Indie Authors: Feeling Overwhelmed by What All Is on Your Desk?
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Indie Authors: Feeling Overwhelmed by What All Is on Your Desk?


ALLi’s blog editor Debbie Young starts the writing week with a light-hearted list of antidotes to the classic indie author’s problem of feeling overwhelmed.
Indie authors often mention that they’re feeling overwhelmed by all the tasks required to self-publish and market their books successfully. No matter how much they do, how hard they work, how many hours they labour each day, they still feel they haven’t done enough.
The downside of being a one-man band is that there are always more instruments you could take up. Resist the temptation.
So if you’re starting this week feeling under pressure, despairing of whether you’ll get everything done that you’d planned by Friday, take a moment to read her quick top tips to stay happy and sane while not dropping the self-publishing ball.

1) Have a rest. Remind yourself how many hours you’ve been spending at your desk each day, and allow yourself some holiday, as a formal employer would. You’ve earned it.

2) Go out and enjoy life. Get out into the real world. That’s where you’ll find your inspiration, not sat at your desk staring at a blank screen or fretting about the number of unanswered emails, unacknowledged retweets or Facebook friend requests. As a natural workaholic, I try to keep myself grounded in reality by keeping next to my computer screen a tube of shower gel bearing the inspirational slogan: “Live a Life Worth Writing Down”. It also reminds me that I usually get my best ideas in the shower, when I’ve switched my conscious, working brain off and let my imagination take flight.

3) Drink coffee. Or tea. Or spring water, or whatever else takes your fancy. Even better, go out to grab a coffee with an author friend. No matter how much fun you have on social media, you can’t beat real life.

4) Tidy your desk – ideally at the end of every day, so that you feel calm when you come back to it the next day. A clear, clean, well-organised desk will give you the feeling of being in control, even though it may not reduce the length of your action list. And speaking of action lists…
Tidy desk = calm mind

5) Lose the long action list habit. There’s a theory that the longer your action list, the less you get done. So don’t fill a sheet of printer paper with your to-do list today – just put it on a post-it note, the smaller the better.

6) Choose one thing. Each day, identify the single most important thing that you have to do, and focus only on that. If you finish it, do the next thing. But aiming just for the one thing should make your burden feel lighter.

7) Celebrate every achievement. At the end of the day, make an “I did it!” list of what you have achieved. My little niece, nearly two, is a master at self-congratulation, announcing “I did it!” at just about everything she does, including scribbling something unintelligible on a piece of paper. I think we authors would feel much better about ourselves if we adopted her attitude.

8) Restore yourself with a soothing and restful activity that uses a different part of your brain (or none at all). Physically repetitive tasks such as knitting, weeding or colouring are good. Apparently tasks using both hands are especially good for the brain. (Thanks to ALLi author and medical doctor Carol Cooper for that information!) Anything is good that makes you lose track of time, forget where you are, and ease the flurry in your brain. (I’ve occasionally reached this state while driving, but wouldn’t recommend that route!)

9) Don’t compare yourself with other authors who you perceive to be more successful. Ignore their sales rankings, awards, boasts, etc. You’re not them. You’re you, and you’re special. Only you can write the books that you can write. They’re apples, you’re an orange. Embrace your orangeness.

10) Smile! Next time you’ve got a smile on your face, work out what caused it – and do it again next time you need to find your smile. My husband told me last week when I got back from my new yoga class that I ought to make a habit of it, as I came back calm and happy. I’m tempted to send him to it next week.

Bonus tip: keep a contented cat by your desk at all times
Now I’m off to make a cup of tea and tidy my desk…