writer burnout

(This post first appeared on Substack: Writing Magick with Maggie Sunseri. Click to subscribe.)

Hello everyone. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, I’ve been working on a piece near and dear to my heart for a couple months now about hormonal birth control—namely its dark side and my process of getting off of it. I received so many illuminating messages and stories from folks about this topic, far more than I ever expected, which let me know just how important it was to discuss. Well, that article ended up being more than 8,000 words long. It was a lot. I became very frustrated, knowing I was going to have to split it into a series, which would require some rewriting and reworking. Normally, this setback wouldn’t have been the biggest deal. But after writing to you guys about the importance of balance and pushing back against hustle culture month after month, I’ve found myself in yet another classic Overachiever Insanity Period. To be honest, I’m not mad about it. I’m grateful that I’ve been able to get myself to a point of internal health and wellness to be able to withstand temporary periods of extra work and stress.

However, some things are getting reprioritized until I find myself back at a reasonable cadence, and Substack is one of those things. When I make my yearly goals, I tend to plan for the time and brain that I want rather than the time and brain that I actually have at my disposal. My number one CliftonStrengths theme is Futuristic, which means I live and thrive in the future. I am propelled by my dreams of what could be rather than what is. The strengths of this are heaps of motivation and inspiration, an ability to energize people to move toward intangible visions, and my drive to make changes in the here and now that will give me what I want in the long term. The weaknesses are that I can overlook choices that are best in the short term if I don’t feel they align with my ideal future. I can get so hung up on what I want that I refuse to see what I have.

On February 28th, I released Book 6 in The Lost Witches of Aradia SeriesI’m now officially locked in on a release date for Book 7, the final book in the series, for May 30th. I’ve written half the book in two weeks, and my goal is to finish the whole book in another two to three. That will be the shortest amount of time I’ve finished a first draft. Why am I gunning for it?

Well, in June I’m heading to Paris just for fun, then down to Italy for conference #1 before finishing in London for conference #2. Right after this adventure, I’m moving to Cincinnati (unless I find my dream place before then, in which case I might be moving sooner and turning the insanity up several more notches).

Basically, right after I finished writing Book 6, I started writing Book 7 and continued writing throughout the release of Book 6. Then I will be editing/releasing Book 7 while researching and writing Book 1 of my new series (release date undecided). I hope to finish the first draft of Book 1 of the new series before I leave in June. Are you following this? I don’t blame you if you aren’t…

Breakdown: January– finish Book 6. February– release Book 6, write Book 7. March– Finish Book 7 and begin edits. April– Research/Start Book 1, edit Book 7. May– Write/Finish Book 1, release Book 7. June– Travels, Edit/Launch Strategizing for Book 1, July– Move, more work on Book 1.

While the insanity of the next couple months is happening, I will also need to be exploring Cincinnati, finding a place to rent, buying furniture (fun adult stuff! I have a Pinterest board for this!), and then signing a lease.

Haha! I am ACTUALLY insane!

wishhhhhh that writing and releasing books were all that an indie author had to do. Alas, as I’ve shared with you guys in my previous peeks behind the curtain, we also have to do marketing, PR, advertising, community building and management, and all the boring business stuff all on our own too. Which is why like almost every midlist to big name author, I will be acquiring a PA as soon as I possibly can. Because to be real with you guys, it’s impossible to do it all and to stay sane, eat healthy, workout, take time off, etc. etc. without help. I can’t even imagine how authors with kiddos do it.

To circle back, you can see why I’ve been struggling to juggle all of my goals. I promised you guys two articles a month, and now you might understand why I hit a state of complete and utter paralysis when I realized my birth control article was already 8,000 words long and needed to be reworked into a series. I was like are you kidding me Maggie why can’t you just write a 1,500 word fluff article like a normal person instead of 1/4th of a nonfiction book on a topic that has nothing to do with what is currently making you money. I said this with lots of adoration, of course. I truly do love my obsessive, detail-oriented, research-loving, brain that gets off on synthesis and bringing it all together. Plus, I’m crazy passionate about what I wrote, and it’s clearly a very important topic people are dying to hear and talk about!

But when you’re writing 20,000-25,000 words a week of one book while releasing another, having to divest time for a part of your career that is not currently lucrative can feel frustrating indeed. In the future, my Substack is one of the ways I’ve diversified my income. Right now, it’s something I love, but it’s only in the building stages. How I get from the present to the future is consistency and patience. But it’s very hard to stay consistent with projects that aren’t offering short-term gains.

Then I was like, why don’t I just explain all of this to my lovely subscribers? I LOVE chatting with you guys, seeing your beautiful, uplifting comments, and building this supportive community. That’s the part I love most about my fiction writing career too. And you know I’m always going to be authentic. After everything I’ve been through, it’s the only way I know how to be. Life is too short for anything less.

I’m going to need grace while I move through this period of my life. The birth control article has been shelved for later. Articles over the next few months might be shorter, they might be more random, personal, and gritty, and they also might have more typos and errors than usual. I’m taking the pressure off of myself to be perfect, and I’m reimagining how I can still hit my goals in a way that’s more balanced, fun, and soulful. You might be getting more content about dating and sex, author thoughts, and personal stories, because that’s just the headspace I’m in currently. We’ll see how it goes!

I’m a bit stressy, but I’m also immensely excited about everything that’s happening in my life right now. It’s all good stuff, promise. I have some really big news about TLWOA that I’ll be able to share within the next week or so. I also just landed an international Bookbub Feature Deal, which, for the uninitiated, is a very coveted slot with the biggest book promo newsletter. I’ve been trying for a year now, and my time has finally come!! I screamed when I saw that email, seriously. I also have an Instagram reel that’s gone viral (currently at 60,000 views) that’s launched me to a new highest Amazon ranking. At the time of writing, I’m in the #4,000s of the whole Kindle Store. Basically, this month has kicked off with a bang and we’re in the midst of a huge marketing push to ride the wave.

That being said, while I’m trying to celebrate these milestones, including the release of Book 6, my futuristic brain struggles with the wide gap between where I am and where I want to be. Like I’ve told you guys before, I don’t have a Plan B. All of my success, and more immediately, my ability to pay my bills, is all up to me. Well, and a whole lot of luck, as much as we authors don’t like to think about that. Success breeds success in this winner-take-all market, and while we’re being candid, the fact that this series isn’t for everyone, as I once bragged, isn’t exactly helping me win. I love this series. And I love just how much this series has impacted so many people on the deepest of levels. The reviews of Book 6 have made me cry because of readers’ openness about relating to the themes of community, mental health, addiction, grief, and shame. That’s pure magick, through and through.

But I am also self-aware enough to understand that Book 1 is not what it needed to be in terms of nailing the pacing, reader expectations, and tropes that encourage a healthy read through to Book 2. That hasn’t stopped me from accruing the loveliest, sweetest readers, but it does mean that I’m working upstream. I wrote Book 1 before I’d even read a single book in the adult fantasy romance genre. (Indie authors everywhere are cringing.) I wrote what I wanted to write, and I held strong to the belief that they’d find their way to the right people. To an extent, they have. This series is by no means a flop, and I am nothing but proud of the beautiful world of Aradia and its cast of characters that have completely saved my life in every way. Yet, I will be honest that I’m not currently making enough from this series for comfort. (Though March’s trajectory is looking very, very solid, and I’m cautiously optimistic this might not be true come April.)

Even still, a huge reason I’m pushing so hard to get Book 7 wrapped up and Book 1 of the new series underway is because I know that this next series will be The One. I’ve learned so much about the business, the sweet spot between what I love writing and what readers love reading, and I can just feel something important and special brewing in my subconscious. I’m planning the hardest of hard launches, and I’m going to take my time getting all my ducks in a row to give this series the best shot at hitting it out of the park from the start. I also know that I’m going to be balling my eyes out when TLWOA is finished, so I’ll be needing to busy myself with something new ASAP to fill that void.

I didn’t choose the easiest of careers, but that’s kind of my whole brand. I don’t want easy. I want it all. I promised eight-year-old me that she was going to be an author, and the world was going to know her name. I’ve never cared when other people haven’t been able to see my future vision. I didn’t care when well-meaning adults told me I’d need a day job when I was in middle school and high school. I didn’t care when people asked what I was going to do for money when I told them my plans in college, or after I graduated, when they asked me what I was going to do if the author thing didn’t work out.

The secret sauce to achieving big things is to believe in them first. Y’all know I live and die by my planning and subsequent executing, but it’s the dreaming that fuels it all. That’s where it all starts, and that’s where it all leads. Thank you all for dreaming with me, and I can’t wait to take you along for the wild ride that’s about to be my life for the next few months. We’ll talk very soon, even if it’s just a quick chat in between book-writing and apartment-hunting.

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(This post first appeared on Substack: Writing Magick with Maggie Sunseri. Click to subscribe.)

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