Fighting Analysis Paralysis: What you can do when you feel overwhelmed.

The end of the first month of the new year is upon us, and in Minnesota, that means waiting for February and March to go away so we can start enjoying some milder temperatures. I don’t mind these months so much, especially working from home now, and since I replaced my little Neon two years ago, the winters and the snow aren’t that stressful.

But we can also feel time slipping away, and New Year’s resolutions, for some, are a faint memory. Sometimes we can let these go, but sometimes the passing months just means more time we don’t have to get what we wanted to get done.

I’m starting a new pen name this year, and with it comes pressure to put everything I’ve learned in the past five years toward good, marketable books, while building a readership that will keep coming back for as long as I want to publish. That’s a weighty burden I’ve placed on myself, and to say I struggle would be an understatement. It would be nice if I could find a happy medium between building a readership without losing the joy of writing. I get bogged down with the writing, the editing, the covers, promotions, the newsletter, and sometimes it just makes me want to close out of everything and turn on a movie. Of course, watching Endgame over and over again won’t get me what I want either, but mentally running through everything I can do and should do is stressful all on its own.

How can you combat analysis paralysis in the coming months? Here’s what I plan to do:

Make a list. This can be a huge list of everything you want to accomplish this year, or what you want to get done in a monthly or weekly timeline. A huge master list of what you want to get done in the remaining eleven months of the year might be more stressful than helpful, but giving yourself an overall view of the things you want to accomplish can actually be motivating.

Then chunk it down even further. I know what I want to get done in the next 11 months: release my duet, release a standalone. Write a Christmas novel for this year’s release if I have time and can think of a good story. Edit my 6-book series, format them, and do their covers. Get a proofer to proof the proofs. Get them set up to release in 2023. All of that sounds exhausting, and perhaps, when I’m having a bad day, impossible. Yesterday I was off because I wasn’t feeling well and I was tired, and thinking about tackling my series brought me to tears. That was analysis paralysis at its finest, with some Imposter Syndrome thrown in for good measure. (Is my series good? Is it worth the time to package and publish?) What can I do to make all that easier to swallow? Take it slow. My duet is with a beta. There’s nothing I can with it until he’s done. I can’t format it because there could be changes I need to make and it would be easier to do that in the Word document. I can’t do the covers (not the full one, anyway) because I don’t have the formatted interior files. I have the blurbs written. All I can do is be patient and work on something else, so I’m tackling the first book in my series. The Christmas novel will be a bonus if I have time to write it, and if I don’t, I’m not going to worry about it. Christmas comes every year, and I can write one for 2023.

Don’t worry about what other people are doing. The first the year is terrible with authors tweeting and posting about their New Year goals. Some of the number of books authors say they are going to release is staggering, and you have to keep in mind that you can only do what your life allows you to do. The authors putting up the big numbers do this for a living. They write eight hours a day, or close to it, anyway. They have a system and have managed their obligations so they can write a book in two weeks. If that isn’t you, you can’t worry about it. Analyzing what other authors are doing is a sure way of making yourself feel terrible. Even my schedule might make you wonder how in the world I have time for it all. All I’ve done is write for the past two years, and that was a mistake on its own, but it’s helpful I have books completed–the hard part is already done. Now it’s making time for the busywork and pushing them out there. I’m only releasing three books this year which is a low number by romance genre standards, but I don’t want to be known for putting out ten books a year. You teach your readers what to expect from you, and three books a year is a good number. Not the best, as four books a year keeps you relevant in Amazon’s algorithms, but three books a year is doable for me, and if I can do four, that year will be a bonus. Even if could write full time, I would never be capable of releasing a book a month, and it’s not something I ever want to do.

Control your FOMO. My fear of missing out is over the moon, but if you can’t control the fear of all the things you might be missing out on, you’ll never get anything done. There will always be a marketing webinar to watch, a group to join, a Clubhouse room to listen to, a new podcast episode to consume, and if you can’t focus on what needs to be done when it needs to be done, you won’t get anything accomplished. For the meantime, I’ve stopped listening to marketing podcasts, and the only thing I do regularly now is listen to my Level Up Romance Marketing Monday hour on Clubhouse. That is also a networking opportunity for me as well as listening to some great information, and I don’t work Mondays, so it fits into my schedule. Because here’s the thing: If you don’t have good books to publish, nothing else matters. I know what I need to do in terms of marketing: make sure my covers are to market, make sure my blurbs are good, make sure the stories are what people want to read. If you don’t have those things figured out, no amount of marketing is going to help you sell books anyway. I know now to run Amazon ads without losing money. I have a newsletter signup opportunity ready for my back matter along with a reader magnet. I have all the bits and pieces ready to go, and the only thing I have left now is to see if my stories resonate with readers. So think of what you need to do with where you are at the time. Are you working on your first book? Craft and feedback might be more important to you than learning how to run Amazon ads. Can you not afford a book cover? Learning how to your own might be what you need to focus on right now. Narrow your focus on what you need for the place in your writing career you are at, and a weight will drop off your shoulders. I promise.

I had a crappy day yesterday and was doubting my abilities to put out good books. I’m still feeling a lot alone in this endeavor–so many of my friends have dropped out of the writing community since I met them five years ago, or we’ve drifted apart for other reasons. I was feeling overwhelmed with all I wanted to get done this year, and when you feel like you don’t have help, community, or support, a long list can seem quite daunting. A list can put things in perspective, and while I might feel alone, I’m not. I have a great community on Twitter, and I’m doing my best to cultivate relationships with my romance authors on Facebook. Everyone feels inadequate somehow, like they aren’t enough to make it in this business, but you’re not alone in thinking this. Lack of sales can do it, burnout can do it, too. We’re all struggling, but I hope knowing that you’re not alone can jolt you out of your own analysis paralysis and you have a productive 2022.

Until next time!

Thursday Thoughts, Clubhouse, and Time to Think.

It seems all anyone can talk about these days is Clubhouse, and I was lucky enough to be invited into the app exclusive for iPhone users (thanks Aidy!). If you haven’t heard of Clubhouse, it’s an app where you can drop in on any room of your choosing and be a fly on the wall. I’m a part of a couple of indie writing rooms and a publishing room. One of the rooms, or I guess “club”, is hosted by my Level Up Romance Group on Facebook. There I get to listen to the speakers “on stage” chat about whatever topic they’ve decided on (today it was Kindle’s new platform Vella, but that’s a different blog post). It’s not scripted, not like a podcast where the interviewer answers questions previously given to them by the hosts. It’s fashioned as more of a chat/discussion, or if you’ve ever been to a conference (not just a writing conference but any professional conference) I liken it to dropping into a breakout session and listening in. If you don’t get anything out of it, or you need to attend a different session, you can slip out the door, or in the app’s case, you can press on “leave quietly” and leave the room.

I don’t know all the ins and outs of this app–I’ve never spoken and haven’t been invited to. (My area of expertise is limited and I’m not making any money selling books so I doubt an invitation will be forthcoming in the near future.) I’m still learning how to move about the app (or hallways), and the first time I attended a room, I was scared to blow my nose because I wasn’t sure if I was muted or not. (Unless you’re invited to speak, you are, but it’s up to you to unmute yourself when it’s your turn to contribute.)

As you can imagine, there is a lot of information passed along these casual chats and it feeds right into my Fear Of Missing Out.

I present myself as a pretty stable individual mental-health wise, and for the most part, I am. But when it comes to the indie publishing industry and all the information out there, I have a desperate fear of missing out on the NEXT NEW THING. How are authors making money, what are they doing, what are they trying? I can get a bit obsessive when it comes to gathering information, and it’s only been in the past six months or so where I’ve tried, consciously tried, to loosen the reins and dump some Facebook groups. I don’t listen to nearly as many podcasts as I used to, either. I haven’t listened to Joanna Penn for quite some time, and it’s been while since I listened to the Wish I’d Known Then podcast hosted by Jami Albright and Sara Rosett, though that one should be at the top of my list since they both write romance and interview romance authors on the regular. I don’t listen to The Sell More Books Show since Jim Kukral left. I don’t care for the new format (no offense, Bryan!) and I don’t click with H. Claire Taylor, Bryan’s new cohost. The only podcast that I listen to every week is the 6 Figure Author podcast. I like Lindsay, Jo, and Andrea, though if it’s just the three of them talking, sometimes their information can get a bit repetitive, and I’m not always interested in their guests, though they are more business-minded than some podcasts I’ve listened to about publishing (recently they interviewed Joe Solari).

The reason why I stopped listening to so many podcasts is because if I listened to as many as I think I needed I wanted, or as many as are available, my mind would not rest. I need the time unplugged to think about my books. I need the time to mull over my plots, what my characters are doing, where they’re going, and how they’re going to get there. If I constantly have a voice yipping in my ear, my brain can’t wander, I can’t brainstorm, and my books will never get done.

There isn’t only one way to write a book, but this is my way. It helps me keep writer’s block at bay. There is no quicker way for me to shut down than if I sit at my computer and I don’t know what I need to write during that session. I call myself a planster, and I plot as I go along, and for me, that does mean knowing what I need to write that day even if I don’t know what I need tomorrow.

This applies to blog posts too. I thought a lot about what I wanted to say on the drive home from dropping my daughter off at school. I never would have had that time if I would have been listening to a Clubhouse meeting or a podcast. Sometimes even music takes away the space in my brain, and in the past I’ve been able to write with music in the background, but I’m moving away from that and writing in silence more and more.

So, enter Clubhouse and my need to know everything. So far the app is new, and there aren’t many rooms you can join, which is a good thing for me. To add to the urgency, rooms aren’t recorded. Either you can join and listen at that moment or you can’t. At least with a podcast, webinar (most offer replays though you can’t join in with a live Q & A session), or even a YouTube video, you can listen at your leisure. While Clubhouse could be a fabulous resource for authors down the road (especially once they are out of beta and you don’t need an invite to join) FOMO is real for a lot of people, and it will be interesting to see how others handle their time.

I don’t know everyone who is on stage most of the time, I know a few of the authors who speak, and they are all full-time authors. I mean, if you’re making ten grand a month on your books, I guess you can feel like you can make time to listen and join the rooms. I need all of my writing time still, because I work full time, have three cats (one of which is always needing something) two kids, and a social life. I need time to shut my brain off or my books won’t get written.

Time to think about your stories and blog posts and other content you share on social media is important, and I need to remind myself constantly that I don’t need to know everything. I like knowing what’s going on in the industry, especially romance. I probably wouldn’t have started writing in first person present had I not been keeping my ear to the ground. I wouldn’t have gone with MailerLite if it wasn’t the most recommended newsletter aggregator. Chances are if I wasn’t paying attention to the indie news in general, I wouldn’t have known to ask for a Clubhouse invite in the first place.

But I have to make sure I have space in my brain for books–which is doubly difficult if you’re already worried about something going on in your life. For me, it’s my health, but I’m slowly getting back to normal there, and eventually that space can be taken up with something else–hopefully nothing quite so serious. The next time I need an oil change, maybe, or when I need to make an appointment for a hair trim. It’s emotionally exhausting worrying about something, and when you can find quiet, it’s best to take it instead of cuing up a podcast or joining a room on Clubhouse.

It’s all about finding that elusive balance.

And that’s always easier said than done.

All stock photos supplied by Canva Pro.