5 Lessons I Will Not Repeat Going Forward
Every day I learn a little more about what it takes to balance my life. Balance is a very fragile thing, and as I have sought to create more of it for myself there are several hard lessons I’ve had to learn. Some of them harder than other. The ones I believe I have mastered I mention here…
What good is a lesson if you don’t learn anything? That questions come to mind more than I would like to admit. Honestly, I’ve repeated more lessons than I would have liked because I didn’t get it the first time. The following mistakes come from lessons learned. With a little faith, my incredible support system, and a whole lot of determination I won’t repeat them.
Ignoring my body.
Here’s the thing, when I’m on a roll writing everything fades to black. Music becomes white noise, the television seems to only play commercials, and everything from the sound of my growling stomach to a throbbing headache go unnoticed. The rhythm of the work draws me in. My veins flush with adrenaline, and my thoughts stream until the only thing I’m aware of is the steady drumming of my fingers against the keys and the letters flying faster than I can read them.
I get lost in the work. It’s a good thing. Too much of a good thing can kill you.
I know this because after months of working hard on my follow-up release I hit a wall. A series of illnesses plagued me. Unexplainable stomach pain, unrelenting headaches, and endless nausea deterred and eventually delayed completely my follow-up work.
It wasn’t until a forced three-day vacation from all things writing/work related unceremoniously turned into a two-week complete shutdown. I was exhausted. The warning signs were back to back, but I didn’t make the connection. My body told me I was doing too much and I ignored it. I flat-out refused to listen.
The result was a complete delay in my follow-up to The Alpha’s Dream. Initial plans were to have it released the last week of October 2017. I didn’t do that, because I needed to take care of myself. Self-care is priority in a creative business. The hours are long, the gratification often delayed, and the amount of time I spend praying that something good comes of this is a full-time job in itself. All of that means a lot of mental and physical stress on the body, and I do not take for granted what can happen if I ignore it again.
Ignoring my systems.
Sometimes, when I’m excited about a project I jump ahead of myself. I tend to get excited about the ending, and skim through the middle. I don’t like to wait. My patience is a huge problem that my little darlings are teaching me to work on. I’m very good at planning. I know what must be done at each phase of my writing and when it should be executed to maximize the work to be done. I know how to create a fluid plan to smoothly create any project. What I struggle with is following my plan.
The system to create is imperative for my time management needs. When I ignore my system, I ignore my timeline for publication, my self-care needs, and my obligations to my family. The added crunch to complete the work adds stress and fatigue atop normal pressure.
I don’t want to burnout on what I love simply because I’m excitable.
It is my responsibility to myself and my art that I follow the systems I’ve created because I know they are built to work for me. I have crafted them with the express desire of optimizing my productivity and minimizing my stress. So I have to work within the plan I have created.
I struggle to believe in my work. Not because I genuinely feel like it isn’t good, but because I am hardwired to second-guess my ability. It is my nature, and its effects on my day-to-day life are sometimes palpable. My doubt hides in my spine. It lingers in the crack of my knuckles. It slides down my throat like cold coffee. It is always there.
I have learned to do well by ignoring it, but there it remained. I have decided that In 2018 I am not ignoring anything that harms me. Instead, I will acknowledge and address. I don’t know that I will ever live a doubt free life. I do know however, that the power doubt has over my life can be edited. How I live depends on my ability to soften the effects of doubt. The damage of never trusting oneself can end careers before they really start. I have enough staked against me. The best I can do for myself is not added to the pile.
Overthinking each phase of my process.
Planning is critical, but over planning is the death of all good ideas. I know this because I am staring a binder filled with at least twenty character sketches and over forty premises from last year alone. They were from brainstorming sessions while trying to decide what my next release should be. In the end, none of them made the cut. Instead, I went with my first thought and decided to follow what felt like the natural progression.
I wasted approximately two months worth of writing time trying to decide what to write next. That may not seem like a long time to some, but to me it’s the difference between publishing one novel last year and several novels/novellas this year.
I want to be right. I want to make the perfect follow-up choice and so I analyze every trivial detail. If you aren’t a person who obsesses over details, then you live a good life. Overthinking will melt your ice cream sundae. It will drown your puppy and it most certainly will kill a first draft.
Not this year.
Hermiting away from my support system.
When I am stressed, I hide. When I am frustrated or uncertain or otherwise tormented, I hide. Before kids, I would lay in bed underneath my covers and sleep entire days away. Post children, I can’t really do that. Instead, I simply won’t answer any phone calls. I don’t text back. I don’t answer the door when people come over.
My oldest friends know the deal. For the most part, they leave me be knowing I will unexpectedly snap out of it one day. Sometimes, they simply come in any way. They find a way into my hermit crab shell and drag me out of it. Usually it’s for my own good and very much appreciated.
It is highly unhealthy to disappear from your own life. If this is something you do, seek help from a professional. At the very least, clue your closest allies into the fact that this is happening. Say it out loud. When other’s know it, when you have said you disappear because the thoughts in your head are unforgiving, they can be present with you. They can help you process.
I know enough to know that the life I want for my darlings is one where they face any struggles head on. When I hermit, I am unable to be accountable for the things that have forced me inside my shell. Refusing to hermit means that I must take stock of the things tripping me up.
One of my dearest friends called me on this a few days ago. I told her my goals. I asked her to help me be accountable and the first thing she said was “You can’t pull that crab shit and disappear. No, for real Jocelyn.”
It’s a real problem and a mistake to continue allowing it power over my life. I’ve learned my lesson. When I give myself permission to hermit, I give myself permission to disregard every other aspect of my life that requires my presence.
There is still a lot I have to learn, but with these lessons off my plate I open myself up to more beneficial experiences. If I am going to be the wife, mother, author that I am striving for then I must also be the woman who learns from her mistakes and moves forward.
What lessons are you finally ready to close the chapter on? Comment below.
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