Indie author’s challenges: time management and the feeling of guilt

When it comes to indie author’s daily life, there are more, of course. Still, these two are my personal favourites among my demons.

Time management. Yes, sounds rather pompous, like something those smiling, shining positivity gurus teach us, mere mortals, so we can have a chance for a better life. In fact, time management is a strictly down-to-earth concept, which narrows down to how efficiently you can battle your passion for procrastination.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there is something wrong with letting loose at times to unwind. We all need to rest and spend time doing things that don’t contribute anything to our professional and inner growth, family comfort, and other important life spheres. Time management, as I have come to view it, means successfully dividing the time of the day between work and leisure. If you are an indie author, it is not as easy as it sounds.

First, your daily tasks can’t ever be completed.

There will always be a writing-in-progress to work on, research to be done, promotion activities to be planned, posts for social media and a blog to be written, and people on social media to interact with. This is a never-ending circle, but if you skip some parts of it, you won’t get book sales. So, it brings us to the beginning. Is there any sense in writing a book, if it won’t have any readers?

Every day I struggle with the choice of which tasks to perform since, obviously, one person without a PR and editorial team can’t do all of them. My priority always is to write. After going through my real-life routine, the first thing I do after I finally switch on my computer, I work on my current book.

Well, before I open the draft, I check Amazon and Goodreads for new reviews, my KDP account for book sales and KENP reads, my social media accounts, my blog… What can I say – I’m only human. But then, after everything is checked, I write.

I rarely can devote more than two hours to writing. Not only because as an indie author I can’t wriggle out of the necessity to promote my work, but also because real life is an extremely demanding lady.

Second, it is difficult to set up priorities. If you don’t maintain social media presence, no one reads your books. I probably sound like a broken record, repeating the same thing in every post. If there was the tiniest chance to change it by simply ignoring it, I’d be the first one to make a cool-as-a-cucumber face and wait for the miracle to happen. But this is the reality we can’t change. If you don’t make yourself seen, no one will see you – and your books.

So, the main problem for me is knowing what I have to do and not having time to do all of it. I realise that many indie authors are puzzled by social media algorithms and rules. I am not. I used to have a few rather successful blog/social media accounts not related to my books and writing. Thus, I know what it takes to build them. I’ll be bold enough to assume that the frustration from having knowledge and not having opportunities to apply it is on the same scale as feeling puzzled about how these weird social media things work.

The cause for frustration number three for me is that it’s virtually impossible to set up time limits for any of my tasks. You can’t know if your tweet will get picked up by the almighty algorithm, and you will get a chance to talk with people in the comments. I’ve read some book promotion gurus say you don’t have to answer comments for your posts on social media, pressing “like” is enough. But I strongly disagree with this advice. It’s true that I don’t reply to every single comment left for my tweets – it’s easier with Instagram, Facebook, and blog since there never are too many comments – but it’s always my intention to do so.

The same applies to writing. You can never predict at what speed words will flow. And in my case, the fact that I sit and stare at the blinking cursor for a while doesn’t mean those words won’t start flowing at some point.

My second demon is the feeling of guilt. I’ve already shared that the only question people seem to be interested in when it comes to my writing is “how much do you earn from your books?”. I hadn’t told anyone about writing a trilogy and publishing it on Amazon for a long time. Now I see it was a wise decision. Had I told them earlier, I would have lost the scraps of enthusiasm I’d had.

It feels like people think you have to have a justification to spend your time writing books. And the only valid one is earning money by selling them. Moreover, the money you earn should be equal to what you could earn doing something “sensible”, something from the real-life menu.

If you have children, you know that there is always something you haven’t done for them, something you haven’t given or given not enough. Nowadays, when you hear “you can combine a dozen roles, and if you don’t, you are a loser” from every roof, it is inevitable to feel lacking. Parenthood is an especially fertile ground to grow complexes and the feeling of guilt. After all, it’s not that someone has to push you to want your children to be happy. It’s natural to wish to give them everything they need. And this is where I stumble.

Do your children need you to forget about your dreams? Is it really so that you have a right to pursue your – impractical – dreams only after the family is asleep or not yet awake, having dedicated all waking hours to the needs of your loved ones?

I don’t believe that this is the only right way to live.

“Don’t give up on your dreams, or your dreams will give up on you.” 

– John Wooden

Anyway, although I can’t imagine I could stop writing now after I’ve written four books and three more are “written” in my head waiting to be put down on paper, I still cringe and shrivel inside every time someone asks me questions like “how have you chosen a school for your son?” (my answer: it is located nearby, but (adds defensively) it is a very good school). Immediately I start feeling guilty for not doing enough to ensure the best future for my son. I could have spent hours looking through forums, comparing schools’ results and statistics, asking friends about their kids’ experience in attending “prestigious” schools, and searching for contacts of those schools’ principals. Instead, I had been writing books that don’t fit into any modern classification systems, hadn’t been picked up by literary agents, and don’t help me earn not only millions but an equivalent of a decent office worker’s salary.

I mull it over and then stop. The conclusions I come to are always the same. Writing is what I’ve wanted to do since I was thirteen. Allowing myself to write after two decades of dutifully following real-life paths is good for my mental health. My son is smart, bright, and happy. He has the opportunities to test what sparks his interest – sports, music, languages. He wouldn’t be happier if his mother dedicated all her time to doing these things with him: pushing, checking, and controlling.

I’ll finish this long ramble with a quote by Charles Buxton. “You will never find time for anything. You must make it.” There is no other way.

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