One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.
— Andre Gide
Andre Gide was right about that. I’m trying to discover this new land of being a full-time writer and I’ve definitely lost sight of the shore.
I feel at sea. I feel woozy. I feel like I’m going to hurl.
The first five weeks of being a full-time writer have been good. Some ups, some downs, but mostly ups. But this last week.
Ooh, this last week.
FEAR stepped in and took the wheel and put the pedal to the metal. Sorry to mix my metaphors, but Fear just drove all over the dang place with me in the back seat, holding on for dear life.
I started looking at job postings online. I updated my resume. I updated my LinkedIn profile. I had a long talk with Marcus about the practicalities of me getting a full-time job.
Suddenly, DOUBT was in the passenger seat, directing Fear where to go. How was I going to make it as an author? I can barely get anything written! And even if I do write, it will take me forever to finish my novel. Could I finish it in a year? Yes. But one novel per year is not going to make me any money. I might as well get a job and write on the weekends and still finish one novel per year. I’ll never make it as a full-time writer at the rate I’m going.
I almost had Marcus convinced.
I almost had myself convinced.
That night, I had one of the worst tossing-and-turning, only two hours of fitful sleep nights ever. When I woke up, I realized that I was being foolish. And ridiculous. And just plain scared.
I was not going to get a job. I was going to stick to my original plan and be a full-time writer for a year and then assess at the end of the year. No matter how awful it got, and how paralyzing the fear, I was going to just feel it and write anyway.
Added to this is my feeling that I’m squandering the privilege of being able to be a full-time writer. That’s when SELF-LOATHING came in (if you’re wondering when that part of the blog title was going to pop up) and sat down next to me. Are you crazy?! There are people who would give their first-born child to have the opportunity that you have! You don’t deserve to be a full-time writer! You don’t deserve to be a writer!
When I stopped hating on myself, I finally realized that a big part of my problem was that my days were not balanced for my personality.
Over time, I’m feeling more and more isolated, purposeless, and useless. When I was working as a law school admissions consultant, 7-8 months of the year I had regular client work, phone calls, and Skype meetings. Not only did this keep me busy, but it also kept my extroverted side happy and I felt I had a purpose. Then, after the busy application season, I’d write like mad during my down time, after my clients had applied to their schools. It’s been this way for five and a half years.
But in the last few weeks, I’ve had just a few client emails per week and perhaps one call every two weeks. Instead, I’ve been doing mostly all introverted stuff: reading, researching, writing, and basically working silently at a computer (I need a quiet space to write). I need to figure out a way to do different activities during the day that balance my extroverted side and my introverted side (I’m near the middle of E and I when it comes to the MBTI), and also my need to be of service to people.
After describing my dilemma, my friend Brenda explained that it’s normal to feel this way since I am an encourager, a teacher, and if I’m suddenly not doing that anymore, it would feel like a loss. She said it’s like when all the kids move out of the house and the mom is left at home with an empty nest. I never thought it that way. I’ve been wanting more time to write for so long. So long! But yes, that’s how it feels. I feel like an empty-nester.
I need to figure out ways every day where I can still encourage and support people because it’s something that I love to do, while still reserving enough time for my writing.
So, lots of revelations this week. Do I feel better?
Yes, for about five minutes. And then I don’t anymore.
I’m still at sea. Still woozy. Still very scared.
Haven’t done hardly any writing in a week.
But I haven’t jumped ship. I’m still sailing. And I still have many miles to go.
Peg Cheng is the author of The Contenders, a middle-grade novel centered on the question, can enemies become friends? She is also the founder of Prelaw Guru, a law school application consulting company, and the author of The No B.S. Guides for prelaw students.
Please, no more self-loathing, Peg! Doubt and fear, yes. Those are a natural part of an adventurous journey into the unknown. They help us make decisions and see obstacles that we would blithely ignore if we had no fear.
Peg Cheng says
Thanks, Mary! You make a good point. I’ll try to tell Self-Loathing to stop getting in the car. I’m also working on telling Doubt and Fear to get in the back seat when I start driving.
Your friend Brenda said it perfectly! Now that my kid is in middle school, I’ve been spinning my wheels and also listening to fear and doubt. I think it’s great you’re still planning to move ahead with your original plan!
Peg Cheng says
So great to hear from you, Alisa! Thanks for writing in and for letting me know that you can relate. It’s a very discombobulating feeling this whole empty nest, fear and doubt stage. Thank you for your words of support. 🙂