Thursday, April 20, 2017

Stress and the Indie Author

By Jana Oliver, @crazyauthorgirl

Part of the Indie Authors Series

A couple months back I attended Coastal Magic in Daytona Beach, and besides having a great deal of fun, I was reminded that downtime is good. This should be obvious, but sometimes I forget. I suspect I’m not the only one.

In the weeks leading up to this convention I’d been slaving over my current book—the last in the Demon Trappers series so the reader expectations are off the chart—and preparing our house for sale in June. On top of all that we’re hoping to move to Europe this summer, which requires jumping through numerous immigration hoops plus clearing out nearly ALL of our earthly possessions. My stress meter has been redlining for some time.

I can handle a lot of stress, but eventually it screws up my ability to think clearly. By the time I arrived in Daytona Beach I was seriously “airy fairy”, as a friend of mine kindly phrased it. In other words, I had the intelligence of a boiled potato. Since I’m a Scorpio, this is not my default setting.

Though I didn’t get a chance to walk along the beach, just being close to the water seemed to reset my brain, as did hanging with my fellow authors, as well as some dear friends. By the time I returned home I was back online and felt refreshed.

No doubt all of us have been compromised by stress, at one time or another. It can manifest in physical symptoms—headaches, intestinal issues, mental fog, to name just a few—as well as affect our sleep patterns. Juggling our many responsibilities can be overwhelming, especially if those include raising kids, working a full-time job and, perhaps, caring for your parents’ welfare. That doesn’t include being an indie author.

So how do you lower your stress when you’re buried and can see now way out?

Here’s a few things I’ve learned along the way.

Know Yourself

You need to identify what kinds of things stress you. Is it deadlines? Is it having no time for yourself, or the financial insecurity that comes with being an author? I’m especially prone to overscheduling. I like to think that my awesome organization skills can overcome any obstacle, no matter how frazzled I am. That’s not the reality.

Overcommitting is a difficult habit to break, at least for me. It’s one of the reasons I went through major burnout in 2013. After racking up over thirty-thousand air miles, attending too many conventions, while overseeing a hectic promotional schedule, I hit the wall. Hard. It took me months to get back to the writing. Trust me, you don’t want to go there.

By knowing what pushes your buttons you have a better chance of avoiding those stressors. In time, you’ll see them coming and then smile when they pass you by.

The Power of “No”

One of the ways I dealt with my tendency to overschedule is by saying “No.” I’m much better now at declining guest appearances, anthology participation, Facebook group promotions, etc. It’s hard to turn those down when you’re first building your career because you feel those opportunities might be critical. Truth is, most of them aren’t. As I mentioned before, overscheduling can become a habit.

Now I know not to commit right up front. Instead I gather as much information as possible, do any needed research, then make the decision. Nowadays, that reply is usually “Thanks, but it’s not going to work for my schedule.” So far no one has been upset, and that leads to considerably less stress for everyone.

It’s up to you to keep your life as sane as possible. Use “no” as needed.

Divide and Conquer

You really need to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. I know I suck at making covers. I can visualize exactly what I want, but the actual creation process eludes me. So I hire a professional. You should do the same for tasks that aren’t your forte, be that for your books or for your personal life. Sometimes you generate unneeded stress by trying to do everything on your own when someone else could finish the task in a tenth of the time.

We’ve done this with the upcoming move. We’ve hired an immigration lawyer to guide us through that complicated process. The spouse is handling all the visa paperwork preparation while I’m in charge of obtaining the pet passport for our cat and ensuring all our business records are archived in digital form. Because it’s a huge project, we’re tackling the house together. If we hadn’t divvied this up, and obtained professional help, we’d have flamed out already.

“Me” Time

Last year I was diligent about going to the gym three times a week, including working with a personal trainer. I felt really good and my productivity soared. This year? Not so much. I’ve backed off from the exercise because of the demands of the house prep and the move. That was a mistake, and one I will be rectifying as soon as the house is on the market.

It’s important that you determine what activities help you relax and then schedule those like any other task. Do you enjoy meditation? How about hiking or birdwatching? Yoga, tai chi? Swimming or knitting? Maybe Kick boxing? Do you find yourself feeling good after time at the beach, or in the mountains? How about after sex or a relaxing massage?

A friend of mine chilled out by building an entire spaceship from Legos. This was no easy job as it was big enough to cover his entire kitchen table. Or, if you’re rather be destructive, consider visiting an Anger Room to vent your frustrations. Bashing stuff can be very therapeutic.

Not sure exactly what you need? Here’s a Spirituality and Health article with a few suggestions. Each of these takes only five minutes.

As for me, when that For Sale sign is in the yard, I’ll be going back to the gym. And once I’m overseas, I’m going to return to my love of photography and be sure to include a few nights sitting at a cozy cafe sipping wine with the spouse. It’s always good to have goals.

Less stress means you’re more productive, happier and likely to live longer. Your books will reflect your attitude as well. So why not start de-stressing today?

What stresses you the most? How do you deal with it? What’s your favorite way to decompress? 

An international bestseller and the recipient of over a dozen major awards, Jana Oliver often laments that there are far too many stories inside her head at any given moment.

Best known for her young adult Demon Trappers series, she writes what intrigues her, and spends a good deal of time fretting about whether demons actually exist.

When not wandering around the internet researching exorcisms, or posting on social media (eerily similar, those two), Jana can be found in Atlanta with her very patient husband, and a rapidly dwindling collection of single malt Scotch.

Jana Oliver | Chandler Steele | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Indie Bound |

About Cat's Paw

After five years in a Louisiana prison, Alex Parkin desperately wants to start over. Even more, he craves revenge against Vladimir Buryshkin, the New Orleans drug lord who framed him for cocaine possession. The second he walks out of prison, Alex is a wanted man, both by the Russian mob, and by Veritas, a private security firm that claims to be "on his side." When his sister is brutally beaten, he has to choose: Join forces with Veritas, or let Buryshkin destroy his family.

Because of the Russian mobster, Morgan Blake lost both her husband, and her career at the FBI. Now working with Veritas, she's eager to take Buryshkin down. So eager, she's willing to do anything to make that happen, even sacrificing a certain ex-con, if needed.

As a load of tainted cocaine hits New Orleans' streets, the body count quickly rises. To prevent more deaths, and a potential drug war, Morgan and Alex must learn that revenge comes at too high a price, and that love always has its own agenda.


  1. Jana, I envy you living in Europe. I lived across the waters for almost two years. When it was time to come back across, I did not want to leave. I wish I still lived there.

    Your advice is sound and I intend to take advantage of it. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thanks! It'll certainly be an adjustment, but we are looking forward to.

  2. I'm going through a similar upheaval. Hubby retired, we've sold the house (less than a month to closing), and we're returning to my native province in Canada. We divided tasks as well, and yet my "to-do" list continues to grow, LOL. Making "me" time is getting more difficult, but you're right - it's absolutely critical if I'm to survive with even half my sanity intact. I'm holding onto the image of sitting in the back garden of my mum's summer house (where we'll be living whilst construction on our house finishes), sipping a cool beer, and doing NOTHING.

    Good luck with your move (I didn't know cats needed passports too!) and let us know when you're settled - we'd all love to come for a visit, LOL!

    1. I so feel your pain. "Me" time appears to be nonexistent right now, but soon it'll be less of a mess. And not surprisingly, we have a LOT of people who'd love to visit us. I figure we'll do our bit for Portuguese tourism if this continues. LOL

  3. I know this feeling well, Jana. Learning to say no was tough, but I started turning down things a couple years back and it has helped. I still over schedule.. Have to work on that. I will say that sometime soon I need to find myself on a beach somewhere.


    1. Good to see you this last weekend! Yeah, saying 'no' is hard, especially when it feels like we're being selfish when we take the opposite approach.

  4. I know this feeling well, Jana. Learning to say no was tough, but I started turning down things a couple years back and it has helped. I still over schedule.. Have to work on that. I will say that sometime soon I need to find myself on a beach somewhere.