Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Author Exhaustion: When Things Get Tough

I came across this post by an author friend this morning on Facebook:

Sometimes I get so tired I wonder if I can keep going, but the only other option is quitting, and that I won't do. -Maria Kelly

Maria's quote hit so close to home with me that I couldn't let it go without a blog post. The irony is, honestly, I don't have time to write this; I'm behind on all of my goals.  But I need to write this.  Because I think many writers, especially Indie authors, go through what I'm going through right now. And just to warn you, this post is going to be brutally honest.

When I published my first and even my second book, things were fairly simple. I was focused on the mechanics of finishing the books, getting them edited in the best way I could afford to, covers, formatting for various venues, and publishing to the world with a blog tour and some advertising.  I did these things, and was very excited and surprised by the success my early books achieved. I was able to balance writing with marketing and social media.

Flash forward six books later, now I'm juggling development, marketing, and PR for titles under two names,  and three potential series. And I don't usually talk about this, but besides being a mom, I'm a caregiver for a family member with a long-term illness and that role has pulled me away from work this year. There is such thing as a sales arc. Books are somewhat like balloons.  You knock them up with one hand (tours, advertising, marketing)  and they gradually float back down to earth. So you do more marketing. Tapping the books up again and again over time. 

But I didn't write this to whine.  I wrote to talk realistically about author exhaustion. I hear about authors setting crazy goals for themselves, 5,000 or more words per day 6-7 days per week. These are moms, dads, have other jobs both full-time and part-time, and I think to myself, that is AMAZING. You are AMAZING if you can keep that up and have a family life, and act as your own PR and marketing professional. And hopefully, it will pay off. Hopefully, those words aren't forced, will be used in your final version,  and will connect with your audience. Hopefully, you won't regret what you missed while meeting those goals.

My warning is, sometimes it doesn't pay off. Here's my story. Most people know me as the author of the Soulkeepers Series, but in 2012 I published a book called Grounded. Grounded took a year to research and write. It was professionally edited by an experienced editor and read by more professionals before publication than any of my other books. It is my highest rated book by far and, believe it or not, actually spent time with an agent before publication.

I was so excited to release Grounded, a book I considered to be my personal best, and thought for sure  with all of its professional development, it would be a bestseller.  Well, it's not.  In fact, it hasn't done overly well. Like I said, the ratings and reviews are great, but sales? Not horrible but not terrific. Grounded was written to stand alone but intended to be the first in a trilogy.  Now, I am in the unenviable position of considering sending the synopsis for books 2 and 3 to an early grave. 

My point is that we as authors need to have a healthy balance in our lives.  Author Hilary Wagner often says to "write the story that's in your heart." I've thought about that over the last year. We as Indie authors do the work first then, maybe, if we are lucky, get paid later. If you don't enjoy the work, if the story isn't in your heart, if you're not "feeling it, it's hard to keep going. (I think that's why I connected with this post by Megg Jensen about changing her course to write Shucked.)

So, I'm admitting I'm at a crossroads.  I'm a little exhausted. And I have to decide what comes next after the last two books of The Soulkeepers Series. For now, I'm:
  • breathing deeply
  • writing when the muse grips me
  • planting a garden
  • enjoying my family
  • critiquing and helping other writers where I can
  • and not forcing anything.
And as Maria Kelley says, I'm not giving up. Not an option. Just taking a beat to rest up, regroup, and revisit my goals.


  1. Exhaustion is a problem for us all. I know I need to get more written on my book, but school, and particularly getting through this final term at community college has been so hard and demanding of my time. I keep telling myself things will get better. I have to trust in that.

  2. I'm kind of there right now. Feeling burnt out and wondering if it's just me. I like your analogy of the balloons. It's one thing to keep one in the air, but a whole other thing to keep 3, 4, 5...10+ in the air. I just want to sleep, but I can't because then the balloons will fall to the ground! It's exhausting! :)

  3. That sounds like the best possible plan. Sometimes we need to allow ourselves to slow down and smell the flowers, take a breath, and recharge. We get going in such a frantic pace that we forget this. I know I did. I'm in a similar boat right now and I feel for you more than I can say.

  4. GREAT post, GP! I feel your pain w/Grounded, as that was my exact experience with Rouge. It can be super-discouraging. But you've done so much and so well! I think at this point in the game, you're entitled to a break. Plant the garden, enjoy the family. Love your plan--healthy and realistic. And the books will always be there~ :o) <3

  5. Great post! I think burnout or exhaustion is a huge danger in any kind of publishing, but especially indie - because we're all that's standing between us and MORE (of everything). It's part of being a small businessperson. And balance is the only thing that keeps you from chucking the whole thing and taking that day job (or just focusing on the one you have).

    Hang in there!

  6. It must be the time of year. I have "the funk", and others I know are suffering from it. These cyclical doldrums hit us all. As an indie, there is so much that needs to be done to gain exposure and I'm really starting to believe that there is no secret formula. Who knows what "hits", but if you don't keep at it, you'll never be a success. If you don't enjoy it, you're right, it's not worth doing. Nothing sucks worse than giving up time with your family, or in the garden, or just time for ones self, to have the hard work completely unrewarded. I spend a fair amount of time brushing others off, and getting dusted off, myself. Sometimes, you just need the break. I had a tough run last year, dealing with a newborn grand daughter and a terminally ill grandfather. It was hard to write. Tend the garden, tend yourself, and when you're back to fighting form, you'll hit your writerly goals ;-) Good luck.

  7. Thanks for the re-assurance. I've been on creative lock-down for some time

  8. This is so timely for me. Quite frankly, I'm exhausted, too. And I can't keep up. And I feel wretched for not being able to...and even more wretched because I *want* to.

    *Hugs* to you!

  9. I'm so glad you wrote this. I am in a similar position as a parent and care giver to my father who has a long-term illness and lives with us, in addition to my regular job. Trying to find time to juggle all of those things with writing, promoting, social media, blogging, etc. can be overwhelming at times. I've been at a crossroads as well, but I'm not giving up either. Taking a break is good advice :)

  10. I just went through a couple week recharge. You can't beat it when all you've been doing is running, carrying your torch. At first I felt bad for taking a break but got over it quickly. It's super necessary to be still and to spend time with our families who a lot of times sacrifice so much time and faith for us, and sometimes they must think we're crazy to pursue such goals. It's good to reward yourself and to slow down to celebrate living every now and then. Hope you get the physical/emotional/spiritual rest you need! Lee

  11. Wow, how did you know that I was going through this exact stage right now? *weird*

    For me, if I'm burned out on writing, or feeling stressed, I start working on a new project, or keep working on something that I've wanted to work on, but haven't yet. I have too many ideas and not enough time to write them so if I'm bogged down in contemporary, I'll work paranormal for a while. Or vice versa. I also have a book of writing prompts, and I'll pick one of them and go to town. Writing is always what gets me through, weirdly enough.

    Or, if I'm going crazy and I just want to give my brain a break, I'll read something new. I feel like I need to "fill my well" constantly with new books, so I'll pick something off my shelf that I've been wanting to read for a while and do that.

    When ALL else fails, I watch Buffy. Because Buffy solves everything.

  12. Gen, this was a beautiful post, and, for me, much needed. I am feeling a little like a balloon myself at the moment, lol. I need to NOT FORCE ANYTHING, too. ((Thank you))

  13. Great post! Women finding "the balance" is so important. There is such a thing as "I've had enough" which is very different from "I'm giving up". I've loved reading your books...better to take a break to prevent burnout then get into the weeds and prematurely lose enjoyment for your gift!


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