While writing is never an easy undertaking, I’ve been struggling more this year. Focus has been difficult, as has maintaining priorities. “Eyes on the prize” is a mantra I’ve been repeating as I continue to become distracted by other responsibilities and projects and things that Sound Cool but have been stealing my attention and energy. It’s been frustrating to be forced into choosing and being unable to do everything when I’m used to being an ace at my juggling act. But it’s time I accept a truth: when I keep dropping a ball, it’s time to leave the ball on the floor.
Dropping an activity—or even deprioritizing it for a limited time—is difficult for me. I feel the pressure from other people (someone was expecting or looking forward to my contributions!), the pressure from consistency (doing something regularly is more likely to draw and maintain an audience), and the pressure from myself.
Admittedly the pressure from myself is the dumbest reason and the one I should be able to let go of easily, and yet…
I have a lot of expectations regarding what I should be able to do. While that usually matches reality, it sometimes comes with a steep cost (especially when I’m looking at a year of increased mental and emotional burden). I was talking to a friend about a deadline recently and said, “Can I make it? Of course. Because I will literally kill myself before missing deadlines.” Friends, that is not a healthy way to be. Especially if what I’m striving to meet doesn’t have a career, mental, or emotional payoff that will support refueling the inevitable burnout.
One of the reasons I need to step away from some of the things I’ve been doing is because they don’t support my career path and goals. (This is a good starting place if you need to reassess your own responsibilities, by the way.) As I was making a list of what I need to work on for the second half of this year, I realized how many of the things on that list weren’t writing a novel or writing articles for pay or writing workshops. When I started fitting those things in around the other responsibilities, it became obvious what was choking my goals and where I needed to step back.
I’ve already trimmed some responsibilities and am taking a hard look at the other jobs on my to-do list. It’s difficult to say “no” when something sounds cool or fun, or when I can see how it might fit into Alli’s Puzzle of Freelancing & Writing. But I can’t let Cool and Fun outweigh Time, Energy, and Mental Health. It hurts to let go of opportunities in the short term, but in the long term, my future (and my writing life) will thank me for leaving the dropped ball on the floor.
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