I am down to a comfortable dance just above what I would consider my ideal weight of around 210. That comes in part from being a workaholic, something I am recovering from, and sitting way too much.
In 2001 I was in a motorcycle accident, and shattered my right thumb.
It was reconstructed, and I have about 85% use of it, but it aches every day, especially during weather and humidity changes.
Most people never realize it, because I just suck it up, and I type around 100 words per minute anyway, especially when writing my own stuff.
Now I ride my bike around 40 to 60 miles a week, make time for the gym, and watch my diet much better than I did. I do a Body Combat class (a mix of kickboxing and mixed martial arts) and do yoga as often as I can get away with it.
As to my thumb, I stretch it, take more breaks (did I mention the recovering workaholic thing?), and use ergonomic keyboards and mice whenever possible.
Someday They’ll Figure Out I’m Not That Good!
Writing is by nature a bipolar activity, filled with highs and lows.
There seem to be moments of extreme ecstasy followed in no particular time frame by bouts of depression.
For me, it is all about the imposter syndrome. I live in fear that one of these days, someone will figure out I am not really that good at writing, or I can’t really edit because I am not qualified, and I will never land another gig doing either one again.
Intellectually, I know I am good at what I do, from fiction and technical writing and research to content marketing and business. But at some point in nearly every day, emotionally I doubt my competence, and no number of endorsements on my LinkedIn profile or the sheer number of novels, articles, and reports I have written will convince me otherwise.
How to Deal with Imposter Syndrome
How do I deal with imposter syndrome? There are a number of ways.
This looks different for everyone, but for me the most healing times are those spent cycling, preferably in the mountains, where I don’t need headphones to drown out the buzz of society. This produces moments of clarity, and remind me that I am accomplished at what I do, and am continually building a career around it.
Yoga and Meditation
While yoga is exercise, it is a different kind than cycling, still requiring balance and concentration, but in a more structured way.
I’m a techie, so guided meditation, including some of the new techniques using Virtual Reality, work well for me. I even break from my computer from time to time during the day, and go to classes regularly.
Meditation tends to clear my mind of those negative thoughts. Once I acknowledge how I am feeling, I let it go (most of the time). I just have to do this kind of thing often, because those thoughts tend to try to make a comeback.
I cannot make music, but I wish I could. I listen to a variety of music. My taste is extremely eclectic, but when I am feeling down, I choose something positive and upbeat. Sometimes I choose something slow, others something fast depending on what my spirit lets me know it needs.
Typically for me, the music soon fades into white noise in the background, and I fall into the writing zone again. Any idea that I might be an imposter is set aside in those moments, because instead of thinking about writing, I am doing it. That alone proves my ability.
Darkness is a Writer’s Constant Companion
Dark moments come with the end, and often the middle of each book that I have written.
The darkest however, came for me when I finished the final book in my first trilogy, Confession. I was saying goodbye to the world I had created and moving on. The trilogy was filled with parts of me, and had autobiographical elements in each book. It was my journey laid out.
I put that book away. I was afraid of what that summary might reveal about me. I wrote another book. Submitted it to a publisher. It was published. Then I picked up Confession to finish the edits and get it released.
Writing the next book was my therapy. I wrote a poem to go with it titled “Guilty.” (You can watch it on YouTube here). I healed and pushed away the darkness of that moment with more writing.
I Treat All Aspects of Writing as Part of an Overall Business Plan
I am fiercely determined to make a living for the rest of my life in writing, publishing, and editing.
I don’t want to do anything else. The drive forward is essentially to prevent me from having to go backwards and work another job in some other field.
“Doing work you love is energizing and creates a positive feedback loop that fuels productivity,” says Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a distinguished Hungarian psychologist in an article about How Liking Your Job will Help You Succeed. “Your passion for the work energizes you and vice versa, giving you more fuel to put towards success.”
That passion keeps me going through all of the parts of writing I don’t like, the accounting, the business stuff, marketing. Honestly, after a while I like those things too, and write about them.
To succeed, I have to treat all aspects of writing as sources of income, part of an overall business plan. I measure profit, loss, return on investment and benefits in any job I accept or book I write.
Advice for a Young Writer: Treat Writing as a Business
The hardest part about being a writer and working for yourself is motivation, and treating what you do exactly like any other business.
You are an entrepreneur, and your name is your brand. Some people would say the hardest thing is marketing, but I argue that is part of treating authorship as a business. I call it being an authorpreneur.
To overcome this hurdle, there are a few things any writer needs to do:
The joke is that as a writer you can write in your pajamas or whatever you choose to wear all day long. You can. But you will feel more professional and it is easier to take what you are doing seriously if you get dressed every morning.
Have a schedule
Set a schedule for yourself and keep it. True, part of the freedom in freelance is you can work any time you wish. Set your schedule around your most productive work hours, even if those are in the middle of the night. But have set hours that your family, friends, and clients can count on you to “be at work” and know you are not to be disturbed.
If writing is a business to you, and you treat your work like a job, be a good boss to yourself and set boundaries.
Have a Place
You can also work anywhere. You will be much more productive if you have a consistent place or places where you work. Whether this is a desk, a couch, the library or a favorite coffee shop doesn’t matter. It is even possible to use a combination of places (this is what I do).
Use Specific Software for Specific Tasks
It is likely you will do many different things and wear many different hats when you are working for yourself. Trick your brain into shifting gears in order to be the most productive. Here are some examples I use, but this is by far not an exhaustive list and does not work for everyone.
- Scrivener: For writing fiction I use Scrivener. Not only is it a great program designed by writers for writers, but it has a different look and feel than other word processing programs. My mind immediately jumps to fiction mode when I open it on any computer. Single licenses are available for $40 various places, and it is often on sale around NaNo and other times through the Writer’s Store.
- Microsoft Word: I use word for non-fiction technical type writing and research, and it is my preferred program for editing. It has by far the most powerful tools for performing those tasks. More importantly, my brain switches into a more technical mode when I open those programs. It “knows” what is expected of it next. There are a few ways to get access to Microsoft Office, but I use the 365 Subscription.
- Google Docs: This free program from Google gets more and more powerful all the time. I use it to write blog posts and articles like this one. It works really well for me, and allows more than one person to work in a specific file simultaneously. (Office 365 does this too now through OneDrive, but its use in that way is much less common). If You are unfamiliar with Google docs and it’s features you can read up on it here.
- Rescue Time: Want to know how productive you are really being, and how much time you are spending distracted by Facebook and other non-productive distractions? Rescue Time is a program that tracks that for you in the background on your computer, and sends you a weekly report. Be sitting down for the first one. You may be unpleasantly surprised. However, it serves as a weekly reminder (you can set it up to ping you more often if you wish) of how you are actually doing.
- Quickbooks: You need to track your finances just like any other business, including income, expenditures, and tax deductions. (You can deduct pens and ebooks. Paper even!) The simplest way to do this is load your information into a program like Quickbooks Small Business, an option perfect for most entrepreneurs (read authorpreneurs).
The purpose of using different software (I don’t get a cut from any of these guys) is more to trick your brain into being productive and treating your writing (and whatever else you do) as a business. It’s another way to keep away those physical, mental, and emotional demons that plague us all.
There is a ton more advice I could offer, and I do over on my website and the many other places I publish articles. (See links below.) Visit me and ask me anything in the comments, or Tweet at me or email me. I’m here to help if I can.
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Troy Lambert is a blogger, freelance writer, editor, and author of several thriller novels. He believes passionately that while writing is therapy, it is also a business, and should be treated like one. He lives, works, and plays in Boise, Idaho with his wife, son, and two very talented dogs. Troy is a hiker, cyclist, skier, and fisherman who will trade writing secrets for golf lessons.
Samuel Elijah Johnson spent time in prison, but earned his Juris doctorate while incarcerated. Now on the outside, he thinks he is on the right track. Until an attempt on his life brings him face-to-face with his past, and the family he’d rather forget.
His mother’s belief that he is some kind of Messiah haunts him, and he discovers she is not alone. There is an entire church that shares her beliefs, and more. They think they are doing God’s work, and convince Sam to join them.
But evil rears its ugly head, and he discovers a different kind of prison. One that glorifies confession, demands obedience, and punishes transgression. Will he take his place among their leaders? Or will he try to walk away, only to find someone is willing to kill for his final Confession?
Available at Amazon.
The Samuel Elijah Johnson Series: Redemption, Temptation, and Confession: First came Redemption: Samuel Elijah Johnson seeks to overcome his past by educating himself in prison. He graduates law school but has no clue what to do next until a fellow prisoner plants an idea in his mind.
Arthur Creed was raised in a strict evangelical church by militantly religious parents. He hides a secret addiction and a secret insanity. His sins come face to face with the rules ingrained into his memory by his parents.
Randy Peterson wants desperately to do the right thing, to be the kind of hero he feels his family deserves. He especially wants to convince his wife’s parents that he’s “good enough” for their daughter.
Things spin out of control. Their worlds all collide with a monumental crash. In the end, can any of them find Redemption?
Then came Temptation: Samuel Elijah Johnson worked hard in prison to earn his law degree. He got out and started representing clients at parole hearings with surprising results: he never lost. Earning a reputation as an up and comer with a great deal of respect for the truth, now he is faced with Temptation: is it time to take the next step and become a true defense attorney? Will he forsake his values for more money and notoriety?
An evil mastermind, a team of car thieves, and a tangled web of deception all conspire to lead him down a new and dangerous path. Will he give in to Temptation or stay the noble course?
And finally Confession (above). Available as a boxed set at Amazon.