Every indie author faces the challenge of balancing the grind of daily life — whether that is working a day job to pay the bills, wrangling with the demands of young children, or just maintaining an actual social life — with the incessant drive to write, edit, and publish our work. Every book we publish requires sacrifice — of the blood, sweat, and tears it took to write it; of the time away from our friends and families; and of critical financial resources that could often be used elsewhere. These are all sacrifices that are part of almost every indie author’s writing journey. We recognize and accept this as part of our Faustian bargain in order to give life to our dreams of having our stories be read by many. Part of being an indie author is learning to balance all of our competing priorities on the edge of a proverbial knife.
But what happens when life throws something at us that simply cannot be balanced? Major life events like a major illness, losing a loved one, going through a divorce, moving from one home to another, or losing a job can happen at any time and they can each be a traumatic experience — even when you see them coming and try to plan for them! And some events simply cannot be planned for.
In February of this year, I was getting my latest novel (Omega Rising) ready for publication. I was working on the final edits with my editor (Sherrie Dolby — a fellow World Indie Warrior), I had an appointment with my cover artist and formatter (Rebecca Poole — also a fellow World Indie Warrior), and I had a tentative release date in mid-April all lined up. The finances were falling into place to make it all happen, and I was devoting every spare moment I had to getting that book ready for its launch — I was even using the time I was attending chemotherapy appointments with my father in my hometown productively. Every other Tuesday for a couple of months, I had been taking my father to the hospital for his treatment. While he was getting his treatment, I was utilizing the time off from my day job to make progress on getting that book ready. At least I had been doing that, until the moment I discovered that he had passed away in his sleep in his home on February 11. Suddenly, he was beyond help and finally at peace, and I was knocked off of that knife’s edge completely.
I knew this event had been coming and had been trying to prepare myself for the eventuality of this outcome. But I just wasn’t ready, and truth be told, I could never have been truly ready for the moment when both of my parents were now gone.
Everything in my life was disrupted — from the routines of family life and my day job, to the plans to finish the editing and formatting in order for my book to be published in April. Life…and death…had simply gotten in the way of my dreams of re-releasing Omega Rising at the time I had planned.
So what is a writer to do when life throws you for a loop?
Well, depending on what that disruption is, you may just need to step back from some or all of the commitments you’ve made and take some time to gather yourself and your thoughts. Having lost my mom in October 2017 to a long illness and having been there for her the moment she took her last breath, I had an idea that once the immediate actions were taken, I was going to need some down time in order to grieve.
So, the first thing I did once my family and the proper authorities were notified was to reach out to Sherrie and Rebecca — the two other professionals who I was working with and set appointments with — and ask them for some additional time. Both were extremely gracious, as I knew they would be. It was important to me in that moment, however, to let those independent professionals know that I wouldn’t be able to fulfill my commitments on the date and times I had previous set up with them. Again, they were both super gracious, and were able to be flexible with me.
The next thing I did, was to set up a memorial page for my father on Facebook, where friends and family could gather to share memories and photos and just grieve together the loss of a man who had touched so many lives.
And then it was time to plan and organize a gathering, in mid-March to honor his passing. Little did we know at the time, that we would be entering what would become a global pandemic and that life as we knew it would be shut down right as we were gathering. So even as we were bringing closure on the passing of my father, we were entering an unprecedented time in our modern world filled with shelter-in-place orders and disruptions to our daily lives on a scale not seen in living memory.
In the end, I was able to work through my grief, in part by dedicating this edition of Omega Rising to my father, and using the extra time I had at home to complete the work my novel needed. But I was only able to do that by being gentle with myself in a time of emotional turmoil, and by working closely with those who were deeply committed to my success to make alternative arrangements. I didn’t try to fight through deadlines that would’ve made everything that much harder.
Being an indie author is hard enough.
I’m happy to announce that I will be making at least weekly posts here on the blog of World Indie Warriors exploring all aspects of the indie writers life. I hope that you will enjoy the perspectives I am able to share with you. And if anyone would like to contribute here to the blog or one of my articles, please let me know.
Douglas S. Pierce is a fantasy author. You can find him on Instagram, Facebook, and Patreon. He has written The Seeds of Hope Series and the Origins of Rusty Bones. You can find his books for sale on Amazon. Not an affiliate link.