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The Success Treadmill

Thursday, September 09, 2004
The further along I get in my career, the more convinced I become that the true measure of success is having more freedom: the freedom to devote your writing time to projects you are passionate about, to choose who you work with, to take your career in exciting new directions, and to enjoy more time off with family and friends.

Unfortunately, I think a lot of writers end up stumbling on the success treadmill -- a contraption that's every bit as punishing as the Stairmaster at my gym! (And, trust me, I'm not exactly on speaking terms with the Stairmaster.) The problem is that it's easy to get so preoccupied with shooting for the next career milestone that you forget to savor what you've achieved to date -- something that leaves you feeling chronically dissatisfied rather than satisfied. Instead of feeling good about the fact that you've just cracked a new magazine market, published your first book, landed a multi-book deal, or had a book land on a bestseller list, you're constantly setting new -- and higher -- targets for yourself. While there's nothing wrong with aiming high, if you're constantly raising the bar impossibly high for yourself, you risk burning yourself out. After all, no one can maintain that kind of punishing pace forever.

True confession time: I've learned through the School of Hard Knocks that I'm a far happier and more productive writer if I take weekends off to recharge my batteries and if I schedule some serious vacations a couple of times each year. (A couple of years ago, a "vacation" involved lugging a laptop along on holidays. Now I cut the electronic umbilical cord for up to a week at a time, e-mail and all. Do I miss out on the odd media interview or magazine assignment because I dare to unplug my modem every now and again -- something that's pretty much become the eighth deadly sin these days? Yes, but I think it's worth it in the long-run because I come back to my desk refreshed and rejuvenated. Or at least that's what I tell my publishers!) :-)

| posted by Ann D @ 3:14 PM