I’m not sure how qualified I am to write this post. I’ve been an indie author for almost five years (my anniversary being on the 22nd of February, so stay tuned for that later this month), and have had serious bouts of stress and burnout along the way. I’m also a raging ball of stress and burnout outside of my author endeavors as well. But, maybe, the bits and pieces of sound advice that have helped me combat those periods over the past few years can help y’all in some shape or form.
Tip 1) Set Realistic Deadlines
Yeah, yeah. This is everyone’s first tip for helping creatives conquer stress… but, I really have to say, it’s sound advice. If you are not a writer who can easily write two or three books a year, then don’t force yourself to do that. If you are someone who writes slow and methodically, like myself, it’s better to set a realistic goal of writing one book a year, or one book every year and a half, instead of striving to write it all in thirty days (#NaNoWriMo) and then feeling stressed when you fall behind or don’t meet your goal.
We are creatives, who each have unique gifts, attributes, and weaknesses. If you have a weakness in a certain area, you can actively work on it to improve, but you must also give yourself grace and not expect yourself to completely turn this weakness around in a short time period. Because, for many of us, when we don’t live up to our own expectations, this can often lead to frustration, which can then lead to stress. That’s a no-no we’re trying to avoid. So, be kind to yourself, and set deadlines that align with what you know you can accomplish while still maintaining the quality of work you would like to produce.
Tip 2) Always Have Another Creative Outlet Handy
Most of us start writing because it is fun for us, but oftentimes, writing can become our worst enemy when writer’s block hits us, or when we’re struggling to meet a deadline. When those times hit, writing can often feel like a chore. If your creative juices for writing are running on empty, then it’s time to “refill your creative well”, as indie author Sarra Cannon puts it.
If writing is draining your creative well, then the only way to refill your well is to partake in another creative activity that is actually fun for you, and does not require you to be “productive” in a sense that no one will be expected to buy or like whatever you create. This activity should just be for you.
Last year, for me, it involved bullet journaling while reading the Bible over the course of the year (though I have since strayed from that and haven’t finished my October, November, or December gratitude pages yet). Other hobbies could include making jewelry, painting, sketching, playing around in Canva (I’ve been doing this a lot lately making potential book cover mock-ups), playing an instrument, etc. Whatever helps you release those feelings of stress and gets you excited to create again, go do that, my friend, until you’re ready to write again.
Tip 3) Take Breaks
You’re going to be stressed if you do nothing but force yourself to write or work on author endeavors all the time. Sometimes, you just need time to be human. Give yourself breaks throughout the day to clean up around the house, sip some coffee, or enjoy a bubble bath if that’s your thing.
If you work a full-time job and work on your author career on the side like myself, this can be a little harder to manage, but it’s still possible. If you’re in this situation, allow yourself to skip some marketing days if you’re in a bad headspace. You don’t have to post positive messages every single day on Instagram or Facebook, especially if you’re feeling like a pile of poop after a hard day at work. You don’t have to write every single day to finish a book in a year, or even in six months. If you’re stressing and struggle-bussing to get things done, set the task down and go sit down yourself. Put your feet up. Relax. Smush your toes into your slippers and watch your favorite TV show for a while. We can’t be productive all the time.
Tip 4) Take it to God
Many people will tell you that making it as an author is hard, and they’re not lying. Almost five years into this author journey, I’m still struggling to sell one book a month. I’m not telling you this for you to feel sorry for me; I’m just trying to illustrate the fact that it sometimes feels like an impossible feat to become a successful author.
The one thing that has helped me the most in conquering the stress I’ve faced as an indie author is to turn to God by praying, reading the Bible, and mustering faith that He gave me the gift of writing for a reason, and that He will use this gift as He sees fit for His Kingdom.
Note: If you’re a Christian author and you would like to dive deeper into the spiritual aspects of authorship, ARC Team Sign-ups for my upcoming nonfiction release, Writing by Faith: Following God’s Calling to be a Christian Author, are still live! You can apply for the ARC Team here.
Talk to Me, Arrowheads!
What other stress conquering tips do you have, whether they’re specifically for authors, or general life? I need all the help I can get.
Aim high, stay strong, and always hit your mark.