there creatively, the better your writing is going to be.

Have an exit plan. Somebody should do a workshop on this (in fact, maybe I will). What do I mean by this? Here are some suggestions:

  • Know what your company’s policy is regarding termination of employment. What benefits are available to you if you retire, quit, are fired for cause, or are laid off? Are you entitled to severance pay, unused vacation and sick time, unemployment (will depend on your state and the reason you and the job parted ways)? If the worst happens, how will you make the most of what you get?
  • If you did lose your job, just how much money do you actually need to live on? Most of us don’t know. Make a list now of the money you have coming in. Then track where your money goes for a month. For bills that come less frequently, like real estate tax bills and winter heating costs, look at your bank statements from last year and average them out to a monthly cost. Identify what’s a want and what’s a need. I’ll bet there are places you can cut back. The grocery bill and shoe-shopping (insert personal vices here) bills are great places to start. Look at your phone plans and cable bills and gym memberships and make sure you’re actually using the services you’re paying for. Eliminate what you can.
  • Save money NOW. Save as much as you can, even more than you think you can. So when your employer gives you a surprise one-month’s- pay severance “package” and a copy paper box to carry your stuff out in, you’ll be okay. Maybe not comfortable, but okay.
  •   If you’re a two-income household, can you live on what the other earner makes? It’s not a great idea to think you can fall back on somebody else, though. Because stuff that can happen to you (job loss, illness) can happen to the other person in your life too.  I hope it doesn’t. But let’s face it. None of us are getting any younger, and, well, stuff happens. Be prepared for it.

What about you? Do you think you’ll ever make a living wage from your writing? Do you have a plan (share it with us, if you’re comfortable doing so) for making it your full-time job? Ever been fired and want to vent here? Inquiring Scribes want to know.

 

 

 

 

 

The Procrastinator

Thea here, confessing I’m a world class procrastinator. I am distracted at the drop of a syllable, generally by bright and glittery things — like the tv screen.. I don’t know how I get things done.

I only know I have this interior war everyday about what NEEDS to be done, which is: do I write vs do I clean, and since writing is so much fun and I feel so guilty, I lean toward cleaning. But then, cleaning is such a chore and takes me away from writing … so I find reasons to avoid doing that.

Generally, when I’m on deadline, I can with good conscience clear the decks and drive everyone nuts in service of my finishing The Book. I recognize that this is NOt a healthy work habit. I’ve been analyzing my incessant complaints about how I never have time to do anything.

My Mom always used to ask, who’s stopping you?

There’s a rock hard question to stop you in your tracks. How do you explain to a not-writer? The dishes are piling up. The laundry needs to be done. I have to write. Mom would then say, so — load the dishwasher, do the laundry and write.

She just didn’t understand.

I need that time not to do dishes, laundry, writing. And I haven’t read a book in months. I watch too much tv. I’ve become an expert at manipulating my husband and son into the kitchen to make dinner. The day doesn’t have enough hours for me to avoid chores and writing.

Right now, I’m working on revisions for Beyond the Night, the long-awaited sequel to The Darkest Heart.. I promise you, I’m doing them in a timely manner. After I watch Kathie Lee and Hoda. After I procrastinate a couple of hours over this post … By noon. After lunch. Promise.

Anyone else a procrastinator? What’s your excuse?

Thea Devine is the author of over two dozen erotic historical and contemporary romances. Beyond the Night, the sequel to The Darkest Heart will be a September 2014 eBook release from Pocket Star.

Funk-ytown

Hey, all. Suze here. Are you digging the new Scribes format? Personally, I love it!

th[1]So I’ve been in a bit of a funk for a couple of weeks now. I’ve got a very long to-do list, and a number of things on it are time critical (including an April 1 deadline to turn in book 2 to Berkley!). Yet I find myself procrastinating on even the simplest of tasks. Really, Suze? You can’t even pick up the phone and make an appointment for a desperately-needed haircut and color? (Okay, I promise to do that as soon as I finish this post)

Is it the weather? We’ve got a couple of feet of snow on the ground here in New England. I’ve never minded the snow or the cold (other than my heating bill), always thought it was beautiful. And since I’m fortunate enough to have a healthy husband and teenaged son, I haven’t had to shovel a single flake this year. But now that I’m working at home, some days I realize at dinnertime that I haven’t even left the house. Not good. Maybe I just need some sun. I vow to get some today, even if it’s not on the Aegean Beach where I’d like to be.

Anyway, my experience with funks is that there are two ways to get out of them. One, you can wait it out. If you’re not clinically depressed and you don’t have some chemical imbalance going on, they do go away eventually. (If you suspect your funk might have some physical origins, do see a health practitioner. Don’t mess around with this stuff, please)

Second, you can de-funk yourself. It’s gonna take some effort to get over the initial hump, but you can do it. Here are my methods for defunkification:

1. Get up a little earlier. If you find that you’re hitting the snooze button too many times, you’re going to be behind all day. I know it’s hard to leave a warm bed in the wintertime, but you can make it easier for yourself by keeping a warm robe and slippers near the bed to make transitioning easier. If you like your coffee first thing in the morning, like I do, set up the coffeepot the night before. If your machine has a timer, even better! It’ll be ready for you when you get to the kitchen, and the aroma may help you roll out of bed. Trust me on this one: you can accomplish a lot first thing in the morning in only an extra fifteen or twenty minutes.

2. Make sure basic housekeeping is under control. Now, everybody has to decide for herself what basic housekeeping is. For me, as long as the beds are made, the dishes are done, and the laundry is more or less caught up, I can live with some dust until I can squeeze in a few minutes with the Swiffer. Other people may have higher housekeeping standards. So determine what the absolute minimum is you need for your mental health, and make sure those things get done. In that extra fifteen or twenty minutes in the morning, you can easily throw in a load of laundry and empty the dishwasher. Most things take less time than you think they do.

3. Do you know what you’re making for lunch and dinner? I’ll assume you don’t need to plan out your breakfast since most people eat more or less the same foods (oatmeal, cold cereal, egg, smoothie). But especially if you work outside the house or have school-age kids, you need to think about lunch. And dinner. This is actually a step best performed the night before so you have less to do in the morning. Make a loose meal plan and try to stick to it. You don’t want to come home from work in a panic, staring at unidentifiable frozen lumps in the freezer and hoping for a turkey dinner with all the fixin’s to magically appear.

If you’re just getting started on your defunkification, it’s perfectly acceptable to plan to order a pizza or support your local grinder or Chinese take-out shop for dinner. You need some time to get things rolling and you may need to shop for groceries once your loose meal plan for the week is made.

4. Take a shower. Casey touched on this recently in her post on working from home. Shampoo, shave, moisturize, and put on some clean clothes (you know, the laundry you did?) and you’ll feel ready to take on the world.  Being IN a funk doesn’t mean you have to SMELL funky.

5. Make a list. Yeah, I’m an inveterate list-maker. I don’t always DO the stuff on my lists, though, and that’s where I start to get into trouble. I have both a paper list for daily stuff and virtual sticky notes on my computer screen for longer term stuff, like future writing projects, and things like investigating a new cable provider and shopping for a new stove.  But in that extra few minutes in the morning, or while you’re enjoying your first cup of coffee, take some time and look at your list. Determine which of those things is most important that you get done that day.

I recommend adding a couple of less critical tasks to your must-do list (such as making that hair appointment) and, if the tasks require only five or ten minutes, do them first. That’s right, NOT in order of priority or importance. Because the satisfaction of accomplishing even a five minute task (and making a hair appointment is more like a one minute task!) and crossing it off the list gives you confidence and momentum.  And those are the keys to breaking the funk-cycle.

6. Determine the little things that are driving you crazy and add them to your list in a different section. Example: my sock and scarf drawer is a huge, jumbled mess, resulting in my not being able to find the items I want. Or the plastic storage container cupboard is out of control, and avalanches every time the door is opened. See if you can take a few minutes a day to work on these small, nagging things (maybe while you’re waiting for your significant other to get out of the shower, or while dinner is in the oven). Fixing small problems like this is another great way to start feeling good about yourself and your capabilities.

7. Do something for somebody else. No, I don’t mean take on a bunch of extra responsibilities like volunteering to organize and run your town’s winter carnival–that’s the last thing you need right now! But reach out to a friend who’s in a bigger funk than you are. Bake some banana bread and take a loaf over to your elderly neighbor. Drop five bucks into the donation can the school kids are shaking outside the grocery store. Get outside of your own head and think about somebody else. Guaranteed to make you feel better!

8. Finally, eat healthy food (order yourself something healthy along with the take-out, above!) and get a bit of exercise. Seriously, nothing makes you feel better than putting nutritious food into your body and doing something as simple as taking a walk around the block (or around the mall, if the weather is bad). So veggies, fruits, whole grains, healthy fats like those found in olive oil, avocados, nuts and fish, lean proteins, and lots of water. And a walk. Keep repeating to yourself that it’s not that hard. It’s not that hard. And eventually, it won’t be.

How about you? When you find yourself slipping into a funk, what are your methods for getting out?

 

TCV, TPT, DIY, Brook, D&T 1, D&T2, D&T3

Using Time Blocks To Get Stuff Done by J Monkeys

Hiddey Ho Scribblers!  J Monkeys here.  Since I have declared 2014 the year in which I shall get stuff done, I’m trying a new system to accomplish that.  As you may all be tired of reading by now, I’ve been working very hard these last few years to achieve Balance, with the capitol B.

Somehow, I’m a dabbler who is hard-wired to turn all energy to one thing at a time.  It doesn’t make any sense, I know.  But it boils down to me not accomplishing my goals when nothing is holding me back but myself.  So, the procrastination-fest that was 2013 has ended and a new era has dawned.  This definitely requires a new time management system.  I’m awesome at time management games like Diner Dash, Parking Dash, and Garden Dash – really any of the Dashes.  Surely I can find a time management system to apply to my life that will help me get stuff done.

Here’s what I’ve been doing the last two weeks and it seems to be working.  During the course of any given week I need to:

  • do things that people are actively willing to pay me to do (aka the day jobs),
  • write the things that will allow me to quit the day jobs,
  • eat healthy things and visit the gym a couple of times so that I can live long enough to enjoy quitting the day jobs,
  • and occasionally do some kind of housework so that Mr. Wonderful won’t arrive home from his much-longer-hours day job and wonder what it is I do all day. 

Basically it boils down to me being a full-time mom and housewife, part-time employee,  part-time writer, and part-time human with other stuff to do/interests.

I have derived my new time management system from my never ending love of Hugh Grant.  He was in a movie called About A Boy in which he lives off a trust fund and doesn’t work.  He breaks his day up into 30 minute units to stay busy.  Well, click here, I’ll let Hugh explain it. 

hugh grant about a boyThose short, 30-minute units don’t work for me.  I need something bigger.  I’ve broken my day into roughly two 3-hour blocks and three 1-hour mini blocks.  Once I get the twins on the school bus at 8:15, I have time to shower and eat a healthy breakfast, maybe check FB/email whilst chewing.  Then from 9:00 to noon, I have my first 3-hour block.  Ideally, this is used as writing time because I’m at my most productive and creative during that block.  But if day job #1 demands the morning block, then so be it.  I try to mix up what demand get’s this best block.

From noon to 1:00, I have lunch, plan dinner and do some kind of housework.  Move the laundry along, empty/fill/run the dishwasher, tidy something.  Then I have my second block, which depending on the day of the week is either 2 or 3 hours long.  I focus on the thing I didn’t do in the morning block – either day job #1 or writing. 

Then I’m off to day job #2, I pick the kids up between 5:30 and 6:00, and do the night routine.  Cook/eat dinner, put the kids to bed, read with my darling niece over the phone, and collapse in an exhausted heap. 

By 8:00 pm, I’m drained of all energy and creativity.  I know, you are all playing your tiny little finger violins at me now, aren’t you.  I have many writer friends who work 40 hours outside the home, have commutes to navigate, have kids, are much better housekeepers than I am and still manage to write faster/with more dedication than me.  But I have come to accept that I have no interest in trying to become Supermom anymore.  I’ve tried and failed.  I’m ready to try something else and succeed.

And as a dieting tip, putting myself to bed immediately after the kids go is a great way not to snack after dinner.  In fact, I think there is a book calling my name as I type.  But this new blocking system has worked pretty well the last two weeks.  I have been writing and I’m excited/energized about the project.  My employers are happy, and I even made it to the gym this week.  Sadly, I haven’t gotten my volunteer PTO commitments up to date, but there is always next week.

The best part is, I feel pretty balanced.  I touched on everything this week, with larger amounts of time dedicated to the things I think are the most important.  I’m looking forward to applying the blocks to next week.  I’m using a paper calendar and blocking time off every day so that I know that it’s available to do the stuff I need to do.

How do you manage your day?  Or does your day manage you?  Are you getting the most out of your time or do you need to change it up?

Tough Love

Hello, Scribes Readers, PJ Sharon here, and today I’m talking about tough love. This is the time of year that many of us are setting goals, working on business plans, re-evaluating our marketing strategies and generally attempting to lasso and tame this wild thing we call the “writer’s life”. Even with the best of intentions, most of the resolutions we make fall by the wayside and our ambitious goal setting can make us feel overwhelmed rather than hopeful for the new year.

Don’t get me wrong. I love goal setting, and my plate is as full of to-do’s as it ever has been, but instead of sharing my lofty aspirations with you all, I’d rather discuss how we go about sticking to our plan and meeting those goals. You’ve probably read a ton of blogs on goal setting, with such advice as making them manageable, measurable, and achievable. Great advice, for sure. But for today, I’d like to offer some coaching advice from an expert–no, not me.

Jillian Michaels (2013_06_02 01_59_31 UTC)My girl, Jillian Michaels, is one of the best motivators I’ve ever come across. I don’t often watch The Biggest Loser, but I know from personal experience that her training methods are effective. Through her 90 Day Body Revolution DVD set–which I bought last year around this time in hopes of shedding the weight I’d gained living the writer’s life–I was able to drop twenty-five pounds in about five months. Yes, I had to eat healthier and the workouts are brutal, but they’re only thirty minutes a day, five days a week…a small price to pay for a strong, healthy body, in my opinion. I figured I could do anything for thirty minutes a day and I knew the pay-off would be worth it. I reminded myself that I was worth it!

As a personal trainer myself, I quickly learned to appreciate Jillian’s tough love approach. Even when I want to swear at the TV, her passion and positive messages of encouragement continue to push me through every workout. Statements like, “Do your best,” “Just try one,” “Don’t you quit on me–don’t you quit on yourself,” “I know you can do this,” “Dig deep and find the strength you never knew you had,” and my favorite, “Focus on the why–why are you doing this?” She lists the common reasons why people want to be more fit, such as better health, longevity, skinny jeans, and sex with the light on, but the bottom line is that we all have a “why” when it comes to being driven toward a goal. If you focus on the “why”, you will tolerate any amount of torturous “how”.

Last week’s guest, Amy Denim, author of THE COFFEE BREAK BUSINESS PLAN for WRITERS, talked about creating a muse statement, a positive affirmation that sums up who you are and what you want for your writing career. (Here’s the link to the post if you missed it). I highly recommend that you start your new year by doing just that, and when you’re writing that statement, think about your “why”. Why do you write? What do you want to accomplish in your writing career? Why do you want it? How important is it to you? And what are you willing to do to get it?

Today’s Unlocked Secret: When you start to feel overwhelmed by the tasks at hand or are questioning if the time and work you’re investing in your writing life is worth it, read your muse statement and remember your “why”. Then, dig deep and find the strength you never knew you had, and tackle that next goal.

What motivates you to keep going when the going gets tough?

Top 10 signs of Writer Burnout

It’s coming up on eight years that I’ve been writing toward publication (averaging 40 hours per week above and beyond my 30 hour per week day job). I recently moved my Massage Therapy business closer to home and have had to work at building a new clientele (since my day job is still supporting my writing life). I also just celebrated my two year Indie Publishing anniversary in September (sometimes logging as many as 80 hours per week between writing and marketing). I’m not ashamed to say that these past six months have been a struggle to keep all the balls in the air that are required to run two businesses, stay healthy and fit, and keep my generally happy disposition. PJ Sharon here, and today, I’m talking about BURN OUT. 

Whether you’re already published (indie or otherwise), or you’re working toward publication, this writing life is not easy, is seldom glamorous, and let’s face it, is anything but a healthy lifestyle. We sit too much, work into the wee hours, turn more often to chocolate than celery sticks, and our to-do lists make Santa’s naughty and nice scroll look like a grocery list. It’s no wonder there is such a high incidence of burn out among writers. But how does one know when enough is enough? And what do we do about it?

Here are the TOP TEN signs you may be suffering from burn out (according to me):

1) You spend an entire weekend watching re-runs of The Walking Dead marathon for the third time and call it “research”.

2) You spend more time standing in a hot shower “thinking” about your story than writing it.

3) You would rather be in a dentists chair or at a gynecological exam than preparing for another blog hop.

4) The word “marketing” becomes synonymous with “kill me now”.

5) When you take a rare night off and go to dinner with your spouse, your to-do list spills onto your napkin and you start adding notes to the palm of your hand so you won’t forget to add to your list when you get home.

6) You swear at your computer in a disgusted rage as your inbox populates itself with the 400 e-mails that come through daily.

7) When the word “deadline” gives you that sinking sense of doom that immediately makes you want to procrastinate.

8)  You would rather clean the toilet, vacuum, or wash dishes than work on revisions, update your website, or plan your next marketing strategy.

9) You feel so overwhelmed that you want to quit your job, quit writing, and move to Costa Rica to sell pottery on the beach (or some other idyllic life that is not your own, because everyone seems happier and saner than you).

10) You’re exhausted when you go to bed, and equally as exhausted when you wake up, and you’re not sure if you care whether it’s a Monday or a Friday.

Please forgive me for making light of an all too common and serious condition. Chronic burn out can lead to physical, mental and emotional health problems and genuine signs of burn out should not be ignored.

So what’s a crazy writer supposed to do?

1) Find a good therapist. I’m serious. A good counselor can help you put things into perspective (when you’ve clearly lost it and are convinced the world will end if you miss a deadline), support you without judgment, and assist you in discovering coping strategies that your addled brain cannot come up with on its own. Sometimes, even medication can help. I tend to lean toward the natural approach, but if someone’s got a pill that can improve my patience with the new Windows 8.1 upgrade, I’d consider taking it.

2) Let go. Just let go! If you’re in the writing business for the long haul, pacing yourself is key. None of us can do it all and do it all well, all the time. NOT GOING TO HAPPEN! So instead of beating yourself up or making yourself crazy, decide what is most important to you. Creative success, peace of mind, and happiness, or business success and constantly feeling like you’re losing yourself to the work? When all else fails, go back to what you loved in the first place. Write your stories and stop reaching for the brass ring. If it’s meant to come, it will come, but losing your mind trying to do it all is not the answer. I have to believe that if we simply keep writing quality fiction and putting it out there, something will eventually stick. (I’ve heard that it takes Indies 10 books on their cyber-shelf before they find steady growth in their readership.) Jeesh! I’m glad this is my retirement plan for fifteen years down the road. Baby steps, grasshoppers!

3) Take care of you first! I know we have a responsibility to our families, but if we are overwhelmed, tired, grumpy, and never present, we are no good to them! The answer…nurture yourself first. Get some rest, eat something healthy, drink plenty of water, and get some exercise and fresh air!

For example, I’ll be celebrating the upcoming solstice with a few of my women friends of the earthy-crunchy persuasion (yogis, massage therapists, and energy workers). My husband has agreed to play host, bless his heart. We’ll have a nice healthy pot-luck buffet followed by a bon fire–complete with drumming. Connecting to the earth is a powerful tool for healing–both for us and for the earth. If this seems a little too “pagan” for your liking, I highly recommend finding time to observe some holiday rituals that feed your soul and your spirit, parts of us that are often abandoned to our “online” lifestyle. Yes, I’ll be celebrating Christmas with friends and family, but it comes with it’s own kind of stresses as most of you can attest. Gathering with like-minded women to share our love of nature has such a different energy and I’m really excited for the opportunity to reconnect with my “heart-centered’ community.

The point is, find something to get excited about that has nothing to do with your writing life.

4) Prioritize and organize. I don’t know about you, but my desk space can quickly become overrun with paperwork, notes, notebooks, and bills. As all the clutter encroaches, I can feel my stress level rise. It’s worth it to take a half a day and just clear the debris. Get your space organized and start fresh on a new to-do list. Anything that has been put off from your previous lists must go at the top. I know this is a challenge because there are so many more pressing issues than re-designing and ordering new bookmarks. But trust me, those insignificant naggers will weigh you down. Clearing out the bottom of the to-do bin gives you a sense of completion. What you find there might also prove to be the tasks you can hire out or ask for help with from some creative type in your tribe.

5) Lastly, try to remember the joy of writing.

You know that quitting isn’t the answer. The characters talking in your head that want their story told will never allow that. But if writing everyday is making you miserable…stop. If you love writing but hate marketing, don’t do it for a while. Give yourself a week or a month away from promoting your work or forcing yourself to write. Yes, sales may suffer, but try not to focus on that. The numbers will come back around when you publish that book you’re working on. Do what you can do, do it to the best of your ability, and keep breathing. Be a part of the life that is happening around you, and be gentle with yourself and others through the holidays.

Peace and blessings, friends.

PJ

How many of you are suffering or have suffered from burnout? What did you do to treat it?