Author Diana Pharaoh Francis was kind enough to write the letter below, congratulating me and sharing her experiences and the lessons she’s learned. Taking care of yourself is important advice, and it’s something so many of us routinely forget or neglect. My thanks to Di for the reminder.
Congratulations on leaving the day job and embracing the word-job full time. Scary as it is, it’s a wonderful thing. I’ve been working on what to say to you, and I was embracing the funny, but really, I couldn’t maintain it. This is too important. So let me tell you from the heart some things that I think are important.
As you know, I did this about two years ago. I left a stable tenured job at a university and moved across several states with my family and went full time writer. It was a glorious dream come true. I was over-the-moon excited. This was something I’d been working toward for a long time. Like you, I have a spouse with insurance and a stable income, but I still need to make a certain level of income to get the bills paid. Unfortunately, unlike you, we couldn’t pay off our mortgage (I so envy you that).
At first it was amazing. The kids were in school and I was writing like a fiend. Words tumbled out on the book and I was having a fabulous time. And then came the unexpected. My son developed an illness that turned into a long term illness. It’s lasted now for the better part of two years. I’ve been so grateful to be able to be with him and to have the schedule that lets me go to hospitals and doctors and so on without having to worry about getting time off. On the other hand, it seriously cut into my writing time. It also cut into my creativity. (He is getting better finally. Yay!)
I didn’t realize it was happening to me, but over the months, I began losing motivation and ability to write. I felt tired all the time and I couldn’t think. I had a lot of resistance to writing. It took me time to figure out that this was stress. Perfectly reasonable, but by that time, the stress of not being able to write had added to the stress of everything else and created a terrible feedback loop.
And that’s where I come to my advice. Take care of yourself. You know that means exercise and taking schedule time off from the job, and so on. But I’m here to tell you that one of the most important parts of taking care of yourself is to find a community of writers to hang out with. We do this at cons, but it’s truly important to do this in your real life, too. Maybe it’s online in chatting. Better if you can do it in person. I’ve taken to meeting other writing friends for coffee or breakfast. The conversation is sometimes about writing, but more it’s just talking to people who really get what your life is like. They’ve experienced the same things. There’s something so positive and rejuvenating in that understanding, it can be a lifeline when you’re struggling on any level.
So that’s it. My big advice. Oh, except this one thing, which is actually from Neil Gaiman. Enjoy the ride. It’s lovely and fun and exhausting and difficult and so very amazing. Remember to enjoy it.
All my best,