Space Out to Save Your Writer Soul

This morning I feel like a zombie. I’m in that walking-dead space of writing where apathy and hunger intersect. Maybe you know the feeling. You want to write. In fact, your body nearly aches to do so. But you’re also toast. You stumble out of bed, mechanically make the coffee, plug the baby’s mouth with a bottle, and try to figure out where the last week went. All your good ideas, springing up like fresh flowers on a hopeful spring day, die on the alter of fatigue.

And then you start making mixed metaphors.

Here’s the kicker. I’ve no one else to blame for my lethargic writer soul this morning but myself.

Why?

Because last week I broke one of my golden rules: Space your projects—and your deadlines.

The Hunger

When I was a kid, we’d go to a chain Mexican restaurant, Azteca, after church. I always knew what I wanted—the Macho Burrito—a rediculously large flour tortilla tube of beans, rice, shredded chicken, guacamole, salsa, cheese, and lettuce, lathered in red sauce.

Every week, as my folks opened their menus to peruse the choices they should’ve known by heart, I’d dig in to the chips and salsa and confidently tell them, “I already know what I want—the Macho Burrito.”

And every week, my folks would remind me that my eyes were bigger than my stomach.

Since I was sixteen, I thought they were clearly idiots.

But they were right. I couldn’t finish it. It was too much. It was a borderline celebration of gluttony. Yet, I still went back for more each and every week, gorging myself till I felt sick to my stomach, causing me to spend the better part of the day holed up on the couch watching NBA games and listening to Marv Albert’s signature, “Yessssss!” I was useless the rest of the day, all because even though I’d properly identified the fact that I was hungry, I was a stupid teenager and couldn’t appropriately match my response to the need.

I just wanted more and more, as much as I could get, regardless of the consequences.

The same happens for us professionally, doesn’t it? We get hungry for business, and before we know it, we’re gorging ourself on projects because…well, they’re there. But at some point—and if you haven’t been there yet, you will—we take on way too much, and we’re stuck in the proverbial couch, useless to our families, ourselves, and our clients.

Work/Life (Im)balance

So, here’s where I screwed up. I had a period of hunger where the contracts weren’t coming in like they had. I was searching high and low for a quality gig, and then the universe served up a veritable buffet of business. And instead of remembering I could always get up to get seconds, I took the whole damn thing back to the table with me.

The result: three major deadlines in one week, and 85 hours later, one exhausted writer who didn’t want to write this post.

It only makes sense that I’d operate like this. After all, I’m a writer. Balance doesn’t really factor into the equation—at least naturally. But I’ve learned that to be successful in life and in business, you must have balance. You need to have time to focus on your family, to hang out with friends, to serve others and get outside of yourself, and even to do a little writing of your own.

Otherwise, everything gets all out of whack—and you fail at everything you put your hand to.

Space Out

So what’s the answer? Easily said, space out your projects. Not so easily done. But you must.

I get it. The temptation is to take on as much work as you can because we’re all afraid the well will run dry. And even though I preach against the scarcity mindset—I still suffer from it. Hey, I’m only human. I too am often afraid that my last job will really be my last job. So, when I have big opportunity in multiple places, I dive in full force—and nearly kill myself in the process.

The kicker is that I know I’m a good ghostwriter. Jobs will be there. I’m in demand—and clients will wait, if I’m honest with them about my time. Not only that, I’ve found they appreciate my honestly because they know that by waiting till I’m freed up, their project will get the just attention it deserves.

So, learn a lesson from my mistakes, and do as I say, not as I do—space out.

Don’t be afraid to tell your clients that their job will have to wait. Nine times out of ten, they’ll be cool with it—and you don’t really want the clients that aren’t (trust me). By doing so, you’ll be a better parent, a better spouse, and, ultimately, a better writer.

[Photo by NET9]