6 Lifestyle Changes You Can Make to Protect Creativity

6 Lifestyle Changes I'm Making to Protect My CreativityLife creates art. Life also devours art. For nearly ten years now, I have been a full-time writer, and yet it wasn’t until this past year that this truth fully came home to me and forced me to realize how important it is for committed artists to take steps to protect creativity.

As someone who notoriously attacks life in tenacious ways that inevitably end up injuring me (e.g., repetitive stress injuries in my wrists from computer work), I have always had cause to accept the idea that “the thing we love most is what kills us.” However, I’ve always skated rather tenderly around the adjoining idea that “we all kill the thing we love.”

For the last ten years, I have obsessively pursued my writing not just out of love of it, but also out of ambition. The powerful need to prove myself to myself and to others has driven me to reach my goals and to achieve success in just about every way I could ever have dreamed of. I am proud of this. I would not take back one moment of it.

But the time has come in my life when I must also face the truth that the ambition has grown beyond its purpose as a vehicle for the art and is in danger of overtaking my life.

This is, I believe, a moment almost every successful artist must eventually face.

What You Don’t Always Hear: The High Cost of Success as a Writer

Last summer was a watershed year for me, for many reasons. I experienced some things and made some choices I never saw coming. They were life-changingly difficult—in no small part because they forced me to face realities about myself, the life I have built as an artist and an entrepreneur, the successes I have gained, and the prices I have paid.

Prior to any of that, someone shared with me an “inspirational” quote along the lines of:

If you don’t get out of bed this morning and pursue your goals, you will never find success and you will never be happy.

I found myself thinking: “Yeah, but I’ve done that. I’ve been 100% committed to my goals every day of life. I’ve gotten out of bed, I’ve pushed myself, I’ve faced my fears, and I have achieved my ideas of success. I’m a full-time writer who has won awards, sold hundreds of thousands of books, and been published in five languages.  So… why am I not happy?

It was the beginning of a year of soul-searching. Most of what I found was so frightening I had a hard time looking at it, much less admitting it. The fundamental core of it all was that my pursuit of success was this close to killing my love for the very thing that had started it all in the beginning: my art.

More than that, it was taking over my life. Anxiety and stress had been gnawing away at me for years, repressed down to deep dark corners. I would get panic flashes when I had to check email in the mornings (even though 90% of it was positive), and I would get increasingly anxious when I wasn’t able to check it every hour or so (just to make sure everything was still positive).

I was stretching myself incredibly thin: saying yes to everything from course creations to speaking engagements to editing gigs. I had started out hungry and eager; now I just felt like I was clawing to keep up.

I was feeling the pressure to write my fiction faster and leaner, to publish more often, to write genre series. To make money, money, money—even though I didn’t really need more.

Once upon a time, this kind of obsessive focus came naturally. But after ten years, the grind was wearing thin. I was burnt out, my attention span was fragmented, and I was searching for answers to questions I didn’t even want to admit I was asking. Then life hit like a train—and, with it, numbness, grief, exhaustion, emotional collapse, depression, and even more anxiety.

But also clarity.

This last year has easily been the most difficult of my life. And yet I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It forced me to finally take the time to just stop. Everything but the bare essentials (this blog, previous commitments, and my outline for Dreambreaker) screeched to a halt. I finally had the time and space to evaluate my life up to that point, where it was going, where I wanted it to go, and the steps I needed to take to get there.

6 Ways to Protect Creativity

It’s taken me a long time to write this post, for two reasons:

1. I had to go through the lessons life was teaching me and process them enough to be able to look at them objectively.

2. I had to figure out how these insights—which have been very specific to my own life, experiences, and personality—could be shared in a way that would be applicable to everyone else.

A lot of what I’m about to share is totally opposite to what you hear preached from every corner of the Internet. For example, a few weeks ago, I was searching for printables I could use as artwork in my office. One sentiment I ran into frequently was “Hustle.” A year ago, I would have snatched that up, proclaimed it to be me, and probably had it tattooed on my forehead. Now, that idea just feels… wrong.

Don't wait www.apairandasparediy.com

That said, I want to note a quick caveat: although I am about to encourage an awareness of cause-and-effect and advocate for a less ambitious mindset, I am not in any way discouraging big dreams and a strong work ethic. What I am wanting to share is a view from the other side of the fence, which I feel is not often talked about.

1. Count the Cost of Success

We all want success. We all want to be rich and famous. But few of us look at the big-name author or the Hollywood star and consider the downsides of their lifestyles. There are always downsides. As I like to say,

You never get nothin’ for nothin.’

The actions you take now to achieve a dream will change you forever. One thing I had to face was that the person I had always thought I would be was not the person my life had created. I had to grieve that person and embrace the reality: both the successes and the limitations.

At the end of the day, success brings many rewards, but it is also, always and ever, hard work. Sometimes that work is uplifting and empowering; but sometimes you let it suck you dry trying to give 110% until the day you wake up and realize you’ve given away more than you ever had to give.

Protect your life. Protect your health. Protect your relationships. Protect the art itself. Success isn’t worth any of them.

Bird by Bird by Anne LamottTrue, there’s no reason you can’t have your cake and eat it too. But that requires foresight. Don’t sacrifice the joy of the journey to the lure of the destination. It’s like Dorothy running away to emerald Oz, only to realize her heart was at home in Kansas all along. Or as Anne Lamott so forthrightly put it in Bird by Bird:

I just try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all that it is cracked up to be. But writing is.

2. Embrace the “Starving Artist” Mindset

It’s the dream of every writer: make enough money off your writing so you can quit the pesky day job and stay home to write all day long. But when you turn your art into a business, the business has an insidious way of taking over. It starts slowly. You think: “Wow, if I could only write a little faster, put out a few more books a year, stay up a few more hours, fight through a little more back and wrist pain, make my readers a little happier, make a few dollars more, I’ll have made it.”

The problem is “making it” is never enough. There is always another mountain to scale, always another sacrifice to be made, always a little more money needed to put more bounce in the safety net of your life’s savings, always one more 5-star review to be earned before you’re finally a success.

It’s frighteningly easy to lose the forest for the trees. As author and artist Jennifer Garrett recently shared on Facebook:

I think I’m realizing how intense I’ve become about wanting to be productive in my work, which is not bad in and of itself, but I think there’s rarely a time when I truly do it just for myself anymore—it’s nearly always to either ultimately produce something or to learn more, and while those things are super important and I love doing them under normal circumstances, [I] realize that, even though I’ve set aside a lot of my workload in recent weeks, I am still approaching what little I am doing from a subtle mindset of “needing to accomplish something worthwhile with the time I have….”

We hear a lot about “prosperity for authors” these days. I think that’s great. Certainly, I have been blessed in many of the ways authors dream about. And yet, I now find myself returning with gusto to the idea of the “starving artist.” I am learning to divorce myself from the idea that my writing is fundamentally about earning money. I am learning to pare down my workload to only the things that are truly needed to either maintain my business or to achieve the goals that make me personally fulfilled.

One of the chief questions I had to face was: Would I rather be a starving artist or a successful businesswoman? I knew my answer, however frightening.

3. Stop Over-Achieving

Yeah, I admit it: I’m proud of being an obsessively organized, focused, will-powered, workaholic over-achiever. Granted, part of that is just my personality. I always loved Noel Coward’s joke that:

Work is more fun than fun.

People often ask me: “How do you do it all?” The truth is simple: no life outside work. I can’t count the times I’ve been asked, “So do you have any hobbies?” and my only answer is, “Umm…”

It’s true this kind of drive will get you places. Success absolutely requires dedication, concentration, and sacrifices. There’s a time and a place for it. But man cannot live on gasoline alone.

Overachievement—in itself—really isn’t something to be lauded. It’s an extreme, not a balance. As such, it cannot be maintained ad infinitum without major consequences.

Don’t be an overachiever. It’s kind of like being a bull rider: they look cool from afar, but they spend their lives hobbling from doctor’s appointment to doctor’s appointment and then right back to the arena. Instead, seek balance. Choose reasonable goals and reasonable timelines and work at your own pace and in your own way. Don’t feel pressured to meet other people’s unreasonable standards.

4. Live in Your Season

One thing about living at your computer in an obsessive fog is that you don’t always notice the change of the seasons. I mean this both metaphorically and literally. Last year was the first year in maybe forever when I actually watched the seasons change. I look back on it and what I see in my mind’s eye are the vivid greens of summer, the falling gold of autumn, and the peaceful white of winter. That year, despite its struggles, is beautiful to me in ways I’ve never really experienced before.

When asked about how I’ve maintained the workload and the pace I have for the past ten years, I’ve often joked about “willpower, old boy, willpower!” But the problem with this is that it forces you into a place of tunnel vision in which you are repressing your own needs and emotions. You’re not flowing with life; you’re just stuffing it away.

I am now learning to stop focusing so relentlessly on the goal, and instead to look around me, to remain aware of the moment, grounded in my body, and attentive to my emotional needs as they’re happening. For example, so far this year, I have read only 37 books. For someone who has read over 150 books in past years, this is a shockingly low number (it puts me on pace to read just 49) . But this year, instead of sticking to a religious schedule of reading at certain times of the day, I have instead tried to listen to what my body and my emotional state really want. I made a list of things I enjoy doing and which I can do help me relax and enjoy life when reading just isn’t doing it for me:

  • Go for a walk
  • Watch a movie
  • Sit or lie down quietly
  • Nap
  • Take a bath or shower
  • Color in an adult coloring book
  • Surf the Internet
  • Go shopping
  • Go for a drive
  • Go out for coffee
  • Eat
  • Clean the house
  • Cook
  • Talk
  • Sing

I am slowly growing better at listening to myself, and, slowly, it is helping me return to a more balanced and in-tune way of living.

5. Cut Back on “Fake Life”

Can’t live with the Internet and can’t live without it.

This is especially true for authors these days. We sell our books on the Internet, we manage our publicity (via our websites and blogs) on the Internet, and we attract and interact with our readers on the Internet.

And yet, the Internet is, I believe, one of the single most destructive forces in our lives. For all its good, it also destroys our attention spans, distracts us from meaningful activities and real-life interactions, and increases stress.

My sister talks about how her “mommy brain” never shuts off until her two toddlers are asleep. It’s the same for me and the Internet. I am never at more peace than the moment when I shut down the computer for the day. When I can’t access the Internet, I am calm. The moment I know I can access it, the back of my brain starts nagging at me to check email or to make sure my website hasn’t somehow imploded on itself during my brief absence.

George Saunders commented on how writing a book allows him to access a “higher version of myself” in ways that interacting with social media does not. He said:

I just noticed the difference in how my mind was working in these two different modes…. how much more anxious and hopeless and less generous I am in [interacting with cable news and social media]. The energy is more antagonistic and defensive.

With every passing year, I make a stronger commitment to toning out the Internet’s static. I used to start my day by looking at news headlines on MSN. No more. I have shut out the mainstream media more and more adamantly every year, and I have never once regretted this. Do I feel uninformed? Absolutely not. If anything, I feel more centered and able to take responsibility for my own beliefs and choices about the social events that actually impact my life.

I am also trying to figure out the balance of maintaining a social media presence without letting it take over my life. I have large followings on both Facebook and Twitter, which is awesome. But it also means interacting on these sites could easily consume my entire day. They epitomize “Internet brain,” with their rapid-fire notifications and short status updates. The second I open Facebook in a new tab, I can almost hear that same bustle you hear in a major airport.

I haven’t found a perfect balance with this yet. I’m still committed to maintaining my social-media presence, because I still believe it’s important to what I do. But because it is also one of the biggest stress triggers for me, I’m committed to giving it a “back burner” place in my life where it can’t claim the majority of my daily focus.

6. Stop Writing

Whaaatt??? Stop writing? But isn’t the whole point to get back to the writing?

For me, yes, it definitely was. But sometimes that means stepping away. My writing is still every bit as much a priority for me. Indeed, I have focused on making the fiction more of a priority. But I have also learned to relax a little.

For all that we preach about “treating writing like a job” and “writing even when it’s hard,” writing should be, first and foremost, a pursuit of joy. If I’m not enjoying the writing on a consistent basis, then something is wrong. This gives me more space to let my writing nurture my life, rather than sacrificing my life to my writing schedule.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my current WIP has been the best writing experience of my life to date. I’m writing slower, I’m not beating myself up when I’m too distracted or stressed to write—and I’m enjoying every minute of it.

I’m looking beyond my writing. It is no longer the be-all-end-all of my life. I am seeing life itself and looking for ways to experience it more deeply and authentically, and I am trusting that my writing can only benefit as a result.

***

Perhaps the greatest insight I have been given through my recent experiences is that “striving” (aka working like an obsessed hamster) and “surrender” (aka embracing the beautiful order of life’s chaos) cannot live simultaneously. Indeed, they are explicitly antithetical.

The old vision of success served me well enough in the past, however short-sighted it may have been. But it is time to set that old vision aside. My new vision of success looks a whole lot more like living in harmony with the life God has given me, rather than trying to conquer it.

Wordplayers, tell me your opinion! Do you ever feel like you have to protect creativity? What do you do? Tell me in the comments!

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. She is the IPPY and NIEA Award-winning and internationally published author of the Amazon bestsellers Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel. She writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in western Nebraska and mentors authors on her award-winning website.

Comments

  1. It’s good to hear you’re finding a better life balance, Katie. Keep it up – taking time for nature, yourself, friends, God – as well as writing and encouraging others like us in our feeble efforts to write…

  2. Thanks, Katie. I really appreciate your honesty and I’m happy that you’re getting a break now. 🙂

    This is something I struggle with too. There’s a verse I’ve found to be a good compass. “…the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      The one I come back to frequently (though perhaps not frequently enough) is: “Be still and know that I am God.”

  3. Thank you for sharing so much of your heart. You’re definitely not alone in the priority balance! I’m not a published author and a few years ago God let me know I had to focus a bit less on panicking over that fact, and a bit more on trusting in his timing. It’s been good. The last year or two I’ve made some really good friends and seen a deepening in other friendships that I’d been taking for granted.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Something I have become increasingly aware of about myself is my tendency to freak out over (seemingly) not being on track for the future I have in mind for myself. I’m learning to slow down, to realize the only life worth living is the life in the present, and to focus on blooming where I’m planted.

      • ^ As someone who has almost surrendered to the idea that life is just gonna be One Long Existential Crisis, your comment and your blog entry speak volumes to me right now. You are a remarkably insightful person.

  4. You have spoken directly from my heart in this episode. I learned EXACTLY the same lessons during the past months and I’ve only been self-employed for 2 years. Congratulations on making those changes and feeling better!

  5. Katie,

    I applaud you for your honesty and taking a look inside yourself. I appreciate this post. I am not at the point you are (my first two short stories will be published in 2018), mainly because I still have the 9-to-5. I have kids and I make them a priority, and some days I don’t have the energy to write after playing with them. I feel guilty, but in the long run, being present as their dad is more important, and if nothing else, your post helped validate that.

    That said, I make sure to get 500 words in whenever I do write.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      I 100% believe (and am slowly learning to live that belief) that guilt is worse than useless. It changes nothing, is a horribly defeating motivating force, and only robs from us the joy of whatever we’re experiencing in the present moment. I congratulate you on keeping your growing family a priority!

      • “Guilt is worse than useless.” Yes! Being convicted is painful, but productive, making us want to change and do better. Guilt (all by itself) is nothing more than an emotion that sucks us dry! Thanks for sharing!

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

          There’s a huge difference between guilt and conviction. Conviction inspires change. Guilt just makes us feel bad while we continue the same old behavior.

  6. Yes I do feel that I have to protect my creativity. I live in a house with 4 scientific brains who just don’t really get me and my need for creativity in its many forms. Writing is one of many. I have stretched myself too thin to succeed well in any of these types of creativity and yet the variety also feeds my need. Does that make sense? I am a big fan of Anne Lamott, I read Bird by Bird in two or three sittings while convalescing and unable to physically create anything. It helped calm me too. I have many years more than you and it often hurts inside when I see the outward success of anyone my age or younger but that’s my own internal struggle. You *should* be proud of what you’ve achieved and I am in awe! I’ve been struggling to define success for myself and its very difficult. I commend you for reevaluating how you spend your time and where you want to spend it. Time is the most precious commodity we have and also a commodity we cannot measure in numbers until it’s too late. Daily I remind myself to balance as you’re doing here. While I was reading your post this popped in my head=>Are you writing to live or living to write? I think I have to do both and sometimes it’s more of one than the other and then it swings back again. Thank you for inspiring me to dig even deeper today. Now I’m off to live! 😉

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      “Are you writing to live or living to write?”

      This sums it up so well. We see and hear it preached all the time–that meaningful lives are not about numbers. Down here with our boots on the ground, it can be hard to accept that on a practical level, but I believe it a little more every day.

  7. Your revelations are deeply resonant. Thank you, Katie.

    As a lifelong introvert with intermittent agoraphobia, I confess to using the Internet as a ‘friend connector’ instead of going out and being in the world with flesh and blood people. The Internet has an irresistible siren’s call; it’s an enabler for introverts and agoraphobics to remain right where they are – to be blind and deaf to the reality of this moment.

    The first draft of my book, Signs, has revealed a great deal about how much I’m missing this life and time that I’ve been given. As my main writing mentor, you’ve helped this book with its revelations become a reality.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Congrats on your book! I am endlessly awed by how much I learn from my own fiction. You’d think we could only write successfully about themes we’ve already mastered, but I find that I write most powerfully about those that I’m still learning myself.

  8. That was beautiful.

  9. Bryan Fagan says:

    -The internet destroys our attention span –

    That is so true and that is the main reason I write long hand at the kitchen table far away from computer access. I make sure I turn the smart phone off and leave it in the other room. You want to call me, use the home phone.

    This writing gig can overtake us. It is easy to get frustrated especially when we read a best seller and wonder why our names are not on the front cover.

    This is hard work. It is demanding. We are going to meet good people and bad. This world is competitive and sadly we will meet those who will try to knock us down. For me the key is to focus on my priorities. My wife and my daughters. My health. Most of all I take weekends off. If you can’t walk away for a bit you will burn out.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      I agree wholeheartedly about the priorities. I am constantly sifting mine, trying to get down to the root of my motivations, keeping myself on my toes, trying to be honest about what I really want, and wrangling my often conflicting motivations to try to find the best balance.

    • Somebody wise once predicted: “the internet, ultimately, will result in more bad than in good.” I’m thinking that is true. Frankly, I use it every day, but nothing is more distracting. Sometimes I go to this little coffee shop to write where there is no access. It’s liberating to be cut off.

      When we see all the evil and ugliness and dangerous activities taking place online, I think it’s a “be careful what you wish (work) for” moment. As with everything, proceed to the internet with caution…. Best of luck to you and all our writing friends. It’s lonely up here, isn’t it?

      • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

        Sometimes it’s hard to know if the world is better off for the Internet or not. Right now, I’m still willing to say it’s a draw. But I’m committed (if still uncertain about the “hows”) to keeping it in a small little corner of my life.

  10. If an established author like yourself has struggles with the write/life balance, then I don’t feel so much like a failure for having them myself. I’ve been really finding it hard to motivate myself to write this past year so this post has come at the right time for me, thank you.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Hear, hear. I think there’s this misconception (one I’ve certainly copped to) that there will come this magical day when you’ve “made it” and suddenly life is perfect and easy. It never comes. Life is ever expanding, ever challenging. Embracing that realization is incredibly liberating and empowering.

  11. Just wanna wrap you in a hug right now! This is so good.

    Sending my kids to public school this year was my admission that I can’t do ALL THE THINGS. And I wanted to be able to do more with my writing than a homeschool mom could. Now, a month into school, I’m seeing that it’s likely the right decision, at least for this season. I’m not darting off to my computer at weird times of the evening to snag a few minutes writing–I’ve already done my writing/editing. So I feel the family is getting more of me than they did when we were homeschooling, which is a nice balance so far. Last week, I even — GASP! — went for a walk with my husband in the evening, something we hadn’t done together in a long, long time. Maybe I’ll even add in a Bible study or women’s group next semester when I’m a little more grounded in my schedule and work habits. I used to go to one before homeschooling took over.

    I know having that time in the evening is definitely helping me to feel more grounded, and letting my mind wander away from whatever projects I’m currently working on is a blessing. I love writing, and I’ve frequently said that I’ll never retire because I enjoy it so much. But I can see burnout could happen, and it’s important to recognize that and be willing to roll with it. That’s why I took the summer off from writing and editing, just focused on doing cleanup work on things that I needed to do business-wise. It gave me a chance to breathe, and I came back to writing and editing this month totally refreshed and ready to rock.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Aww, thanks. 🙂 Back atcha! I know you’ve been through some rough times this year (and beyond) as well. It’s wonderful when you reach a watershed, make a hard choice, shed some beloved burdens, and step out into a brave (if often scary) new world. I wish you and your family all the best!

  12. I don’t believe in “writing when it’s hard”. I full-out write a few times a year (NaNoWriMo being one of those times), and spend most of my time revising, editing, proofing, and most of all, marketing. And I do all of it because I want to, not because some “guru” or “famous author” tells me I have to. If it ever became “hard” or some sort of burden to write, I’d stop.

    I do a lot of my writing while revising. New writing? Not as much. I’m more obsessed with my story right now than with starting anything new.

    I feel that most of the writing advice out there is total garbage for most people. It’s just one person’s view of what they think is best for THEM. You know what’s best for you, your family, and your productivity.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      I agree. I think it’s incredibly valuable to seek other viewpoints, to discover what works for other authors, but ultimately the only thing that matters is what works for *you*, what makes *you* happy and fulfilled.

  13. This is SOO Me Sometimes!

    Now I’ll bookmark this… 🙂

  14. You are an inspiration! Thank you for all you have done, your instruction has been invaluable for me, but I am glad to see you taking care of you also!

  15. I really enjoyed this post! It’s nice to see an insight into not only what made you so successful, but also the real emotions behind all that hard work. It sure is tough sometimes to live our best lives, but figuring out the root of the problem means you’ll be able to solve it! Best of luck to you in the future, Katie! 😀

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      I’m a private person who gets very uncomfortable sharing emotions externally, which means I instinctively build facades that show only part of the truth (I think it’s an INTJ thing 😉 ). I’m slowly learning to be more vulnerable and rounded in my authenticity–with myself as well as others.

  16. Eric Troyer says:

    Wow. Interesting and revealing post. Thanks for sharing something so personal. I have been going through a similar journey, though far less dramatic. I have decided that I don’t want to be a full-time writer. I have too many other interests that I don’t want to give up. I also don’t want my written work to become immensely popular. The more popular you are, the more people need you. I still want to make a difference, but I’d rather do it on a small scale.

    Glad you’re finding a good path for your life. If you’re not already meditating, consider taking it up. It’s a good way to help keep all the parts of your life in perspective.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      I applaud you for this, Eric. Honestly, this was one of the chief reasons I decided to write this post. I feel like there is so much pressure put on authors to live up to one specific ideal (make a living as an author), when really there are many downsides to this path that are not often discussed. It’s still an excellent and worthwhile path, but it’s not for everyone and it’s not the *only* path.

      • Eric Troyer says:

        I read your post in the morning. Just before bed I read an article in Psychology Today (October) titled “No. The Hardest Word.” It starts with a quote from a woman: “I can’t say no.” An interesting way to bookend the day!

        When ambition turns into a treadmill that keeps going faster, it feels nice to step off and view the settings from the side. You’ll probably find they aren’t set the way you want them to be.

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

          Yep, learning to say no and set better boundaries has been a big paradigm shift for me as well. I highly recommend the book Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.

  17. Hi Katie,

    This post is so important! I have always had a lot of discipline and have therefore been a very hardworking and successful person, which is amazing, but people always forget the downsides of succes, which I really think you described good!

    Thank you for writing this post!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Your discipline and hard work are fantastic! Hang onto them–just balance them with foresight about a fulfilling future, in which work and life nurture each other.

  18. Thank you so much for this post! I’ve been feeling really stressed out with my writing these days, as though I absolutely have to do it, and it’s taken a lot of the joy out of it. This post really put things in perspective for me.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      I would encourage you to examine why you’re stressed out. I would bet there’s guilt driving you at some level. Examine that to get to the root of *why* you’re doing this even when it doesn’t make you happy. Working through that stuff (which usually turns out to be about something far different from the writing itself) can take a long time. But learning to pursue joy is, I believe, one of the most important things any of us can do for ourselves or our world.

  19. Thanks for sharing those thoughts! Such a good reminder for wherever a person is on his/her writing journey. Frankly, these truths can be applied way beyond writing to most careers and goals.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      It’s true. Whatever your life interests, I would equate creativity with joy–and everything else with the guilt and insecurities that too often drive us. Protect the joy at all costs.

  20. Thank you for writing this! I was this hard-driven workaholic person for a very long time when my body rebelled. An autoimmune disease struck me down in 2013, and I can no longer be that person. Thank God! It’s a hard way to learn a lesson, but at fifty-four, I hit the wall. I’m still trying to learn how to balance my writing life at the pace of a chronically ill person. Everything you listed it exactly on target!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      They always say you don’t really start living until you lose everything. It’s a painful, wonderful, difficult, liberating truth.

  21. Tom Youngjohn says:

    I normally like to just listen to your podcast, but, seeing the seriousness of the topic, I read it. Now I’ll listen to it.

  22. Incredible post, Katie! You have a very influential voice in the world, not the least for your willingness to bare you soul to others. Your transparency is refreshing in a world that seems to lack trust, loyalty, and compassion.

    Well done.

  23. Beautiful. Thank you for sharing your journey, Katie. I now have this page bookmarked 🙂 I’m also going through a period of my life where I’m learning the value of surrendering my ambition to what God has planned. Sometimes it feels like my life shatters, but so something better can be made of it. You’re in my prayers as you continue the search for balance

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      “Sometimes it feels like my life shatters, but so something better can be made of it.”

      I have seen this happen over and over again. It’s a hard truth to grasp, even after you’ve lived through it, but it stands the test of time.

  24. So happy for you and your journey. So much of this has resonated with a lot of what I have gone through over the last couple of years since my mom’s death. I am happy to read these words and know that I am not alone.

    Enjoy your seasons

  25. I’m sorry you had a rough year but I’m sure huge blessings will come out of what you’ve learned and the balance you seek will inevitably bring you peace and joy. Thank you for giving so much of yourself to all of us over the years. We appreciate your hard work.

  26. So…God, the author here, currently has you, His protagonist, in the Resolution of the story now 😉 Love this story. Can’t wait to see what He writes you into next!

    I’m really glad you’re cutting back on the Internet. I feel Internet/ FB addiction is why the quality of art has declined in the past few decades.

    And yup, meditation is everything. Saves sanity and emotional/ spiritual well being. Xo

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      I’ve really seen the beats of the character arc at work in my own life these last few years. And I do feel like, just as you’ve said, I’m at the end of one story and peeking under the cover of a brand-new one. Not sure what its title is yet though!

  27. Thank you for this. I needed it today.

  28. Thanks for the AWESOME post!

  29. Thanks so much for sharing such a personal post. I can absolutely relate to the need to “…stop focusing so relentlessly on the goal.” This is an issue for me now, and was in my previous career. I feel more pressure with my writing because I’m coming to the game a little late (older) and get caught up in the fear that there’s not enough time to achieve some level of success.

    I have been totally absorbed by your blog and books since I found them earlier this year, going back through your archives and soaking up the valuable insights and resources. I cannot sufficiently express my thanks for your help, particularly with structure and outlining (love your software program!). It’s made my current WIP a more enjoyable and effective process.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Something I come back to repeatedly is the thought that, really, the whole idea of “success” is a misconception. Yes, we experience many definable successes and failures in our lives, but I don’t believe any of them, by themselves, define *us* as Success or Failure. We often miss the forest for the trees by focusing too relentlessly on the small picture.

  30. Thank you so much for sharing this. I’m also an over-achiever (though I haven’t achieved as much!), & I have been feeling the same lately. I’ve wondered how you maintain such a calm presence online. I find it all so distracting, draining — the online world. Although in so many ways, very rewarding. It’s really good to know I’m not alone in feeling that — & to know that despite the work involved in writing, you’d do it. And that you’d choose starving artist to get there. I am one, so that’s good to know, ha ha! 🙂

    I love this quote by one of my favorite writers: ‘How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.’ — Henry David Thoreau

    By “vain” I believe he means the original meaning — useless. What can we say about life if we are not seeing it? It’s hard to find that balance between life & writing because it’s such a solitary venture. Yet what are we writing about, if all we have before our eyes is a screen and a blank page? Our imagination supplies a great deal, but there are so many questions out there we must actually confront in order to have a perspective. To fill the page, we need experiences. To fill the page, we need to still. To write about life, we must be within life. To write about life, we must be alone.

    Best wishes to you as you find balance, Katie.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      When I first started a social media presence, I made the commitment to keep it entirely positive and upbeat. It’s a commitment that, I believe, has served me well in marketing my books, but, even better, I think forcing myself to practice that every day online, even on bad days, has actually made me a more positive person in real life as well.

  31. Katie, this resonates so deeply with me. Thank you for sharing your heart!

  32. Thank you for this. I am going to bookmark it to come back to often.

    I have been writing for myself for years. This year I decided to start self-publishing my stuff, telling myself that if I do it myself I can make sure I never feel that my wonderful hobby rules me or has become a chore.

    And yet, when I find myself wondering if the perfect editing is perfect ENOUGH, or my feeble marketing is good ENOUGH, I start to feel myself dragged into exactly what you describe.

    I need balance. I know I do. And your article has reminded me that there are costs to success that I never want to pay. I need to take some time alone with my writing and my God and find that balance for myself.

    Thank you.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      We’ll never be good enough. We’ll never be perfect. But realizing that–and I mean really *realizing* that–is actually incredibly liberating. It frees you from the need to try to live up to an impossible standard.

  33. Loved this, KM! Thank you for the perspective, especially about resting!

  34. Thank you for sharing your insights and experience. I have always wondered how you’re able to juggle so many things (blog, Youtube channel, podcast, writing fiction, teaching writing, social media, etc.), and it’s no surprise that they consumed your life–you’re only human after all and have the same 24 hours a day as everyone else. I didn’t know if you were making a full-time living as a writer or if you had a spouse with good income that allowed you the financial freedom to pursue writing on your own terms.

    If you could go back in time to talk to your younger self from several years ago and tell her what you wrote in this blog post, how do you think the younger you would respond? To be able to have this current perspective is in a way a luxury that comes only after having already achieved success. Your younger self was still hungry and struggling just to make a name for herself, and she might say to you, “That’s easy for you to say–you’ve already made it, and you only made it because ‘I’ worked my butt off to get you to where you are today!”

    I guess it also depends on what the financial situation is for the person. A lot of writers hustle really hard because that is the only way for them to make ends meet, and going back to working a day job just isn’t an option anymore (for various reasons). Or, those who are trying to turn their writing into a full-time job (especially if their day job makes them miserable) are pushing really hard because they feel they must make that career transition in order to be happier. But like you said, the pressure never lets up because there’s always another goal to conquer no matter what stage you’re at, and until you learn to let go and write for the love of it, all the business/fame side of things can turn something you love into a source of pressure and anxiety.

    Lucky are the ones who have attained immense success and can write at their own pace, because they’re already rich enough to not care about the money (or they were financially independent to begin with).

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Yes, honestly, I think this may be one of those things you have to go through before you can get it. Certainly, I don’t think my younger self would have been in a place to accept most of these ideas. So I don’t regret the “mistakes” I’ve made along the way.

      It’s also true that making a living as a writer, despite its drawbacks, is awesome. In the midst of all this, I’ve actually considered, more than once, dropping the business side of writing and seeking employment elsewhere. But… it’s hard to find a better gig, ya know?

      And I don’t in any way want this post to sound ungrateful. I realize many authors would give anything to be able to write full-time. I *am* extremely grateful. But if some of my thoughts here can inspire up-and-coming authors to be able to build a more balanced lifestyle than I was able to, that would make me really happy. 🙂

  35. I don’t think I’d ever have thought that switching off the laptop until I read your comment here about switching off the internet.

    Looking back, I had switched off the very thing I needed to write (my laptop) and I picked up a book I had never gotten round to finish and I just read. It was honestly the most relaxing feeling I’ve had and I feel a bit silly for only coming to that realization now (since I’ve done that many times).

    I guess I have relied too much on my WIP to make my day feel fulfilled depending on how many words I write, which is both exhausting and a little pointless. Going to work and then coming back to write isn’t very exciting – not when there’s so much more I can be doing.
    I’ve also felt anxious that if I don’t get my novel looking and reading good enough to publish, it’ll never be published and that scares me.

    So, I wanted to thank you, Katie, for writing this and giving me a better insight into how I should stop trying to dedicate all my time to writing, typing obsessively away and ignoring all the other things that bring me happiness. It’s now that I start to relax and do other things I enjoy.

    Naturally, I’ll continue writing (that novel will be published), but at a lot more of a relaxed pace. 🙂 God bless! 🙂

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Hear, hear! If the writing isn’t making life better, then you have to stop and ask why you’re doing it. 🙂

  36. Selfishly, I’m so glad you’re continuing this blog; I learn something from you with every post. Thank you for giving permission to relax and enjoy writing rather than wringing out my life striving to be an abstract idea of success. Oh, and that thing about the internet? So what I’ve been thinking lately.
    Great post – I’ll be sharing it…

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Thanks, Carol! And, yes, I sense a change in the wind within the next ten years, regarding the Internet. It’s not going anywhere, but I think more and more people will be unplugging from it more and more consciously.

  37. Ruth Gardner-Loew says:

    Katie, I think it’s wonderful that you have had this awakening. Bravo, I agree with everything you expressed and encourage you to follow through on the changes you know you need to make. Maturity and insight of this level often comes after very difficult “life events.” I could go on with why I support your decisions, but will keep it short. In August, I had an epiphany that if I didn’t make serious changes in my work life, I would never feel true joy or fulfillment about anything. Radical, rapid changes followed, which included telling my FB friends that I was taking a break to rediscover the joy of phone conversations, hand written letters, and coffee with friends. I truly don’t remember the last time I felt so good about life. Make time to do things that bring a smile to your face and joy to your heart.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      That’s fantastic! One thing my experiences have taught me is that change can’t happen until the time is ripe–but when it does, it happens instantly and (comparatively) effortlessly.)

  38. Sometimes I feel like I don’t fit the characterization of today’s writer. I’m an extrovert, I don’t write for a living, I live a pretty balanced lifestyle, I have hobbies and recreational activities. I don’t feel like I’m giving anything up because I don’t give anything up. But I do recognize the person you are saying writers should not be. I was almost sad reading your post because I was sure that at the end of it, you were going to say “Good bye, Writing!” I’m glad that you didn’t and I’m glad that you’re realistic about who you are and what you do.

  39. KM, this is great. Thanks for sharing. I love your bucking bronco rider analogy! Yes, we need to feed our creative selves to put forth our best. Take care.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      I love bull riders almost as much as I love over-achievers, so no disrespect intended with that analogy, BTW. 😉

  40. Robert Easterbrook says:

    Wow! And so many thoughts … I guess because I haven’t achieved ‘success’ according to my dream, my initial thought was, ‘Ok for you to say, you’ve achieved success (according to my dream)! So go play in the forest!’ Then I took it back. 😉 The (fictional) character I had come to identify with most a year and a half ago was Melvin Udall in the movie As Good As It Gets. But I never ended up with the girl. 😉 But I do lock the door, don’t answer it or the phone; I shut the world out until I’m satisfied I’ve done what I feel I should do to achieve ‘success’. I haven’t achieved ‘success’ yet (according to my dream), and I’m writing book number 10. And I don’t know when I will, if ever. And that sometimes makes me angrier than a rattle snake! Hence my initial reaction to your short bio. But to calm down, all I have to do is look at a picture of your smiley face and I start smiling. By the way, I have never seen a photo of you not smiling. 🙂 Though I believe there’s more to you than your smiley face and books. 😉 Unlike you, I don’t find solace in the arms of God, but I do find it in a forest. Or in other natural beauty. I suppose, all I really want to say is, thanks for existing. You’ve made my world far more interesting.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Interestingly enough, returning to nature has been a big part of my new focus. I’ve always loved being outside, but my desk-bound lifestyle has largely prevented it for most of my adult years. I spent more time outside this summer than I have since high school–and I loved it!

  41. Thank you for this. Not only can I apply it to my writing, I can apply it to several areas in my life. I’ve been beating myself up for not writing. My first novel has been well received in that the people who have read it really love it. Readers want a sequel. But I haven’t even fleshed out my outline. The reason being, I’m in a new stage of life right now. I became a homeschool mom this school year. My kids are in extra curriculars for the first time. I help to lead a ministry. I’m taking speaking engagements to tell people about how God healed me of an incurable disease. I haven’t yet found my stride or figured out how to fit in that writing time. Maybe that’s okay. I want to be successful. I know I have what it takes. But if I pursue writing success NOW, at all cost, what will I miss? What will the people around me miss? It’s always nice to be reminded that our culture’s idea of success doesn’t make us happy, especially by someone who has lived on both sides of the fence. I appreciate you sharing your heart. Is there anywhere you share more of your past year? If so, would you mind linking it? Thanks!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      I think you’re priorities are spot on! And, no, I haven’t written anything else about my experiences last year and, frankly, don’t plan to. 🙂

  42. So well said! Thank you for taking time to share what you’ve learned in a way that we can apply to our own lives.

    If we let the work kill the art, have we not betrayed ourselves and the gift we were given? I love this perspective of “living in harmony with the life God has given me, rather than trying to conquer it”.

    Definitely, we need to show up and do the writing, but, as you say, with balance. And if writing is about life, we’d better keep experiencing life along the way.

    Selfishly, I’m glad Dreambreaker is still in the works, at an appropriate pace 🙂

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      I’ve always considered myself a “fighter,” as you can see in my bio. I went through a period, in the last couple of years, of wondering if that was really true of myself–and then further realizing that “fighting” is literally antithetical to surrender and peace. I still like the word and the idea, but I’d much rather be in harmony with my life than fighting against it.

  43. I began my writing project out of need and desire. The desire came from wanting to capture family stories and place them into a historical fiction. The need, unfortunately, came from being unemployed. The psychology of unemployment is real and is potentially dangerous. Yes, I worked full time on getting work, but hearing “No thank you” everyday is like water torture on the soul. Conversely, I found that writing and researching was a strong source of satisfaction and solace.

    I am now about 2-3 scenes away from finishing a 70,000 word book. That was my plan and my promise to myself.

    There were two podcasts on writing that really impacted me and assisted me in the process. One of them was yours. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I was stuck on something and then just went for a one-hour hike with headphones. It was like we were walking together! It was beneficial to my writing and the writing was healing for my soul.

    I am now gainfully employed (after more than a year unemployed) in a very satisfying and creative position. My writing has slowed but not stopped. The lesson here is that I would not be in this position if I had not cared for and protected my body, mind, and spirit. So yes, I am in agreement with you that you need to protect your creativity.

    I will have my book published someday soon, whether I get an agent or e-publish myself. My goals now are to finish the book, help people when I can, and say thank you to people who have helped me stay sane.

    Thank You Katie!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      What a wonderful story! Thank you so much for sharing this. It’s a fabulous reminder about the benefits of staying centered, whatever our exterior circumstances. Great to hear you’re enjoying the podcast too!

  44. Peter Martin says:

    It is important to know when to say, ‘STOP! Sit back and smell the roses.’
    I was much happier and calmer when writing long hand in a notebook. Soon as I started typing and the internet beckoned, I found I had developed high blood pressure. Now, I spend one hour in the morning and evening on the news and certain websites, rest of my time is devoted to writing longhand and spending time with my wife, walking around my neighbourhood with a camera and SEEING what is around me.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      I always write my outlines longhand in a notebook. I think this is part of why this is always the happiest part of the process for me. I’ve tried taking my first-draft writing away from the computer, but just haven’t found a way to make that work for me as yet.

  45. Jenny Powers says:

    Thank you for being so honest and vulnerable in this blog! It is exactly what I needed to hear and resonated deeply, so you waiting to share it until you’ve fully digested it and could make it accessible to us was perfect. I could almost hear you taking a big sigh of relief as I was reading it, and it’s tone was very different from many of your others. It was as if you were watching the leaves change and snowflakes fall as you wrote…because you actually were! Thanks again.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Yeah, it was a kind of relief. Honestly, putting it all down in words has reinvigorated me in taking seriously a lot of the lessons I learned this year.

  46. Wow, this post was 180 degrees from what I was expecting from the headline. And I feel so much better!

    I’ve been getting the guilts over the slow progress of book 2, and so much of the pressure has been because I should – because readers want it (which is so very nice, don’t get me wrong) and because my local peers have been more productive this year.

    But you’re right, I should ultimately be doing it for me (especially since I’ve got a day job that pays all my bills), not because I feel I should for others.

    Also, great quote Jennifer Garrett 🙂

  47. I have been following you religiously for several years now and your posts are always excellent. With that being said, today’s post touched me more deeply than any I’ve ever read from you. So refreshing. So marvelous. You must feel a tremendous burden has been lifted from your shoulders. It’s marvelous to watch how God works in our lives. He reached out to me today through you. I was angry earlier today because distractions were interfering with getting the structure of my jumbled epic fantasy novel ironed out. I was way behind because of two weeks spent with my 80 year old father and then learned my 18 month old grandson was coming over for the afternoon? I took the time for family, but at first it was simply as an obligation and I felt guilty over my neglected writing. After reading your post I realize now that my time with family is to be cherished every bit as much as my writing time!!! You have helped me refocus on enjoying the writing journey, but not at the expense of the other joys in my life!!! Our time is truly precious. I have also been cutting cords to social media and the internet for the very reasons you address. Thank you for this amazing post. It will be one to re-read often, as a touch stone to continually remind me to enjoy life, and to enjoy my writing journey as a part of that life of joy. Because of your refocused priorities you may not even read this! But that’s okay, it’s because your priorities are in the right place. God bless you Katie!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      This makes me very happy. I have certainly been guilty of putting my writing before my relationships. On occasion, this is necessary, especially when we’re first establishing schedules and setting boundaries. But, as I’m learning in watching my young niece and nephew grow up, every moment with loved ones is precious if only because it’s unrepeatable.

  48. Bravo for you, my friend. Bravo for you.

  49. I am mainly a poet. So forgive my poetic turn. I find that to spur my creativity I must treat it as a living thing. It needs nourishment and exercise ans an occasional chance to be crappy.It must sometimes be serious, but must frequently play. I find I need many stimuli and a broad view of history and myth, this is the nourishment. The exercise is to expand the topics I cover and the forms I use. The crappy part is apparent, I write even when I can’t and scrap what I must. I write reflective, introspective and social comment. A large part of my works have a twist or snark and use playful words and phrasing. The feeding part is where I also feed my soul. It is the dog park, kids, discovering new words, practicing music ( even though I’m not proficient).

    The final thing I need to do for creativity is love. I need to love the process and the outcome. Nothing is more dry and boring than a work that is proper, has perfect grammar, and is over-worked by a perfectionist’s hand. The emotion is dried up by the scholar.

    To my philosophy publishing is secondary. I do like your bullet points. Many get lost in discovering the process and looking for success.

    Thank you.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      For years now, I’ve really wanted to start exploring poetry on a regular basis–mostly, just as a creative exercise. Last year, I got as far as buying a special notebook for it, but so far it only has one poem in it. :p That’s something I’d like to play with more this coming year.

  50. Thank you for sharing so honestly! It’s such a fine line between ambition and love (for me, anyway), and sometimes I just need to remind myself that just because I love something doesn’t necessarily mean I need to bring it into the utmost of completion in a record pace… sometimes taking your time is okay – especially when it means that leaves me with a more peaceful heart to love those around me.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      I think, for those of us who have naturally aggressive, focused personalities, it *is* a fine line between love and ambition. They feed each other to some extent. But it has to be a balance, or the whole system goes out of whack.

  51. Clearly, this past year has been both profound and painful for you. This post spoke to me on many levels because BALANCE is often a foreign-word to me as well. It seems to be the lesson I keep learning in this life. Good luck to you as you learn to be a successful author WITHOUT sacrificing your soul to succeed.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Balance is an incredibly important principle to me. Probably, in part, this is because it’s something I have to keep learning and re-learning. :p

  52. “What life is this if, full of care,
    We have no time to stand and stare…”

    This year, following the death of my mother last November, it has hit me like a wrecking ball that I have been running hard but getting nowhere nearer happiness for a very long time. Your post, therefore, could have come from my own head.

    The first step towards recovery is recognising that there’s a problem. So well done, good luck on the new path you have been wise enough to choose, and I’ll be following each further step you take with interest and empathy.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Very sorry to hear about your mother. But, at the same time, it sounds as if she left you a wonderful gift in revealing what is truly important and worthwhile in living.

  53. I really enjoyed your post. I believe you are learning to, “Stop and smell the roses.”

    Good on you!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Or the autumn leaves, as the case may be. 😉

      • I like to listen to the autumn leaves. They sound different.

        On a warm summer evening in July you can hear corn grow. It’s amazing what can be heard if one listens. Especially in the country where I live. City folks think it’s quiet and boring. They wear ear phones. They miss a lot.

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

          I’ve lived in Husker country all my life and never heard the corn grow. I’ll have to listen better next year!

  54. This could not have come at a more perfect moment in my life. Thank you so much for your honesty, Katie.
    I didn’t use to struggle with this. My writing began as a passion and continued as a passion until I began seriously gearing up for publication. Then I think that passion got shoved to the back as I tried to process and get ready for all the innumerable practical and logical and will-powered things you have to know to successfully publish a book. My perception of success as excellence and joy in my work began to shift. Success began to look like number of reviews; number of downloads, number of copies sold.
    My big weakness there was that I’m not naturally a practical or organized person and I knew that, and so was more ready to distrust my natural inclination to not obsess; to just take things as they came and roll with whatever life threw at me. I let myself listen to ‘the experts’ over my ‘useless’ intuition even as it screamed ‘now hold on a minute here!’
    Thankfully I still have passion. And it’s still the main reason I write. But it was slipping into obsession with the need to be successful. This post was one of many checks that caught it just in time.
    Another big thing, I think, was the people in my life who define success as /measurable profit/ simply because of personality. People I want to be proud of me. People I want to show that writing isn’t a waste of time and effort; that I CAN do this— that it’s not useless; not impractical, and that even if I never sell more than one copy it’s still time well-spent because of the joy I found in it and the lessons in wisdom God taught me through it.

    This is my go-to verse: ‘What profit has the worker from that in which he labors? I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.

    Ecclesiastes 3:9-11’

    It reminds me that God’s ways are not man’s ways, and that His timing, if you follow where He leads, will be eternal.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      I relate to just about everything you’ve said here. I’m realizing now that much of my pursuit of success was an effort to measure up to or exceed other people’s expectations–which was ultimately about me salving my own insecurities. I will never regret the last ten years, the places they took me, and the things they proved, if only to myself, that I was capable of doing. But now, I’m very happy to be in a place where I can start moving beyond certain of the old expectations and insecurities to a more empowered and balanced view of life.

      • Exactly. The more I learned to examine myself, the more I realized that so many things I thought were integral parts of my own personality were actually projections of other people’s expectations onto insecurities and flaws in myself. And I thought I had above-average mental health too! 😛 (At least according to the Enneagram analysis… ;P)
        I don’t have ten years of that kind of success behind me. I haven’t even published a novel yet. But learning this now will help me be a little wiser as I start that journey, I hope. Thank you for being willing to share.

  55. Thank you for this post, Katie. It came at a great time. I just turned 30. The age doesn’t bother me, but the fact that I am not where I thought I would be at this point in my life. So I’ve been driving myself pretty hard to try to get a book finished and hopefully published. But what you’ve said here makes a lot of sense and has helped me to realize that while continuing forward and striving for a goal is a great thing, letting it take over isn’t. So thanks.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      I’ll be 32 in November. I really wasn’t expecting it, but 30 was a huge change in mindset for me as well. For the first time, it really makes you count the years that have passed, where you’re at, and what you still want to do in those that remain.

      • Yeah, that’s exactly what’s been happening. I don’t consider 30 to be “old” or anything, but it did make me take stock which was a little frightening.

      • 20 wasn’t a big deal. I was s till doing all the same things I did when I was 16 or 17 (and that’s part of the story)

        30 meant I wasn’t a kid anymore. I needed to be a full fledged adult with a family, job and a home.

        What makes you feel old then is when your kids turn 30. There’s more gray and less hair, as the belly sticks out too far, but other than that I’m blessed to really not feeling any different than I did then. Most of the people I hang out with are in their 30’s and 40’s.

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

          Yep, exactly. 30 was like irrevocably turning the corner into the adult world and leaving childhood behind.

  56. Beautiful. Thank you.

    What kind of writer do you want to be? It’s a question I ask myself frequently.

    When I forget the answer, when I have to hem-haw around the question to justify bad habits, I lose so much of what makes writing fulfilling.

    Thank you for the vulnerability.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      At the end of the day, I suppose what we’re really asking, “Is what kind of person do we want to be?”

  57. In our conversations over the last few years, both here and in emails, I’ve come to think of you as a friend, so it grieved me to learn of you going through this pain – but then happy to know that you’ve emerged from it in a better state.

    Your revelation also reminds me about how often we don’t know what’s going inside of others around us. I was struck by this a while back in church during a testimony, where I learned that someone I knew of had struggled with drug addiction as a teen and young adult. I had no clue. He looked like any other ‘normal’ father in the congregation.

    I’m working that idea into my story. My protagonist’s love interest has a negative arc that sees her going through a lot of issues in the second half of the book. What makes her despair even more is attending youth group and not thinking that anyone else there could relate to her problems, as she or none of the others had opened up with each other. We draw strength learning how others have dealt with things.

    And having said that, some of your issues were too familiar to me. Besides me day job and in addition to writing, I work from home consulting and creating data products that are used for busines intelligence. Lots of numbers, but my reputation and income depends on their presentation and accuracy. Yesterday morning I had emails from a half dozen clients. Some needed fixes. Some were askign for new features. Then I had to get in the car and drive to work. There have been many times when I’ve seen an unsolicited email from a client and waited hours or even days to open it, fearing that I’d done something terribly wrong and everything would come crashing down. Time and again, even if there was an issue, there was never anything that couldn’t be worked out.

    I’ve been busy with the numbers and recently have gotten very little fiction written. I know most everything that will happen in the story but if I just write it down it will be a bunch of telling (and you, Katie, have scolded me for that!) I have to find the time and get my head in the right place to relax so that I can hand the script to the characters and watch them act it out, allowing me to then write what I see them doing.

    As I make more money from home, along with all the hours that entails, all the while growing older, I’m looking at sunsetting my day job. That may take a few years, but it’s on the radar.

    PS ‘Notify me of new posts by email’ has returned!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      I hope you’re able to “sunset” your day job and find the best balance for you. It’s an ongoing learning process, as new pieces continually enter and leave our lives.

  58. Kristin Dwyer says:

    … are you reading my diary?

    THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS!

  59. It couldn’t have been easy to write this heartfelt post. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself. I’ll share this post on my blog & social media.

  60. I enjoyed and appreciated this read a lot! Truthfully speaking, I haven’t written a whole complete chapter of a book in months, just jotted notes here and there when they come. Each morning I wake early when it’s quiet and start my day in prayer, as my crazy brain has the tendency to be busiest in the afternoon hours and gradually slow down at night. Sometimes we can think so much that it makes our heads hurt because we get so overwhelmed by our story ideas.

    I also have taken a break from Facebook because it caused me to procrastinate on getting things done with my writing preparation for NaNoWriMo, as I seem to post on that social site more than Twitter. Your post speaks nothing but truth. Sometimes we do need to slow things down or take a break, and it can ultimately help us write better later too.

    Thanks for sharing this post!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Learning to take better advantage of quiet early mornings has been important for me too. Starting the day right is crucial for having the rest of it go well.

  61. Saja bo storm says:

    Well Katie, I can feel and hear the rumblings of your exhale way over here.
    You stand tall and strong like a magnificent oak, but your outstretched branches have been pulled on and weighed down by the stringent business of your writing career, not your writing. You always give us your all. So I applaud your success. You deserve it. More importantly, I also admire you for the person you are as well as the writer and mentor you’ve become to all of us…your devoted fans. So thank you for being YOU! And in the future, I promise that I won’t pull down so hard on your branches when I reach for the fruit of your guidance.

  62. DirectorNoah says:

    Thank you so much for your honesty and inspirational post!
    I was so sorry to hear you’ve been through this difficult time, but I’m glad you’re getting back on track with your life now, having gained new strength and wisdom from your realisation.

    Sorry for the long post, but I felt I had to comment, as I recently went through a similar experience and revelation.
    I’ve been writing for almost four years now, and for me, it was never about success, money or fame. It was a passion I enjoyed, and I loved reading my stories out to friends, relishing their enthralled reactions and suprise at my twists and turns of the plot. But I slowly became more fixated with finishing and getting my first novel published in a set time limit, so I could move onto other stories. I’m also a dreadful perfectionist, agonizing over every detail. Soon, the novel became all consuming, the need to get it finished and sent out into the world, partly driven by the desire to prove to other that writing would be my profession, that in the end, I worked so hard and obsessivly on it, I burned myself out. Writing became a dull chore. Breaks didn’t help. Perfectionism prevented me from moulding my story as I wanted. I lost my enthusiasm, and I struggled to muster the motivation to do the simplest of writing tasks, and just sat playing games all day. I then became guilty over having neglected my work on the book for weeks, and I suffered from anxiety and depression because of it.

    Then I made the decesion to shelve it and work on my current WIP. I have never regretted this choice, as I cannot be where I am now, without that first important book. Yet I started to fall into the trap again of setting deadlines for its stages, and grew stressed and anxious when I missed them. So I cut out all distractions and worked solidly on it for about eight months. Then, I came to the realisation that I’d lost the joy and thrill of writing, and saw that it didn’t matter if I missed the target dates. The goal was not as important as the journey. In my frantic haste to succeed, I was missing out on all the other wonders that life had to offer. So I took on a more relaxed, slower pace to my work, and got rid of the urgent need to rush and finish in a deadline. I set aside one hour in the evening to rest and enjoy my hobbies, no matter how much or little I’ve written during the day. I still have schedules to work towards, but I know the novel will be finished when it’s ready. In doing so, I’m slowly recapturing the joy of the writing process, which is more vital to my wellbeing and health, than achieving the goal in a set time.

    That is why I think revenge and hate are pointless (apart from making great story drama and themes of course! ?)
    It only breeds more suffering, but people become so consumed by it, and the greed for money, fame and power, that they lose sight of the true meaning of life that God gave to us. Life is for joy, love, laughter, happiness and being kind to others, but most of all, for learning and experiencing new things.
    Your blog has changed the course of my writing for the better, and I cannot thank you enough for imparting your knowledge and wisdom in your posts, and for devoting your time to mentoring writers.
    I wish you the best of luck in your life and writing career. ?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Thank you so much for sharing this story with us, Noah! As a recovering perfectionist myself, I relate. Something I’m learning in doing a lot of DIY home remodeling projects this summer is that imperfections aren’t always a bad thing. They’re definitely not worth stressing over, and sometimes they’re even precious in their own right.

  63. This. This is exactly where I am at. Except for the whole successful thing. Still, the opportunity to even be able to pursue my dream is in fact living my dream. But yeah, I have two young kiddos and this is exactly what God has been teaching me and I have been stepping back and cutting back. Thank you for writing this, for putting all these thoughts down for the world to read. It lets us know that we are not alone and that is okay to go against the grain, to go against the din of voices telling us what we should be doing. It is so hard. Especially when we’re trying to figure out our own journey to publication and a career in any creative field. Thank you!

  64. Katie,
    Thank you.
    This is a “back to reality” post for me. I have been beating myself up for losing momentum in my writing life. I feel I should be spending more time on writing but the other (real) life keeps getting in the way.
    Full-time job, commitments to coach soccer, attending grandchildren’s games on weekends. (4 games, different sports, different cities – sometimes different counties.)
    Then, there is the time for the wife and the commitments to her.
    These aside, “you are not a writer if you don’t live to write” is how I interpreted what it was to be a writer. Those are comments in the craft books and FB, etc. “Write everyday.” “Itch to write every day.”
    I tried very hard for almost a year. Two draft novels, one short story. Critique groups, short blog posts, comments on other’s blogs, editing and etc. Recently, I crashed. Tired, frustrated by it all.
    Lost interest because I had the wrong perspective on writing.
    It is not my life. I am not published. I don’t have an agent. Heck, I don’t have a writing buddy or mentor. One of many who hasn’t made it and likely never will win an award or be widely read.
    I did my 25 years in the Navy, 26 years supporting the Navy as a contractor, I am 70 years young. Now I am 120 days from retiring from my current job.
    This means 40 hours a week that could be used to write but, honestly, I expect to spend less than 10 which will allow me to appreciate the craft and get to my goal of a published work within five years.
    Hopefully, it will allow time to find that writing buddy/mentor who won’t mind working with a novice writer.

    Thanks again, Katie, for sharing and giving a reminder to live.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      We’re so intent on defining ourselves. This is especially true when it comes to job titles–which is, perhaps, the downside of the whole “treat writing like a job” notion. I’m becoming less interested in trying to achieve a preconceived role than in simply being myself and enjoying it.

      • I am, most likely, not a writer in the classical sense. I enjoy telling stories but my training is lacking and wordsmithing suffers from so many years in government support. Terse and to the point has been the norm. Creating a word picture is a new skill to be mastered. I finally came to terms with who I am.
        I have, I pray, twenty more good years but most likely many less. I refuse to spend them unhappy. So writing will be something I do more of when I retire but it is not going to be my life.
        I am happy for you, the success you have had, but mostly because you are happy with the change.
        God Bless!

  65. Oh wow – I really needed to hear this! Thank you for being so forthcoming and helping your fellow writers.

    I have just published my first book, telling about the good points of my cancer survivorship. Just this morning, on a vacation day, I was adding to my very new author blog and saying that I have found your books to be so helpful, that I am using your Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success for my second book, a novel. I’ve been devouring many of your books on my bus ride to my day job each day – and they’re so good, it feels like I am reading a novel! The ideas are coming to me each day, and I am in love with my new project. However:

    I had a mini “breakdown” at my day job recently. My life has been out of balance, and I was sad that I couldn’t seem to keep up the pace another author has decreed I need to follow AND keep up with my marriage AND keep up with housework and my day job. When I looked up your author page to reference it in my blog post, I found this wonderful post.

    It is the answer to my prayer that I didn’t even know I had prayed.

    I agree, writing should be fun and not something you sacrifice your life for. Secondarily, I want to write so I can help others — like you helped me just now. Thank you so much for writing that piece, and everything else you’ve done. I know that YOU are helping so many, many people.

    I am following you to the end of time – just wanted you to know that. 🙂 Thanks!

  66. Kelly Brockett says:

    I had no idea before, but this is exactly what I needed to hear right now. Thank you so much for sharing.

  67. Katie, it’s been an incredible experience for me watching how your blog has transformed over the past year. Your posts continue to get deeper and more personal. This one is no exception, perhaps even the culmination of that buildup. Of course, I still love to hear about theory and methods for better writing, but I really enjoy taking a step back and examining the life of the writer, including the healthy and unhealthy habits inherent therein.

    Like yourself, and many others, I have known that anxiety, that pressure to get out of bed and run out the endless race toward success every day. And, by all measure, I haven’t even come close to “success” yet. But I can already peer into the future and see what that might be like. Your own experiences only confirm it.

    Lately, I’ve gone through some big life transitions (still going through them, actually) and I’ve been able to take a step back and really examine my motivations. I’ve begun to question, like our beloved storybook protagonist, whether the thing I want is really the thing I need. And, truth be told, it probably isn’t. Still going through some big course corrections myself. And I’m not writing as much as I used to, but I’m trying to be ok with that, to acknowledge the season I’m in and not to force my own hand to write when things aren’t quite right on the inside.

    I agree with you that hustle, while beneficial at times, should not be our modus operandi. I even wrote a post about it with similar thoughts on my own blog.

    Hey, I always love hearing Jennifer Garrett’s thoughts. She is both an honest and profound human being.

    I have often wondered how you do all you do and still maintain sanity. I mean, responding at length to basically every comment on this site alone seems a full time job. And that’s not counting all your other social media, marketing, and actual writing itself! If you dial it back a little in the future, I certainly won’t fault you for it 🙂

    I have struggled a lot with social media. Facebook often feels more of a chore to me, something I’m expected to participate in in order to be socially acceptable. Only rarely do I feel better or more accomplished after using it.

    I actually just heard about a podcast starting up where successful creatives talk about their honest struggles. This post seems like the very thing they’re going for:
    https://relevantmagazine.com/podcast/fun-therapy-trailer/
    Perhaps some day I’ll be delighted to hear your voice on there.

    Thank you again for sharing all this. Thanks for including us in your journey as an author, messy though it may be at times. My prayers are with you, that you find strength, healing, and true joy both in the work you do and the way you do it.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      “I’ve begun to question, like our beloved storybook protagonist, whether the thing I want is really the thing I need.”

      I saw the beats of the character arc happening so clearly in my own life these past few years!

      As for social media, I’m experimenting with cutting back on it three days out of the week. So far, it seems to be working fine and those three days “off” are wonderful.

  68. You have made a gift of yourself with this post, and I thank you for it. This is so raw and honest and I relate to it so much my throat is a little choked.

    I’ve struggled recently with realizing that no matter how many times I renounce seeking power and status, no matter how many times I fall and learn humility, I still haven’t fully learned. I’m still the seventeen-year-old I once was, wanting to win, win, win, and hating myself and blaming myself when I didn’t. No level of success can ever be enough — I have achieved much of what I wanted in my profession, keeping my own clients, developing expertise, gaining respect, but we cannot rest in these things, ever. We can make mistakes, lose clients, lose freedom, and someone will always be there to criticize what we’ve done and how we’ve done it — and the next email to come through might say exactly that. It’s hard, and I suppose the difficulty is part of the point: God does not let us rest in success, because we are meant to rest only in Him, win or lose.

    It is easy, too, for a part-time writer to fantasize about writing full time, and to think that if only we were full-time, all the stress would go away and we would be free. But that just isn’t true — it isn’t just our jobs that enslave us, it is our broken selves.

    This blog post is an amazing piece of writing, and I am so thankful you have shared it. I can’t imagine how many people you have helped by sharing this.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      I was going to quote back some of your comment, which I particularly agreed with–but then I realized I agreed with it all. :p

      So, yes. Just yes.

  69. This is definitely inspirational, Katie! I’m suffering through a period where I just don’t feel motivated, and I think I need to take a break from writing. Which is crazy! But as you said, sometimes stopping writing is important and must be done. Thanks so much for this post!

  70. Your point is well taken. Before I retired, I had to steal time here and there to write. I sold some books along the way, but often LIFE interfered with my productivity. When I retired I thought “this is it. All the time in the world to write.” And it’s true, I have time to write. But now I let Life get in the way. I go to the gym. I putter in the yard. I go grocery shopping. I take a luxurious afternoon nap. I watch TV. The thing is, as a writer, my mind is always not far away from what I’m writing. Sometimes a trip to the gym or the store is exactly what’s needed to keep the potboiler in my head boiling.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      I believe the only “this is it” we ever get is the present moment. But believing that is easier than living it sometimes. 🙂

  71. You are so on point about this. Of all the wonderful things you have posted on your website, this perhaps is the most important. Enjoy the process of your writing.

  72. David Wendel says:

    Very well said!! Thanks for your insights!! It does take balance!

  73. Awesome post. Good to know you are taking time to live your own story.

  74. Rebecca Hill says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. I think this is a problem in working life generally, not just writing full time. The ability to take stock of where you are and what you’ve achieved is incredibly hard, and it’s too tempting to focus on the next step, the next goal, and feel anxious that you haven’t achieved it yet.

    It’s so important to pause and appreciate what you have. That certainly doesn’t come naturally to me – i’m driven by self-critique which makes me strive to always do better, but that’s at the expense of self-acceptance. It feels conceited to tell yourself ‘good job’ when you achieve a goal so your mind immediately re-focuses on the next one.

    Writing is my hobby, and my mental escape from a stressful legal career. People probably see me as at the top of my game – I probably am, but because i never take a moment, i’m never happy but i always move the goalposts! I guess i just wanted to say your post applies to every kind of job – employed, self-employed, whatever.

    I think it’s really important to evaluate life to see what’s important, and to compartmentalise. I try to live life with non-negotiables, like time with my husband, which i will always give the highest priority. It stops things from running away too far from you!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      I think it is so hard for most of us to live in the present. We’re always moving forward, projecting into the future–and usually worrying about it. It’s almost cliche but no less true for that: the present moment is all we have, and we waste it in obsessing about the future.

  75. I appreciate your transparency. I started feeling pretty burnt out in my writing a couple of years ago and started to pare back on contracts. Then my three-year-old grandson almost died in a horrible accident and spent 2 months in the hospital and 2 months more in rehab, during which time a new grandson was born at under 2 lbs and the shortness of time, and spending it in ways that REALLY mattered came to me in glaring, glorious surrender. That summer, spent almost entirely in hospitals and doing no writing, aside from a round of edits (as I’d literally submitted my last contracted book the day of the accident) was the most precious of my life. In the year since, I’m surprised that I’ve actually written 3 books and enjoyed it! But I more or less gave up blogging and most social media and most of the writer groups email lists. And I rediscovered some of the crafts I used to do a lot. But first and foremost, I daily prioritize being available mentally and physically for my hubby, children and grandchildren and close friends.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      So sorry to hear about your grandchildren. I hope they’re both doing well now. But, yes, it’s amazing how we let life slip away from us during the good times. It takes the bad times to put it all in perspective.

  76. This was a *fantastic* post. I love the fact that you included your personal experiences as well. I think all writers can relate to your story and struggle to stay creative and keep going. Thanks for sharing!

  77. I’ve read a lot of your blog posts, and, in fact, reading your guides to outlining and structure revolutionized my writing life a few years ago and enabled me to accomplish what I needed so that I’m now an indie author. Whenever I get stuck or feel like something isn’t working on my work-in-progress I come back here and read up, which is what led me to your site today.

    This is the first time I’ve ever left a comment here, but I felt like I had to. This post really moved me a lot. As a Christian I have often seen over the years how other Christians are learning the same things I am, just in different ways, and that just speaks to me about God’s faithfulness to teach His children no matter where we are or what we’re doing. He is so good like that.

    Recently this has been an ongoing struggle for me, too. I’m not even successful (yet!), but I recently got a lot of mailing list subscribers through an Instafreebie promo, and suddenly I feel so much pressure I can’t even think straight. And, like I said, it’s not even success! But what it is, for me, is a *taste* of success. A taste of how easy it is for me to fall back into fear of man and people-pleasing instead of focusing on God alone.

    I’ve seen this same theme crop up among other authors, entrepreneurs, and ministries around the web the last few months. It seems to be a common issue among all of us. We’re on the cusp of something huge and God is telling us that we can’t handle what He is about give us until we learn to let it go and just relax at His feet.

    My big problem is that I make things into moral decisions. Instead of thinking, “I want to do this, so I’ll do it,” I think, “I want to do this, but is it ‘right’?” Like, on a day off, I think, “I want to watch a movie.” But then I think, “But is that lazy? Is that irresponsible? Am I squandering my time? I have a million things to do! I can’t afford to spend time watching movies!”

    Then I get all stressed and end up not doing anything at all because I’m worried that I’ll make the wrong decision. Or, sometimes worse, I’ll make big plans and then not even start them because I’m so convinced that I might fail. So what if I fail? Failure is just another form of learning! I know this, but somehow I get paralyzed.

    Like I said, I think it’s probably related to the fact that we’re on the cusp of something big. But, like you so eloquently and personally said, the big things aren’t what matters. Only God can satisfy.

    These verses in the NLT version of Psalm 127:1-2 always both convict me and give me hope:

    Unless the Lord builds a house,
    the work of the builders is wasted.
    Unless the Lord protects a city,
    guarding it with sentries will do no good.

    It is useless for you to work so hard
    from early morning until late at night,
    anxiously working for food to eat;
    for God gives rest to his loved ones.

    The more “successful” we become, the more sentries we add trying to guard what we think we’ve built. But it doesn’t matter. Only God can build something that lasts, and when He does the building all we have to do is rest.

    Anyway. I’m good at saying stuff like that and not so good at living it. But I really, really appreciated the honesty of your post and it was what I needed.

    Thanks for being willing to share your insight with us.

    Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

  78. One of the biggest mistakes we make as humans is to think that BEING flows out of DOING. The truth is that DOING flows out of BEING. And BEING means abiding in the Vine that is Jesus Christ.

    Blessings,

    MaryAnn

  79. Thank you so much for sharing your hard-earned wisdom. I have struggled with perspectives on perfectionism and my writing taking on a feeling of dread rather than joy. The blessings of talent and skill and knowledge slip so easily into the trap of What I Should Be, What I Should Do, What I Should Accomplish. It sucks the joy of creating right out of your life like nothing else! Your writing advice has helped me tremendously, and I sincerely wish you all the joy your writing can bring you.

  80. I’ve always gobbled up everything you’ve ever written but it’s also always been very evident that you write while running on a treadmill while cleaning the house while planning a trip. Whatever you’ve just been through, those moments of clarity are so damn powerful – use them. You so awesome, thanks for this blog post.

  81. I love this post. Thanks so much for sharing and for your honesty.

Trackbacks

  1. […] https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/protect-creativity/ Sometimes in life you have to take a hard look at things, where you’re going, where you’ve been. Success means something different to all of us. This post is about making sure you don’t lose what’s important to you (family, friends, etc.) while in pursuit of the dream. I think we can all learn good lessons from it. I want to be a success, but in truth, I don’t even know what that really means other than having others read my words and feel touched or inspired in some way. […]

  2. […] we can lose our creativity, our reason for writing, and even our health. K.M. Weiland lists 6 lifestyle changes you can make to protect creativity, Jennifer Probst practices writing naked, Benjamin Thomas reminds us that in writing, it is the […]

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