The publication of my debut novel, Perfectly Undone (shameless plug), is only a couple of months away now and because of that, I've been getting asked often if I'm stressed out about it. There's certainly a lot to prepare for, with marketing strategies, guest blogs, book signings, etc. And maybe more importantly, there's the anticipation of how the book will be received. There's simply no preparing for that. No checklist to mark off there.
The truth is, though, I'm not actually stressing out about it. Maybe I'm naive, never having done this before, but over the last year, as the date has grown closer and the "published author" expectations have become a part of my daily life, I've made it a priority to find ways to keep stress from overcoming me. With everything there is to do in the pursuit of building a successful writing career, it can be too easy to get caught up in taskmastering and forget to enjoy the ride. It can be too easy to forget to enjoy life.
If you've followed my journey to publication at all, you know it has been a long, sometimes tough, road for me. It's been 3 1/2 years since I signed with my agent, and 5 1/2 years of full-time writing, blogging, and platform building before that. This gig is a heck of a lot of work without any guarantee of ever succeeding and I sure would hate to miss the moment I've been doing all this work for. What a disappointment it would be if I forgot to honor myself and everything I've done to get here at the time it matters most.
It's not easy to let go of the idea of being stressed. We forget that stress is a choice--it seems like an inherent part of releasing a book, or anything else we want to accomplish. I fall into moments of panic when I get too caught up in my head, but then I remind myself of the kind of life I want to live--published author or not--and words like fulfilled, healthy, joyful, and adventurous are at the top of my list. It's hard to feel that kind of success if I allow stress to take the wheel. But the mindset we carry with us in any situation is absolutely our choice.
As the quote by Charles R. Swindon says, "Life is 10% of what happens to me, and 90% of how I react to it."
Here are some things I'm doing to protect my sanity as life gets busier, that you might try if stress has become your main operator:
1) I have come to accept and love that I have my own approach.
There are a million lists out there of what writers "should" be doing to prepare for a launch, or build their platform, or write their book, or raise their darn children. And I've stopped reading all of them. In fact, just like with raising children, we all know in our hearts what is best for our own unique approach, if we listen to it. If we get all the noise out of our heads.
2) I am being diligent about questioning my own thoughts and expectations.
Where do they come from? Is this really my own voice speaking or is it my parents, my past experiences, or my community? I have found, through much soul searching and honest conversations with my friends, my agent, and my publisher, that much of the seemingly outside expectations we carry around are actually our own expectations. (Hint: Most of them aren't as expected as we believe, if at all.)
In our desire to be perfect, we feel like we have to do all the things we've been taught are necessary to be accepted by our peers. I know that's some heavy stuff that you might not be prepared to dig into, but for now, ask questions--of yourself and of the people you're working with. What are the true expectations, and what are you willing to release in order to enjoy the process, in each moment and for many years to come?
3) I am honoring my process.
Over the years, I have been an eager examiner of what works and what does not work for me when it comes to writing and my business. For instance, I know I don't do well when I'm up against a deadline, and release day is pretty much the most looming and immovable deadline of all. To account for that, I requested the promo list from my publicist months ahead of time so I could work through it in my own way, in my own time. No matter where you are in your career, or what you might be working on, don't be afraid to ask for what you need in order to create the time and space to honor your own process. Boundaries, with other people and with yourself, are the essence of a stress-free life.
I've recently fallen in love with the quote by Fritz Perls that says, "Fear is excitement without the breath." Fear and excitement originate in the same place in our bodies (the adrenal glands, if you're curious)--we choose which one we experience by whether or not we take the time to breathe. So we choose whether or not we experience the joy of our accomplishments by how high we prioritize or own happiness.
Stress has become such an accepted part of everyday life that the struggle to overcome it is a long, arduous road, but I do believe it's a goal we can accomplish with patience, forgiveness, and fierce determination. And I feel a lot closer to achieving it on the days I let my heart guide me.
Jamie is on a wonderful vacation, but we can still talk about how you deal with every day—and writer—stress.
Jamie Raintree is an author and a writing business teacher. She is also a mother of two girls, a wife, a businesswoman, a nature-lover, and a wannabe yogi. Her debut novel, PERFECTLY UNDONE, will be released on October 3, 2017 by Graydon House. Subscribe to her newsletter for more writing tips, workshops, and book news. To find out more, visit her website.