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Writing: How To Fend Off Indie Author Burnout

Writing: How to Fend Off Indie Author Burnout

Man with hand over face

The despair of the indie author?

With the heady empowerment of being one’s own publisher comes a potentially crippling burden of all those essential tasks that surround the core task of actually writing. The combined but essential chores of editing, production, book marketing and financial management can sap the self-published writer’s energy, creativity and enthusiasm. Here are some tips to help you guard against indie author burnout and to keep those all-important words flowing.

We recently asked ALLi members the following question, via our invaluable private Facebook discussion group in which we share best practice and mutual support:

What’s your favourite coping mechanism for dealing with “indie author burnout” – the feeling of being completely overwhelmed with the many tasks and challenges that face an ambitious indie author, eating into the precious time that you would rather spend writing more books and eroding your enthusiasm as well as your energy?

The huge response suggested that this is a very common problem. There were also grateful cries from those who had feared they’d been suffering alone, disheartened by an internet awash with indie authors apparently doing everything better, faster and more profitably than themselves:

Oh, my gosh. I never heard that term before but its totally what I’m feeling right now. A sense of overwhelming failure because I can’t keep up with it all, and what I’ve done is so far behind where I planned on it being. I’m tired.

Some of the answers were light-hearted and fun, others more serious. (The names have been omitted for the sake of confidentiality – our Facebook forum is private so that people may discuss personal concerns in confidence.)

Feed the Inner Man/Woman

  • Favourite consolations in the form of food or drink: coffee, chocolate, wine

Change of Scene/Activity

  • Get away from your desk and your computer screen.
  • Go for a walk, read a print book, cut yourself off from the internet.
  • Do some gardening, providing constructive and rewarding activity that rests your writer’s brain.
  • Try apps designed to rest your brain. A programme called Brain Sync, meant to relieve stress, was mentioned by one member.
  • Take up meditation or practice yoga.
  • Listen to music, or play music.
  • Visit an art museum, watch DVDs or television.
  • Play video games, card games or board games.
  • Do a jigsaw puzzle.
  • Take the dog for a walk. Let your pets take you out of yourself.
  • Go swimming or go for a run.
  • If’ you’re a city dweller, visit the countryside. Stare at the sea. Walk in fields and hills and mountains.
  • Take a day off to go to the city if you live in the country. (Great for people-watching and grabbing story ideas!)
  • Cook a nice meal to share with friends or family.
  • Write something that is unrelated to your work-in-progress e.g. free writing first thing on waking
  • Practise an absorbing and constructive craft that doesn’t involve words such as knitting, sewing, woodturning.
  • Take a day off to go to the city if you live in the country. (Great for people-watching and grabbing story ideas!)
  • Go to the day job for a rest!
Girl asleep at desk

Power up with a power nap

 

Get Organised

  • Carve out core hours for the different tasks in self-publishing – writing (first and foremost), marketing, production – and protect them.
  • Find a schedule that suits your personal peaks and troughs of energy and creativity – one author swears by the formula of two weeks on (writing) and two weeks off (everything else).
  • Pace yourself and be realistic with your goals and deadlines – make them achievable without the need to engage superpowers.
  • Organise your email inboxes and social media so that you control them, rather than feeling they’re bullying you into submission.
  • Use social media scheduling apps to allow you to be more productive in a short, distinct timeframe.
  • Delegate whatever and wherever you can. Only a minority of indie authors can cost-justify a virtual assistant from their book sales, but consider subsidising one from your day job salary – think of it as a kind of venture capital investment in your writing career.
  • If you write on a computer, use one that doesn’t have internet access so you don’t get distracted.
  • Remove unnecessary intrusions from your smartphone too. You really don’t need to be reminded of your Facebook and Twitter updates all the time you’re away from your desk.

Assert Yourself

  • Say “stuff it”, walk away, and come back when your brain is less fried!
  • Remind yourself that you’re in charge, it’s your business, and it’s up to you to walk away when you want to.

Be Kind to Yourself

  • Eat well (which doesn’t necessarily overlap with the first point in this list!)
  • Get enough sleep, whether all in one go at night, or topping up shorter nights with daytime power naps, so good for the creative cells!
  • Cut yourself some slack – be the best boss you ever had, not the worst one, and allow yourself time off, reasonable breaks, achievable goals, etc.
  • Give yourself credit where it’s due – list what you’ve achieved to date (written a book, set up an author website, etc), and no matter how long your unfinished to-do list, you’ll find plenty to be proud of, that you’d admire if someone else told you they’d done that.
  • Forgive yourself and move on when you make mistakes – all indie authors mess things up sometimes, especially early on in their careers, and the best ones learn from them and become all the better for having made them. As an author-publisher, the learning curve never stops.
  • Make a “have done” list to offset pressure from your to-do list, and you’ll realise that you’ve actually been more productive than you thought.
Group photo of ALLi members

Some ALLi members at the London Book Fair

 

Join ALLi

  • Says one member who joined ALLi recently: “Join the ALLi – and its Facebook group! I’ve found discussions here very calming.”
  • Join one of the growing number of ALLi meetup groups – or start one up if there isn’t already one within reach of where you live. (We’ll have a post about how to do that soon.)
  • If you’re stressing over a particular problem, put a question to the ALLi Facebook group, and you’re likely to have it solved within minutes by another member who has “been there, done that”. As our membership is truly global, you will find answers and support any time of day or night, wherever you live in the world.

Keep Writing

  • Remember your motivation – why you became an indie author in the first place.
  • Use your frustrations to fuel blog posts about the lot of being an indie author.
  • Whenever you feel yourself slipping into despair, ask yourself “What would I rather be doing?” It’s pretty likely the answer will be “writing”. And we all know the best way to sell more books is to write more books, don’t we?

OVER TO YOU

What are your top tips for beating indie author burnout? You can join the conversation via the comments box!

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This Post Has 6 Comments
  1. That’s a very helpful article and list. As I was scanning it I was mentally going ‘tick, tick, tick…’ (as I’m sure many others also have done). Excellent advice though, and though I find meditation helps enormously, there are 1 or 2 on that list that I hadn’t considered.

  2. Thank you for this thorough and helpful list! It’s a real breath of fresh air. I especially like the idea of forgiving myself and moving on after making mistakes, rather than giving up and jumping into a pit of despair.

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Debbie Young

Debbie Young writes warm, funny feel-good fiction, including the Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries series, which begins with the bestselling "Best Murder in Show". As ALLi's Author Advice Center Manager, she also writes guidebooks for authors. Founder and director of the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival, she is a frequent speaker at other literary events. Find out more about Debbie's writing life on her author website www.authordebbieyoung.com.

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