You are not your work. Your success is not defined by the hours you put in, but the enthusiasm you have for life – which includes not just work, but also, simultaneously, play.
I write this as someone who spent her college years studying and working and achieving and very rarely smiling. Did I accomplish a lot? Sure. Am I proud of that? Sure. But what did I lose? Myself. My friends. Do you have any idea how many relationships I’m still, two years later, trying to put back together because I couldn’t put down a textbook long enough to have dinner with people I cared about?
What else? My health. My happiness, probably. My love of writing, for awhile.
A writer is ambitious in their own way. There is a dream there, an end goal, with a lot of prerequisites. You might think it’s admirable to give up sleep and real meals and game nights because you’re writing a novel, but if you still think that, you either have a lot to learn or you aren’t going to last very long.
It’s easy to think you’ll be fine. You’re writing; it’s what you do. Sleep and friends and everything you love will still be there when you finish your manuscript. Right? You’ll give up whatever you have to in order to write more. You’re strong. You’re determined.
But how long can you really keep that up for? Not for as long as you’re trying to convince yourself you can.
This idea that we aren’t allowed to relax, that we’re only going to be successful if we work harder and longer than anyone else, it’s misleading, exaggerated and unhealthy. Do you really think that just because you spend two extra hours writing instead of sleeping, going out with friends or watching a few episodes of a show on Netflix, it’s going to make or break your career?
Yes, going too far – doing other things instead of writing, always – is not productive. But writing professionally is not about extremes. It’s about getting your work done, balancing long hours with hours of brainless fun. We either don’t get enough writing done, or work too much, because we don’t know how to work and play. It’s not one or the other; it’s both. THAT is what makes people successful, is knowing when it’s time to work and when it’s time to stop.
You’re not doing any quality work when you’re forcing yourself to expend more energy than you have left.
Even if you’re up late, for example, doing work you actually enjoy, you still need to give your brain a rest.
Creativity cannot thrive if you’re too tired to think straight.
You can’t isolate yourself from everyone and everything because writing is more important. If writing is really that important to you, you wouldn’t feel the need to do it every second of every day. It’s not work, then; it’s not a project. It’s an obsession.
Make time for you, even if you don’t think you have it. Make time for family and friends and things that are good for your mental and physical health. It’s okay to take the night off. It’s okay to only write a few hundred works. IT’S OKAY TO RELAX.
As long as you pick your work back up again when it’s time.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.
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