So it’s October. Officially spooky season in my neck o’ the woods, which means it’s time to break out the spiderweb earrings, haunted house dress, and Ouija board skirt, (and pretend I don’t wear these things year round).
Halloween is a great time to be a dark fiction author, but it can also be scarily stressful.
Already I have two back-to-back book launches (and if I’m lucky, media appearances to promote them), hosting a cool program at a local library, teaching a two-day social media marketing workshop for high school students, plus three university courses to teach, four more to develop, two novels to chip away at, and a fellow teacher who needs me to cover for her (more teaching).
So what am I insecure about? Surviving. I’m being dramatic, of course, but I’m always aware of the risk of collapsing in a heap. Already I bowed out of two amazing-sounding gatherings last week–one a first-time gathering of dark fiction authors, which is something I’d always hoped this city would have–because of exhaustion and daily migraines.
It’s a delicate balance, because on one hand, I’m insanely grateful to be in demand. My little teaching side gig has really exploded in just over a year, and I never take that for granted. I’m lucky to have a publisher who is as awesome as Flame Tree has been about the upcoming launch of Those Who Came Before, and I was delighted to be chosen to stay in the haunted house overnight as part of the Thin Air International Writers Festival (part of that deal is returning to the house on October 31 to read the story that was inspired by that evening). It’s all good stuff, and my students are wonderful. The high school workshops came about because a principal took my evening social media marketing course and thought his students would benefit, which I found very flattering. I’m honoured he sought me out.
But I’m forever reminded of my former chiropractor’s wise words: “Good stress is still stress.”
Intellectually, I know I’ll make it through this, just like I’ve made it through the other crazy, overbooked times.
But am I nervous?
Do you have any advice for me? How do you stay sane when you have a wee bit too much on your plate, and letting something go isn’t an option?
The purpose of the Insecure Writers’ Support Group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. To see a full list of IWSG authors, click here.
That is a lot. Stay sane by remembering it won’t last forever.
Thanks, Alex. Good advice!
If I’ve got too much on my plate and can’t let something go, I start looking for cemetery plots and pricing coffins. 😁
Interesting approach, James. 😉 Hope your move went well!
Wow you definitely have a lot going on! Just remember to breath and take a little time out for yourself when you can. I also find it helps when things get overwhelming to remember the days when I worked a boring 9-5 job – at least now I’m overwhelmed doing something I love!
Compartmentalizing helps, that is, don’t think of/see everything you have to do as one big thing. Instead, what do you have to do today? That’s the priority. What is going on later this month or tomorrow is irrelevant at this particular moment in time. You can’t do those things today anyway so why waste mental and emotional energy on things you can’t do just yet? Leave today in today and tomorrow in tomorrow. Leave 2pm at 2pm or noon at noon, etc. (This applies to so many things in life.)
You do have a lot on your plate! My best advice is to be sure you carve out time for exercise, preferably outdoors somewhere nice (assuming access to something like that).
Migraines are something that I have been fortunate never to have had, but two of my family do have them fairly frequently so I know exactly how debilitating they can be. Sanity on the other hand I think is highly overrated!
That’s way more publicity than what my work”s been getting. But I can imagine that it must be stressful. I get stressed out trying to promote my writing alone and therefore when it lacks recognition. How would I stay sane if I did get a high amount of recognition and demand? I’d have to turn down certain offers. A person’s health both mental and physical is more important. But you sound like you’re aware about how much you can take which is good. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for your thoughtful reply, Steven. I’m not sure how much attention it’s been getting–the number one pressure this month is teaching, but that certainly has been getting attention.
I can’t even imagine what it’s like when you reach the upper levels of writerdom. Fortunately, those folks can afford to hire help.
For help learning how to promote your writing, check out the Facebook group 20Booksto50K. It’s an amazing resource.
PS: Your website is being marked as not private and malicious, so my anti-spam software won’t let me access it. You might want to talk to your host or developer.
Welcome to my world. That’s my Sept.-Oct. You just keep moving forward and remember to take care of your body so you can get it all done.
Wow, you do have a lot going on. Saying no to things, like you have, can help. Plus, keeping in mind that it won’t always be like this.
Sorry to hear that you’re struggling with migraines. I get them as well. So debilitating. 🙁
But more importantly, I love the fact that you have a ouija board skirt! We need to see a picture of that 🙂
Knowing your limits and when to take a rest is important and it sounds like you’re on top of that. Saying no to those two mean you’ll be ready for the next. Good luck with your book launches!
Thanks, Meka. I can usually tell when I have to say no. This weekend I was in no condition to go out. Though I hate disappointing people, better to be thought of as a jerk than actually meet someone when in a bad place and be proven right. 🙂
One commitment at a time.
Sometimes when you try to do it all, you do badly at them all, too. Better to cut back and do the remaining well. Just a thought. Have fun with your tasks and they stop being tasks. 🙂
Thanks, Roland. I get what you’re saying, but cutting back isn’t possible at this time. The teaching pays the bills, the launches help boost my career and profile.
It’s just a shame when they’re both busy at the same time.
I loved that post about staying overnight in the haunted house! And how fun for you as the author to go back and read the story that was inspired by it. I bet the audience will love it. 🙂
Take it all one step at a time, and take of yourself!
Thanks so much, Madeline. I really appreciate the kind words.
You are the one in control, so strive for balance every day. Only you can say no, or yes. Talk to your agent and tell them your concerns. I’m sure they’ve seen this kind of thing before.
And when you can, enjoy the chaos. It’s success in a halloween costume. hehehe
Anna from elements of emaginette
I’m in control? Hahahahahahahahahaahahah. Well, I guess so, to a certain extent, but only if I want to forgo paying the bills or writing books.
I do regret saying yes to a few things, but it helps that I know why I felt the need to say yes. Hopefully some of the chaos will be enjoyable!
I can’t give you any advice since having a chronic illness means that even if I want to do something, if my body says no, I have to listen to it or face the consequences.
I’m sorry to hear that, Patricia. My migraines are considered chronic. Though sometimes they stem from hormones, which I can’t really control, they let me know if I’m taking on too much and/or not getting enough sleep.
That is a lot going on and congratulations. No advice I would be worried about the same things. I guess just take it one day and one thing at a time. Go with your gut and listen to your body.
Thanks so much, Juneta. I don’t have much choice when it comes to my body–it’s pretty obvious when it’s had enough. 🙂
Congrats on your many successes – what a year you’ve had! Fame and glory are tough taskmasters. You have good instincts on when to step back a bit. Just make sure to take a few minutes for yourself everyday. It’s important that you don’t lose you.
Thanks so much, Lee. I’m grateful you gave me credit for good instincts–a lot of people (in person, not on this blog), say things like “Don’t take on too much” or “Be careful not to burn out,” which I find really unhelpful. I feel like responding, “Do you want to pay my mortgage?” or “So should I stop writing books?”
First thing in the morning, I do a 20-minute workout, and then I have a short bath before getting ready for class (usually just shy of an hour). That’s “me” time, even if my evening are full of marking and development.
Thanks for the kind words. I’m not sure if this is fame and glory–more like teaching madness.
Wow! Congrats on all the successes! My only advice would be … chocolate!
Thanks, Jemi. Do potato chips count?
Wow, you’ve definitely got a lot on your plate! Staying in the haunted house sounds like a lot of fun.
Thanks, Sarah. It was fun, albeit scary. I meant to link to the blog post about it: https://www.jhmoncrieff.com/overnight-in-a-haunted-house/
All good things, and you’re doing amazing. The best advice is to rest when you can. Self care is important. You might have to turn down social events, or scale back a little. Also, enjoy it!
Thanks, Mary. I’ll try. I’ve received a lot of good advice here today.
Hope you’re well.
October always seems to be crazy. All I want to do is snuggle up with some hot tea on the back porch, write horror, read horror, and watch a horror movie a day. Never happens. One thing I’m forcing myself to do is to get up and have breakfast each day (I’ve been averaging one meal per day for the last few weeks, and I’m paying for the self-abuse right now), but also to find a couple hours here or there to do nothing, other than read or watch something (or both). Tomorrow I don’t HAVE to do anything until the evening, so I’m planning on taking a long awaited hour long hike then to get some edits done that are due on Friday. So all I can say is be kind when you can. Eat more than one meal. Stay hydrated. Rest when you can.
Thanks, Shannon. I can’t imagine only having one meal. I’m teaching a lot, which takes a ton of energy. Without breakfast, I’d collapse. So I do manage a workout each morning, and regular meals…though dinner isn’t always as healthy as it could be, simply because I’m too tired to cook.
Good luck surviving your October! This too shall pass.
“Good stress is still stress.” So true. Schedule a break if you can. Treat the occasional time off as mandatory. Easier said than done, I know.
Thanks, CV. I always have mini breaks each day, but I can’t wait until it slows down in December.
Odd that you’d be writing about stress today. I’m over-the-top stressed and probably will be until November. Of course, then there are the holidays and–guess what? STRESS. I have no advice for coping and staying within the boundaries we label with the word, sane. I have only what I do and am doing now. I up my Yoga. I up my walks. I sing (this is best done alone in my case). And I bake one batch of biscotti which I consume all by myself.
Ah, the biscotti cure! Sounds good to me, Lee. Sorry to hear you’re going through this too. I hope you survived the craziness with your sanity intact.
I did pretty good with morning workouts until the week of my launch. I only managed to get in one that week. It was just too insane.
One of the hardest words for me to say is NO. I like being needed or recognized, etc. But, I have to remember to take care of me first. When life gets overwhelming, I have to say no to new commitments. It gets easier each time…I think. lol I hope you find relief for the stress and are able to enjoy what you do.
Thanks, Diane. Things tend to snowball with me. For instance, when I set the date for my book launch, I had no idea I’d be chosen for the Thin Air event. In fact, I was fairly certain I wouldn’t be chosen. So that’s how I ended up with two back-to-back book launches.
But yes, I do need to get better at saying no. I’m too easily flattered and/or the allure of financial security is too strong.
I can feel the stress reading your post, JH. You are extremely busy – with things you are passionate about – but it’s still overwhelming, and unhealthy if it lasts too long. Is the end of these crazy times in sight? Maybe by the end of the year you can slow down? Maybe you can take a step back working on your novels the coming months?
What helps me – if the weather cooperates – is going for a 20-minute walk in nature, or just be outside to let the brain air out a bit. Or, you can commit some dedicated time to snuggle with the cats each day, mind zoned out and focused on fluffiness?
Wishing you balance and restful sleeps the coming months, my friend!
Thanks for the kind words and concern, Liesbet. December 19th is my last day of teaching before the holidays. As much as I love my students and teaching, I’m really looking forward to a break from the marking, development, and 5:30 am alarms.
Nice to see some of your pics from Canada. Sorry you didn’t make it out further west.
Thank you! Tried to leave you a comment, but didn’t see any enabled. Lovely food photography!
It helps to take a moment and breathe. Seems simple, but helps!
Thanks, Damyanti. I’m sure there must have been breathing in there somewhere. 😉
You definitely have a full plate. When I’m faced with something like this, I plan for how I’m going to relax when things calm down. I look forward to time set aside to read, watch a movie, pop corn, and nap.
Good idea, Toi. I’ve got a busy six weeks ahead, but just a different kind of busy–teaching. Hoping to get some R n’ R at Christmas time.