Is it Time to Re-Assess Your Writing Habits?

Oct 03, 2018

I recently packed up the office where I'd been working for the past four and a half years. I loved that space. I'd painted it turquoise, filled it with books, rugs, candles, pictures, and plants. I wrote three books to completion during that time, started another and did lots of coaching. There were times when I did not rise from my chair for many hours at a stretch and countless days when I worked more than ten hours without speaking to another human. 

I'm not recommending that approach, though I certainly enjoyed it (most of the time). Previously, I'd been working from home for many years, grabbing time here and there, accepting that my kids shared my work computer, allowing for interruptions. I'd learned to work pretty effectively in snatches (though I always preferred the deep dive method). So when the time came for me to have my own space, and this coincided with my kids no longer needing me every few hours, I grabbed the chance to work hard.

Over time, I got tired of being alone so much. I faced the possibility that all my work might never pay off in the way I'd dreamed and still, I decided to forge ahead. This was not as easy as it may sound.

In the process, however, I realized that I didn't actually want to work so hard any more. I wanted to engage more with people and get out and about more. Less sitting and staring at a screen. More light-heartedness, less angst.

Our optimal work habits change over the years, as do our psychological and physical needs. It's smart to check in with ourselves every now and then to see whether our old habits--based on ideas about how we like to work, how we work best, and what we are striving for--are serving our best interests or not.

Here are some big questions I was asking myself: 

  • Are my old goals still valid? Should I considering changing my goals or abandonning them altogether?
  • Why am I so attached to achieving this one specific goal? 
  • Is being productive necessarily a positive thing? How might I benefit from being less productive?
  • What is missing from my work life?
  • Can I change ingrained bad habits--like getting lost in my work for hours on end and not moving from my chair? How can I best actually DO that (instead of promising to myself to do it)?
  • Am I having enough fun day to day? Do I experience joy?
  • What are some things I could do that scare me, that might also be exciting?

Almost as soon as I decided to keep working but to work a lot less, my life started changing. In a surprising twist, I sold my novel--not just the one book, but two. This not only altered my outlook but also meant there'd be significant---and welcome--changes to my schedule and responsibilities. Cool, I was up for it.

Then, my husband and I decided to start spending winters in Key West, and I let go of my beloved office. As I cleared out all 20 boxes of books and swept up behind me, I considered the hundreds of hours I'd spent in that space writing and I felt an enormouse sense of achievement--even while feeling equally ready to close the door on that lonely intensity. My solitary life in that room was over and that was okay. 

And finally, a job opportunity materialized out of the blue--in an office with colleagues! doing something totally new! something that pays an actual salary and is related to writing! I was offered the job and took it. I never even knew I wanted an "office job..." I'll be biking to work, and running around putting out fires. Movement. People. Change.

My point here? Hard work doesn't always pay off the way you think it will. Hard work is meaningful and powerful, but not necessarily a guarantee of success. Hard work can take on different forms. Life can surprise you in good ways. It's important to be open to shaking things up. 

So now I sit here in Key West, staring at new bookshelves full of my beloved old books, looking out into the brilliant sky, preparing myself for the tsunami of newness coming my way. New repsonsibilities, new colleagues, new office space, new books--it's all a bit intimidating. But I got what I needed--change--and I think it'll do me good. 

What are the changes you need to make in your work life?