You Do the Type of Work You Practice

When I was in high school, I began working as a church organist and choral accompanist. This meant that I needed to prep a full set of hymns and preludes and offertories and choral anthems and all the rest of it, every week — and some of the music would be selected for me, but some of it I’d need to find (or, in some cases, compose) myself.

I’ve been thinking lately about how well that work prepared me for my current career.

Because freelance writing is, at its core, exactly the same: I need to work quickly, to a specific audience, and to spec; I need to either follow prompts and outlines given to me or pitch and create my own; I need to know how to get something to good as fast as possible and then get on to the next assignment, because there is always another deadline to meet.

I spent five years as a church organist; four in high school and one in college. And then, in college, my piano teacher told me that I would never be a concert pianist. This wasn’t something that I necessarily wanted to become, which was why I was okay with her telling me this. Honestly, it was kind of a relief; my teacher said I should stop taking piano lessons, because there wasn’t anything left she could teach me, but the music department would be happy to have me continue to accompany the choirs and voice students.

Which is what I did.

And, again, it was excellent practice for what I’m doing now.

(Pun intended.)

And I’ve been doing more accompanying lately, with this choir that I’ve been singing in, and because of that I’ve started brushing up on all of the piano technique I neglected — because when your piano teacher says you’ll never be a concert pianist and you should stop taking lessons, you also decide that you’re going to stop playing all of those scales and arpeggios, and a couple decades later your choral director gives you a four-hand piece that requires you to play a chromatic scale while the other accompanist plays a glissando, and you’re all well, I guess I’d better remind myself how scales go.

And all of that’s coming back to me very quickly, because I did all of that technique stuff essentially every day for sixteen years.

But the other thing I’ve been thinking about is whether all of this quickness, for lack of a better term, is getting in the way of what you might call artistry.

Except Biographies was art. I’m sure of it. Of course, I worked on it for ten years before I actually wrote it. And then when I finally found the key to writing it*, it came out good and fast in a near-perfect first draft because I had the training to do it that way.

Because, in the end, we do the type of work we practice — and that work sets us up for whatever work we do next.

So… not to put too tidy of a button on it… make sure that whatever you’re practicing is preparing you for what you really want to do. ❤️

***

*The key to writing The Biographies of Ordinary People — the reason I was finally able to write a version of the story that took, instead of all the drafts I started and abandoned — was adding the character of Jackie. Once there was a third sister involved, it was no longer a direct analogue for my family and my childhood and it could become something new.

On the Secret Music and Math I Tuck Into Most of My Writing

All right, you asked about “the secret music and math I tuck into most of my writing even though I know most readers won’t know it’s there,” soooooo…

Well, with The Biographies of Ordinary People the music was obvious. I literally gave you every piece the Gruber sisters played or sang or listened to, and tried to give you enough context to understand the story even if you didn’t know the music (though I secretly hoped you’d listen to at least some of it on your own, and if you were part of my Patreon when I was drafting the book I gave you an actual playlist).

The math was less obvious, though it was also right in front of you if you knew to look for it.

The story begins on Rosemary Gruber’s 35th birthday and ends on Meredith Gruber’s 35th birthday.

There are four parts, each with 35 chapters.

Part 1 covers three years (1989–1992); then we skip five years.

Part 2 covers three years (1997–2000); then we skip four years.

Part 3 covers five years (2004–2009). It was only supposed to cover four, both halves of Biographies Vol. 2 were supposed to cover four years each, but I really wanted the three Gruber sisters to meet up at the Obama inauguration, which I mistakenly entered as “January 2008” in my initial outline. (When I realized it had really taken place during January 2009, I thought about making the inauguration its own little section, so I could keep the two parts at exactly four years each. Then I decided nobody would care about it but me.)

Then we skip three years.

Part 4 covers four years (2012–2016).

YES I KNOW THAT’S NOT “MATH MATH”

IT’S JUST NUMBERS

But that’s what I do when I make stuff (writing or, in my previous career, songs). There’s always some kind of scaffolding holding the thing together — go read the author’s note at the end of Frugal and the Beast if you want to see how I constructed each of the stories in that collection, for example.

Now let’s go even deeper.

I read everything I write aloud. In fact, I say most of it aloud before I ever put it on the page. Say it to yourself, if you want:

The last night before they left was Rosemary Gruber’s thirty-fifth birthday.

It’s in 4/4 time.

“Rosemary Gruber” has the same number of syllables, and the same stresses, as “thirty-fifth birthday.”

I took a first-page critique class while I was drafting the novel, and one of the other students helpfully suggested that the opening sentence would be tighter if it were “The night before they left was Rosemary Gruber’s thirty-fifth birthday.”

I’m not going for tight. I’m going for a line that you can speak as though it were a song. So it has to be last, to keep the rhythm of the sentence and the assonance with left.

Next we have “It had, of course, been her birthday since the morning, and the girls had duly remembered to call out ‘Happy birthday, mommy!’ when they came out of the bedroom.”

It had

Of course

Been her birthday

Since the morning

You see the rhythm, don’t you? It’s right there. The words couldn’t be anything but what they were, or it would spoil it.

And the GIRLS had DU-ly re-MEM-bered to CALL out. Read it aloud. Read the whole thing aloud. You’ll hear it.

And that, my dear readers, is the secret music.

Are you glad you asked? ❤️

When Your Guilt Is Actually Imposter Syndrome

So I was thinking about my first post on feeling guilty about the life you’ve built for yourself, and I hopped over to artist Lucy Bellwood’s Twitter (@lubellwoo) to see if she’d written anything about that recently—since Lucy describes herself as a “Curious Empathy Machine” and is extraordinarily emotionally intelligent—and I noticed one of her tweets was about imposter syndrome, and I was all wait, is that what I’m actually trying to describe here?

Because, as you noted in yesterday’s comments, it’s odd to feel guilty about your own success, even in my re-definition of the word “guilt” as “I made choices in support of my goals and values but I still feel bad.

But that feeling runs fairly close to Google’s definition of imposter syndrome, specifically “the persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills.”

(I always get imposter syndrome confused with “feeling like you’ll get kicked out of your job because you don’t think you really belong there.”)

I can definitely believe that my success has been legitimately achieved—I was there for the past seven years, putting in the work, moving from the roommate situation where I slept on the floor (because my room wasn’t large enough for a bed) to the apartment where I washed my dishes in a bus tub and dumped the dishwater into the toilet (because my studio wasn’t large enough for a kitchen). I got myself into $14K of credit card debt because I wasn’t making enough money, and then I got out of debt when I was.

But whether I deserve my current life is another question. That might be the feeling we’re all poking at here.

I don’t know about you, but I think part of the “do I deserve this” question derives from the decade-plus I spent after college living on so much less. I used to be a telemarketer. I used to be on food stamps. I used to live in an apartment where, as noted above, I literally had to dump my dishwater into the toilet. If I’d always had my current level of agency and comfort, not to mention financial stability, I might not worry about it as much. It might seem “normal.”

The other part of the “do I deserve this” question is “how can I use what I have to help other people?” I’ve tried to frame this question in the context of becoming an active part of my community; I’m currently on the board of an arts organization, I try to shop locally and tip well, I donate to local causes, etc. etc. etc. I’m going to help fund a scholarship for local musicians. That kind of thing.

I mean, when I think about it I’m all “I want to become one of those eccentric older women who lives in a modest but comfortable home and bikes everywhere and knows everyone and always shows up to the annual symphony donor gala and the opera fundraiser and helps break ground for the new school and all the rest of it.”

And really, I’m at least 10 percent of the way there now. (I already have the bike!) Yes, I’m choosing to focus on the problems I can help solve today—e.g. can I help a specific individual get a specific educational opportunity—instead of going after the bigger systemic stuff, and maybe that’ll change in the future, but maybe it’s fine to keep the majority of my giving back within my community.

But that brings me back around to is it okay to work towards the life you want?

Obviously, it seems it should be.

But enough of us feel impostery or guilty or unclear about what we should do when we get the life we want that it has to be addressed, you know?

Especially if our lives are different from what they were before, or different from what society/culture says they should be.

(Even though in my case, “quirky single woman who helps fund local organizations and scholarships” is very much the societal stereotype. There’s already a place in this world for people like me.)

Soooooooo that’s where I am with all of that. What about you? ❤️

When You Feel Guilty About the Life You’ve Built for Yourself

Sooooooooooo okay, I kinda mentioned last week that I should do a post about money and careers and guilt and shame, and you kinda said you’d want to see a post about that, soooooooooooo here we go.

I didn’t start asking myself whether I should feel guilty about the life I’d built for myself until I bought my piano. Prior to that, my work life didn’t include anything uniquely outstanding; I worked from home, but so do a lot of people. I earned $68K in business income minus loss, but so do a lot of people. Sometimes I took 30 minutes at lunch to walk the trail next to the river, but I’ve been doing that kind of thing ever since I got my first office job, and while there’s privilege in being able to go for a walk during your lunch break, it’s a privilege that’s available to a lot of people.

And then I got a piano, and I began using that piano as a way to refresh my mind between freelance pieces, or to hammer out an idea while I banged at the keys.

And that is a privilege most people can’t access during the workday.

So should I feel guilty about it?

And if I do, what should I do about it?

Let’s take a moment to clarify the difference between guilt and shame. Brené Brown, who seems to be the expert on these kinds of things, defines guilt as “I did something bad” and shame as “I am bad.” When I started to search for words to describe what I was thinking and feeling so I could write this post for you, I was thinking of guilt as “I lived according to my values, yet I feel bad” and shame as “I went against my values and I feel bad.”

Because there needs to be a word for “I lived according to my values, yet I feel bad,” as well as “I lived according to my values, and people were hurt, so I feel bad even though I know I did the right thing.”

(Is there a word for that?)

For example: shutting down The Billfold was a for-sure instance of “I lived according to my values, and people were hurt (or at least disappointed), so I feel bad even though I know I did the right thing (for me).”

Is the word to describe that feeling guilt?

What about the feeling you get when you set a boundary with someone and you know they are hurt/disappointed/angry/frustrated with you and yet you know the boundary had to be set and yet you feel terrible?

Or, to bring it back around to where I started: how do you describe the feeling, much less deal with it, of having shaped the life you wanted for yourself while knowing that not everybody can shape the life they want?

And then you have to interrogate whether that’s really true, because there are certain philosophical theories that suggest we always do what we want, even when “what we want” means “choosing the better of two bad options.” (As you might remember from my review of The Courage to Be Disliked, this extends to behaviors that we outwardly claim we did not want to do, whether that’s yelling at a waiter or ignoring that boundary we told ourselves we’d set. The desire to yell was stronger than the desire not to yell, etc. etc. etc.)

But if you head down that path you end up with “people put themselves into their own bad situations,” and that is demonstrably not true (hello, systemic inequality) so I’m just going to step aside from that whole discussion and go back to the question I’m currently trying to address:

Should I feel “guilty,” where “guilt” is a stand-in for a word that means “I lived according to my values and yet I feel bad,” because I have built a life that I really like, and, like, not everybody gets to do that?

We could also ask, because it’s fair to ask this question at this point in the piece, whether this is an indication that my values themselves are suspect. If I lived according to my values and I feel bad, does that mean my values should change?

Well… I mean, I feel like I’ve been refining and maturing my values as I continue to grow, and I’ve begun to adjust some of my values accordingly (“independence from parents” shifting towards “integration with parents,” for example).

So, with the understanding that I may want to change my current set of values in the future, I am currently fine with them.

Because, once again, this feeling of “guilt” is different from the way I feel when I do something that goes against my values.

For example: early in my freelance career I took a gig from a client whose work went against my values. I did not know the work went against my values when I accepted the gig (it was one of those early-career content mill things where you wrote unbylined copy to spec for pennies a word and allowed the client to use the copy however they wanted) and it took me a while to figure out where my assignments were ending up.

I don’t feel shame for accepting the gig or writing the first handful of assignments for this client. I feel deep, deep shame for continuing to work with the client for five months after I realized that they were paying me to write scammy SEO posts to help promote junky products and services.

To my credit, I spent much of that time asking friends whether I should quit (and they said no, but we were all in the “crappy jobs” period of our lives so this didn’t seem too different from the rest of the workplace); I also spent a fair amount of time trying to decide whether I was just being an idealistic Millennial (because that was when they were writing articles about idealistic Millennials trying to tell established companies how offices should be run). This was literally my second freelance gig ever; was I right to feel weird about it, or did I not understand how the industry worked?

To my discredit, one of the reasons I kept working that gig was because I needed/wanted the money. However, I quit the gig the minute it went from “against my values” to “so overwhelmingly against my values it could no longer be ignored,” without anything lined up to replace it. Then I gave myself the assignment of paying back everything I had earned from that client, in a combination of charitable donations and volunteer hours (because I wasn’t earning gobs of money yet and I still needed to pay my rent), and I did it.

And yet I still feel deep, overwhelming shame every time I think about the time I spent writing for that client. Even though I learned from it, did everything I could to pay back what I’d earned from it, regularly teach other freelancers how to avoid those kinds of gigs, and have never taken an assignment that has gone against my values since.

So that’s the difference between guilt—or this feeling that isn’t exactly “guilt” but I don’t have a word for yet—and shame, at least to me.

Guilt asks me to interrogate my decisions, my boundaries, my obligations to others, and the choices I want to make going forward.

Shame asks me to once again convince myself that I’m not really a terrible person, even though I probably am, because I’ll never be able to undo that mistake.

If you feel shame about your current life or career, that’s worth addressing immediately (please don’t spend five months asking yourself if you should ignore your bad feelings about the whole thing, it will only make the shame worse in the end).

But if you feel guilt, or something akin to guilt, because you have put together a life that’s personally and/or creatively satisfying and fits your current set of values… what do you do then?

Let’s continue this discussion tomorrow. ❤️

How to Work Creatively on Family Trips and Vacations

Laura Leavitt is a writer, editor, and teacher in Ohio; she has a pet gecko and likes a good game of Ultimate Frisbee on occasion.

When I went full-time freelance, I assumed that one of the benefits of freelancing would be the ability to spend more time visiting extended family and friends, since I could just “work from wherever.” In reality, working while simultaneously visiting family is… more complicated than I thought.

I’ve heard great things about working while traveling and living that digital nomad life, but it hasn’t worked out so well for my own trips and vacations. I’ve had to figure out when to fit work in and when to just take the day off, even if it hurts my payday. A lot of this effort has to do with figuring out my rhythms, so it may not be the same for you as a creative worker, but finding your own rhythms is probably a skill that you’ll be able to put into practice as well.

Experiment 1: Staying with family and working

My first effort involved visiting my in-laws for a four-day trip, assuming I’d find time to work. I was wildly unrealistic, telling myself, I’ll be able to wake up at 6 a.m., work for two or three hours, and then join the rest of the family for a long and exciting day of family togetherness.

There are many reasons why this didn’t work:

  • This family stays up late. I failed to account for the fact that I’d have to peace out to sleep before the card games and campfire stories really got going. I don’t need to shut the party down every night, but I also didn’t want to be the person who left early to go to bed; it looks too much like I’m sick or unhappy or something.
  • I don’t really want to get up before 6 a.m. and make coffee and start working instantly; I don’t even do this at home. I have managed it a couple of times while traveling (including on this trip) because of deadlines that I couldn’t change, but it wasn’t a smart move. It certainly didn’t help me get into a creative groove.
  • Even if I did wake up early, I wouldn’t get that much quiet time before the rest of the household got up; this family somehow wakes between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. even after a big night, so I would have very little private time for writing even if I stuck to my schedule. 
  • By making these unrealistic demands on my time, I got impatient and frustrated with every aspect of the rest of the day. This was arguably the worst result: when my family took understandable amounts of time to decide what to do, or ended up lazing around for an afternoon rather than making an ambitious plan, I couldn’t enjoy it with them because I felt “behind” in my work, and all I wanted to do was find a corner where I could work in peace. This was an awful feeling and made me feel like a workaholic… which I was being.

I resolved to do better, but I also accepted a truth for these kinds of trips: I can wake up 30 minutes early or whatever amount of time I need to finish last-minute deadlines, but otherwise, when staying in people’s homes and being offered time to spend with them, I am going to accept that this time is fully allocated for togetherness.

Experiment 2: Staying in a hotel near family and working

We just had a family reunion with a group of relatives that we don’t see that often. Due to the large number of people coming, many of us stayed at a hotel a short drive away from the relatives who were hosting, giving us our own private spaces in addition to the common spaces we shared for most of our meals, game playing, and chat. This trip went so much better than the previous family vacation, partially because I tried not to have super high expectations for how much I was going to work each morning (I aimed for 90 minutes, not three hours), but also because I built a structure that worked for me. 

Here’s how it went:

  • This side of the family had many more young children, so when the parents of the group decided to turn in, I eased myself out of the group early as well. I slept more and better, because I’m just fundamentally not a night owl.
  • I woke early (between 6 and 7 a.m. each day) but didn’t rush anything: if I wanted to go for a swim first, I did that, but if I had a good creative idea first, I did that. I let my husband sleep in and I never made plans with the family until after 10 a.m. 
  • This way, I got at least my 90 minutes of work in during my best brain-hours of the day, but I didn’t pressure myself (while on vacation!) to wake up and instantly work.

While I cannot always stay in a hotel or a separate space from family, it made me realize that if I want to get work done while I’m on a trip, I need my own space. Ideally, this space needs to be completely separate from the family gathering, so I don’t feel like I’m making the whole event “less fun” by sneaking away to work on my laptop.

Experiment 3: Visiting a new city with a friend and working

I also recently took a vacation that was peak vacation/work. My friend and I were on the same page: we wanted to see a new city but we also wanted to make a big dent in big creative projects we were working on. We booked a cheap apartment rental for a week, flew to Austin, Texas, and bought groceries to cook together to keep the costs down. Here’s how we made the trip serve both our work and our vacation goals:

  • We figured out our priorities together: what would make this most relaxing for each of us would be waking up at our own pace, exercising, writing for a block in the morning and a block in the afternoon, eating fresh food, and going to see something inspiring/interesting/creative every day. 
  • We aimed to have around four hours per day devoted to writing, but the rest of the time we went for walks, tried every kind of taco we could find, talked about our projects, watched movies, and went to art museums and local theater performances. 
  • It ended up being a very inexpensive vacation, but four hours a day of work felt great, not like a sacrifice: we’d both chosen to work on our least monetized projects, which meant we were really making a dent in work we otherwise rarely got time to prioritize.

This was my first experience that really felt like being a “digital nomad,” and it was really fun and freeing. While I cannot necessarily implement this method of combining work and play on family trips, it made me realize that, if given the opportunity to exercise my creativity while also seeing new things, I really enjoy balancing work and vacation this way.

All in all, I still have things to learn about avoiding being a workaholic, but I think that you can still prioritize your creative work during trips and vacations if you know what you value, realistically estimate your own bandwidth, and take advantage of having your own space. Knowing how to fit in work during a trip can also help you keep your freelancing goals on track, especially during those times where a family visit is more of a necessity than a vacation. You can’t always “work from wherever,” but you can learn how to turn “wherever” into a place where you can get work done.

Read Laura’s previous guest post on how volunteering helps her creative practice.

How to Earn Passive Income Through Self-Publishing

I could literally sum this up in one sentence: publish a book that people want to buy.

Of course, most financial stuff could be summed up in a single sentence.

Don’t spend more than you earn.*

Look for ways to increase your income.

Invest your extra earnings in something that is likely to increase in value over time.

A self-published book, in most cases, will not increase in value over time. There’ll be a spike of sales in the first few months, followed by a slow decline. (My most recent monthly Amazon royalty payment was for $6.51, for example. Last July, when I released the second volume of The Biographies of Ordinary People, my monthly ebook royalties hit $203.84.)

However, a self-publishing career might increase in value over time. As you build your readership over subsequent books, each individual book is likely to generate more sales—both at the time of publication and afterwards, as new readers catch up on your back catalog.

There is no guarantee that you’ll be able to build the type of self-publishing career that generates a sustainable passive income stream, so don’t go into self-publishing just because you want to make money. As I teach in my self-publishing classes, there are many ways to define self-publishing success, most of which are a lot easier to achieve than a passive income stream.

If your definition of “self-publishing success” equals “building a readership, going on book tour, seeing your book in bookstores and libraries, and winning awards,” well… all of that is a lot easier to achieve than developing a passive income stream of any significance. You’ll still sell books, and you can even earn back your expenses if you’re thoughtful with your budget, but you’ll find yourself in a situation where you earn, like, $5,000 in royalties in Year 1 and $500 in Year 2.

Yes, that $500 is technically passive income because you didn’t have to work for it (you already published the book and did the marketing, and at this point you’re getting paid whenever someone finds you online and decides your book looks interesting), but you can’t live on $500 a year.

So you have to write another book.

(Really, for most authors, it’s “you get to write another book.” The writing is the fun part!)

A publishing career, whether you work with a publishing house or become your own publisher, is a long-game endeavor. You get big chunks of money all at once and then little dribbles of money here and there, and in an ideal situation you’d release enough books to keep bringing in occasional big chunks of money while simultaneously earning passive income from all the little dribbles of money.

However, this system doesn’t work out for everyone. If you’re not writing books that people want to read (see the opening sentence of this blog post) you won’t build the readership that turns the long game into a sustainable passive income stream.

Sure, you can write a book that a small subset of people want to read. I’ve done it, and it can be a very satisfying process. Getting the right book into the right hands is always worthwhile.

But if you’re trying to maximize your income while also standing out from all the other writers trying to do the same thing, well… you can either hope you’ve got the kind of book that’ll appeal to a wide range of readers and that you get lucky enough to release the book at the right moment for it to become a bestseller (e.g. Andy Weir publishing The Martian), or you can focus on building your online presence first and then publish your book after you’ve become well-known for being yourself (e.g. insert your favorite celebrity/influencer here), or you can focus on a narrow segment of the long tail and publish hyper-focused genre fiction like “older woman younger man humorous romance where the younger man has a really cute dog.”

Ugh, that sounds discouraging, right?

Here’s the secret.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO MIN-MAX YOUR ART.

In other words: the odds of you successfully reverse-engineering a bestseller are so small that you might as well write what you want.

(Especially in the early stages of your career, when you don’t have enough of an audience to know the type of book they’re hoping you write next.)

Yes, it’s nice if what you want to write lines up with what someone else wants to read.

Yes, it’s worth learning how to build an audience and how to make money from your creative work (luckily, I have posts on that here, here, and here).

Yes, it’s also a good idea to structure your budget in a way that allows you to make a profit on every book you self-publish, though I haven’t been able to do that for every book I’ve published and I do this kind of thing for a living.

But it isn’t the only thing I do for a living, which is one of the reasons why I’m able to keep doing it. This isn’t just a self-publishing thing, btw; the majority of traditionally published authors have additional income streams as well.

So go after that self-publishing passive income if you want, but try not to focus on how much passive income you’re likely to earn from your first few books. Instead, think of the money you put into your self-publishing career as an investment—not just in your bottom line, but also in yourself and your readers—that might increase in value in the future. ❤️

*Don’t spend more than you earn is actually a terrible financial platitude. It really should be more like “don’t spend more than you earn UNLESS you need to go into debt to survive OR that debt will help you earn more in the future OR this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can pay off with future earnings OR other valid reasons that I haven’t thought of.”

What I’ve Learned From #1000WordsofSummer (So Far)

The most interesting aspect of Jami Attenberg’s #1000WordsofSummer project, in which writers are invited to write 1000 words every day for two weeks, is the way it immediately quantifies how long 1000 words takes.

For me, it’s 90 minutes minimum.

That’s if I want 1000 words of any caliber, and over the past few days, I’ve watched the words in my NEXT BOOK draft decrease in caliber somewhat.

Here’s an example of the kind of draft I write when I take my time:

Robin had taken a step forward and Ellen had stopped walking and now they stood, nearly eye-to-eye, Ellen a few inches taller.

Here’s an example of the kind of draft I write when I want to hit a fixed word count and have a limited amount of time in which to do it:

“Ellen!” he said. “What a pleasure!” He rushed to her; she had still not moved.

It’s the same character and the same action (Robin is moving towards Ellen, who is standing still for METAPHORICAL AND THEMATIC REASONS), but the #1000WordsofSummer version feels weaker. Thinner. Rushed, to borrow the word I already used.

And sure, I could go back and rework it all, and I’ll probably have to, but one thing I’ve learned about myself as a writer is that I’m not that much of a rewriter. I do a lot of the prep work in my head and in a separate notes document, and then I put it all together on the page.

Plus, my freelancing work has taught me that whatever I write is probably going to be published as-is, for the whole world to see, in, like, an hour—so I’ve learned how to churn out publication-ready drafts.

The stuff I’m writing now is not publication-ready. I’m tempted to give up on the word count goal so I won’t have to rework everything later, but I’m also tempted to just keep following the #1000WordsofSummer plan for the next 10 days, because it only lasts until July 1, and see what happens.

Because… why not? Maybe I’ll learn something new. ❤️


One More Thought on The Hustle

Look, I’m not saying I agree with Danielle Steel, but this is an interesting piece of synchronicity:

Steel struggles with the idea of burnout culture, the “millennial affliction” of being completely exhausted by work and the world. She recounts a conversation with her son and his partner; both are in their twenties. Her son told her that he never works past a certain time at the office, a model of that elusive work-life balance. Steel balks. “They expect to have a nice time,” she says. “And pardon me, but I think your twenties and a good part of your thirties are about working hard so that you have a better quality of life later on. I mean, I never expected that quality of life at 25. I had three jobs at the same time, and after work I wrote. Now it’s a promise that it’s all going to be fun.”

Read the full article at Glamour, just because it’s great (Danielle Steel writes at a desk shaped like giant Danielle Steel books, for starters), and then… um… think about how that quote ties in to everything else I’ve published this week:

Brandon Stanton’s thoughts on when to hustle and when to ease up

My review of Juliet’s School of Possibilities (and its reference to my review of Cal Newport’s So Good They Can’t Ignore You)

Em Burfitt’s guest post on why she likes writing for content mills (for now)

There does seem to be an unexpected theme here, even though I am also very very very very in favor of work-life balance. You hustle better if you give yourself time to rest between sprints, after all. ❤️

When to Ease Up on the Hustle

I don’t know if you saw this tweet or not, but I’ve been thinking about it all weekend:

The screencapped text is from Brandon Stanton’s Patreon, and I will admit that I feel a little weird about sharing text he originally reserved for Patreon subscribers (and did not elect to tweet himself, as you’ll notice), but maybe more people will subscribe after seeing the tweet? Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself?

Anyway, if you don’t want to read tiny print, here’s the important part:

I think for every successful artist and entrepreneur, a good portion of their psychology remains anchored in the early days. When nothing was working. When nobody cared. When nobody was paying attention. When it felt like you were in a giant hole and the only way out was to work harder, and harder, and harder. And you were always scared that you were going to fail, unless you stay focused. And don’t stop. Don’t ever stop. Then suddenly it’s ten years later, and somehow you’ve made it. But you feel like the only reason you made it is because you didn’t stop. And you must keep going. Because there’s an hour of daylight left. And you can still fit in one more interview…

But you shouldn’t.

Because things are different now.

Things are definitely “different now” for me. I’m not worried about whether I can pay my rent this month, or whether I’ll be able to build a career and a reputation as a writer. On the other hand, I’m nowhere near the point where I can afford to go without continuous paying work—and I’m smart enough to know that if I want to keep booking work a year from now or two years from now, I need to keep building my skills and portfolio and network and readership.

So in my case, it’s figuring out the balance between not hustling every second and not letting my hustle slide to the point where I’m not growing.

I am very sure I haven’t found that balance yet.

What about you? ❤️