A lot of people ask me how I get so much done. And a lot of other people think that I don’t do anything during the day at all, which is pretty funny, honestly. Those people are mostly my surviving relatives.
When I was in seventh grade, I didn’t want to shovel and one of my siblings said I was lazy. They said the same thing when I quit my job at fourteen when I was mugged. It had an impact. But more on them than on me. And that’s one of the reasons why I firmly believe we can never let other people define us. Only we get to define us.
But despite that sibling’s belief about me, I pretty much work from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day at a minimum. Sometimes I don’t stop until 10 p.m. That’s when I teach at the Writing Barn on Tuesdays.
To be fair, I do the Pomodoro method, which helps me survive.
My average week involves:
- reading and editing 1,000 pages of other people’s writing,
- writing about 100-200 pages of feedback for writers,
- writing five poems and posting them on Medium,
- creating 3-4 blog posts here,
- co-hosting, editing, writing two podcasts, even though my voice is the biggest thing I am uptight about thanks to bullying,
- writing about 5,000-10,000 words of my own stories,
- sharing chapters as I write them (on one story in progress) on my Patreon,
- sharing weekday quotes from my dogs and cats on social media,
- deleting a lot of junk mail. 🙂
It can be a lot and I tend to get burned out every November/December. The holidays don’t help because I suffer that ‘mom holiday syndrome’ where I have 8,000 traditions and food and worries. And then I revive and get psyched to do more.
But here’s the truth: I kind of love it.
I don’t like being inactive. I don’t like stopping. And I use my free time (when I have some) to be with the people and animals I love.
It’s all pretty cool. And I’m lucky.
Now it’s time to be brave, get naked, and be real.
I’m so driven because I live a life where I’m currently the primary wage earner, and I am terrified of not being able to support my family, of losing my house, of not being able to feed and clothe everyone.
As the much youngest child (fourteen years), after my stepfather died, my mom raised me alone for most of my life and I remember what it was like to tell bill collectors she wasn’t home, to eat commodity cheese, to feel guilty to need things, to listen to her cry about money, to sell the house my dad built so we could live in one that was cheaper and had less property taxes. She ended up having to sell that one too.
That fear has driven me for a long time. And there was a short time in my adult life when I slept in the car in the winter in coastal Maine because I was too afraid of sleeping with my husband.
Hot tip: Big, furry dogs are good at keeping you warm.
But getting everything done is only partly about my fear. It’s also about habits.
Tim Ferris writes:
“The life you want is built on habits. There’s no way around it. What you do consistently will determine who you become in 5 years. What I’ve realized is the hard part isn’t habits. No.
“The hard part is habit maintenance.
“When tragedy or bullsh*t strikes the temptation to give up your best habits for a day, week, month, or year is tempting.
“The days you don’t want to do your habits are the days you must. The trick isn’t to become a navy seal and develop a mind like a fortress. All you have to do is show up for 15 minutes and reinforce the habit on a bad day.
“Habits maintain the belief of who you seek to become.“
That’s how you become unstoppable. You strip yourself naked, show your fear, face it slowly or in big lumps, do the things you want to do so you can become who you want to be, and keep going and going and going.
But it’s not the only fear that drives me to have those habits and to try so desperately to evolve.
I’m also a little afraid of stopping.
I’m also a little afraid of having people realize how much I actually love writing my own stories, how invested in them I am, how I worry that they will vanish into obscurity, how I worry someday that I won’t get to share those worlds I make up at all.
Fear can lead to paralysis.
I’ve seen that before with my sweet mom, with a lot of friends that I love, and writers that I meet, and I know that I can’t let that fear stop me though, just like I hope you won’t let your fears stop you.
To get what you want, you have to journey into places that you haven’t been before and that can be scary sometimes.
To get what you want, you have to create the habits and do the work and that can be tiring sometimes (and scary too).
To get what you want, you have to be willing to face the discomfort, the fear, the yearning and that can be absolutely terrifying sometimes.
Is it worth it? Hell yeah. I think it is.
Ferris writes in that same article:
Success is the willingness to feel vulnerable
Many things in life make you feel vulnerable and like you want to curl up into a ball:
Presenting a new idea
The prospect of marriage
Starting a new project
Getting a new job
Telling it how it is on social media
If you can’t lean into these vulnerable situations, you live life at a massively lower level. You avoid discomfort. Eventually you no longer feel like yourself anymore. It doesn’t make sense.
We all have to lean in and lean in hard if we want to grow. We have to face the discomfort and anxiety that greets us and embrace that Nike slogan and just do it.
Next year, I hope to continue doing and expanding and doing things I’m afraid of:
- Start another podcast.
- Feature more author interviews though they make me nervous.
- Have a writing retreat here in Maine if COVID chills out. Let me know if you’re interested.
- Write more poems even though they make me feel naked and exposed.
- Write more books including a book of my animals’ inspirations.
- Write some really different stuff under a pen name.
- Keep on fighting my fears.
- Maybe start a local news blog.
So, thank you for helping me to keep on keeping on being a writer, a podcaster, an editor, a writing coach. Thank you for helping me keep bill collectors away and feeding my family. I appreciate it and you so much.
What habits do you have? What habits do you want?
What fear is holding you back?
My little, creepy book baby is out in the world because who doesn’t want sad, quirky, horror with some romantic bits for the holiday season?
It’s super fun.