Dealing with Writing Stress

It’s amazing how much anxiety authors tend to experience:

  • Trying to reach daily writing goals.
  • Wondering if the book will ever get finished.
  • Hoping that people like it.
  • Doubting whether it will sell.
  • Learning how to format.
  • The frustrations of the publishing process itself.
  • Searching for professional help.
  • Monitoring sales reports.
  • Waiting for reviews.
  • Receiving critical feedback.
  • Cyberbullying.
  • The scary world of marketing.
  • Deadlines (often self-imposed).

(So you want to be an author, huh?)

Authors can manage this anxiety.

One trick is to not let yourself get frustrated over things that are beyond your control. You just have to let those things go. First you have to realize that you just can’t do anything about them. The only thing you can do is get upset, and that doesn’t help at all.

You can’t control what other people say or do.

(No doubt, if you could, that universe would be incredibly boring to live in.)

You can do your best. If you do, this knowledge should provide its own satisfaction. Remind yourself of this.

Your behavior can also limit your anxiety.

If you frequently monitor your sales reports and product pages (looking for reviews), emails, blog activity, etc., you’re more likely to be disappointed.

Suppose for example you sell an average of 4 books per day. This means that you sell an average of 1 book every 6 hours. If you check your sales report every hour, 83% of the time you will be disappointed.

I know, when you see that sale, it gives you a temporary euphoria. But being disappointed by no sales most of the time isn’t worth it.

If you sell 4 books per day, just check your sales report once a day, and most of the time you will be happy to see some activity.

Try to wait long enough to see at least 10 sales, and don’t monitor your reports more frequently than that.

When you receive critical feedback, try to stay offline for a couple of days and engage in healthy activities. Keep your mind busy with those. Then see if the criticism offers something that you can use to improve. If so, use it and consider the matter settled. If not, discard it and forget about it.

Diet and exercise are highly important for writers.

We don’t get much exercise while writing. Think about that. We sometime keep irregular hours, staying up overnight to finish our thoughts. We sometimes don’t eat well – taking whatever is convenient – and eat in a rush.

Lack of exercise, poor diet, and especially anxiety can lead to stomach aches, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, and a host of other serious problems.

Exercise is a great way to help your mind deal with stress, besides being something that your body needs. Walk (but don’t pace), jog, ride a bike, play tennis, or go golfing, for example. If you can’t leave the house, buy an elliptical or treadmill and make like a hamster.

Balance. The more you check your sales reports and read reviews, the more you should exercise.

Avoid nervous habits like biting your nails.

Writing should be fun.

It is. Remember that.

We tend to make it far more stressful and less fun than it really is.

Focus on enjoying the art of writing. It may help to think of something far worse that you could be doing instead. A little perspective never hurts. 🙂

And here is something I’ve said before: Don’t compare yourself to others. Instead, compare yourself to your former self.

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon

11 comments on “Dealing with Writing Stress

  1. It is natural to want our books to be a success – I have made the conscious decision to gauge my ‘success’ by the very fact I have published. Everything else, including sales, is the cherry on the top. I do not monitor sales, just wait for the royalty cheques and look at reviews at the most once a month.This enables me to have a nice surprise regards the money and I have a balance of great & not so great reviews.

  2. “When you receive critical feedback, try to stay offline for a couple of days and engage in healthy activities. Keep your mind busy with those. Then see if the criticism offers something that you can use to improve. If so, use it and consider the matter settled. If not, discard it and forget about it.”

    This is so true. I find that turning to something else creative (in my case, customizing toys) really helps. It’s a change of pace, and it gives my thoughts room to wander. I can turn problems over in the back of my mind without obsessing about them, and I feel like I’m accomplishing something that has nothing to do with writing. 🙂

  3. I’m not yet published but I’m working hard on getting things ready for the process and I’m finding I’m crashing hard about once a week. The whole pressure of getting this first draft done hits me like a tank round and I feel shell shocked for a good 24 hours. In my personal case though I think it is fatigue that gets me. I need to learn to have a night off, probably Wednesdays, and just chill because then I feel a lot more confident in myself and less anxious.

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