Back in the day, my brother had a Stretch Armstrong doll that we loved as kids. He’d yank that poor guy one way and I’d pull him the other way until we s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d him as far as we could. We thought it was hysterical and spent hours torturing playing with him.
Sometimes, I feel like Stretch Armstrong. Writers must do so much more today than place words on a page in the correct order. Whether you’re traditionally published or indie, you must….
Be a writer, editor, researcher, marketer, query-er, website builder, blogger, networker, social media guru, and speaker.
Your To Do list feels never ending. No wonder you’re exhausted.
Yes, writings tugs you in many, different directions, but here’s what I’ve learned in my twenty years at this. Especially, since 2013 when my literary agent left publishing and I decided to take control of my career and go indie.
1. Writing is Your #1 Responsibility
Everything else in your writing career is secondary. If you’re interested in publication, it doesn’t matter if you have 5,000 followers on Facebook if you aren’t writing. Yes, an author platform is paramount, but writing is where you need to spend most of your time. Quality is king. Creating great books, poems, short stories, screenplays — wherever the words are leading you.
2. Chill Out
Don’t misunderstand me, all those aspects in your career are vitally important, but if you’re stressed out, then it only hurts the situation. You’ll be less productive, more irritable, which makes you less successful. It’s bass-ackwards. Plus, your family wants to smack you around for playing the tortured artiste.
There’s proof saying social media presence doesn’t always translate to book sales. Read 3 Myths about Social Media for Authors by Tim Grahl. For years, Tim masterminded book launches for authors. Once, he had five clients on the New York Times’ Best Seller’s list at once. The man knows his stuff.
3. Take Small Steps
This is my mantra. Small steps are the key to success and the only way to retain your sanity. It’s impossible to do it all at once. There’s only so many hours in a day. If you try to do too much too soon, fear can overwhelm you and shut you down. Plus, you’ll lose your ever-lovin’-gob-stoppin’ mind. Writer’s burn-out ain’t pretty, folks.
While my copy editor read Pennies from Burger Heaven for the final polish, I researched my top three graphic- designers choices to find the one to create my book cover. I also reviewed the scads of articles and videos I’d accumulated about publishing. I couldn’t focus on those tasks earlier.
Because I was writing.
Bend but Don’t Break
The key is balance. Those who know me well are laughing right now, because I can be an extreme personality. That’s why I’m sharing this with you. I’ve been that broken, burnt-out writer, so as I moved into the new phase of my career as published author, I wanted to learn from my past. I wanted to continue to grow as a writer, as I juggled my many responsibilities.
Wherever you are on your journey, do the same. Be like Stretch Armstrong and bend, but don’t break.
What should you do differently to help you stretch in your writing career?
Please leave a comment. I’d love to chat.
Pick up your FREE copy today of the mystery, The Moon Rises at Dawn (SkipJack Publishing). Read, enjoy, repeat.
You won’t believe how much this post speaks to me. Especially number 1 and 3 are the two best tips I need to implement. Sometimes, I get so stressed over all the marketing stuff I need to do that it prevents me from sitting down and doing the thing I actually love; writing. I am also a perfectionist pretty much, and I strive for absolute results right now. So, when I fail to live up to my expectations, I immediately start doubting myself and refrain from actually writing. That’s why tip #3 spoke so much to me. It reminded me that I can’t achieve GREAT writing AND do it right now. It takes time and patience.
A big thanks for this awesome post. It helped me see the light in the dark forest I was wandering in 🙂
Boy, do we sound alike, Natasha! Perfectionism is a BIG struggle for many writers. We think we must do it ALL PERFECTLY. When we cannot (because it’s impossible), then we hate ourselves and procrastinate on our writing…that adds to our doubt…which makes us procrastinate even more and take our self-loathing up a notch. It’s a vicious, ugly cycle.
We both need to stop, and breathe. We’re all doing the best we can. Writing #1, then prioritize the rest.
#HUGSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS LOVE YOU SO MUCH! Congratulations…both for penning another powerful post and for inching closer to your dream… <3
Thank you, precious Kitto. I like that term…inching closer to your dream. That’s exactly what is. Hugs to you, too. I hope you and your writing is going well. xo – m3
Congratulations on getting another step closer to publication! I’m excited to see your new book in print.
This post strikes awfully close to home. I find it incredibly difficult to achieve balance between writing and all those other writerly duties. In any given day, I have a lot up in the air: marketing and technical aspects related to my self-published novel; writing, editing, and submitting short stories and non-fiction pieces to literary journals and magazines; researching trends in marketing, writing, social media, etc.; finding and engaging with companies and individuals who need writing or editing work done; and then, there’s still the rest of my life to be dealt with!
Juggling it all can be stressful, especially when you know you’re putting too much on one leg of the table, and it’s splintering from the weight. It’s an everyday struggle!
Ooooh, Adan! You’re brilliant!
Thanks to you, I went back to my post and added researcher and query-er to the list of writer duties. Thank you! I hear you 100%, sister, and all I can say is do the best you can. that’s all we can ask of ourselves.
Writing and especially, publication, is a marathon. Not a sprint race. Endurance trumps quickness every time.
Take a deep breath and email me whenever you need to vent, brainstorm, etc. Good luck!
I was just telling my husband last night, “I won’t get anywhere as a writer with out a social media platform!” Ugh… He summoned me to quit three times last night before I finally shut it all down and nestled alongside him. So there’s that.
However, I have learned, from you, Marcy, to keep writing some every day and at least get the bones down of my memoir. So that is what I am doing. This came to me today as I thought about what I might say as part of my pitch at a writer’s conference, “the Christian market needs more memoirs because they are tired of being told how to perform and just need to breathe in memories of another and exhale a soul weary, “me too.”
Thanks for all of your encouragement and I can’t wait to celebrate with you as I hold Pennies From Burger Heaven in my cramped writer’s hands!
You REALLY need to read that Tim Grahl post about social media that I included. It really will open your eyes. It’s better to have 100 raving fans who adore your writing, than 10,000 people who happen to be on your email list, but never open your messages.
That’s GREAT you’re working on your memoir everyday and your pitch sounds pretty compelling. You’ll know you’ve hit a homerun if their (agents’/editors’/other writers’) spring open and they say, “That sounds interesting,” or, “Tell me more.”.
I appreciate your encouragement and can’t wait for you to read Pennies!
Great advice, once again, Marcy! I’ve just got another chapter finished and am mildly frustrated by it, wondering if it needs any additions. I’ve edited it and have now handed it off to my coauthor to see what he thinks and will take it from there. Whatever happens, I’ll hit the ground running at some point next week when I get back to it, either writing the addition, or drafting the next chapter.
Hang in there. I wasted YEARS rewriting entire novels. My advice is see what your coauthor says about the chapter. Make whatever changes you need, then move forward. For me, I don’t fully understand the bones of my story until I type THE END.
Frustrated writing is part of it, keep writing, keep going. You’ve got this.
Marcy you nailed me–I need to write more than anything else! Even if my writing group thinks it is crap I need to keep on writing. Small steps=small wins. If I don’t get the crap on paper there will be nothing to revise or publish, will there? Congrats on your upcoming release!!!
Great to hear from you, Karen.
I don’t know about your writing, but I know for a FACT that your story ideas are quite compelling. Just because your group says your writing is crap doesn’t make it so. There’s a woman in my weekly critique group who’s a YA author, her old group used to hammer her down week after week. They said her voice wasn’t commercial enough…that her writing was much too flowery.
She sold that series (2 books in the beginning) for six-figures. Everyone in the group is still unpublished.
YES! You need to write, but trust yourself and your instincts. Maybe your group isn’t the right readers for you. Good luck.
Thank-You Marcy, Yes small steps…I love writing when I don’t stress about “Every” other detail that tries to sneak into my writers space…Congratulations on your new book coming out in Jan. TOO!!
Yes, it’s beautiful when I can zen out and just write. One of my intentions for 2016 is to stress less and enjoy the process of writing more. Thank you for your excitement about Pennies. I’m excited, too! Kudos to us all!
Oh yes, I can relate to this well. I’m taking a breather in Truckee right now to get some perspective, some insight, on what I can let go of in my life in order to make more time for writing.Twitter? My blog? But these are my platform! Ha. As literary agent Janet Reid pointed out in her latest post, twitter followers do not amount to book sales.
So, it’s time for me to back away from the bog and Twitter, and start focusing on my copywriting (for money) and fiction writing (for my soul).
Janet “Query Shark” Reid is exactly right about Twitter followers do not = book sales. Writing is priority, the rest is secondary. I loved how you phrased that fiction writing was for your soul. That’s just how it’s supposed to be. Yes, you have to pay your bills (copywriting), but even that will be more productive when you feed your soul. Thanks.
Marcie – you must have interviewed me for this post and I’d forgotten . . . LOL. I struggle with this everyday and thought about taking the approach to allocate my weekdays exclusively to my writing projects and focus on the social media, blogging, etc on the weekends. So far I have yet to implement this but is just another way to prioritize the most important work first.
Ha, Jack. I’m glad my post resonated with you, but sad you struggle with this, too. I say, WHY NOT try your different approach of writing during the weekdays and social media on the weekend? Give it a month. You don’t know if you don’t try. You may modify along the way, so don’t feel like it has to be set in stone. In my mind, you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. Good luck.
Marcy, this really resonates. 🙂 Writing? Sure. Social media activities? Fine. Marketing? Hmmh. Well, we better skip discussing the last part. All I can say is that this is my weakest point. Always was and probably will in future as well. I just have to deal with it as good as I can. Freelancers have to wear many hats but I wouldn’t have it any other way now. 🙂
Yep, it can be totally overwhelming. It’s definitely a challenge, but I’m like you, I like being 100% in control of my career, and wouldn’t want it any other way.