March 15, 2016

Publishing Lessons: We Cannot Do It All

Yellow pad with "To do" at top with text: Don't Try to Do It All

If you’re reading this post on the day I publish it, chances are that I’m currently unconscious or in spaced-out recuperation mode while I have minor surgery done. (I’m taking care of an infected tooth. Hopefully it’s not a big deal, but it does require general anesthesia.) Wish me luck. *smile*

Yes, that’s right. I was serious in my post about self-care for writers that I needed to take some me-time for non-fun stuff.

Other non-fun-but-important things I’ve accomplished the last week include acquiring glasses so I can see my computer screen again. Kind of important, yes? So I was able to read well enough yesterday to catch up on replies to blog comments…just in time to fall behind once more today. *sigh*

(And let’s not even talk about my apocalypse of an email inbox, which is already a disaster on the best of days. Not being able to read my screen makes it hard to get things done. Huh. Who would have guessed?)

My point—as my missed deadlines can attest—is that life happens.

No matter our intentions or plans or dedication, things will go wrong, slip from the schedule, or get missed. This doesn’t make us bad or a failure. It makes us human.

The Pressure of Advice

Everywhere we look in the publishing and writing world, we see advice to add One. More. Thing. to our to-do list.

  • “Don’t forget this editing step!”
  • “Here’s a new social media platform you need to be on!”
  • “If you’re not using this advertising/newsletter/blog tour approach, you’re not serious enough!”

No matter how much we already have on our plate, there’s always advice that tells us we’re not doing enough. That if we fail, we have only ourselves to blame. That if we could just squeeze abc into our schedule, we’d be more successful.

So we feel guilty for not being able to do more. We feel like failures for not having time-warping superpowers or a not having a functional Time Turner necklace.

We deserve better. We deserve to not feel ashamed for not being able to do everything.

Good Intentions Get Us Only So Far

As a perfectionist, I know intentions. *smile* Heck, I have good intentions about having good intentions.

I want to respond to every email and every blog comment. I want to reply to every tweet to me.

I want to write and release multiple books a year. I want my books to go through all phases of editing and not cut corners on quality.

I want to promote my books to the level they deserve after all the work I put into them. I want to pursue review and blog tour and promo opportunities.

In other words, I intend to do all the things that I think I need to do. But the reality is that until I can afford an assistant (which won’t be in the foreseeable future), I simply don’t have time to do everything on that list.

So far, I’ve chosen to focus on the quality issues because, to my mind, that’s a harder problem to overcome later. I can always reply to email or tweets late. That’s not ideal, of course, but the impression of poor quality can’t easily be fixed.

Similarly, I can always promote previous releases later. Some promotions like BookBub actually work better after the book has been out for a while and built up reviews. While some opportunities apply only to new releases, other opportunities will still exist for us later.

Those are my choices, but others could make different choices—without guilt—because we all have different goals and situations. *smile*

The Best-Laid Plans Can’t Foresee Every Obstacle

I had plans to have my current work-in-progress sent off to my line editor by now. We’d worked out a schedule where I might be able to slide into an open editing slot early, and that would help my plans for a release date of late spring.

But then I started struggling with my vision. There were some days when I couldn’t read my screen from the time I woke up to the time I went to bed.

Some of those problems were caused by my eyes changing with age, but a big part was caused by sheer exhaustion on my part. Two weeks of 4-6 hours of sleep a night meant that my body didn’t have the energy to compensate for my ongoing eye strain, leaving me unable to physically focus on the screen at all.

(A few of you received emails from me along the lines of “Okay, I can’t really see right now, but I know I owe you an email, so I’m covering up one eye and squinting really hard.” Yes, it was that bad.)

In other words, by trying to “do it all,” I ended up being unable to do anything. I sabotaged myself (and my plans) by trying to stick to my plan and do the impossible.

Dedication Must Include Forgiveness and Balance

I was dedicated. “If I stay up another hour, I’ll be able to get abc done.” I told myself lies. “Yes, I’m tired, but it would be better to skip a nap because then I’ll have time to work on xyz.”

I wanted to do it all. I told myself I could do it all. Write, revise, blog, promote, research…not to mention day job and family. I didn’t want to make excuses for myself. I didn’t want to fail.

It’s so easy to blame ourselves:

  • If I were more organized…
  • If I were more focused…
  • If I struggled less with procrastination…
  • If I give up an hour of sleep…
  • If I sacrifice my favorite TV show (or something else that gives us joy)…

But that whole concept is a lie. The truth is:

It is absolutely impossible to do it all.

Good intentions and well-thought-out plans and strong dedication cannot change how time passes. Truth: The more books we write and release in a year, the less time we have to promote them. Simple math.

Yes, it takes hard work and sacrifices to be a writer. But no amount of hard work and sacrifices will allow us to do everything we’re made to feel we should be able to do. Even if we gave up all sleep and spent 24/7 working on our writing and publishing career, we’d still run out of time to meet all the expectations we see in advice.

We shouldn’t blame ourselves for not being able to change the space-time continuum. For not being perfect. For not meeting every expectation.

It’s not failure to accept the truth about how impossible it is to do everything. It’s not failure to prioritize some of our “should do”s into “probably not going happen.” It’s not failure to recognize that we need me-time—or more importantly, that it’s possible to sacrifice too much.

I have the tendency to sacrifice one thing in my schedule and then think I’ll have the time to add in 5 other things. Others might recognize themselves in that confession—if so, know that you’re not alone. But even if that doesn’t apply to us, maybe it’s time to accept that we shouldn’t even try to Do. It. All. *smile*

Do you ever struggle with the urge or the expectation to do it all? What lies do you tell yourself that add to the pressure? Have you ever worked yourself into sickness from pushing too hard? What snapped you out of those bad habits? What signs do you look for to know when our issue is impossible expectations versus laziness, procrastination, or excuses?

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Lara Gallin
Lara Gallin

You poor, poor thing. I hope everything goes well for you today 🙂


Get better soon. When it comes to my time, I think that social media takes way too much of it. I manage facebook, pinterest, twitter and goodreads. And that’s it. More than that would be impossible. I even started linkedin and Instagram, but it was too much time wasted. I preffer to use that time to make online courses on writing craft and to actually write. I also have plan to blog less in the future. At the moment I post every Monday and author interview or a blog post with another theme, but I don’t know if I’ll manage to keep up with this in the future.

S.D. Wasley

Yes! I had a deadline for uploading this week and even after a professional edit and my own layers of editing I felt to need to pull 2 hideously late nights trying to search and review my book for a list of words I found in a blog. Modifiers, filter words, etc. I wish I’d found it earlier … or had the strength to resist!


I’m praying you heal quickly. [hug]

I know what you mean. I have…probably 20 projects on my “REALLY need/want to get this done” list, with several dozen more on my “want to get done” and “need to get done eventually” list. That’s not including ones that are on my “need to get done soon but can wait for now” list. >_>

So now I need to eat something and get to work…and remember to make sure to have breaks and “me” time so I don’t work myself to death. 🙂

Kimberley Cooper

Hope all went OK for you today. Take care of yourself.

Marcy Kennedy

I hope you feel better soon and get the rest you need.

As for the rest of it…umm, yeah, I should probably be the poster child for “trying to do it all.” There’s this voice in my head that keeps telling me I’m not doing it right, not doing enough, and that I’m going to fail. And it’ll be all my fault when I do because I didn’t listen to good advice.

You know some of the life stuff that I’ve been facing. To add to it, my health bottomed out this winter. So I’ve been re-evaluating and figuring out how to do this career in a long-term sustainable way that works for me and my family. I’m far from perfect at it yet (just ask my husband!), but I’ve at least come to accept that everyone’s situation is unique. I can’t compare myself to others because the challenges we face aren’t the same.

Davonne Burns

I hope things go smoothly today and that you’re back feeling better quickly, but the main thing is that you take the time to rest. Though I think you know that. 😉

This really couldn’t have come at a better time. With my recent release I’ve been really feeling the pressure to promote, do blog tours, etc all while planning the next one, editing a short story, researching for my blog, being active in the local queer community … ugh I’m to tired to list the rest but I get it and thank you for putting things plainly.

It is too easy to feel, as writers, that if we truly want to be successful we must hit all the items on this ever growing list. I appreciate the reminder that the list isn’t mandatory and we can pick and choose what works for us.

Get well soon. <3

Joanie Chevalier

Hi Jami,

I hope you are feeling better soon. Girl, you need a break, and I mean a break more than a few days! I can’t find the time to get all my writing done and because I work full-time too it can get pretty frustrating. But I take care to keep everything in balance. I love my sleep, my time with my two chihuahuas and my boyfriend time. We have to remember what’s really important. I believe number one is health. Sleep enough, eat right and make time for play. If you don’t believe that, just watch a dog for one day. They know how to live a balanced life. Ha. Take Care!

Christina Hawthorne

I dearly hope your surgery goes well and you’re able to take the time you NEED to recuperate, even if that means posting apologies for not posting.

It is the mantra of our modern world that we only stave off failure by adding more work, all the while ignoring the fact that each task added helps ensure we’ll fail.

My journey down your road began in 2005 and bottomed-out in 2010. I knew I needed to make changes, especially after my mother passed, a victim of her intense drive and consuming anxiety. She was 69. I admitted my demons. I made choices. I sacrificed. I simplified.

I know you can come through this better for this experience. Better means doing what’s best for your long-term quality of life. Often less is more. Take some time to reacquaint yourself with life before the whirlwind. 🙂

Ruth Harris

Hi Jami, You are soooo right! In fact, science proves that we need to goof off and space out. I blogged about this new research into creativity at Anne R. Allen and reposted here.
Seriously, we cannot be in perpetual motion or else we put our health and sanity at risk. As I said, when the going gets tough, the tough take a nap. (If they’re smart.) 😉

Kassandra Lamb

Hope your surgery went well and you have a speedy recovery.

I’ve been a recovering perfectionist for some time now and have gotten pretty good at cutting myself slack for not doing it all. So maybe I don’t sell as many books as others who are more rigorous about the whole promoting thing. I sell enough, and I’m happy. Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured. And I’ve never heard of a tombstone with “She finally figured out how to do it all” engraved on it.

Anne R. Allen

Jami–I am 100% with you on this…literally. Last week my doctor gave me one hell of a scary wake-up call. I’ve aged 10+ years in the past six months. At this rate I won’t be around very long.

And what’s the point of all this if we’re dead? I’m writing a post on the subject for my own blog for Sunday. I’ve already linked to your post from last week. I’ll link to this one, too. Good luck and take care!

Sharla Rae

Ouch! Hope it went well. I prescribe hot green tea. A great cure all. 🙂


[…] time, I mentioned that I was going in for minor surgery. I’m mostly recovered from that experience (no thanks to the medication, which made me sick). […]


This is a good reminder, Jami. It’s VERY important that we take care of ourselves, especially as writers. We need to be serious about our health, otherwise we won’t be able to do anything for anyone! I am a recovering perfectionist, and I used to work 7 days a week–in my early 20’s. I picked up lots of bad habits, began to become very ill, and nearly collapsed from exhaustion. When I was diagnosed with Fifth Disease, that was one of my turning points. I HAD to rest because I had no other choice. Then, later being (wrongly) diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, and then finding out I actually had Celiacs Disease, was another turning point. Now, nearly a decade later, I’m still undoing lots of damage that was caused by me, bad choices, genetics, and unknown food allergies. I’ve been studying natural health and medicine for a long time as a side hobby, but I made the commitment last year to enroll in a doctorate program for naturopathy to not only understand myself and my recovery better, but to be able to help others in the same or in a similar predicament. There is so much to learn, but I love it and am encouraged every week as my body and mind get better. Part of recovery has been letting my mind heal: not feeling guilty about getting things finished, and not putting pressure on myself to do all. the. things. It’s hard, but it’s a process, and I find something…  — Read More »

Julie Glover

I think my do-it-all struggle is not even so much with all the writing-related stuff, but trying to juggle other responsibilities with writing. I just can’t don all of my hats at once and get everything done. Sometimes I have to let something go that I wish I could accomplish.

Kerry Gans

This! So much this! We cannot do it all–or, at least, we cannot do it all at the same time. We can only do what we can do, and accept that we are doing our best. It’s not always easy to accept that, but I try!

Feel better soon!


[…] We all want to find success (however we define it) in our writing life. Larry Brooks shares 10 myths that sabotage unsuspecting writers, Roni Loren gives us 5 lesser known but useful apps, and Jami Gold reminds us to be kind to ourselves because no matter how thin we stretch ourselves, we cannot do it all. […]


[…] “Publishing Lessons: We Cannot Do It All” by Jami Gold […]

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