5 Tips for Overwhelmed Author Syndrome: Do As I Say, Not As I Do

To-Do ListLori was right. I’ve got no answers here. I’m imagining that back when we finalized this year’s topic calendar and decided this week we’d talk about Overwhelmed Author Syndrome, we all thought: all our books will be launched by then, and surely we’ll be feeling like pros! Like we’ve totally got a handle on things.

But the truth is, I’m overwhelmed constantly. The good news is, I’ve learned a few things along the way. For example:

1. Write Down EVERYTHING. I used to be able to keep my life more or less in order, relying on my planner for big deadlines and life events. Nowadays, if I need to send someone an email or transfer a load of laundry from the washer to the dryer, it simply won’t happen if I haven’t written myself a reminder. So, to avoid seeming like you’re ignoring people’s emails and ending up with damp-smelling laundry that you have to rewash several times, write it down.

2. Forget About Doing Enough. You will simply never, ever feel like you’re doing enough for your book. If you’re anything like me you’ll have a constantly growing mental list of people you want to reach out to, ideas you want to pursue, events you’d like to plan. And it simply won’t all get done because a) you didn’t write it all down and b) who really has the time? Maybe you’ll only end up realizing about 60% of those ideas. Pat yourself on the back for all you have done. Don’t let the overwhelming nature of all you should be doing make you lose sight of all you have accomplished. In fact, next to that list of to-do’s, keep another list: Things I’ve Made Happen.

3. It’s Not The End of the World If You Take a Break. This weekend, while visiting family in Miami, I didn’t post anything on Facebook. I barely tweeted. I resisted the urge to post a picture a friend sent me of Chasing the Sun sitting pretty at my local indie book store’s Best Sellers table (!!!) because I realized it could wait. I went stand-up paddle boarding in the ocean with my husband and for 90 blissful minutes I thought only of the water and the sun and the wind and the peaceful, blissful moment I was in. This weekend, my book didn’t need my every thought or my blogging or my checking its sales rankings. But I needed that time and energy to myself, my family, and friends.

4. Gratitude is Everything. Not to get preachy or too zen here, but anytime I start stressing about PR or upcoming events’ attendance or how the book is doing, I try to pause and be grateful for everything. Not just the book, but the life and the people that have allowed it to happen. I’ve come to realize gratitude is something we feel for others, but equally important, it’s a gift we give ourselves. None of this is worth anything if we don’t take a moment to appreciate it.

5. One More Secret. I try but don’t always succeed at following my own advice. On a good day I follow one or two of these and then next day I follow the others. But I try, and on a really  good day, I give myself some slack for my little failures. Because no matter what we do or don’t do, there’s nothing that can take away what we’ve already accomplished.

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Natalia Sylvester

Natalia Sylvester is the author of the novel CHASING THE SUN (Lake Union/New Harvest, June 2014), about a frail marriage tested to the extreme by the wife's kidnapping in Lima, Peru. A former magazine editor, she now works as a freelance writer in Texas. Visit her online at nataliasylvester.com

This article has 16 Comments

  1. I think what drives us (our inability to cut ourselves some slack) is what helped us get published in the first place… but that same drive can be very pesky when a girl just needs to relax every now and then.

  2. Yes, yes, yes! 🙂 I love all of these. I bought a separate planner for all of my writing stuff so that I could keep it all straight and use my phone calendar for family appmts. It seemed to work fairly well. Now I’m starting the ARC slog and all the other stuff and I feel myself gearing up again. SIGH. It seems like it just ended?

    1. I can’t even imagine what you’re going through, Heather. Just handling the CTS launch has been challenging for me. I too had a separate notebook/planner for book stuff, but the genius that I am, I packed it in a box when I moved and haven’t been able to find it yet. Ooof.

  3. I love this, Natalia! I’m not a published author (yet!) but still can relate in a way to the overwhelmed syndrome, and in fact mentioned it to my husband last night. It would be so much easier, my life so much less stressful, if I just gave up my “writing dream.” But who wants to give up on their dreams?
    Your point of being grateful for where you are at today is a great one. We all need to take a step back and think “look how far I’ve come”, no matter what that point is in our career.
    I love stand up paddle-boarding. What a great way for you to unwind and enjoy life for a bit with your husband!

    1. I often think the same thing, Jill—wouldn’t it be easier to pursue a passion that was a little less stress-inducing? But it’s so worth it. Truly. I wouldn’t trade a second of the hardships along the way.

  4. I’m just impressed that you scheduled the whole year’s worth of topics ahead of time. That seems amazing to me.

    And, yes, write everything down. These days I list everything, and then continuously update the list throughout the day.

    Oh, and I received the autographed book in the mail! Thank you for the wonderful inscription.

    On a negative note, I’m still not receiving the notification emails from the site, and the check box for notifications of further comments is still missing (I mentioned this last week).

    1. So glad you got the book, Anthony! It was such a pleasure to sign it for you.

      I’m also impressed that we planned this year’s topics ahead of time 🙂 I think it’s because when we all got together last August, we were all so far from our pub dates that we had all this lovely time. I think that’s advice I’ll pass on to the next Deb class: plan ahead!

  5. Thanks for the theme this week! With a book launch around the corner, swing from excitement to mild terror on a minute-by-minute basis. I really appreciate the part in this post about never feeling like I’m doing enough. You just described my weekend. It’s great to hear it’s not just me.

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