In the last couple of months, it feels like I have done everything possible to sabotage my writing time. I decided to move. That meant getting my place ready for showings, getting it up on the market, selling it (yay!), and then finding a new place and packing. Every one of these steps takes time: hours and sometimes days. Add on top of that the anxiety that comes with it all, wondering: will my place is going to sell? Will I ever find a place I like? All of those are wonderful things, but also very stressful. For me, when I experience stress, I end up in bed for a couple of days with a migraine. I have spent a lot of time hiding in the dark over the last few months.
All of this time away from my writing has set me way back in the novels and stories I’ve planned to complete this year.
I consider myself undoubtedly privileged to be in a place where I can choose to move. I am able to sell my home, and I am able to afford to buy another. I am ecstatic about the new place. As of the time of writing, I move in exactly four weeks. The move is absolutely a good thing. So why do I consider this self-sabotage?
The move isn’t necessary. I don’t have to move. I’m not being evicted. Where I live is quite nice. It feels like home. There is no reason I had to move right now. I wanted more conveniences, and I decided I wanted them before summer. Certainly the new place will add to my writing life which will pay off in the near future and long term. But it isn’t absolutely necessary.
Did I decide to move to intentionally sabotage my writing? I don’t think so. I think my writing was going so well that I needed to add some excitement in my life. I wanted to make my writing life even better than it is now. I didn’t count on how much work or stress would be involved. Apparently time really does make you forget the worst of things.
Fine. I’ve sabotaged my writing time. How do I get myself back on track and still accomplish all I’ve set out to accomplish, when the last thing I feel like doing is writing?
As it happens, amidst all of this, I had the fantastic crime writer S.G. Wong as a house guest for a few days and we got to talking about this. When I asked her about how she manages her writing time with family and other commitments, and she said it comes down to one thing: commitment.
At first I thought she meant “How committed are you?” which, as a coach, is a question I always ask.
She said that it wasn’t about how committed you are. It isn’t about what you’re willing to give up for your writing. First and foremost, it is about being committed. Keeping the promises you’ve made.
When a book contract is signed, a commitment has been made. If that promise is broken, no payment will be received. That’s the easier one to keep. While we may not have that kind of promise, we still have made writing commitments. I have promised myself that I will submit a story by the end of the month. I have promised my readers that there will be a new book out this summer. I have promised myself (and my readers, even though they don’t know it), that I will have a series of novellas out next year.
I don’t want to let my readers down so I remind myself of that commitment, and I sit down and edit. No. It isn’t always easy to do and there is some procrastination involved, but my writing time is limited. I have to make the most of what I have. I have considered setting aside the short story. After all, it’s only a promise to myself. I could do the same for the novellas, because my readers don’t know about that yet. But I don’t want to let myself down. Not any more. I would be so disappointed in myself if I didn’t submit the story. If I didn’t at least give the novellas an honest chance. I’ve made this promise to myself and I am just as important in this equation as anyone else, so I need to honor myself.
I’ve added the excitement of a move to my life. Now I have to work it into my commitment to myself and my readers.
What about you? What commitments have you made to yourself? To your readers? Are you keeping those commitments or are they falling by the wayside? Is life getting in the way? Or are you self-sabotaging?
I invite you to renew your commitment to your art, and to yourself.