Writers feel so much pressure to be constantly connecting with others online and off; they are encouraged to treat each new follower and “friend” as if they could be the person standing between failure and success.
Like a hamster running on a little wheel, it spins and spins, never slowing down.
So when do you just… stop. Stop Tweeting, stop blogging, stop sending emails, or even checking your email at all? When do you stop researching, planning, strategizing and talking?
A writer I work with was recently confronted with exactly this dilemma: “Can I just stop for awhile?” After 6 years of blogging, of developing an audience and a wonderful platform, of publishing books, of doing so much, Barbara Techel is taking a sabbatical.
Here is her first blog post from April of 2007, and here his her latest, announcing her taking some time off.
She and I have worked together through a couple of my online courses, spending months together helping her craft her platform and connect with readers in meaningful ways. So when she called and asked about the idea of just STOPPING, my gut is she expected me to talk her out of it.
I, of course, didn’t. I encouraged her to absolutely take the time she needs, but to simply let her readers know what to expect. Protect your personal space by taking the time, but honor the connection that others feel to you by not keeping them in the dark. People may worry!
Recently, I shared a blog post on WriterUnboxed.com about the need to reject “best practices” and the idea of fitting in. That you don’t want to “go viral,” you instead want to focus intently on individuals, and forging relationships that are about so much more than the sale of a book.
Are you overwhelmed? Most people I know are, including many of the writers I work with. A lot of the work I do with them is to provide clarity for them that reduces the overwhelm, and gives them focus to connect with readers in a way that feels right for them.
While taking a sabbatical may or may not be what you need, honoring your own needs is critical. Life is more than a series of Tweets. Creative professionals are usually on a journey, and the books they write (or paintings they create or songs they sing) are representative of one moment in a longer journey.
Awhile back, I wrote another blog post titled The Creative Process: Not Everything Needs to be Shared, with these thoughts:
- Our creative work need not be shared.
- Our creative work need not earn a profit.
- Our creative work can be a slow and personal process, and it’s effect internal, not external.
And oftentimes, all the “best practices” that promise easy success take you off track. Your journey is your own. This is why everything I do when working with writers includes a lot of personal interaction – because your goals are unique, your challenges are unique.
I want to leave you with two powerful examples of the value of not fitting in: this video by Ze Frank:
And this illustrated blog post by Allie Brosh, where she talks about her own sabbatical, and battle with depression.