I love work. Writing. Organising. Meetings. Deadlines. Achieving. I`m that person who writes things they`ve already done on their to-do list, just to cross them off.
But I started out in the world of work balancing the joy of parenthood with the frustration of never getting stuck into work like I wanted to.
So, returning to full time employment is like scratching a seventeen year itch.
I`ve worked, hard, doing things I`m passionate about and I`m pretty good at. I`ve said “no” to most other things. I take time off, to read, and walk, and do nothing. To have coffee with my friends and laugh with my family.
I thought I`d got it right. I thought I`d got this work-life balance thing sussed.
The drive to do more kept tugging on my hand. One more page edited, another five-hundred words written. Get that talk not due for ages sorted. I started to feel like I needed to fill every day with something productive. Maybe it`s a down side to being self-employed. I suspect it`s a lot more complicated than that.
Then, towards the last half of 2015, this happened:
I started procrastinating.
For the first time in 5 years, I began putting off writing my book.
I didn`t have writer`s block. I could write. I knew what to write (endless planning became part of the procrastination).
I had writer`s bleugh. I didn`t want to write.
It became the last thing on my to-do list. The problem being, that list is looooong.
People would ask me, “How`s the next book going?”
I would cobble some reply about how I didn`t have much time to write lately.
I know there is only one way an author has time to write.
They make time.
So, I asked myself – why aren`t you making the time to do what you love?
After careful consideration I discounted getting out of the habit, genuinely making bad choices and needing to plan the story more (I have never replotted a book so much or felt so uninspired to actually write it).
One tearful Saturday morning I told my husband I was on the verge of giving it up. It wasn`t worth it. Maybe I only had three books in me. Maybe it was time for another career change. I told him I couldn`t think of any reason to keep on going.
He replied, “because you`re good at it.”
Pah! I was good at my other jobs. It didn`t mean I was meant to do them forever.
What he didn`t say was, “because you love it.”
Right then, I wasn`t sure I did anymore. Writing had become hard work. Confusing. Overwhelming.
Like the mother, with multiple small children clawing at her knees, the baby on her hip crying while dinner burns. She knows deep down she loves her kids, but can`t find the energy to feel it right then.
I knew it was crunch point. I had lost the one thing that makes anything possible, and without which nothing is.
I had lost hope.
This was new to me.
It took a very wise woman I know, who when asking me about my writing, was not fooled for one second by my polite reply, to tell me the truth.
“You have written three books in three years. You need to sit back, take some time out, revaluate. You`re going too fast. Slow down. Stop for a while if you have to.”
I thought that`s what I`d been doing – taking time out from writing, doing other work, volunteering, organising, decorating my office.
Doing other work…
Did I need to take some time out from work?
Maybe not completely. Did I need to slow down? Again?
To remember that more is not better. To slay that old dragon who shouts that my worth is in what I do, what I produce, and what other people say about it, not in who I am.
To learn that it is impossible to create something of beauty if you are running on empty, pressured, distracted. Exhausted. Hopeless.
I do not have to work all the time, simply because I can.
So. As frustrated as I am by having to slow down. As guilty as part of me tries to feel. As disappointed as I am to be faced once again with the truth that I am not invincible, or as together as think I am, or able to do half of the things I would like to RIGHT NOW…
My deadlines, targets, ambitions and to-do list are currently on time-out.
I`m working hard every day to ignore that nagging voice saying, “Time to get going. Go, go go!” Because a deeper, stronger, wiser voice than mine says, “Not yet. Not until you can`t bear not to start again.”
I`m breathing in, soaking up, slowing down. Pottering a little. Doing some research here and there.
And I`m trusting that when it`s time, I will wake up and find I`ve fallen in love again.