Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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The Tyranny of FOMO

by Amy Winters-Voss

Hands up signifying someone drowning in a pool.

Writers have to juggle a myriad of tasks beyond the hard work of drafting and editing our books. There’s increased pressure to post to social media, produce novels faster, learn to do cover art, absorb how to do ads and marketing, keeping up with our audience via newsletters, ensuring you have a catchy reader magnet, tackling the changing demands of publishers and book distribution, and a dizzying array of additional tasks.

Did your blood pressure just rise as you read that? Mine did! This post is about keeping sane when there’s more on your plate than you can handle.

Thinking we have to do it all is a sure sign of FOMO. . .

What is FOMO?

It’s an acronym that stands for the Fear of Missing Out–that dreadful little twerp in the back of your mind who whispers you need to do not just all the things, but all the additional ones you see others doing, or you won’t be successful.

I picked up Becca Syme’s books  Dear Writer, You Need To Quit and Dear Writer, Are You in Burnout? after attending a seminar she was kind enough to give on the Indie Author’s Ascending Discord. She’s coached thousands of creatives. Her books are a great resource to help avoid the burnout pitfall and how to do what you need (not what others say you should do). But they also highlight that burnout is common among authors and other creatives.

So, to counter that little FOMO imp, I’ll quote Becca:

“Question the Premise.”

She taught me to ask, “But do I really need to?” To consider what success means to me, and how that’s different from what others say I should do.

Without defining what success meant to me, it was this slippery eel always beyond my grasp. Sometimes it morphed with each new success I saw others having. That hazy idea grew beyond anything I wanted to something I should want, because that’s success, right?

FOMO is a subtle little imp as it creeps around in our brains to feed on our insecurities and “what ifs”, always suggesting you should do just one more thing.

“FOMOticus” by Eyes Of Sleeping Hollow

“FOMOticus” by Eyes Of Sleeping Hollow (used with permission, created for use with this article)

 My Own Nasty Brushes with FOMO

I’ll show you part of the path FOMO led me down so you can catch it before it gets too far ahead of you, too. When I started writing my first novel, success was getting that first one published.

Even before I finished that goal, people suggested I should do an audiobook and at least three books in the series, not a standalone. I adopted those ideas.

Then I read Chris Fox’s “5000 Words Per Hour” and “Six Figure Author” and wondered why I wasn’t pushing harder for more books.

Obviously, in today’s market we need to write books as quickly as possible to make a living, right? Who wouldn’t want to make more money? So why wasn’t I writing like that, yet? How could I get there?

In addition, the shininess of volunteer projects called...

This cycle kept growing and what it brewed inside wasn’t happiness.

All the things I thought I should do went beyond what I really wanted – to enjoy writing the stories that welled up inside.

Instead, the cycle turned to trudging through and pushing to “succeed,” when I had no real metric for success anymore. It was no longer attainable. I could not be satisfied. And that blasted little imp still kept whispering in my ear, even though I wasn’t sure I wanted to write anymore. Ever.

Something had to change. I had to cut back and give that FOMO imp a kick to the curb.

Another Real Life Example

Recently, I watched Chris Fox’s latest YouTube channel post “Why I Stopped Making Videos” and was dumbfounded when he said this about continuing to hustle in order to always stay at the top of a field:

“It’s not worth it. It’s not worth the cost when you get there and you don’t enjoy your life day to day…”

This is the guy who sold a ton of novels, who wrote a series on how to do what he did, and had a popular YouTube channel to boot. He achieved wild success. Yet he’d been struggling. And he could only push at that insane level for so long.

There was so much packed into his video but burnout, specifically Autistic burnout, was one of the phrases that kept coming up. So, the guy who was able to write 20K words on a good day – and I am still totally in awe – has limits. He had to slow down.

My mind was blown.

The positive is that he’s coming out on the other side. He’s creating again but not at the insane rate he used to, and he’s finding ways to refill his creative reserves.

His books like “5000 Words an Hour” still have a place. He has great advice on how to increase writing output. But productivity needs to be balanced with self-care and setting limits on how much you’ll push yourself.

The Hard Truth

You can’t do it all, nor should you.

Always going full out has a price – the kind that makes you unable to be creative in the long term. There’s a toll to never slowing down. We aren’t machines. Ironically, we seem to understand that machines need maintenance better than we understand that same principle for ourselves.

Breaking Away from FOMO

What can we do when the common advice is to keep pushing, never slow down, and continually add the next new marketing fad to our already busy schedules?

Evaluate What You’re Doing

Time and energy are our most precious resources. We only have so much of both. Evaluate what gives you the most bang for the buck. For authors, the core is writing books and getting the word out.

  • How many other things are you juggling?
  • How much of that “marketing” is actually selling books?

Tracking your activities and their effectiveness can help. Spreadsheets are great for this. But if that’s not your gig, even jotting down in a notebook how much time you spend on a task can give you a good idea of what’s working.

When a task isn’t effective, find a replacement that’s more effective or simply drop it. We can’t keep doing the same thing expecting change.

I’ll pick on one of the biggies for a moment.

We often hear advice about getting the word out on social media. Becca asks her readers in the books I mentioned above to “Question the Premise” on common author advice, and she often questions suggested uses of social media.

This is one of those areas I’ve been scrutinizing. I’m pretty good at cutting things that aren’t working for me. But social media is a tough one.

My changes in this area

Several months ago (even before I read Becca’s books), I started an experiment because I find checking and responding on social media quite draining. And I’m finding that a newsletter with book swaps and promos included is more effective.

So, I’ve been scheduling all my social media at the beginning of the month and letting it run on autopilot. I’m still getting about the same interaction on social media, but not focusing on it allows me to put energy into my newsletter where I can have a more intimate and fun chat with my readers.

Does it mean that social media doesn’t work?

Not at all. Some people do great on platforms like TikTok. But it doesn't work if it drains you of energy and motivation.

  • Find what works best for you and your personality.
  • Check those time-sucks.
  • Save your energy!

Does it mean things like paying taxes can be cut? Alas, no. That one keeps you out of jail.

Using Self Care to Replenish Energy

Finding the time to step out of the constant push to rest and refill your creative batteries will go a long way to helping you avoid burnout. It sounds a bit contradictory, doesn’t it? We have too much on our plates already. But I’m absolutely serious. Carving a bit of time out for you is important.

This last fall, I read Real Self-Care: A Transformative Program for Redefining Wellness (Crystals, Cleanses, and Bubble Baths Not Included) by Pooja Lakshmin, MD. I was skeptical but kept reading. My favorite point of hers? “Saying ‘No’ is also self-care.”

Some of you, dear readers, have conditions and circumstances that make it really hard to slow down and find time for self-care. Do what you can. Say “No” and ask for help whenever possible. None of us is superhuman.

Conclusion

Remember FOMO isn’t your friend. It’s a fear, a tyrannical one, constantly pushing you to do more. But burnout requires a long recovery time. It’s a thief that robs you of vital creativity and energy.

So I’ll encourage you to define what success means to you and examine what is working and what is not.

  • Cut things that aren’t helping.
  • Say “No” and stick to your boundaries.
  • Write those boundaries down if you need the reminder.

My previous article on self-care might also be of help: The Case for Slowing Down and Self-Care.

Are there things you need to cut back on or say “No” to, so your success is more sustainable and achievable? What is one thing you can do for yourself to refill that creative battery? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

About Amy

Amy Winters-Voss

Amy is the author of the Liminal Chronicles series, a mythological/urban fantasy set in small-town Japan that focuses on social redemption and found family.

She adores Japan and always looks forward to visiting the incredible country with its amazing people and unique culture, again. Textile arts are her go-to hobbies. Her favorite craft is nalbinding, an ancient yarn craft much older than knitting.

Top Photo Credit: Andreea Popa on Unsplash

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Utilizing the Home Office Deduction for Authors

by Susan Watts

Woman calculating taxes and bills for home office

As an author, your home office is not just a space for work; it's your sanctuary, your creative haven where the magic of storytelling unfolds. But did you know that your home office could also provide financial benefits in the form of tax deductions on your individual US Federal tax return?

The home office deduction allows you to claim a portion of your housing costs as business expenses on your tax return, potentially reducing your tax liability. In this blog, we'll explore how authors can leverage the home office deduction to their advantage, including using it to store inventory.

Defining the Home Office Deduction

The home office deduction is available to self-employed individuals, including authors, who use a portion of their home exclusively and regularly for business purposes. To qualify for this tax benefit, your home office must meet two primary criteria.

1. Exclusivity

You must use the area claimed as a home office exclusively for business activities. The space doesn’t have to be marked off by a permanent partition, it can be any separate area. However, it’s important to note that you cannot use the space for any personal purposes. For example, the regular use of the kitchen table cannot be considered a qualifying location, as it is not exclusively dedicated to business. However, a desk in a corner of a room could qualify if used exclusively for work. 

You should ensure that only business-related items occupy the space designated for your home office. For instance, if your home office doubles as a guest bedroom, you can only claim the part of the room that is dedicated to your business as home office expenses. Even personal belongings like children’s toys can disqualify the area.

2. Regular Use

Your home office space should be regularly used for conducting business. Occasional or sporadic use may not qualify, even if the space serves no other purpose. If you don’t have any other primary places of business, this test is generally not an issue.

What expenses can you deduct?

Once you determine that your home office meets the eligibility criteria, you can deduct a portion of various expenses related to your home. These may include:

  1. Utilities: You can deduct a portion of your utility bills, like electricity, heating, and water, depending on the percentage of your home used for business.
  2. Rent or Mortgage Interest: If you're a renter, a portion of your rent is deductible. Homeowners can deduct a portion of their mortgage interest, homeowner’s insurance, property taxes, and depreciation. Depreciation is an allowance for the wear and tear on the business part of your home. Depending on your situation, the depreciation expense claimed in prior years may be required to be reported as a taxable gain in the year you sell your home.
  3. Repairs and Maintenance: Expenses for repairing and maintaining the portion of your home used for business are deductible. This includes costs like painting, repairing the roof, or fixing plumbing issues.
  4. Office Supplies and Equipment: You can deduct any supplies or equipment purchased for your home office, such as desks, chairs, computers, and stationery, as business expenses.

Using the Home Office Deduction to Store Inventory

For authors who self-publish or maintain inventory of their books, the home office deduction can also extend to storage space within the home. If you store inventory, such as books, manuscripts, or promotional materials, in your home office or in a designated storage area within your home, you may be able to deduct a portion of your home-related expenses associated with that space without meeting the exclusive use test.

To claim a home office deduction for storage, you must meet all the following tests:

  1. You sell products at wholesale or retail as your trade or business.
  2. You keep the inventory or product samples in your home for use in your trade or business.
  3. Your home is the only fixed location of your trade or business.
  4. You use the storage space regularly.
  5. The space you use is a separately identifiable space suitable for storage.

An example:

The only fixed location for your author business is your home. Part of your basement is consistently used to store inventory. Occasionally, you utilize the space for personal reasons. You can still deduct the expenses for the storage space, even if it’s not exclusively used for business.

When claiming the home office deduction for inventory storage, keep detailed records of your inventory and any expenses related to its storage, such as shelving, storage containers, or rental fees for off-site storage units.

Calculating Your Deduction

Whether you're claiming the home office deduction for your workspace or for inventory storage, you'll need to calculate the portion of your home-related expenses that you can attribute to your business use. You have the option to do this using either the simplified method or the regular method.

1. Simplified Method

  • Under the simplified method, you can deduct $5 per square foot of your home office space, up to a maximum of 300 square feet. This means the maximum deduction you can claim using this method is $1,500 (300 sq. ft. x $5).
  • This method is straightforward and doesn't require detailed record-keeping of actual expenses. It's particularly beneficial for those who prefer a simpler approach to calculating deductions.
  • To use the simplified method, you only need to determine the square footage of your home office space and multiply it by the applicable rate.

2. Regular Method

The regular method involves calculating the actual expenses related to your home office and determining the percentage of your home used for business.

To calculate your deduction using the regular method, you'll need to determine:

  • Direct Expenses: These are expenses that apply solely to your home office, such as repairs or improvements made to the office space.
  • Indirect Expenses: These are expenses that benefit both your home and your home office, such as mortgage interest, property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, utilities, and maintenance costs.

Once you've identified your direct and indirect expenses, you'll allocate them based on the percentage of your home used for business, which is typically calculated by dividing the square footage of your home office by the total square footage of your home.

  • For example, if your home office occupies 300 square feet out of 3,000 square feet, the percentage of business use would be 10% (300 sq. ft. ÷ 3,000 sq. ft.).
  • You would then apply this percentage to your total indirect expenses to determine the deductible amount. For instance, if your total indirect expenses amount to $10,000, your deductible amount would be $1,000 (10% of $10,000).
  • Additionally, you can deduct 100% of your direct expenses related to the home office.

It's crucial to keep thorough records of all expenses and maintain documentation to support your deductions in case of an IRS audit.

How to Decide

Deciding which method to use depends on your individual circumstances. While the simplified method offers ease and simplicity, the regular method may result in a higher deduction if your actual expenses exceed the simplified rate. Consider factors such as the size of your home office, the amount of your expenses, and your preference for record-keeping when determining the most advantageous method for your situation.

You should also note that the home office deduction is limited to the net income from your business before expenses related to your home office deduction.

If your home office expenses exceed this limitation and you use the regular method (actual expenses), you can carry the non-deductible portion forward to your next year’s return. However, you will still be subject to the business income limitation for each subsequent year.       

Tips for Maximizing Your Deduction

To ensure you're maximizing your home office deduction while staying compliant with tax regulations, consider the following tips:

  1. Keep Accurate Records: Maintain meticulous records of your home office expenses, including receipts, utility bills, mortgage statements, and inventory-related expenses.
  2. Document Your Home Office and Storage Space: Take photos or create a floor plan highlighting both your home office and any designated storage areas used for inventory. This documentation can serve as evidence in case of an IRS audit.
  3. Consult a Tax Professional: Tax laws and regulations can be complex and subject to change. Consulting with a tax professional who specializes in working with authors or self-employed individuals can help ensure you're taking full advantage of available deductions while avoiding any pitfalls.

Final Thoughts

By understanding and leveraging the home office deduction, including its application to inventory storage, you can not only optimize your writing environment but also potentially reduce your tax burden. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the eligibility criteria, allowable expenses, and calculation methods, and consider seeking professional guidance to make the most of this valuable tax benefit.

For further information, you can also read Publication 587 on the IRS website. With careful planning and documentation, your home office can become not only a source of inspiration but also a savvy financial investment.

Do you use a home office? Do you itemize that deduction on your tax return? Please feel free to ask Susan questions down in the comments!

About Susan

Under the pen name Michelle Allums, Susan Watts has authored a young adult urban fantasy titled, The Jade Amulet and is currently writing the sequel. Her short stories are also included in the anthologies Christmas Roses and Forever and Always.

Susan has dedicated over four decades to training in multiple martial arts styles and holds the impressive title of a five-time US Karate Alliance world black belt fighting grand champion. Through her karate school, she is able to impart martial arts and life skills. Susan also incorporates her martial arts knowledge into her writing.

An avid triathlete, she keeps in shape by running, biking, and swimming. She lives in the country with her husband, where they raise animals and enjoy being outdoors. Susan also has three grown children and numerous grandchildren. In addition, she is a CPA and VP of finance for a company in her hometown. 

You can connect with Susan on social media or her website.

Disclaimer:

This blog provides information intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as tax advice. While we strive to provide accurate and up-to-date information, tax laws and regulations may vary depending on your jurisdiction and individual circumstances. Therefore, it is recommended that you consult with a qualified tax professional or accountant to assess your specific situation and determine the applicability of any tax deductions discussed in this article to your home office expenses. We disclaim any responsibility for any actions taken or not taken based on the information provided in this blog.

Top photo purchased from Depositphotos.

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Indie Publishing 101: All Things Editing

by Jenn Windrow

hand holding red pen over proofreading text in office

In last month’s post, we discussed how self-publishing is a business. And you the author are in charge of doing everything to make that business run. However, there are some things you can’t do alone, and editing is one of those things.

That’s why even if you go with a big press or a small press the first thing they offer the author is editing. So, after you’ve self-edited, it is time to find a professional.

The different kinds of editing.

There are a few different kinds of editing…

Developmental or content editing

This is the editor who digs into your story, plot, characters, ending, all the things that make your book a page turner.

A good developmental editor will tell you when you haven’t included enough information or even too much. They will tell you if a character is likeable or not. They will work with you to tie up lose threads. They will let you know if your ending is satisfying or leaves too many questions. And sooooo much more.

Honestly a good developmental editor is worth their weight in gold. And I am not just saying this because I happen to be one. I have worked with plenty of developmental editors on my own books and they are a huge part of the publishing process.

After you’ve worked with your critique partners or husband or friend, and they’ve read your book and told you what they like and don’t like, hire a professional developmental editor. Someone who is objective and paid to tell you the truth about your story and help you shape it into something a reader can’t put down.

Copy Editor

These are the editors who cross those T’s and dot those I’s. They go through each word and check for spelling errors, overused words, bad grammar, and proper punctuation. They are the final stage of making your book as good as it can be.

I’m not someone who knows all the rules to proper punctuation, I rely heavily on my copy editor to do their job and help me get all those pesky commas in the correct place. Trust me, my copy editor has her work cut out for her when it comes to my books, and she knows how much I appreciate her.

Galley Edits

The last stage of editing your novel before you can upload it for pre-order or publish it is the galley edit. Sometimes called a line edit.

This is usually done by you, the author. You will go through your final manuscript, line-by-line, word-by-word, and make sure that you or your editor didn’t miss something. And trust me, misspellings and forgotten words happen in all novels. Even your Big 5 authors. I am sure you’ve read a book, maybe several that have had errors in them.

It’s hard to catch them all.

I will say this, no matter how times you go through a book, you will find some small errors.

When my first book was released, I was horrified to see that a line that was supposed to say "gear shift" said "gear shirt". I mean how many times had I read that line, had my publisher read that line, only to have it slip through the cracks.

It happens to the best of us, but one of the many good things about indie publishing, is when you see an error, you can fix it, then just republish asap without having to go through the gate keepers to make a change.

Finding a good editor

There are so many things too look for when you are searching for an editor. Personally, I think a lot of it has to do with a solid working relationship. If you don’t like them personally, you won’t like working with them. If harsh criticism bothers you, then having a bulldog as an editor might not be right for you.

How do you find one?

  • Word of mouth is a good way to find someone.
  • Ask your writer friends who they have worked with.
  • Google is another way.
  • And there are plenty of self-publishing Facebook groups that help with finding good editors.

No matter how you go about looking for an editor, there are plenty of really good ones out there.

Final Thoughts

Editing is an important investment for every author. In my opinion, the second best investment you can make as an author. Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and editing helps make sure it is a good one.

If you have any questions about the editing process, please add them to your comment below and I will be happy to answer.

About Jenn

Jenn Windrow Author pic

Sass. Snark. Supernatural Sizzle. 

Award winning author of Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance. Vampires, Greek gods, and a bit of Demon Destroyer fun for everyone.

Jenn Windrow loves characters who have a pinch of spunk, a dash of attitude, and a large dollop of sex appeal. Top it all off with a huge heaping helping of snark, and you’ve got the ingredients for the kind of fast-paced stories she loves to read and write. Home is a suburb of it’s-so-hot-my-shoes-have-melted-to-the-pavement Phoenix. Where she lives with her husband, two teenagers, and a slew of animals that seem to keep following her home, at least that’s what she claims.

Website: https://jennwindrow.com/

Top photo from Depositphotos.

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