Are You Able to Ask for Help?

by Jami Gold on September 22, 2015

in Over-Achieving Perfectionist

Child helping a fallen child up with text: Can You Admit When You Need Help?

It’s no secret that I’m a bit of a perfectionist. *smile* That means I try to have my i’s dotted and my t’s crossed for every project. But it’s easy to be overwhelmed.

We have writing craft to learn, drafting to meet our word count goals, and editing and revisions to fix. We have queries to submit and publishers to research. We have publishing options to investigate and marketing and promotion to do. And that doesn’t even count anything from our day job or families.

In short, we often have too much to do and not enough time. It’s normal to need help sometimes.

Yet many of us struggle with asking for help or knowing when to bring in the cavalry. We might find it difficult to trust someone else to do a good job (like the saying, if you want something done right, do it yourself). Or we might not want to be a burden to others.

Sometimes, not being able to do it all can feel like failure, so we might resist admitting that we’re not superheroes. But the fact of the matter is that we might have a better chance of being that superhero by saving the love interest and the city if we have help. *grin*

Ask for Help…Or Else!

This year has been a killer for me. Four releases in one year as a slow writer—even though I had them all written in advance, they still needed editing—has kept me from drafting new words in my next book.

My inbox is a disaster, and my day job shifted two months ago to muck up my schedule. I’m now getting about 5-6 hours of sleep a night, and I’m burnt.

In other words, I’ve had to learn this year to ask for help. I’m still not great at it, but I’m trying.

I accepted that learning how to format my ebooks myself wasn’t something I had time for, so I tapped my beta buddy Angela Quarles for assistance. I knew she was an HTML genius, and I trusted her with my nitpickiness. And she delivered…perfectly. *smile*

Prioritize What We Can and Should Do

Could I have learned ebook formatting? Sure. I could probably learn Photoshop and do my own covers too.

There are hundreds of things we need to do on our path to success, and we can learn them all with enough time or training. That doesn’t mean we should, however.

Everything we do ourselves takes time away from other projects or tasks—like writing the books that are the whole point of our career. Trying to do it all means we’ll end up with balls being dropped this way and that. We’ll burn out and not be able to get anything done (she says all-too-knowingly).

At the same time, many things we need help with cost money: editing, book covers, formatting, etc. So it’s a constant balancing act of prioritizing the things that cost money and we can’t do ourselves (a professional edit, etc.), the things we could save money at by doing ourselves, and the things we could do ourselves but we might be better off by seeing if we can either beg for help or squeeze it into our budget.

I save money by doing my own promo images and bookmarks and print formatting. For those, I use programs I’m already familiar with, so I didn’t have to “waste” time getting up to speed before being useful.

I maximize my royalties by going direct with several retailers. As I knew I would have four releases right away, I figured the one-time effort to learn those systems upfront was worth it.

For me, my situation, and my strengths and weaknesses, those choices make sense for now. Others will come up with different priorities.

But the one choice that usually won’t make sense is for us to do everything ourselves. That way lies burnout or quality issues—maybe both.

Guest Post Help? Yes, Please!

My blog usually falls into the “I invite those I want” camp for guest posts. When I think of a blog topic that I don’t have the experience or knowledge to tackle, I reach out to someone who does and ask if they’d like to guest post.

But one way I’ve gotten better about asking for help is putting out calls for guest posts when I know my schedule will be too crazy to keep up with my epic-length blog posts. Last year, I put out my first call to help me out during NaNoWriMo November, and this past summer, I needed help during a vacation.

Both times I received fantastic proposals that I was proud to include here at my blog. I love giving a boost to others by letting them “borrow” the audience of a “Top 100 Websites for Writers” blog here at the same time they’re helping me. Some of the guest posts here from the previous proposal calls have been shared over 1000 times!

(And that’s not counting the usual online and newsletter readers, which also number in the thousands, or the ongoing exposure through my blog’s popularity with search engines.)

So I’m doing a call for NaNo November again. *smile* I’m accepting guest post proposals for articles that will run during the month of November. Yay!

Have a Guest Post Idea? Let Me Know!

The previous times I was open for proposals, I wanted posts I couldn’t write. I don’t claim to know everything or to have had every experience, and the opportunity to expand the knowledge base here with topics beyond my awareness is one of the best (if not the best) reason to allow guest posts.

This time around, in addition to that usual preference for tip-heavy posts, I’m also open to “Stories from Storytellers” proposals.

I haven’t decided yet whether these stories would get their own post or be combined with other storytellers, but I want to give a chance to those who want to share:

  • what they’ve learned,
  • what they’ve overcome,
  • what they struggle with,
  • who’s helped them, etc.

(So if you’ve previously submitted a proposal along these lines, get back in touch with me, and we’ll see if we can make it work this time. *smile*)

Have an idea for a guest post? Hit me up through my Contact Page with a proposal for what you’re thinking, and let me know if you see the topic as more of a tip-focused post or a “Stories from Storytellers” post. I’m interested in seeing both kinds.

I run topics here that cover all aspects of writing, from craft and publishing advice to the ups and downs of writing life. As long as the post will add value for my readers (no promo-only posts), I’m happy to take a look at all ideas. *smile*

Do you struggle with asking for help? What makes it difficult for you? What makes you give in and accept assistance? Are some things harder to accept help with than others? Why? Do you have any questions for me about guest blogging or proposals?

Join Jami in her upcoming workshop:
Get ready for NaNo by learning how to do just enough story development to write faster with “Lost Your Pants? The Impatient Writers Guide to Plotting a Story.”

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20 Comments below - Time to Add your own.

Davonne Burns September 22, 2015 at 6:39 am

This is a subject that you think I would be familiar with since I have a chronic illness and often have issues with executive functions, much less just writing. Yet I rarely ask for help even when I desperately need it. Mostly out of fear of being a burden or being annoying. It took me three days to convince myself to make the post on Facebook yesterday about needing beta readers (which I still need).

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Jami Gold September 22, 2015 at 8:40 am

Hi Davonne,

Believe me, I understand. I received a fan letter from a reader of my books last week (squee!), and I couldn’t even ask her to leave a review until the second email exchange. *sigh* I’m hopeless. Seriously. O.o

That’s one reason I try to be helpful to others–because I know how hard it is to take the initiative. So…

Anyone want to beta read for Davonne? 😀

LOL! Thanks for the comment, and good luck with your story!

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Davonne Burns September 22, 2015 at 10:46 am

O____O

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Davonne Burns September 22, 2015 at 10:50 am

err, I meant to say thank you >>
lol

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Jami Gold September 22, 2015 at 11:01 am

LOL! You’re welcome. 😀

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Carradee September 22, 2015 at 7:07 am

I do have trouble asking for some sorts of help, but it has less to do with perfectionism and more due to such requests being a vulnerability that can be held over you for weeks, months, years…

On the bright side, my experience does mean that I have comprehension of and the ability to write the types of characters who do that sort of thing.

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Jami Gold September 22, 2015 at 8:44 am

Hi Carradee,

Oh, good point! There are some types of people we never want to ask for favors from because they’ll turn it into a nightmare, and fear of running into that again can make us reluctant to ask for help at all–from any type of person. 🙁

I’ve been lucky to not run into that situation very often, but you’re right that it exists and can influence our ability to ask for help. Thanks for sharing that insight! 🙂

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Serena Yung September 22, 2015 at 3:22 pm

Hey Jami,

Cool, what a coincidence! I recently chatted with a friend about this bad habit of mine: always having unrealistic expectations for how much I can do each day. No matter how much I try and later berate myself when I “fail,” time will always be limited, and my energy is limited too! So what would be much better is if I congratulate and praise myself for what I DID manage to accomplish that day, rather than always putting myself down for things I DIDN’T manage to do that day, lol.

As for asking for help, yeah I always fear being a burden and maybe, as Carradee said, I don’t want to make myself vulnerable to others when I have to rely on them to do a good job–and finish it on time! So maybe this is to do with not being able to trust others to help us effectively, as you mentioned above.

Lol on the writing path requiring many skills, yes, this is definitely a problem for me and many other Indie authors! Unless I become richer in the future, I won’t be able to afford hiring professional illustrators for my MANY books. That would be tens of thousands of dollars or more. O_O So I rely on drawing covers myself (I don’t trust even professional artists to get my characters exactly right, haha, so I’m a perfectionist in that aspect), and I’m learning to use Photoshop to manage these drawings and covers.

Thankfully, apart from writing and psychology, drawing is one of my biggest loves in the world too, so I’m willing to put in the time to improve my skills there. I really do enjoy drawing my characters. And I think I mentioned this to you before, but though I’ll probably not have enough time to train myself to draw in really elaborate, sophisticated styles, I could do something relatively simple (as I’ve shown you) and make it look as professional as possible by handling it in Photoshop.
Photoshop is pretty fun to learn too, haha, but I know that not everyone will enjoy drawing and learning about Photoshop, so I’m not implying that everyone should go into this skill and software too. ^_^

Related to time management and writing-relevant skills, I think some people would think that it’s unwise of me to write pokemon fanfiction IN ADDITION to my original fiction, reading, drawing, Photoshopping, and studying (if I get into grad school for counselling.) However, I just really enjoy writing and reading pokemon fanfic and am very much in love with pokemon. It was my favorite cartoon since I was 8, and now that I’m 24, it’s STILL my favorite cartoon. XD.

Also, reading and writing pokemon fanfic is a great way for me to “keep myself updated” on the ever increasing generations of pokemon without playing the games! As I mentioned before, video games are way too addictive for me, so I don’t play them anymore, haha. (There are now over 700 species of pokemon, so you can see how hard it is to keep up. ^_^”) Yeah, I know some people would question why I should care about “keeping up,” but you know, as a passionate fan of a pokemon, I just want to keep up, at least just a little bit. It is no secret that I admire hardcore geeks of fandoms. LOL!

Apart from the reasons of enormous enjoyment and catching up with the pokemon generations, writing pokemon fanfic keeps me connected with the characters I have in my fanfic. Yes, I have already gotten VERY emotionally attached to some of my main characters, haha, as I usually do when I write stories. So I couldn’t abandon them even if I tried. ^_^” You know that probably the biggest reason I write is because I’m in love with my characters and want to keep seeing them and getting to know more about them, haha. (Yeah, I know, I’m really emotional and sentimental, lol!)

Apart from such emotional reasons, writing pokemon fanfic is helpful to me as a writer too, because I can write in a relatively freer and more relaxed way, since there’s a wider acceptance of what you “can” and “can’t” write in fanfic than in published original fiction. There’s more artistic freedom, you can say. Thus, I have lots of room to experiment with different writing methods! =D

Even besides being freer, writing POKEMON fanfic lets me use some fandom-specific writing approaches, like how to write pokemon battle scenes. You assume that the reader knows about pokemon, but you’re not sure how much they know or how updated they are. So in how much detail should you explain and describe, and how much should you leave unexplained? Explaining too much might make more knowledgeable (about pokemon) readers feel talked down to, but not explaining enough might frustrate readers who have only a limited amount of pokemon knowledge, i.e. they have to keep checking online pokemon encyclopedias (like I do) to understand what’s happening, haha.

Well, anyway, pokemon fanfic is just REALLY fun and enjoyable, and even though it’s fanfic, it’s still story writing all the same, with all the things about characterization, story arcs, pacing, word choice, tension, points of view, etc. that we need to think about. And though it’s not as “strict” as published fiction, I will still edit my stories as thoroughly as possible before I dare post them on Wattpad, haha. So pokemon fanfic is a space for me to exercise and improve my writing and story telling skills, with less fear of “censure.” Yet at the same time, fanfic still holds me accountable to quality and makes me mind my audience, because my stories will be put in public for strangers to see.

LOL that I wrote a whole essay justifying fanfiction writing. XDD

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Carradee September 24, 2015 at 6:23 am

Hey, fanfic writing is fun! ^_^

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Serena Yung September 24, 2015 at 4:58 pm

It is indeed! And it really is awesome that I can keep up with Pokemon now without playing the games, since video games are too addictive for me, haha.

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Jami Gold September 24, 2015 at 5:45 pm

Hi Serena,

Exactly! My to-do list each day is insane, so of course it’s going to be a rare day that I get everything done. As you said, we need to congratulate ourselves on what we do get done more often. 🙂

Speaking of illustrators, I know someone who was just able to get an illustrated cover for her book on Fiverr. If you found someone there with a style you liked, you might be able to get something that would work for cheap. (Or maybe they could take your PS files and “clean them up” to make your characters look the way you want and professionally illustrated.) Something to keep in mind. 🙂

LOL! I have my UF series that I will make work somehow…eventually…because as you said, I love the characters too much to ignore them. So I understand. Thanks for the comment!

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Serena Yung September 25, 2015 at 9:43 am

Yeah I’ve thought of the “cleaning up” approach too. Hopefully if so, they wouldn’t charge too much. For instance, no more than $200 per cover to clean up my design! (Since it’s more like basic cover design service rather than like illustration service? I have no idea, though, maybe I’m completely wrong. So I’ll have to ask for info on this sometime.)

Ah, what makes the time management stuff hard, is that though we want to be less harsh on yourselves and create more realistic to-do lists, there are things that we really need to do, and there are things that we don’t HAVE to do, but it would be much better if we did them. Like cooking proper meals at home instead of buying take-outs from cheap restaurants and eating canned/ microwaved food, lol! And doing physical exercise or going to the gym. 🙁

Yes, I know I shouldn’t be making excuses for myself and should try harder, but it’s so difficult to make time to improve my health habits (exercise more and eat properly) when we have SO much work and our own personal projects to do. T_T

And there’s the advice about making time for things. I believe in making time for things, but there is a limit to how many things we can make time for. So we shouldn’t under-reach or under-achieve, of course, but we can’t stretch ourselves too far because it’s physically impossible. It’s a hard balance to strike.

One more point: Often we think about our time limits, but we forget about our energy limits. Have you had the experience where someone says, “Oh, if you spent less time doing X, then you would have time to do Y?” Where X is a “less necessary” thing but Y is the important thing? Well, THEORETICALLY, yes, substituting Y for X would give us time to do Y, but actually Y requires a lot more energy than X does.

E.g. I used to think that this med school friend of mine who says she doesn’t have time for writing anymore could have done some writing if she didn’t go on Facebook that often–or played video games or read manga that often. But now I realize that story writing, though pleasurable and satisfying, takes up a lot more energy than Facebooking, video-gaming, and manga reading. I’m not saying we shouldn’t make time for writing anyway if writing is that central to our life goals, but that maybe this “energy issue” is why she finds it hard to find time to write her stories even though she has time to go on Facebook, play video games, etc.

You could say that Facebook, etc. are not only low energy activities. They are good for relaxation too, especially as my friend’s med school studies must use up a lot of her energy. And interestingly, she doesn’t find video games addictive, but she finds story writing addictive, so she avoids doing the latter so she can focus on her med studies. This is the opposite of me, where I find video games very addictive, but story writing is usually not addictive for me at all, because it takes up quite a bit of energy for me to write. Video gaming uses up much less energy, so I would get hooked onto it easily.

In fact, I have a theory, that if something costs very little energy, AND it feels sufficiently emotionally rewarding (like video games and Facebook), then it may be addictive. That would explain why reading literary classics tends to be much less addictive than reading page-turner modern novels, because I need more mental energy to understand and get through the former, but need much less energy and effort for the latter. Playing video games and going on Facebook take even less energy than reading a page-turner book, though. But at least I run out of (interesting) things to check for FB quickly, or I can’t be bothered to check some things.

Oh apart from the “energy issue,” there’s the socializing issue too. Yes, social activities (including interacting with friends online) take up a significant amount of time, yet we all need enough social interaction for our psychological health. It can be really harrowing when you don’t get to talk to anyone, online or offline, for a long bit of time. Even for times I get a lot of online social interaction, I feel very socially deprived if I don’t get enough face-to-face interaction too. I see friends at least once a week, which is better, but honestly once a week is still too little and I feel quite socially isolated sometimes (I don’t live with my family anymore.) It’s still better than not seeing anyone face-to-face for several weeks in a row, though, which was really a torture and I thought I was going to go crazy, lol. (I quarantined myself for a while from my friends because I thought I had a cold or flu. Turned out that it had only been an allergy, lol.)

Sorry for the long rant again, haha, but thanks for listening!

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Jami Gold September 26, 2015 at 12:08 pm

Hi Serena,

I double checked, and the author I know who just used Fiverr for an illustration paid $10 for the image and another $20 for all the rights. I know the pricing at Fiverr is super variable, but I just wanted to let you know what might be possible. 🙂

And yeah, let’s not even talk about keeping up with exercise and stuff around the home. I’m hopeless at that. LOL!

Good point, though, about how we have to respect our energy level too. It’s not always as easy as “just make the time.” There’s only 24 hours in a day. :/ Thanks for the comment!

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Serena Yung September 26, 2015 at 1:16 pm

Oh my gosh, $30 in total only! :O Amazing, thanks for sharing!

Yeah, getting exercise in is hard. But happily I managed to go to the gym for a run yesterday. 😀 One upside to exercise, is that it usually increases your energy or refreshes you, rather than taking up energy. Especially good for people like me who are always reading, writing, and the like that are mental, rather than physical activities. So I’ll try to go to the gym once a week. I paid a lot for a yearly gym membership, so I better go, haha. Just stopped for a while recently because I twisted my ankle. :/ But I’m fully recovered, now!

It’s somewhat harder to motivate myself to do “real” cooking, though…(Real as in not simply boiling or microwaving stuff, haha.)

Yeah, exactly. Some people make it sound so easy by saying “just make time for it.” They don’t seem to get how much more complicated it is than that. ^_^”

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Jami Gold September 26, 2015 at 2:30 pm

Hi Serena,

Yes, like I said, I wouldn’t count on that, but I thought it was good to know what might be possible. 🙂

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Glynis Jolly September 26, 2015 at 6:57 pm

Jami, I’m willing to write a post about how to write a character whose disabled. I’m disabled myself and have worked with clients who have physical and/or mental challenges.

Can I assume this is for the month of November when you’ll be involved in NaNoWriMo?

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Jami Gold September 26, 2015 at 11:40 pm

Hi Glynis,

Yes, this is me trying to make my November easier so I can focus on NaNo. 🙂

I actually had a great post from Melinda Primrose on that topic last year. If you want to see if you could come up with a different angle, check out her post and email me with your thoughts. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Taurean J. Watkins (@Taurean_Watkins) October 2, 2015 at 11:19 pm

Sometimes knowing you need help isn’t the issue. It’s finding ways to facilitate (in most cases, FINANCE) said help. I know you know this, Jami, and I that’s what I’m struggling right now.

I finally had to acknowledge that because I want fab and PRO custom covers for my books (like my favorite books) I have to accept that until I amass this legion of people who’ll be willing to “bank on me” I have to finance it all on my own. There is pride in that, but also challenges in that.

But because I don’t (Yet…) have alternate ways to earn the money to expedite the process, I’m struggling here.

This is why I wish at times humans on average had longer lifespans because telling ourselves and others to be “Patient” I feel makes light of the problem.

I’ve thought about starting a Fiverr gig, but I really can’t think of anything I could offer that offers the value I’ve gotten from services I’ve purchased through Fiverr myself, and I’ve given it lots of though, Jami.

I know you make the point that expensive doesn’t equal quality (I REALLY GET THAT, OKAY?) but if what you need/want is X price, and bargaining isn’t an option, you feel alone. I don’t want to whine, but that’s where I’m at right now.

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Jami Gold October 3, 2015 at 10:28 am

Hi Taurean,

I understand. I wouldn’t have been able to finance my covers and editors without some income, and believe me, I feel blessed to have that opportunity. For as hard as my journey has been, I know it could have been even harder in so many ways. (And as I’m quite a bit older than you, I also hear you about wanting a longer lifespan too. LOL!)

I know you’ve put together fan book trailers. Do you think you’d be able to do that paid for others? (I know you’ve probably thought of that already, but I’m trying to help how I can. 🙂 ) Good luck and thanks for the comment!

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