Happiness. Contentment. Peace. Those are the things I want in life, both personally and professionally. And yet, I realized this morning that while I say I want those things, my actions keep them just out of my reach. I don’t allow myself to be happy with where I’m at, I have to push myself to do more. But then, I’m unhappy because I’m not where I need to be.
This realization hit me as I looked at the deadline I’ve set for myself for my current work in progress. I’d set a self-imposed deadline of June 15th because I knew how much I had going on between now and then. But then I had a few amazing days of inspired writing. Rather than fist pump because I’m ahead of schedule, I altered my deadline by two weeks. And when I had a few more good days, I bumped it up another week.
And then, life happened. I didn’t write one day because I was sick and the next because I reached a breaking point with my personal life and needed a mental health day. Today, I woke up and felt like my deadline was quickly becoming impossible. Not because I’ve been slacking, but because I’ve trained myself that doing well isn’t good enough.
This has been an overriding theme of my writing career, and I’d bet I’m not alone.
I miss the days leading up to publishing my first novel. I was nervous, but I was so damn proud of myself. I had accomplished something I’d dreamed of my entire life. Armed with the tidbit I’d read that the majority of published authors will never sell 100 copies, I had very few expectations. I knew those who went from unpublished to list-makers were the exception, not the rule.
With my stomach flipping, I hit publish that first time and waited. And watched. And when I hit ten copies sold, I cheered. I hit fifty and realized I was half way to being in the minority. No, I still wouldn’t be on a best-sellers list, but I was going to do it! I was going to sell 100 copies! And I did, quickly.
Fast forward to book two… I did fairly well with that first book (and was later offered a publishing deal for that book). I hit publish with confidence. And higher expectations. Selling even five hundred copies wasn’t enough, because I knew I was capable of more. Luckily, that book did just as well.
Write, publish, repeat.
With every project, my expectations grew. It was no longer enough to meet the sales of the previous books, I had to soar higher. I became obsessed with the copies sold, ranks, and everything that doesn’t mean a damn thing in life.
I’m ashamed to admit that this was also when my personal life took a nosedive. Those numbers ruled my life. I defined my worth by my copies sold, Amazon rank, number of followers on social media, and monthly deposits to my bank account. If those slipped, I was a failure. And I was right. I was a failure. I failed to be a wife to my husband or a mother to our children. I tried to justify my actions because this was how I helped support our family.
We spend our entire lives being told to raise the bar higher, but when is it time to let that bar sit there for a while? How do we retrain our minds to believe that we can be happy with where we’re at, especially when the alternative is setting goals which keep us from finding the peace we claim to want? I don’t have the answer, but you can guarantee I’m going to keep working to find the balance between personal happiness and professional accomplishment.