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Greer-Final-2.jpeg?resize=300%2C169&ssl=When you read the headline of this piece — you can’t do it all — did you bristle? Relax? Recognize your own struggle as a writer? For most of us, it can be a combination of the three.

We want to do it all, of course. If a great book idea comes into our heads, we want to write that book. If we have a book releasing into the world, we want to visit every bookstore and write every blogpost and promote! promote! promote! on social media. We want to share wonderful memory-making moments with our families and friends, take care of our responsibilities, do our jobs to the highest standard, field the curveballs life throws our way, all while maintaining healthy lifestyles, clean homes, and impressive writing careers.

Can we, though? See the headline above.

It’s simply a fact. You will run out of time and energy somewhere, sometime. Even if you’ve set up your life to minimize distractions, to focus completely on writing, there’s still the possibility of multiple writing projects competing for your time and energy. We have to choose between writing and life sometimes, or between one piece of writing and another. It can feel like a battle. Writing vs. family. Promoting a book vs. writing the next one. Day job vs. writing career. Traveling for an event vs. using that time to rest and recharge.

You’ll have those choices to make, no matter where you are in your journey as a writer. So, knowing you can’t do absolutely everything, how do you make those choices? Here are three things to consider.

Impact. This is how I decide between different promotional tasks: what will the most people see? How much will it affect them? I do as much as I can, but again, see the headline. Will proofreading your manuscript one more time before sending it to your editor make a big difference? Maybe, maybe not. Will one more round of feedback on your query letter matter that much? Yes, it absolutely can. This applies to other things in life, too: Nora Roberts famously observed that if you’re juggling writing and kids, and it feels like you have too many balls in the air, remember that some of the balls are made of plastic and some made of glass. You’ll absolutely drop some, so just make sure they’re the plastic ones.

Ownership. The thing has to be done, yes. But does it have to be done by you? Personally, I’m 100% terrible at asking for help. (Just ask my husband, who has found me more than once moving a mattress down two flights of stairs solo just because I can technically do it myself.) But when I recently hurt my back (shockingly, unrelated to either of the mattress incidents) and couldn’t rise from the couch without pain, I found a way to do much, much less than I’m accustomed to doing. Hopefully, you don’t have to be out of commission entirely to look at ways to lighten your load. Can dinner be ordered in? Can someone else take the kids to school or pick them up? Sometimes, I know, the answer is no, but it’s always worth asking the question. Maybe your editor could take first crack at the cover copy. Maybe you could outsource some of your social media. Think about delegating.

Enjoyment. If you’ve got a long list of things to do, some of those things will be more fun than others. And if you’re the only one who can do them and the impact is about the same, ask yourself: which do I enjoy more? I do a fair number of events about other people’s books, reading the book and interviewing the author in front of an audience, either virtual or in-person. Those events don’t sell a lot of books for me, but I do it because I like it. I get to read advance copies of books and connect with other writers. That’s fun. Is it time I could have spent on something else? Always. But the energy I get from enjoying myself in this author-life space fortifies me for the next series of maybe-less-pleasant tasks to tackle.

Q: When you decide you can’t do it all, what helps you decide what to do?

 

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About Greer Macallister

Raised in the Midwest, Greer Macallister earned her MFA in creative writing from American University. Her historical novels have been named Book of the Month, Indie Next, LibraryReads, Target Book Club, and Amazon Best Book of the Month picks and optioned for film and television. Her upcoming book, SCORPICA (as G.R. Macallister), is the first in the Five Queendoms series and her epic fantasy debut. A regular contributor to Writer Unboxed and the Chicago Review of Books, she lives with her family in Washington, DC. www.greermacallister.com

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