Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Writing 101: Are You Too Hard on Yourself?

As an indie author, you're in charge. You decide what to publish, when to publish, how the cover will look and how the promotion will go. You're the boss...but you're also your own employee. And every once in a while you need to stop and ask yourself if you're being way too hard on yourself. As an indie author, it's really easy to become your own worst enemy. 

Evil Twin

I'm not a good boss. I know, because I make my only employee work 10 hour days and 7 days a week. She doesn't get holidays off. In fact, she hardly gets any days off -- one a month, so far, in 2014. She has to eat while working and generally only gets negative feedback from me, the boss. My only employee is myself, and I have a habit of being way too hard on myself.

It's because the other side of the coin is so attractive to me. On the flip side, some indie authors take it way too easy and play it way to fast and loose, at least for my taste. You've got to promote all the time, work all the time, be prepared at any moment to stop and write when the right moment strikes. Actually, you don't have to do that. You're the boss, so really you can do whatever you please. But you'll get more traffic if you promote every day, and more traffic can become more sales (work on your hook).

The point is, there is a happy medium out there. And lots of indie authors, myself include, have a hard time balancing themselves on that razor-thin edge. I tend more toward being too hard on myself. I'll work too late and get too little sleep. I'll ignore hunger and just keep working. I won't give myself any free time until it's done, and if it's not done until bedtime then so be it. I'll berate myself for not getting more done, and most days I feel like I haven't done enough because there's always so much more to do. 

Are you too hard on yourself, too? It's easy to slide into this mentality. It's easy to drive yourself to exhaustion. Many people tend to be much harder on themselves than on others; it's common to hold oneself to an entirely different set of standards. If you're an indie author and you're driven to succeed and you have other responsibilities as well and you want to stay ahead of the game, it's very easy to start spreading yourself too thin. Combine this with ambition, motivation, ironclad work ethic or even a simple desire to succeed, and you're on a slippery slope. Soon, you could find yourself completely exhausted...like me. 

Find a balance. You're only human. Start paying attention to how much you're working, and try to cap it off at a reasonable level. More than 50 hours a week is really too much; more than 60, and you're pretty much asking to start suffering from ill health. Give yourself some time to unwind, and take a day off every once in a while, to avoid driving yourself completely mad. 

And if you can't, if you've got to keep pushing yourself regardless, you've still got to find ways to relieve the stress. Take 5 minutes, or 10, to unwind and relax. Or to hit a punching bag. Maybe you need to have a quiet glass of wine. Whatever works for you, take the time to do it. Because sometimes you've got to be hard on yourself...but sometimes you've got to be nice to yourself, too.

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  1. Jade,

    Really good advice. We now know too much time sitting at a desk can take it's toll on our bodies, and overworking takes a toll on the creative mind and mental health as well.

    My best advice to my writer self in 2014 is to spend most of my desk time actually WRITING, and less on all the other writer biz. I can't sell what I haven't finished and published.

    Fortunately I belong to a Kroc Center and I love to get outdoors. I still need to practice moderation in my work hours, though.

    Cathryn Cade

  2. Thanks for your comment, Cathryn!