Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books in lots of weird genres like fantasy (Blood of Kings and Kinsman Chronicles), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, on her author website, or on her writing website StoryworldFirst.com. You can also try two of her fantasy novels for free here and here.
Ever taken on a project only to discover it was WAY HARDER than you expected? Either you're feeling insecure that you are qualified or skilled enough to lead, or you're feeling overwhelmed because you said yes to too many things, or you thought you could do it but the learning curve was a little beyond your skill set.
I do this to myself often, actually. You'd think I would learn . . .
I've always been both an idea factory and a people pleaser. This ties in to the "lie I believe" deep down, which tells me my worth in this world is a direct result of my actions. (Not true!!) But changing such habits and deeply woven beliefs in real life is a bit harder than it is to write such a change for your character in a novel.
All that to say, I confess that I have bitten off a wee bit more than I can chew with my latest project. For years I've been wanting to do writing craft videos on YouTube. I did some a few years back and really enjoyed it, and people seemed to find them valuable. So this little dream percolated in my head for years as I waited to have time to try.
There's never enough time to do all the things, is there?
But I finished my EPIC REWRITE and decided the time was now. But (because I'm Jill) I didn't just start making new YouTube videos. No . . . I decided to make a website that would list the episodes in a clear way. Then I also decided to make a podcast version, because I thought I could just make an audio version of the videos and put the information on two platforms.
See how my ideas snowball?
Still, I thought, "I can do this. It's a simple website. I've done a podcast before. Videos are easy to record. I've edited them before. And the rest is a blog and linking everything together. How hard can it be?"
I've said those words before, and they always cause me trouble. Let's go over my troubles one at a time, but first, a little bit about my new project, Storyworld Shorts, which I created, in part, for you.
WEBSITE: I've been making Wordpress websites for years. I know how to do them fairly well. But four years have gone by since I last created a new Wordpress website. So, of course, things have changed some, template-wise. The template I chose had a child theme over it, which is meant to protect the site from people who don't know what they're doing so that they don't accidentally break things. Well, it drove me nuts because I couldn't just go into the dashboard and copy and paste code. I wasted hours trying to figure out how to navigate all of that. And the theme I chose is relatively new and glitches sometimes. I'll hit "save changes," and then there are no changes saved on the page. It took me several times before I stared copying and pasting my content into Word just in case the website glitched so I wouldn't have to retype everything. This helped, but I didn't always remember to do it.
PODCAST SETUP: This had changed too. Thankfully, my husband (pen name Casey Oswald) had started his Corner of Hollywood & Broadway podcast this past summer, so he was able to help me a little. But this took me most of a day to install the plugin, configure everything, then apply to iTunes.
VIDEO RECORDING: I decided that I would record five videos at a time. My dream goal was that I would take one day a month to record and edit all the videos I needed for that month, then I could schedule them out. I recorded the videos on my iPhone. I got the lighting right and the sound too--both of which I'd messed up in the past, so I thought I was doing good. It took me about three hours to set up, record them, do wardrobe changes, and clean up.
I edited the videos with Windows Live Movie Maker, knowing I'd have to upload them to my son's computer eventually to add images over the video in places, since Windows Live Movie Maker doesn't have that option. But I thought it would save time to edit down the files beforehand. First problem? Windows Live crashes on me all the time. Second? Video clips randomly get corrupted, to no logical understanding. Third? These files wouldn't open in Adobe Premiere. I had to download a video converter. And when I finally got them on my son's computer, they were tiny, with a huge black border around them. Enlarging the video made it blurry. My son helped me, but we couldn't figure out how to fix it short of me starting over by opening my original video files in Premiere. Thankfully, we figured out that the video converter had a setting that changed the video size. Once we fixed that, all was well. Whew! But, like, another whole day lost to technology.
VIDEO EDITING: I don't know how to use Premiere. It's not terribly difficult, but when I got stuck, I had to Google the answers or wait for my son to come home from school. I was making good time, then I remembered the whole reason I was using Premiere--slides. Slides I had yet to create. Oops. So I had to make a list of all the slides I wanted to appear in my video, then go back to my computer and make those images in Photoshop. Easy, peasy, but fairly time consuming. Time I hadn't factored into my deadline. Another three hours or so here.
PODCAST EDITING: Once I finished the first video (on like, day three), I discovered I couldn't import a video into Audacity (my audio editing program). So I had to export the audio from the video--something else to learn. Not difficult, but time-consuming. When I finally did open the file in Audacity and I had to add an intro and an ending. I ended up doing the first one three times. Any change I made to the video, I had to make to the podcast.
LINKING EVERYTHING: I already had a YouTube channel, so I only needed to create a new header. I had to set up my email newsletter and subscribe page and the automatic email that sends out my freebie for subscribing. Time, time, more time. ;-) I managed to set up my social media icons and the blog subscription, but I still don't know why iTunes isn't showing up on my podcast subscription area. I am simply clueless at this point.
BLOG POSTS: I had to write a blog post in order to post the video and blog post on my new website.
SOCIAL MEDIA: On launch day, I had to create memes to share and write posts for my author blog and social media and post in all those places.
TIME SPENT: What I hoped would take me a day or two, actually took me eight days, so far. (I predict two more days are needed.) I did manage to launch my first video on time, and while I have videos two, four, and five done, I don't have the audio versions made yet, and video three is ten minutes long (when I promised five minutes or less)!
I'm exhausted. And I'm now wallowing in the "What was I thinking!?" phase. I know it will be easier next time around. My website is done. Everything is set up and working. I learned better ways to record and edit the videos--streamlined my process. I'll get better on screen over time--less rambling that needs edited out. Still . . . I now know I need to allocate two or three days a month to do this, not one.
All that to say, I learned a lot this past week. I now have a better idea of what I've created and the time it's going to take me to continue with the project. If you've ever found yourself in a situation like this, here are some tips to help you.
1. Stop and breathe
I noticed several times last week that my adrenaline was pumping hard! Yes, I was excited about my endeavor, but it was the swiftly approaching deadline that had kicked my body into high gear. I should have stopped to rest the moment I felt that. Instead, I kept going. And when I crashed, I crashed hard.
If you feel hyper, take a break. Get a snack and go sit in a corner of your house or out in the yard. Somewhere to quiet your mind and remember that this thing you're working on is only a thing. Sure, it might be important, but in the scheme of life, things like this will come and go. Once you're calm, you can get back to work, but in my experience, working while frantic is a great way to make mistakes. It's far better to conserve your energy so your brain has the best chance to help you.
2. Get organized, prioritize, and let some things go.
You might have planned ahead and think you are organized, but once you feel yourself being drowned by a project it's time to press pause and regroup. Clean your desk. Make a list of all you have to do, then prioritize that list. If your deadline is closing in, you might have to let go of a few things. It could be that you could do those things later, or there might be some that you let go for good. You are only human--one human--and while you are mighty, you can't do everything. You just can't. And that's okay. So choose the items that are necessary and leave the rest behind to pick up later or forever abandon.
3. Admit the truth to yourself and others, if need be, and ask for help.
At this point, you have a really good idea if you're going to succeed or fail. It might be that you simply need more time than you had originally anticipated. This happens. The first thing you must do is admit this to yourself. (It might help to return to your quiet spot as you contemplate this.) Remind yourself that you are only one person and can only do so much. Then, depending on the situation, you might have to have an honest conversation with someone. It could be your boss, a parent, a friend, or a client who hired you to do a job.
Be honest. Tell them the project turned out to be much more complicated than you thought. Tell them the facts and ask how you should proceed. It could be that you can ask for help. You might need another employee to help you get the job done. Or you might need to hire out part of the project to someone more qualified. Whatever it is, know your own limitations as to skill and time, and do what you need to do. There is no shame in this. In fact, the opposite is true, despite how others might treat you. It's always the right choice to stand up for yourself. You help no one by pressing on to do something you aren't qualified for (you won't turn in a quality project). And you only hurt yourself when you get over-stressed and work overtime. (Respect yourself. You deserve to treat yourself better.)
4. Know when to quit.
Sometimes you need to give up. Now, I'm a firm believer in never giving up on your dreams, so this particular point is a difficult one for someone like me. At this time, I have no intention at all of quitting Storyworld Shorts. I do realize that I might not be able to keep up. I just so happen to be between edits at the moment. But once I'm busy on a book again, I might not have three workdays a month to spare on this project. So I might need to skip a week or perhaps scale back to posting videos every two weeks. And if I can't streamline my process, there may come a point when I have to go to one video a month or scrap the project altogether. I hope not. But I do know that not all ideas work out.
The only thing I need to strive at in life is keeping a good balance between work and everything else. I'm the kind of person who could work 18-hour days. That doesn't mean I should. So I have to fight for my off time. I need to "check out" and the end of each day. I need to know when to say, "That's enough for today" or "I can't do this anymore." It's one of the hardest things for me to do, but it is so important. My health, my family, my sanity are at risk if I don't choose wisely how to spend my time.