Musings on personal growth, books, motherhood, writing, and more.
In the past year or so, as I’ve worked hard to press nearly every free minute at my day job into the service of my slow-building writing career (luckily my boss doesn’t mind that I write when I don’t have customers or tasks to do), I’ve learned that it’s a bad idea to work only on jobs for clients (via my freelance writing business) and never on my own creative projects. No matter how busy I feel, how many deadlines are looming, I must make time for my own writing—or else my spirit gets first dull (“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”), then weighed down and depressed, and finally bursts out in some inappropriate way—typically a sudden, total immersion into an instant-gratification project (a new blog or website, a self-published book) with complete abandonment of the jobs I’ve committed to—meaning that the excursion, while useful for venting my pent-up creative energy so I feel able to work on dull stuff again, amps up the pressure and stress of looming deadlines. It’s kind of like the cycles of an addict needing a regular fix. But in this case, thankfully, the solution doesn’t have to be abstinence from the thing I crave, but getting more of it more often, ideally every day. In order to stay sane, I need a regular dose of creative, personal writing projects that make me feel fulfilled and stimulated.
I’m still figuring out the right balance and schedule (which is tricky, given that my time is not entirely under my control; at any moment a customer or task could derail my plans)—how to manage my writing time so that my creative spirit gets fed first but doesn’t get so carried away that I abandon my paying work (as is wont to happen…actually, is happening at this very moment).
However, this problem may soon be nearly eliminated, anyway: I’ve decided to back off S.J. Woods Writing, keeping it technically open but not taking on new jobs. So, after I finish one really big job that I’ve been working on for months (ghostwriting a book for a client), and aside from little ongoing jobs I’ll keep doing for my local clients (for example, ghostwriting blog posts for a non-profit organization), the majority of my writing time will be for my own projects (including, among other things, my blogs and a young adult fantasy [dystopian, not dragons] novel series that I’ve been plotting for over a year).
The reason for this decision is that I’m not so desperate anymore to be free from my day job, because I’m feeling a lot better physically. Hooray! The whole reason for S.J. Woods Writing in the first place was to give me hope of an imminent work-from-home situation. But now, I feel like I can hang in there with my day job, while I work on writing my own books that maybe one day will pay the bills instead—but if not, I’ll at least be enjoying life more!
I haven’t said much here about how I’m feeling better. I think I was afraid to jinx it. Also, I’m just so deeply grateful that talking about it feels too emotional. But, I’ll suck it up and tell you: last summer I went off caffeine, and within a few months, I felt like a new person. It turns out that my chronic fatigue all those years was actually chronic migraines: I’d gotten so used to headache pain that I couldn’t feel it until it was gone. And the migraines were triggered by the interlocked combination of caffeine and stress. Even now, if I get stressed, I’ll get headaches; but apparently my two daily cups of black tea had been keeping me in constant, low-grade stress migraines for a decade of my life. I always knew that I was more sensitive to caffeine than those around me; for example, I couldn’t have any caffeine after lunch or I wouldn’t be able to sleep that night. But now I know that I am extremely sensitive to it. I’ve also learned that this tendency runs in my extended family.
For a decade I was convinced that there would be no end to my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Nothing I tried (and everyone had something I should try!) had really helped; I kept telling my mom to stop searching for quick fixes, because there just wasn’t one. I had accepted that I would just have to learn to live with it as best I could, managing it through lifestyle modifications. (I didn’t think I was sick enough to apply for disability, but even going to my easy job was sometimes so hard that I seriously considered it; looking back, I think a less driven person might have been practically bedridden—I was unwise to keep pushing myself when I felt so bad). But one day, as I was secretly still searching on my own for solutions, I thumbed through a library book about migraines and saw a short list of suggested diet changes. For some reason the idea of cutting out caffeine resonated with me, so I tapered off and then went completely herbal with my teas. And, voilà! I felt like a normal person again, with peace and energy I hadn’t felt since I was a young teenager…before I started drinking tea (or soda, coffee, or anything else with caffeine). This is my (non-supernatural) miracle! I am flabbergasted and massively grateful.
In case anyone wondered, I shut down my CFS blog—yes, partly because I don’t have CFS anymore (!), but also because (*admits sheepishly*) I didn’t like how personal some of the stuff I’d written on it was. That’s another thing I’m learning about managing my writer-spirit…I’ve got to respect its needs when it is shy!