This week I finished book #8 of 10 for 2017. And it seemed like a really good point to talk openly and honestly about health–physical and mental–how it fits into doing this Indie writing gig as a profession, and what it means to work your ass off, but still take care of yourself.
Let me start by saying that when I embarked on my “10 books in 12 months” endeavor, I had very specific reasons for doing so (see blog here). I have never advocated writing that fast is necessary, nor that people who don’t can’t have a great career. I feel very strongly there is no one right or wrong pace at which to write your books. What I do advocate is you produce work regularly, consistently, and with an eye to the demands of your genre and your life.
No matter what your production ends up looking like, however, your health has to be part of the equation. If you’re destroying your health to produce work, STOP IT. Seriously, just stop it. No job is worth that, no passion is worth that, no amount of money is worth that. The first thing to remember is you have to take time to move, you can not sit at a computer all damn day or all damn night. We’ve all taken the “butt in chair” thing a little too much to heart. I’m not a doctor, so I can’t tell you how much to move, but you’re all smart cookies, figure it out. Stand up, take walks, ride bikes, go on runs, whatever it takes.
The second no brainer is: pay attention to what you eat. With this most recent book I changed how I’ve been eating. I went low carb, and especially during the work day when I was pounding out the words. Everyone’s bodies are different, but wow, what a difference this made for me. My energy levels were much steadier, I was able to get the words out easier, I had less struggle over it all. The entire process was completely different from the last couple of books where my diet consisted of a lot of rice, beans, and Pad Thai. ALL CARBS all the time was not the way to go for me.
Now we get to the harder part of this equation: the mental health portion. Let’s be honest, writers are kind of an emotional mess to begin with. We’re introverts and empaths, it’s what gives us the ability to observe, record, and imagine. It’s also what makes us super sensitive and frankly a little melodramatic. We often can’t help ourselves–we often don’t feel so hot on the inside. And we all have those days when we open up social media or a rejection from BookBub or a note from an editor and feel really fucking horrible. The struggle to succeed in this business can truly make you crazy. It can become an obsession, it can control your self-worth, and it can mentally break you if you’re not careful.
I’m writing these posts to encourage and maybe mentor you guys, so it’s only fair that I be honest about certain things. One of which is that I’m at a point where I’m reevaluating what I’m after in all of this. I’ve spent nearly five years pursuing this full time. My goal has always been to earn six figures, and honestly, I’ve never gotten more than halfway to that. The industry has only gotten harder, and continues to do so, and that’s one reason why I have never said I’m going to show you how to earn a ton of money. I’m going to show you how to be a professional. I believe all of you can earn something respectable and have a business that turns a profit, but I’d be really dishonest if I said I can teach you how to become a six figure author, because I haven’t been able to myself.
So that leaves me at a place where I can continue to thrash around trying to achieve this elusive goal, or I can reevaluate. I’ve achieved a lot: I have loyal readers, I have a nice sized backlist, I have won some awards, I have made some friends, I have earned some money, I’ve had books in bookstores, and in foreign markets. But I haven’t hit six figures, and I might never.
So what does that mean? I have two choices now: I can continue to obsess over the six figure income, spend all my days in a frenzy worrying about whether I’ve missed some trick, some ad, some networking opportunity that might catapult me to $100k. OR, I can reevaluate, and decide what’s essential to me in this profession. Why ELSE am I here? What do I want to get out of this other than the six figures and how do I get those things?
Choice number one is not good for my mental health. And part of being a functioning professional is recognizing and learning what keeps you healthy and what doesn’t. You have to become aware of your mental state and take care of that shit. Facebook driving you nuts? Get the hell off. Reading reviews makes you sick? Don’t read them! Writing more than two books a year causes anxiety? There’s your production answer.
And chasing income is making me nuts. So I’m going to stop. Yes, you have to be relentless in this profession, and yes it’s those who never give up who make it, but that shouldn’t mean at the risk of your sanity. So, does this mean I’ll stop writing so many books? Not yet. I actually have ten more planned for next year BUT it means I’m going to write the ones that excite me most, not the ones I think will earn me more money. It means I’m going to do this blog and present at conferences because I like talking to writers about the Indie business. It means I’m going to start evaluating things from the perspective of “will I enjoy that, will I learn from that” instead of “will this make me big enough to earn $100k.”
At some point my husband is going to retire, and my family is going to need more income from me. When that happens I might need to get a day job. And that’s not the end of the world. I won’t stop writing, because doing this reevaluation is helping me remember I love this job, so I won’t give it up. It’ll always be my career, no matter how much I earn, but my mental health isn’t up for grabs, no matter what the passion. Make sure yours isn’t either.