Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing

Being Behind Is Normal

I Love Being Behind…

(I put up this article over a year ago, thought it made complete sense then and I needed to hear it after the last few months. So here it is again, updated to summer 2018. Just for me. I hope the rest of you get a little something from it.)

In indie publishing, what I hear over and over from indie writers everywhere is that they are behind. Always behind.

A simple reason for this. There is too much we all want to do, need to do, feel we MUST do.

And we have to have it done YESTERDAY.

I am no exception to this. I always have more things that need to be done than I can cram into a single day. Always.

And I honestly am coming to love that.

Am I Nuts?

I have strong memories of the alternate road. There were times in traditional publishing I didn’t have enough to do and many times I had no projects under contract, no stories needing to be written, nothing.

I love being overwhelmed and busy a ton more, because to me that means things are happening.

In this new world of publishing, I am learning my new yearly patterns. I tend to not do much writing in the dead of winter months. I have no idea why. Haven’t figured that out yet, but now for three years I have gone into the spring of a new year behind.

(And now, this year, in 2018, in my most productive spring and summer times, I have had a life roll.)

But I am excited this year to get to the writing soon, to really get powering on both short fiction and novels. So the feeling of being behind isn’t worrying me, but instead pushing me to make the writing a focus.

So Being Behind Pushes Me

I have developed some methods of dealing with the overwhelming feeling of being behind. A method of getting more focussed.

— I make lists and prioritize the list. What is important, what can wait a little longer or not get done at all. Heck, it took me a year to get around to doing a newsletter and then it got messed up. (grin) That was clearly down my list.

— I trim the list of things that really aren’t important. To me, what is important is Kris first, writing second, keeping the business going third, learning fourth. I need to bring exercise onto that list again shortly and will be doing that and putting it right above learning in the 4th position. (Starting that already here in 2018.) At my age I have no choice there if I want to stay full of energy every day. Notice sales and promotion don’t seem to hit the top of the list. They are down a ways.

— In each major area of my list I make a sub-list. So for writing I make lists of things that need to be done. I have some novels that need to be written to get Smith’s Monthly back on track once again. No idea what I am going to write, just that I want to write.

— I try to set start dates and goals inside each small area and each task on the sub list. Sometimes I talk about these here, most times I do not.  I tend to do a lot of this on note pads and such and never show them to anyone.


Most of my friends are far more organized than I am around this topic, but I tend to get a lot of books done through all the chaos of my system.  All these smaller goals and dates are flexible. I have no problem with switching things around as needed.

Some friends use spread sheets, Kris uses calendars, others have journals. Whatever works for them works. My list system works for me.

But the key is I have a system and being behind pushes me into the system even more than when things are smooth and I am “caught up” whatever that means these days.

So I like the feeling of being behind when I step back and look at it. I like the feeling of working and exercising and feeling tired at the end of the day because I got a lot of things done.

So this is a speech to myself here (in 2018) to help my attitude.

I’m behind and that’s fun and will make me get more writing and other fun things done.

I am behind because I am successful and I have a lot of things to do. And that’s just cool.

It really is an attitude thing.


  • D J Mills

    Yes, I do lists, too.
    After my writing is done I look for the easiest and quickest task on the list to do first (eg. order proof copy or write a blurb) so I can check off one item. Then i tackle a one – two hour harder task (eg: tax income/expenses monthly entries ready for P&L, paced over a week).
    Doing this, I feel I have accomplished something each day besides writing.

  • E. R. Paskey

    “I am behind because I am successful and I have a lot of things to do. And that’s just cool.”

    Love this! I’m copying it down and tacking it up somewhere I can see it regularly. Gives being constantly being an entirely different perspective–and I needed to hear it. *grin*

  • Harvey

    Great post, Dean. Man, when you drop a gem, it’s a diamond. i’m linking to this post permanently on my Writers Resources page.

  • Diane Darcy

    From your to-do list– what sorts of things do you pass off to your publishing company? I’m wondering if I need an assistant. And if so, what I would have her do?

    • dwsmith

      Diane, now I pass off everything. When I wrote that article, I didn’t. But I have assumed a larger full-time job of CFO. So I traded up. (Grin)

  • Isabo Kelly

    Great post, Dean. I’ve slowly grown to love the feeling of being behind too, though I do need the periodic reminder.

    Not sure there even is such a thing as “caught up” in a writer’s life, at least not in this modern publishing atmosphere. But that’s one of the things I love best. Writing is the only job I’ve never gotten bored with (and I trained dolphins and took care of sharks at different points in my life). Being behind and having a lot to do is a great feeling –when I remember I like it. ?

  • Nicole

    When I had the world’s worst summer job as a university student (sitting in a hidden box all day waiting for someone to find me and ask me a question), my dad gave me advice I’ve never forgotten:

    ‘It’s better to be busy than bored.’

    That summer I wrote stories (longhand – no computers in the box), wrote twenty-page letters to my now-husband (then just-friend) who was working in northern Manitoba, designed robots and houses and electronic circuits and space stations, and built worlds that I’m still writing in. I never took a job like that again. And when things get crazy today, I find myself quoting Dad.

    I use a lot of his advice in my writing life. (‘Nobody does anything for no reason. They don’t always know what it is, and it might be a bad reason, but they have one.’ ‘Time spent reading’s never wasted.’ ‘I can’t spell worth a damn either. It’s not going to stop you.’ (Dyslexia runs in the family) ‘Just because he couldn’t do it doesn’t mean you can’t.’ ‘Think it through. What’s the real problem here?’ ‘Always check your sources.’)

    Thank you, Dean, for reminding me. Of a useful mindset, and of my favourite brewery worker/ philosopher/ artist.

  • Nicholas Ahlhelm

    I’ve taken to using an application called Trello. It basically works as a series of bulletin boards to set up goals and work. I have one focused on my writing and editing projects each with another one focused on basic life goals.