How Self-Care Fits into the Writing Success Equation

Relax.

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“Enjoy your life … [I]f you are so anxious or unhappy that you have to put tape over the warning lights with psychotropic drugs just to function like a person, then freelancing might not be for you. Find some hobbies or something that will help manage your anxiety.” – Thomas Leveritt (Hustle Economy, pp. 101-102)

There are many ways to define success as a writer. Writing can be many things for many different people: a business; a hobby; a side job to pay for their book-buying addiction (slowly sinks lower in chair). Success, then, can also be measured by many different things: money; page views; sales.

To me, success as a writer has always meant a combination of a number of different factors. I wanted to make enough money to feel secure (plus enough extra for, you know, uh, BOOKS). I wanted to have an audience, maybe some followers on Twitter that weren’t bots.

I also wanted to show up to work feeling excited, and leave looking forward to the start of the next work day.

I know these are everyone’s dreams. Especially creatives, who sometimes work their whole lives to be able to say, in some capacity, they succeeded – and doing something they love, no less.

I never, ever thought I’d be sitting here, slowly but truly coming to the realization that I’m achieving everything I’ve always wanted to achieve. The best part? Anxiety not included.

Well. As much as I can exclude it.

Writing is one of very few things that don’t make me anxious. Such is life: I can deal. Anxiety can be tamed, never slain. But when you’re in the very early drowning stages of freelancing, it’s nearly impossible to work your tail off and not chew all your fingernails off at the same time. Especially when you write all day, then continue to write on your own time … forgetting that you’re not required to write in your free time anymore if you don’t want to. You’re off the hook.

Pretty much the only thing that got me through a year of freelancing were the hours I spent not writing.

I love to write – I would not keep doing this if I didn’t love it. But I realized this year that I’ve officially used up all my Get Out of Sleep Free cards. I cannot function anymore (read: cannot get out of bed when the alarm goes off) when I do not get enough sleep. I can’t work for twelve hours straight (even when I want to). I can’t willingly force myself into too much work stress at one time, or I will fall apart.

AND ALL OF THAT IS NORMAL.

I’ve watched many, many hours of Netlflix already this year – AND I’M HAPPY ABOUT IT.

I’ve read 20 books in the past three months. AND I LIKE IT.

I’ve also spent many hours working. And when I’m done working, I do fun stuff. I STOP WORKING, SO I DON’T GET TOO ANXIOUS ABOUT WORK, AND I RELAX.

To me, that is success. Figuring out how to work hard for 10 or so hours a day, and then do absolutely nothing productive until I ACTUALLY GO TO BED AND ACTUALLY SLEEP.

This is not lazy. Enjoying your life is not lazy.

When it’s time for work, I work very hard. I write many words. It is – and I am very fortunate to be able to say this, I know – my full-time career. I can’t let myself get anxious about work. The only things I’m allowed to get anxious about are (and I’m massively abbreviating the list here, for your sake): running out of coffee creamer in the middle of the day, not waking up when my alarm goes off, missing Grey’s Anatomy on Thursdays, forgetting to feed my cat, spelling a word wrong in a blog post …

You get the idea.

Fill your life with enough things that bring you joy, and you can manage. Writing is a big part of your life, but it is not your whole life. Take care of yourself. Success is possible only when you put as much effort into emphasizing the importance of your well-being as you do your job.

Trust me – it’s well worth it.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-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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