Yeah, I’m Overwhelmed. So What?


A post from winter 2012 that stands the test of time …

I wore myself out clearing snow all weekend. Between stints with the shovel, I turned my brain to mush completing Edit #547 of my novel, Mark of the Loon (and almost cried, because surely there will be 453 more). This morning, full-time pay-the-mortgage job responsibilities loomed, my freelance clients’ deadlines hadn’t been fulfilled, blog posts needed to be written, and the contractor was whining for answers about the wall we’re tearing down next week. Forget the housework, dishes, and the broken vacuum. My muscles screamed “uncle!” like a wimpy girl and I just wanted to climb back into bed with two aspirin and a hot pad.

The truth is I’m deep into overwhelm most days. I understand when my friends discuss the juggling act of full-time life and part-time writer. We tear back and forth between writing, marketing, maintaining social media platforms, figuring out where the train wreck should head next, and working toward long-term goals that must play out within the overlay of our life’s existing format. Add family to that, plus the general requirements of food (and fetching it, and heating it up, lol) and you have a plot to which nearly all of us can relate.

I feel sorry for myself once in a while, but have advanced beyond self-pity to pure avoidance. I now compartmentalize to-do lists into things that MUST be done today or this week, vs. what can be tackled down the road. I seldom consider the entire, huge, demanding scope of everything that needs to be accomplished. I know where I want and need to go, and focus on the short steps that lead in the right direction. I’m a one foot in front of the other kindofa gal.

Truth is, I’ve cut out the vaguely unnecessary tasks, like housecleaning, regular haircuts, and shopping for clothes that fit my body (and the season), preferring to address these issues only when I feel that one more fingerprint in the layer of dust on the glass tabletop will drive me over the edge. We won’t even discuss the elastic-topped pants.

Humor keeps me sane. I hang with funny people as much as possible. It works for me. On the inevitable days when even laughter doesn’t cut the tension, I ask myself what particular undone task is bothering me the most and take direct action. Is it the sky-high pile of unwashed clothes? Attack the laundry room. Is it the horrible dirty floors? Don’t look down, or grab the dust mop and get busy.

At least as writers, we have outlets when our plate is too full. We can journal, blog out our stress, or, even better, we can hand it off to our characters. How could you write stress if you’ve never felt it? And the flip side: How could we appreciate the peaceful moments if we never approached the edge? These are my thoughts. And no, that is not a glass of vodka in my hand.

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46 Responses to Yeah, I’m Overwhelmed. So What?

  1. Tess Hardwick March 19, 2012 at 4:35 pm #

    You took the words right out of my head on this one, sister! Was about to lose it today. Great post. Thanks. It made me feel less alone.

    • Molly Greene March 19, 2012 at 4:56 pm #

      Deeeeeep, cleansing breaths, that’s about all we can do! xo

  2. Lauren @ Pure Text March 19, 2012 at 4:33 pm #

    I loved this post. 😀

    I’m also feeling pretty overwhelmed, balancing my social life with my freelance editing. I still exercise…do laundry, and eat (lol), but I rarely write. Sigh. I’ve been trying to cut out the unnecessary (damn Facebook! seriously), but I just love the distractions when I’m stressed.

    And you’ve edited your novel over 500 times? Wow! I’m not sure whether to commend you or to advise you to set it free. I wonder what the story behind all those edits is.

    Anyway, you’re right, as writers we do at least have a great outlet. Thank goodness for that–and for to-do lists.

    • Molly Greene March 19, 2012 at 4:55 pm #

      I was exaggerating about the # of edits – just feels that way! I promise to step away soon. Thanks SO much for the read and comment and all the best to you!

      • Lauren @ Pure Text March 19, 2012 at 6:36 pm #

        Hahaha. Looking back, I should have seen the hyperbole. 😉

        Take care.

  3. Diane Hughes March 19, 2012 at 4:33 pm #

    I’ve been feeling the pressure lately, too, Molly! I just have to remind myself that I can’t do it all, and I can’t do everything that needs to get done all at once.

    Like you, I break it up into what I HAVE to get done today or this week — then I decide what can just wait. The world won’t end if I go on vacation, have storm damage to my car, water heater damage to my house and find myself too busy to blog and tweet. I will return. And when I do, I’ll just have more experiences and material to draw from and write about!

    Thanks for sharing. Hope your state of overwhelm calms down soon! And congrats on the book cover!

    • Molly Greene March 19, 2012 at 4:58 pm #

      Hey there you! I sometimes wonder if the state of overwhelm will ever change, accck! So sorry to hear about your household troubles. I vote for vacation!

      • Diane Hughes March 19, 2012 at 5:09 pm #

        Ha! Already had the vacation … Costa Rica, about three weeks ago. : ) Maybe I need a mini vacay. A spa day!

  4. Wendy Reid March 19, 2012 at 4:43 pm #

    I am currently looking for a full time job. I should have one within a couple of weeks. I complain NOW that I don’t seem to have enough time to write and I hate anything that takes me away from it. I have NO idea how I’m going to do this with about 50 hours less per week. Yikes!

    Your post was really insightful Molly and I think most of us can relate to that.

    (stretchy waist pants? really?) 😛

    • Molly Greene March 19, 2012 at 4:54 pm #

      HA! Yes, and I’m wearing the aforementioned pants in that picture. As for your FT job, we’ll all pray for you. Don’t stop writing, Wendy!

      • Wendy Reid March 20, 2012 at 3:19 pm #

        No worries there Molly. I love it and hope to get better and better with time. 🙂

  5. Laura Zera (@laurazera) March 19, 2012 at 4:55 pm #

    Stretchy waistband aside, at least you’re wearing pants and haven’t reached the point of forgetting them. No public indecency arrest is the silver lining here, I’d say.

    • Molly Greene March 19, 2012 at 5:00 pm #

      Oh, good, something to look forward to … forgetting the pants. Well, another blog post there, eh?

  6. crubin March 19, 2012 at 5:40 pm #

    It sounds like you deserve a glass of vodka in your hand! Thanks for posting on a topic that I’m sure many writers can relate to.

    • Molly Greene March 20, 2012 at 7:41 am #

      I’ve found that vodka only works for the short term :-O Thanks so much for taking the time to read and say hi!!

  7. Alison DeLuca March 19, 2012 at 6:20 pm #

    I buy clothes with a shopping cart, at Target. At least, I used to buy them there, until I ran out of time. Now I’m praying my supply of T shirts holds out…

    • Molly Greene March 20, 2012 at 7:40 am #

      Ha! Love Target, Alison – I’m with you!

  8. Butterfly Phoenix March 19, 2012 at 6:50 pm #

    I solved my shopping problem by joining the on-line shoppers of the world. Except shoes. Shoes are something that must be chosen carefully, with calculated purpose and methods. Since I moved, I am deeply feeling the loss of ordering my groceries on-line and having them delivered. (At the time I was on-line grocery shopping the store was around the corner, literally.)

    Anyway, when you find yourself confined to sweat pants, or jammie pants, then you need to seek assistance….

    Luv your blog!

    • Molly Greene March 20, 2012 at 7:39 am #

      Yes, I’m down to snappy-waisted elastic pants and I believe it’s time to do something about it! Thanks so much for stopping by!

  9. JB Rowley March 19, 2012 at 11:52 pm #

    Molly, there’s only one thing for it; grab the whole bottle of gin. Alternatively, indulge in a large block of dark chocolate – lots of antioxidants so it’s good for you as well as being a stress absorber. Clinical advice from Doctor JB 🙂

    • Molly Greene March 20, 2012 at 7:38 am #

      Ha! Thanks, JB – I’d be eating WAY too much chocolate if I let myself!

  10. Pamela Beason March 20, 2012 at 7:42 am #

    As I write this I am sitting in front of my computer in sweat pants that not only have elastic at the top but holes in the legs, amid stacks of papers and balls of cat fur and a few errant feathers that I don’t want to think about. I’m giving an author talk in three hours that I haven’t really prepared for, and between now and then I have to finish two reports for an investigation client. Assuming I am not stoned by the audience during my talk, this afternoon I will turn to my work in progress once again. I can’t say I’m on the nth edit, because I haven’t even finished the first draft yet! And according to my contract, the manuscript was due at the publisher June 15, 2011. (Yes, you read that right.) I need to work on my social media presence, not to mention my website and blog, for my three self-published novels as well as my traditionally published mystery series. Overwhelmed? You betcha! I feel like I’m treading water in a tsunami.

    But the good news is that it is all starting to pay off in terms of monthly income from my ebooks. The traditionally published series? Who knows? Publishers only report twice a year. When I feel completely berserk, which is at least once a day, I go outside, no matter what the weather, for a long walk and nature therapy, or go to Zumba or country line dance class for some exercise and music therapy. You sound like you have outdoor exercise covered with the snow shoveling, Molly. Thanks for the post; it’s always nice to know that I’m not alone in being overwhelmed.

    • Molly Greene March 20, 2012 at 7:46 am #

      I’m laughing and crying at the same time! Love you, Pam — SO delighted to hear your ebooks are paying off in income, this gives me hope that MY crazy life will work out somehow, as well. And no, you’re not alone. I’m with you!!

      • Belinda Pollard March 20, 2012 at 5:57 pm #

        Treading water in a tsunami. TREADING WATER IN A TSUNAMI. Love it love it love it.

        I seem to spend most of my time breathing through a straw, so perhaps those analogies match. (Matching analogies is the nearest I can get to wardrobe coordination these days.)

        My postcode is Over Whelm 4275, and I live in elastic-topped pants. Thanks Molly (and Pam, and all the other commenters) for giving me a good laugh.

  11. Rae Ellen Lee March 20, 2012 at 9:16 am #

    Oh, Molly, here I am having company I love but at the same time feeling unhinged because I’m not able to write and have dozens of new twitter followers (out of the blue) but no time to properly acknowledge them. A friend who “lives in the moment” never feels overwhelmed. On the other hand, he rarely accomplishes anything, either. Clearly, that lifestyle is not for me. Thank you for writing this post, because so many of us can relate and appreciate the dilemma. And while I’m only getting to know you, I also realize you are more than all right and will emerge with a trophy in your hand. Blessings to you, dear.

    • Molly Greene March 20, 2012 at 9:44 am #

      Rae, you made me laugh and that’s the secret to overcoming overwhelm (as you know!) Yes, we will be better than ok – and we’ll also learn to juggle! Maybe a group class? Enjoy your company!!

  12. Farrah P March 20, 2012 at 9:43 am #

    Overwhelmed seems to be my middle name lately. I feel your pain! I have given up so many frilly thing I used to do for fun like clothes shopping, museum tours, etc…. I need an extra three hours a day just to keep up with social media!

    • Molly Greene March 20, 2012 at 9:45 am #

      Girl, I haven’t had a manicure in about twenty years. And that was long before social media. THANK YOU so much for stopping by!

  13. Karl Sprague March 20, 2012 at 10:32 am #

    Molly, thanks for the peek behind the wizard’s curtain. Next time dust kittens are screaming at you or the refrigerator gnomes are talking behind your back – take comfort in the fact that the people who follow you are supporting you – and we send along a virtual hug or kiss on the forehead- or whatever you need – to keep you at your craft. These little glimpses into your life not only share what we all go through as writers, but do so in a way that cause us to root for you to make it to the finish line – on your terms. Keep up the good work!

    • Molly Greene March 20, 2012 at 12:26 pm #

      Karl, thank you so much for the lovely comment! I appreciate your humor and your support, and I am also rooting for us all. We’ll get there!

  14. Galit Breen March 20, 2012 at 10:37 am #

    I love the real and the raw here, Molly.

    One step at a time, yes? Inch by inch.


    • Molly Greene March 20, 2012 at 12:24 pm #

      Thanks Galit! Yes, one step at a time.

  15. Ron McCabe March 22, 2012 at 7:02 am #

    You have to be one of the most sane, well balanced human beings I’ve ever encountered. I smile every time I read one of your posts!

    • Molly Greene March 22, 2012 at 7:39 am #

      OH my gosh I’m going to print this out and put it in my journal – best compliment ever and I deeply appreciate it!! Best to you, Ron, in all you do.

  16. Lois Hughes March 25, 2012 at 12:24 pm #

    Hi Molly – I’m sitting at my laptop after hours of navigating through social media opportunities that I hope will help promote my first ebook. To say my brain is tired would be an understatement. I’m feeling very overwhelmed by it all on this very rainy Sunday afternoon in Connecticut. Thanks for making me smile and reminding me that we are all in this together.

    • Molly Greene March 25, 2012 at 12:54 pm #

      I feel your pain! Keep going. Know that we are right behind you, cheering you on!

  17. Ashley McCook April 1, 2012 at 11:09 pm #

    Another reason to be thankful for the internet – on a day when I wake up, walk past the towering skyscraper of ironing and through the kitchen still piled with yesterday’s dishes to get the kids up and ready for school whilst one part of my brain tries to to make up a to-do list that is actually ‘do-able’ and still leaves time to write, another part of my brain is busy forward-planning my plot and my menagerie of dogs and cats are wrapping themselves around my ankles and making ‘feed-me-now’ noises…I found your blog post, had a giggle and remembered that mine is not the only life with a dial constantly stuck on ‘overloaded’. Thank you and good luck! 🙂

    • Molly Greene April 2, 2012 at 6:44 am #

      Messages come from unexpected places! And yes, it helps to know we’re all going through it. Hang in there!

  18. Andrew Brady June 28, 2012 at 10:11 am #

    As Michael Jackson so eloquently said, you are not alone! ;). It’s a very hard thing to try and manage everything, but from my new seat up in the rafters in this struggle, I think your doing just fine. Keep up the great work!

  19. Jennifer Jensen (@jenjensen2) September 22, 2012 at 9:11 pm #

    Hey, Molly! I found this somehow today, and it describes the last few weeks of my life. The last few months, actually, but it’s been worse lately. I love your attitude, though, and I think it’s much better than pulling my hair out or curling up in a chair and staring at the wall. Both of which I’ve been known to do. The glass of vodka wouldn’t be for me, but the super-sized dark chocolate would! Thanks for sharing.

    • Molly Greene September 23, 2012 at 7:12 am #

      Jennifer, I’ve been known to rock in the corner now and then myself. So glad you found this and thanks for sharing!

  20. Stephanie (@stephneighbour) December 31, 2012 at 7:12 am #

    Hi Molly, I know the feeling! Hmmm, as I stare at the pile on my desk, the recycles in my garage and wish I had the time/energy to hit the gym. I once read an interview with Augusten Burroughs where he said when he’s writing a book, everything else goes down the drain. I finally get what that means and apparently so do many other folks. Hang in there and on the bright side, look at all the new messages you now get to answer from your post about having too much to do! : )

    • Molly Greene December 31, 2012 at 8:12 am #

      LOL! So true Steph, the BLOG definitely adds to the overwhelm – but I get to talk with wonderful readers like you! Thanks so much for your support, and best to you on your book project!

  21. elaine pinkerton coleman April 6, 2013 at 9:19 am #

    What a wonderful post, and just what I needed today. The compartmentalizing of tasks might just save me from total overload disintegration. I’ve taken to writing lists for even the smallest periods of time, to calling myself (using Bluetooth) when I drive and telling myself what I MUST (as opposed to “should”) do when I get home. And for the most part, I follow my own marching orders. Instead of being a slave to my overly- large-for-one-person-house (kids grown & gone, husband passed away eight years ago…just Thomas Cromwell kitty and I occupy many rooms), I choose to simply enjoy the house. Yes, however, a certain amount of order is needed before I can accomplish ANYTHING. My latest management approach is GETTING RID OF STUFF. As Peter Walsh the efficiency guru famously said, “It’s all too much!”

    • Molly Greene April 6, 2013 at 4:39 pm #

      ELAINE!! I’m “getting rid of stuff” too. Frankly, one of my favorite things to do. Hope you’re having as much fun doing it as I am! [Can you come over and help me move furniture??]