I have to admit, I love being a workaholic. I’m always immersed in a slew of projects, and my work on my next novel is a daily source of excitement.
For the most part, I consider myself a positive workaholic, as opposed to a negative one. When I’m knee-deep in a project that I’m excited about, it becomes the driving point of my daily routine. When I’m not knee-deep in a project, I find one, or I create one. I’m obsessed with the process of creation, passionate about the ability to sculpt words into sentences and find meaning. The stories I create are my heart, my brain, my soul. Maybe it’s the INFJ in me.
This is why I love my work ethic: because I love that feeling of getting up first thing in the morning, brewing some coffee, and facing the blank page. I even love those times in the middle of the night where an idea wakes me up, hits me in the face, and drives me to the nearest notebook.
But at the same time, there’s a downside to being a positive workaholic, especially when most of your work is done at home: you never stop working.
It’s so easy to let days, weeks, and months fly behind me, barely seen and barely noticed. It’s so easy to stay in that intense place of concentration, words flying from my fingertips, forgetting to even notice whether there’s a sun or moon outside.
Now, as a writer, I should be writing for at least a few hours every day. Writing is who I am, what I do. Through writing, I hope to express myself, gain a better understanding of the world, and to do my small part to speak up about issues that matter, causes that deserve attention.
So yes, daily writing is a necessity for me. And sometimes, even writing all day can be an amazing thing. I remember one day where I was so immersed in a project that I pushed out over 100 pages in one afternoon, my heart pounding from start to finish. But days like this are not every day.
I love my career as a writer. I’m shooting to get my next novel out by next year, and nothing’s going to stop me from pursuing that goal with everything inside me. If things move into place, I might even have some smaller stuff coming out this year for you guys to see.
But the thing is, all of the goals above are already in the pipeline, mostly ready to launch. The additional work that I’m exhausting myself with now, work that is being done on top of other work, is related to projects that might not be finished until years from now. Looking at the big picture, I think that I can afford to take my time on those pieces.
What’s important here is balance. That’s what I need to give myself more of.
Every morning, I want to organize my day into slots. Two hours of this, three hours of that, an hour of this other thing. I think this works for me, for the most part. But I also need to allow space in my schedule for something else that is hugely important: time to breath.
A few days ago, I felt overwhelmed. I’d completed a huge amount of work, hours and hours of it, far more than I needed to. But despite all of the work I’d gotten done, I wasn’t letting myself rest. I was pushing myself past the point of exhaustion, even though I didn’t need to.
Then, I noticed the sun was outside. Now, while it’s been an exceptionally warm summer here in New Hampshire (why yes, hello there global warming!), the last few months have still been too chilly to spend any real time outside. But on this day, the sun was blaring. And there I was in my office, with a massive pile of work completed, and I wasn’t letting myself stop. I was stressing myself out for no reason. I didn’t know how to stop.
So I forced myself to relax. Yes, forced. Admittedly, this sounds like a contradiction in terms, but sometimes forced relaxation is a necessity. Trust me, I know! I stepped away from my desk, grabbed a book, sat outside in the warm rays of the sun, and I read for a few hours. I gave myself that time to unwind, to just bask in the satisfaction of all of the work I had completed. I gave myself a moment to embrace my sheer existence as a human being, to smile, to read for as long as I wanted to.
Time to breathe.
Again, balance is everything. This doesn’t mean that working hard isn’t important, but other things are important as well. Balance.
I’m not someone who belongs to a specific organized religion, but I do consider myself a spiritual person, and one of the qualities that I value about all religions, from all cultures, is the notion of finding inner peace. Calmness. Meditation. Caring for others, acting upon one’s compassion, but also finding balance in oneself. Instead of relying on conditional happiness that comes from the external world, I find that true and unconditional happiness comes from within.
Capitalist society can drive someone to madness with its push to keep us moving-moving-moving like a locomotive. This only makes it all the more important to sometimes stop, and focus. We need to pause for those moments where we can take in the world around us, look up to the sky, and love the fact that we’re lucky enough to be alive.
As a creative person, I need to always be pursuing my passions. But as a human being, no better or worse than any other human being, I also need moments to breathe. We’re all the same. We’re all equal. We all need the same things, deep down. It’s important to remember that.
Balance is everything.