It’s easy for us to get wrapped up in the moment. We become so focused on writing and publishing, or whatever career path it is we’ve chosen, that we can’t see what’s going on outside our bubble. We work, and work, and work until we’re nearly spent. Then we push a little harder and we work some more. Those of us with ambition and drive don’t know the meaning of the word “quit” and we refuse to utter the word “can’t.” That’s a good thing.
But from time to time we fight that uphill battle toward our goals without looking around us. We don’t see what we’re doing to ourselves, and we don’t realize how far we’ve come.
We don’t pause long enough to appreciate ourselves and our hard work.
Then Life steps in and forces us to take a step back. How? The methods vary, but usually Life likes to hit you in the face with a very heavy, blunt object. You know, to make sure you get what it’s telling you. This has been my week for such an event.
Here’s what happened to me. Let’s see if any of you recognize a pattern.
I’ve written around ten manuscripts and dozens of short stories in three years. I have worked since 2009 to go from knowing nothing about writing and publishing, to knowing and understanding enough to put it into a book, and to have clients pay me enough for my writing that I could actually make a living doing just that. In October we published the Writer’s Companion, after several months of feverish editing and preparation. In January we launched OFW, after a year of feverish planning, anxiety and dread. In the past few months, I’ve spent no less than 12 hours a day online. I’ve written articles to keep the bills paid, written articles to keep the site going, written blog posts to keep up with my “platform” and marketed on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, etc. until I’m sure people are sick of me. I’ve emailed authors, publishers, agents, etc. for interviews, and begged friends for content. I’ve had more than a few weeks where I averaged about 4 hours of sleep or less per night, and I’ve managed to work on “my” writing for at least an hour each day. Does that even seem right? One hour of what I want to be doing and 12 hours of what I “have” to do? Who is this slave driver forcing me to do this? Oh…it’s me.
Then I got sick. Sinus infection. I powered through. Then Kurt got sick and gave what he had to me. I almost died. (Okay, not literally, but it sure felt like it.) I powered through and it got worse. I went to the doctor, got loaded up on drugs and powered through. I refused to let a silly thing like a bacterial infection ruin the momentum I’d gained. I powered through. My mindset was: Must keep moving or I will fail.
I spent an embarrassing amount of time this past few months just sitting at my computer sobbing. Not working. Not typing. Just hands on the keyboard, sobbing. Each time that happened, I’d allow myself about ten minutes of solid ugly crying, then I’d sniff a snotty snort, wipe my eyes, and begin work. I kept going.
Must keep moving or I will fail.
Life decided I wasn’t real great at seeing subtle hints so it dropkicked me with the most devastating news I’ve ever had to deal with. I won’t get into particulars here because the wounds are still fresh and at this point, it’s not something I want to share. Because I’m writing this post, obviously I owe it to you guys not to be completely cloak and dagger. So, I’ll share that someone very important to me is very sick. Someone I can’t imagine life without and I won’t imagine life without unless I’m not given the option any more.
The thing is, I had to stop today. I had no other choice. And you know what? I stepped back and I said, “Shit. Look at what I’ve done. Look at what I’ve built. Why isn’t this enough?”
You know what? This shit is not important at the end of the day. Yes, I want to publish. Yes, I want to make writing my career. And yes, yes, yes, I want people to read my books. But it’s not worth killing myself. It’s not worth missing those important moments in life with those important people who aren’t always going to be there. Nothing is forever. That’s the shitty thing about life.
Motivation and ambition are fantastic. I have lots of both. But sometimes, they get in the way of doing what’s healthy both physically and emotionally.
So, now that I’ve had to take a step back, I’ve gained a bit of perspective. This is not the be-all and end-all of my world. I will keep plugging away and I won’t quit. I will always write, whether I publish any of my books or not. It’s in my blood and my soul sings when I’m creating, but enough of this working myself into the ground, and enough taking the things that really matter for granted.
When you find yourself sitting at your desk/table/whatever feeling like you want to cry rather than do another single thing, it’s time. When the idea of getting out of bed depresses you before you’ve even started your day, it’s time. When you realize that the people who mean the most to you get only an hour here and there of your full attention, it’s time. When your brain can’t process another kick in the face, it’s time to take a break.
Life’s too short. Even when you’re trying to get published.