In the final edition of this miniseries, let’s talk about keeping yourself from becoming a recluse, along with taking some time out to chillax…
Everyone’s going to have their own reaction to this aspect of things, but it’s still something I’m trying to come to grips with. The people that I worked with at NSA were like my second family. Many days, their camaraderie was the only thing that kept me from going cuckoo.
When I left the agency, in some ways it was like leaving home, leaving my other family behind. While it was great staying home with my wife (and amazingly enough, we have no problem being together all day) and the boys, I no longer had those folks to kibbutz with. Sure, I have a lot of friends – real friends, not just acquaintances – online, but it’s not the same. We worked hard and we played hard together, and it’s one of the things about my old job that I do truly miss.
Now, a lot of folks have social groups they hang out with outside of work, and that’s great – no problemo! But for those of us who don’t (yes, I’m an introverted nerd – sorry!), it’s a big part of the transition you’ll need to make that I was totally unprepared for. It’s very easy to just sit at home staring at the computer all day. I know that for some that may sound like heaven, but it’s another case of being careful what you wish for. There have actually been some days when I suddenly realized, just before bedtime, that I hadn’t set foot out the door, even just to take a quick walk around the local park or something.
The bottom line is just this: if you don’t have much social engagement outside of work and you’re planning to take the plunge into writing full-time, do yourself a huge favor and line up some social circles ahead of time. They can also act as a support group for when you hit the rough spots that inevitably will come.
Taking Time Out
On the opposite end of self-discipline is to make sure that you take some time out to just chill. During the low months from September through November, I was whipping myself to death trying to get the next book out. What I was actually doing was killing my long-term productivity and, at the same time, working on a project that wasn’t optimal from a marketing perspective. I wasn’t thinking clearly.
It was time to take a deep breath, back off, and regroup. I took a little time off just to think and relax a little, and that allowed me to refocus.
On a daily basis, don’t work yourself to death. Yes, you have to be disciplined, but if you’re not enjoying yourself, what’s the point? I normally start my work day at around 6 AM. I work (usually catching up on Twitter – it’s nice to be able to call that “work”, isn’t it?) through breakfast, then I try to get in an hour or so of exercise. After that it’s back to the grindstone. I catch up on social media stuff while eating lunch, then sometimes I take a snooze. Why? Because I can! Then it’s back to work.
Now, “work” typically stops at dinner time, which is usually 5:30 or 6:00 PM. Then we go watch a movie, read, blast away at people on the PS3, or whatever. There are, however, days when I’m on a roll. When that happens, I just keep writing.
But the important thing is to do whatever you like to do to give your mind and body a break. Remember, you’re in this for the long-term, not just a quick sprint, so pace yourself!
I hope you found this useful in some way. I know there’s a lot I probably didn’t cover, so if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. You can contact me by email, Twitter, or Facebook any time…