The Pressure to Be Super Human

During my time as a Sociology major, I took a few classes that focused on gender and family. In these, we learned about the changing roles of women in society, and how modern women often feel pressure to work a “Second Shift” to fulfill their roles. Decades ago, women only had to focus on being a wife and mother. In modern society, women are still expected to thrive in the domestic sphere–while also holding down a full-time career. In other words, they can (and should, in most people’s opinions) do it all.

But this article isn’t about Feminism and the roles of women. It’s about authors.

Decades ago, the life of the author (or, more accurately, the romanticized view we hold of it) was quite different. You simply jetted off to Paris with Hemingway and Fitzgerald, got rip-roaring drunk, and spouted your brilliance. A publisher then plucked it from your hands and sent it out into the world, where your deserved fame and ample royalties followed.

Again, that’s the romanticized view. But it’s still what a lot of people associate with authorship.

Today, a new author has emerged, of which I am one: the indie author. As an independent author, we are expected to write and edit our own books, format them, design covers, publish, and market. Or, of course, hire professionals to assist us. And until we finally figure out the magic formula to full-time authorship, we have to do all of this while working full-time jobs, maintaining our households, and keeping our social relationships in tact.

In my imagination, the ideal indie author — the person I should be — goes through the day like this:

Wake up at four or five a.m. Devour coffee and write for at least an hour. Go to work (while writing more, reading/listening to books or podcasts, or marketing during the commute). Take a lunch break (with more writing, reading, or marketing). Repeat the commute home. Eat dinner and spend a short amount of time with family. Write until midnight. Sleep four to five hours. Repeat.

Is it just me, or does that sound insanely difficult? I mean, I need my sleep…for everyone else’s safety.

Okay, reality time. That schedule is probably slightly exaggerated. But there are plenty of “famous” indie authors who have done something similar. There’s Hugh Howey, who wrote Wool while working in a bookstore. There’s Joanna Penn, who scaled back her day job to four days a week, gave up television, and got up incredibly early every day to write. Listen to any mainstream self-publishing podcast, and you’ll find the success stories.

That’s what it takes to make it to the big leagues. You’ve got to want it so badly that you make huge sacrifices, that you keep pushing even when you’re exhausted, that you devote daily practice to writing and studying the industry. And for most of us, myself included, just thinking about that kind of rigorous routine — even with our burning desire for its rewards — makes us light-headed. I mean, that’s a lot of pressure.

But that’s the formula for success as an indie author — work hard enough that you make your own luck.

So what do we do?

I guess we figure out how to do it for ourselves. I haven’t quite tackled being super human just yet (I’ll let you know when I do), but I think we start somewhere like this:

  • Find the discipline to wake up an hour earlier (or stay up an hour later)
  • Find the energy to knock out some words during our lunch breaks or after work
  • Remember meeting our goals is more satisfying than another Netflix binge
  • Listen to an audiobook or podcast instead of the radio on our commutes
  • Turn wasted minutes or free time into time spent being creative
  • Cut personal expenses and treats in favor of time off work or business-related costs
  • Search out others with the same goal and feed off their determination
  • Recognize that we will always have more work to do
  • Forgive ourselves when we fall short of our goals
  • Keep trying to do better

When I break it down like this, it feels easy — but we all know it’s not.

This is the part where I start to flounder, where I deeply feel my own failings, and where I feel intense pressure to do better. I know what to do, I’m just not sure how to cram it all into my own life. I pump myself up, get into a frenzy of motivation, make progress, then peter out, whether after a day, a week, or a month…

But I’m working on it, and I’ve already seen marked improvements in 2016.

I guess the point of this post is: fellow indie authors, fellow day job grinders, fellow insecure creatives — you are not alone. I’m right there with you, straddling the tightrope between the present and the authorship dreams. And one way or another, we’ll all end up on one side of the rope or the other.

I know which side I want to be on. It’s going to take a few years of penny-pinching and late nights (and getting Daniel through graduate school). It’s not ALL in my hands, but it mostly is, and I’m going to try my hardest to get there.

Where are you right now? And which side will you be on in five or ten years?

If those questions make your chest tight, remember: you’re not alone. And if you need someone to rally around, I’ve got your back.

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Kate M. Colby is an author of science fiction, fantasy, and nonfiction. When she is not writing or working, Kate enjoys playing video games, antiquing, and wine tasting. She lives in the United States with her husband and furry children.

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Posted in Author Business & Publishing, Writing & Publishing Articles
26 comments on “The Pressure to Be Super Human
  1. And spouses/partners, support your other halfs. Make them dinner, offer them drinks, do the housework, and just make their life easier. You need not become their slaves or anything but for people who have the *luxury* (a time demanding and difficult luxury) to study, do your best to help.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I can relate to this. I feel like I’m imploding under the pressure to be superhuman at the moment.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Terry Marchion says:

    Trying to find time to do it all is overwhelming — I struggle with it daily.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. amo says:

    No, it’s not just you. It IS insanely difficult – in fact, it’s insane. To shove another bit of sociology in there, what this is is an extreme case of Protestant Work Ethic, courtesy of the Puritans. Yes, some people have done it – but some people have also climbed Mount Everest. That doesn’t mean that Himalayan Mountain Climbing is something normal people should expect of themselves.
    I don’t want to sound like a wet blanket – not at all. But I’ve been so badly burned from trying to live three lives at once, because I thought I could do it all if I only worked harder, and that if I *couldn’t* work harder and get up earlier and stay up later etc etc I was a wimp. The upshot of it was that by age 27 I got a rip-roaring case of burnout (later re-labelled “Major Depression”, which I’ve struggled with off and on ever since). Don’t go there, it’s not worth it. It was a direct result of the belief I carried that I not only *could* do it all, but I *should*.
    By all means, follow your dreams. But be aware that, as they say in Once Upon a Time, “all magic comes at a price”. Make your choices wisely, so you can keep doing awesome work for a long time to come, not burn yourself out like a comet blazing across the sky.
    And now I will shut up and stop pontificating. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha I never mind a bit of pontificating. You are absolutely right, though. Burning yourself out does nothing but detract from your dreams and your life. I’m glad to hear you’ve learned from your previous choices, and hopefully others who read this post can soak up some of your wisdom before they end up in a similar spot. I know I appreciate the reminder. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Kate Evans says:

    Best advice, be kind to ourselves, forgive ourselves, when we fall short of our massively high expectations. We can only do what we can do. In my 20s & 30s I wrote around full time jobs, but in my 50s – due to changed financial circumstances – I manage to survive on a part-time job giving me time to write. It was one of the best decisions I made, but I couldn’t have done it before. Good luck with everything!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Kate E.! One thing I’m looking forward to when I get older is being able to devote more time to my author work. For now, I’m trying to take advice like you offered and do the best I can. It’s all I can do, and it’s enough for now. 🙂

      Like

  6. Jami Crumpton says:

    I feel ya sister. I am currently doing all of the things on the list, except writing at lunch, and I am exhausted. In fact, I can’t exactly remember what I wrote this morning but at least it’s on the page. However, the alternative of not perusing writing isn’t an option either. So… write on.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. mirymom says:

    Reblogged this on Mirymom's Blog and commented:
    Pursuing your passion is not an easy road, but so worth it! Great post from Kate M. Colby, a writer-friend I expect to continue seeing great things from.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I guess that can apply to everything in life. You can’t gain anything without working the extra mile. But I feel that is also important to take a break. Maybe it is as important as working hard, you will feel more energized and maybe find cool ideias for the project you are working on now.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Khaya Ronkainen says:

    “I know what to do, I’m just not sure how to cram it all into my own life.” This is where I’m at, the juggling act. Thank you Kate for a brilliant post, I needed to hear this.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. […] you think about it, that’s a lot of pressure (especially if you’re an independent author). It’s no wonder we writers get scared of our […]

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  11. […] you think about it, that’s a lot of pressure (especially if you’re an independent author). It’s no wonder we writers get scared of our […]

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  12. […] If you choose the path of independent publishing, you’ll quickly learn that you have a lot of responsibilities. You’ll need to write your book, manage the editing, cover design, and formatting, and handle the publishing and marketing. While you can (and should!) hire professional help, in the end, you’re the one who makes the big decisions. This pressure alone can make you feel like you have to be a super human to make it as an author. […]

    Like

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