Ten years ago, I worked for a large corporation, working up to seventy hours a week. My mental and physical health suffered considerably as a result. When I left that role, I promised myself that I would never put myself in that position again.
I work just as hard today but I kept my vow. I’ve learned to listen to my body and work when I’m most productive.
But here’s the crackpot thing: I work about the same number of hours.
The stress is different now. I don’t have seven bosses breathing down my neck. I don’t have to do (stupid) status reports that are never read. The ridiculous deadlines are now of my own volition. (I’m really trying to get better at this one). And when I feel like I’m approaching overload, I take a break. It could be for 10 minutes or ten days. But there is not a day goes by that I’m not working on something. That’s just part of the writing life.
Call me a workaholic but this works for me.
When I sat down at the end of the year to evaluate the year’s work, I was shocked at what I had accomplished in twelve months. I had written three books, published two. I had set up a publishing company. I had taken on a few side projects. I had set up a separate business, then closed it. I had learned a lot about marketing – what to do and definitely what not to do. Not to mention the short stories and blog posts I’d written throughout the year. My list of accomplishments was long.
Then I remembered that working successfully as an author is a long game.
The brain needs time to process. The characters need to evolve – and mine certainly like to evolve on their own timeline. You need to test and revise, then be flexible and adapt as the images floating around in your head zip around like fire flies.
When planning out the year, I decided to slow things down a bit. I’m continuing with a lofty goal of publishing a new book every 6-8 months . But I need to find balance between work and play. I need to listen to my heart, as well as my mind. I also need to tap into what I already know and leverage my resources better, in a more productive way. (I’ll have more on that in a future blog post)
Sounds like I’m trying to convince myself of all this, doesn’t it? Not the mindset at all of a workaholic!
Maybe that’s part of it. This is a challenge for me as I feel like I have a deadline against myself. I wrote about it in this post: How Grief Has Guided My Writing.
I read somewhere that Nora Roberts writes 6-8 hours every day. Alice Munro writes seven days a week. Stephen King writes for about four hours every single morning, vowing to write two thousand words. Ernest Hemmingway wrote in the mornings until ‘you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again.’ Now you can’t tell me that those authors aren’t workaholics!
So, it’s not just me who feels the compulsion to keep writing. Just as each writer has a unique method for getting words on the page, their practice is just as dynamic. Whether an early bird like Hemingway or a night owl like President Obama, the difference for me is that I keep working when my juice glass is empty. And that needs to change.
It’s a different game for an indie writer compared to those that want to be traditionally published. I wear all the hats. I’m the writer, the media specialist, the promotor, the admin. The list goes on and on. It’s a never-ending cycle, but I’m not complaining.
I have the privilege of creating work that people are enjoying, and I’m living my life on my terms now. For me, that means creating SMART goals (thank you, corporate life), outsourcing what doesn’t bring me joy, so that I can focus on the things I love.
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