I’m so overwhelmed that I don’t even know how to write about being overwhelmed. Seriously, I don’t know where to start on this topic. When you’re a debut author, you feel like you have to say “yes” to everything. As Countess Olenska says in THE AGE OF INNOCENCE, “I must go where I am invited, or I should be too lonely.” When you’re a debut author, nobody knows your name. And if you don’t put yourself out there, no one will. All the marketing and PR in the world is really no substitute for making a personal connection with your readers. And honestly, that’s the fun part for me. Hearing from people that something I wrote touched them in some way is so rewarding. It makes me want to be a better writer, and I love that.
But after a while, all the events start to get to you. I’m in my third week of a terrible cough that started when I lost my voice at the South Carolina Book Festival. I barely got through a bookstore event in Phoenix two weeks ago without coughing my brains out. I’ve met with three bookclubs in the past ten days. I have events booked through September. The foreign editions of my novel are starting to come out and there are interviews via email for publications in other countries. I’m not complaining. I love doing all of this. I’m thrilled that this many people are interested in my novel. But the truth is, it’s also exhausting. And then on top of that I have my new work-in-progress and well, you know, my life.
I can’t honestly say that I do a good job of controlling OAS (Overwhelmed Author Syndrome), but I think the key to it is learning to say “no.” It’s not easy for me. I love saying “yes.” But no’s can be just as important as yes’s. No’s give you the mind space to keep from getting overwhelmed. But learning the art of no is tricky. Here’s how I try.
- Meditation. I’m by no means a master practitioner but I find that even just five minutes a day really does help. It’s astonishing how it helps me focus on the task at hand and energizes my mind. If you’ve never tried meditation before, I recommend starting with this guided meditation: Deepak Chopra The Soul of Healing Meditations. It’s what got me started several years ago and I go back to it when I need some help focusing. I alway feel a little more calm and balanced which makes saying “no” easier.
- Little effort/maximum return. When I still worked in high tech, I always strived to do the least amount of work for the maximum amount of benefit. Nothing is worse that feeling like you wasted precious time and effort to get such little in return. So I’ve learned in the last nine months that bookstore events should be selected carefully because it’s a lot of work to get people to come out to a bookstore event. But being the guest speaker at an event that’s already scheduled (California Writer’s Club meetings, book clubs at retirement homes) pay off big. It’s easier to go where people are already gathered instead of trying to get them to gather. So I use this now to evaluate whether I want to say yes or no to an event.
- Walk my dogs. My dogs don’t know I’m a writer. They don’t know that I’ve got all this work to do. They just want to eat treats and be petted and play with their toys and go for long walks in the woods. The least I can do is take a break and be with them.
So learn the Art of No. it’ll pay off. I promise.