Sabotaging Your Career and How Not To
I had an insight this year, one that has really impacted my writing career. Getting depressed was sabotaging my career.
After a rejection I received this past spring, I lost three weeks being depressed, valuable time I needed and had planned for working on a project with a deadline. That was a costly loss. Later I realized I did this a lot. The thought process was: “I-want-to-quit-writing.” I would get really into quitting writing, research good reasons to stop writing, read blogs about people who have quit writing and are happier, spend a lot of time imagining all the freedom I would have if I quit. Then I would start feeling depressed. After the initial rush of all that time I freed up, a feeling of deep disappointment settled in and weighed me down like an anchor. I found it so hard to do anything. A single task that should take 30 minutes would take a week.
All this depression was slowing me down, keeping me from doing what needs to be done. And it was sabotaging my writing career.
Here’s what’s amazing. Once I had that insight, everything changed. Does my depression mechanism still get triggered? You bet it does. When I came back from vacation recently, I struggled with getting back into the groove with writing and related activities. My resistance quickly morphed into the maybe-I-should-quit-writing mechanism but didn’t trigger depression. I mean, once you realize something, it’s hard to go back. Instead of spending a lot of time on that, I listened to what my resistance was telling me: I wasn’t ready to write yet. I wanted a little more vacation. I needed to ease into work again. I remembered in my previous career, it always took me two weeks after vacation to get back into the groove of work. I also now tell myself that I will one day retire from writing, just like I did from work. If I want to quit, then I’ll retire when I’m ready. In the meantime, I’ll make sure I have as much fun as possible.
It’s important to know what’s fun for you. Baking? Lunch with friends? Taking photos? Knitting? Travel? TV? Reading? Do it. It’s called balance.
Gradually I returned to my work routine. And guess what? While I was out having fun, I had two new ideas for books.
I think it’s helpful to recognize career-sabotage behaviors. They are strong reactions, and we need to listen to what those reactions are telling us. Once conscious of what’s driving the behavior, we can address the issue that underlies the behavior in a more productive way. For example, fear of success might drive it. This fear might stem from knowing that you’re going to have to promote your own work, and it’s going to take a lot of time. You’re going to have to go through edits, which will also take a lot of time. How are you going to handle that on top of the day job? This was a big one for me when I was working. I didn’t want more work!
If you take the worry out and examine it in the light of day, you can find ways to address the issue. I realized it was simply that I didn’t want to be published right then while I was working really long hours. There are a lot of other ways too. You can do just the amount of promo you want. If you’re still working, you can hire a marketing person (I never thought of that one when I was working!), you can write one book every two years, there are lots of options.
Or, if fear of failure is your primary anxiety, you can tell yourself to take the long view. It might take six or seven books before you find your audience. You can make peace with that. And it only takes one happy reader to feel really good. You can build up one reader at a time. As long as you enjoy writing, who cares? If you’re pushing yourself hard to make money as a writer, you probably are a go-getter who doesn’t sabotage her career. Why are you reading this? Go forth and conquer! LOL Just try to notice when you’re undermining yourself in some way and take a look at what unaddressed concern might be causing you to do that, then address the issue rationally. Have something else you can tell yourself. just like for me, right now, it’s “When I’m satisfied with the books I’ve written, then I’ll retire from this too and do something different.” Have a comforting alternative thought.
Do you have any career sabotage behaviors and thoughts? Maybe not making the time to write, changing genres all the time, not finishing books, thinking you’re no good? What do you do to keep on keepin’ on?
Thanks to Casi for hosting me today and for launching this great series.
My debut novel is Love Caters All, a humorous contemporary small town romance.