Just keep swimming

Do you ever feel like you’re being tested? Like the universe is throwing hurdles across your path to see whether or not you can clear them? It’s been that kind of a week for me. That kind of a year, even.

As most of you probably know, I quit my job 5 months ago in order to pursue my writing full-time. I don’t think I made that decision naively; I knew it would be hard. But it’s one thing to know it, and another thing to live it. Right now “hard” feels like understatement of the year.

At the beginning, I had 12 months, pure and promising, stretched out ahead of me like a luxurious bubble bath. But as each day ticked by — each dollar, each unwritten word — the suds started to disappear and the water turned cold. Now I’m sitting naked in the tub, feeling more vulnerable and anxious than ever before.

I am well aware that this is a “first world problem.” I have food and clothes and shelter, and I can afford (more or less) to give myself this time. I’m not trying to whine. But as bills add up, and things break down, and time trickles away, I do find myself panicking a bit. The tub grows in my mind; it becomes a pool, a lake, an ocean. I know the shore is there, and I’m swimming toward it, but my arms are tired and I have no idea how long until I reach land.

It’s too late to turn back. I don’t really want to, anyway. But I admit, I’m scared. I’m afraid of sinking. Of drowning. Of failing.

There’s no real point to this post except to confess. To release this inner demon so I can face it. I’m stressed and terrified, despite my vast support network. If I am chronicling my journey as a writer, then I have to include this part of it.


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  1. Thanks for your honesty Kristan! I know I’d be too scared to do what you’ve done. We’re here rooting for you, however long it takes to achieve the success you want!

  2. You know we’re in the same boat right now, Kristan. I know exactly how you feel. It is hard and it is scary. It’s like treading water in a sea of “what ifs,” both the good and the bad ones.

    But I really believe in your writing and I know you do too. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy. Going after your dream is worth the risk, and worth failing, if that’s what happens.

    Chin up. Eyes on the horizon. :)

  3. *hands out water wings*

    GO GO GO! :)

  4. Ah Hoffster we are all pulling for you. Sorry things are moving slowly. Write me and we’ll talk.

  5. oy, I know the feeling. But you know you’re a good writer because you made a sweet ass bubble bath analogy out of it.

    I always feel crappy venting about these kinds of things too because I feel like everyone will think “oh POOOOOR you, sitting at home, write write writing all day, doing what you want.” Except it IS hard, and the fact that you’re not giving up and you’re facing the discipline demons means you’re kicking ass and will come out the other side feeling even better. I do know that whenever I get through a feeling like this without making a really ridiculous/spontaneous decision out of nowhere, I feel a lot better and more confident about what I’m doing. If any of that makes sense.

  6. Les

    I’ll bet you’re a strong swimmer!

  7. Another great post, Kristan. I love your honesty and your writing. I quite my job about twelve years ago and I’m only down about a million so far, I figure.

    I have heard the good advice that you should start freelancing then quit your job when you have a base of clients. I wish I had. You obviously have real talent, no kidding, so you might consider grabbing another job, as most of us have had to do at times, to keep the wolf from the door. It may have to be a lower-paid and less demanding job, to leave you the time and energy to write, which you then must be religious about. There is no shame in it, and just about every writer and would-be actor has lived that life.

    By the way, you mentioned that you are a “halfie” I think. My wife is Taiwanese and I am Australian. Our kids who are in their twenties say that they are Taistralian.

    I will also think of some good books, blogs and articles, many of which you may already know.

    All the best, eat well and exercise to keep calm and positive.


  8. I feel that way every summer.

    I believe whatever process you are going through, the anxiety coming up included, will be (in hindsight) all part of the package. The angst and obstacles will help you become the writer (and person) your are meant to be.

    I also agree with Graeme above me. Exercise helps to clear the head and get back to the desk.

  9. I followed your blog before even I made my own and your writing is amazing; I was a bit in awe just by reading the descriptions in this post. You believe in it and the writing speaks for itself in that it inspires others. There are always the nervous pauses in between but I know you can do it.

    I’ll pre-order your book when you get signed. ;)

  10. This time is whatever you want it to be. There’s no right or wrong here. Take that burden off of yourself. I know that you are driven to “succeed” and if that is serving you well, then invest in it. But if it’s not, keep in mind that the concepts of “success” and “failure” are just that: concepts. They don’t exist anywhere except in your mind.

    As you know, when I was your age, I had some money so I quit my job so that I could concentrate on writing. After a while, I got another job. It was fine. Both things were fine, not working and working. The fact that I didn’t “make it” was okay. The fact that I still haven’t “made it” is still okay.

    You’re going to be okay. I know you will be, and if you can let yourself know that, maybe you can relax and enjoy this time you have right now.

  11. Sonje’s got it right. “Success” and “failure” are not absolutes, and it’s good to seize opportunities when they become available, because they may not be there later.

    I have a friend who’s been a professional writer since 1972, earning a living and winning awards. From his perspective, I’m sure I don’t look like any kind of success, but I get a lot of enjoyment out of what I do.

    And I agree about exercise, too. One of the main problems with writing is that it keeps us sitting down too much.

  12. You’re not alone in feeling that way. This whole writing thing has been tough for me too, lately. Just remember that all the pain and frustration is part of the process – everyone goes through it – and the prize will be that much more satisfying when it’s finally yours.

  13. Jon

    I’m echoing Sonje’s point–there’s no time limit on a dream like this; and it doesn’t matter what the situation is, as long as it makes you happy. You just have to be patient and good things will come your way. I know it.

  14. Thanks, everybody. Your words of encouragement are a great buoy. Truly.

    “Eyes on the horizon.” I like that. :)

    Actually yes, I do know what you mean. When I panic, I start thinking about trying all these crazy things — usually related to trying to earn money/security back quickly — but then I remember that I don’t WANT money/security right now. That’s the whole point of this year.

    So then I calm down and I recommit to my goals. And like you, that makes me feel even more certain that I’m doing the right thing.

    Thanks. :) And yes, I’m a Taiwanese halfie too! “Taistralian” is great, lol! I guess that makes me Taimerican? :P

    “Nervous pause,” yes, that’s a good term for how I was feeling. Thanks so much for your support! I had no idea you’d been reading my blog that long; I am touched and honored.

    Heh. Well, we’ve emailed, but I just want to publicly say that I love your zen attitude, even if I have a hard time adopting it myself. Objectively I know you’re right, but my heart has a mind of its own.

    Anthony and Jon-
    Ditto to what I told Sonje. (Oh, and I know there’s no time limit to the dream, but there is to my savings! :P)

    Hi there! I commented back on your blog post (Jun 29) that echoed these sentiments. (Can it echo if it came first? Or am I the echo? But I hadn’t read that post when I wrote this one so… Oh forget it! :P)

  15. Trisha

    Don’t forget to hug your one big life preserver! Got to appreciate him!

  16. Oh, Kristan — we are on the same wavelength! Don’t let the fear stop you. Not yet. Just keep writing…

  17. Fear just plain old sucks. Acknowledging your fear is good. That way it won’t stay inside and bubble over at the worst possible time. It may be slow going at the moment but you’re doing what you are passionate about and that’s more than some people ever accomplish. Maybe you just to need to relax and float for a bit, take a whole day off of everything.

  18. You know what? It’s your willingness to put yourself out there like this that’ll keep you afloat. You are so determined and so passionate, and that will be your lifeboat when you need it. We may not be able to control the winds of change, but we can steer our boats and choose the directions we sail in on our journeys. You can do this. I have faith :)

  19. Awww…lots of hugs! I’m pulling for you and if there’s anything I can do to help, let me know. Thanks for being honest! I think a lot of us are in the same boat and it doesn’t help that writing is so solitary. Sometimes it feels like you’re going at it alone and no one understands. You can do it, though…just like Nemo! :)

  20. Obviously lots of people (me included) believe you can do it, so hopefully that’s reassuring. And don’t worry about complaining about a first world problem, we all seem so concerned about not complaining if we’ve got food/shelter but each of us have our own situations and our own problems plus I would argue that this world also needs great literature to make it a great place, so just go for it! But at the same time, the great thing about writing is you can actually start getting published at 20 or at 80, our dream doesn’t expire at 25 like, say, pro sports players or someone. Although I’m totally not expecting you to wait til 80. I have the “H” shelf at my favourite bookshop all waiting for your string of novels.

  21. As Mr. Miyagi says in Karate Kid III, “if you must fight, WIN.” universe, schmuniverse. You GOT THIS. and I’m watching how you GOT THIS and then I’m going to GET THIS too. xx when all else fails, there’s always KUNG FU!
    p.s. it does the body good to talk some smack. okay, exercise works too.

  22. Sending happy thoughts your way. The economy makes these leaps of faith a bit more challenging, but I admire you for doing it.

  23. This is such a wonderful post and shows how great your writing is. Just remember that this writing life is for the long haul and not just for a year. If you don’t accomplish what you’ve set out to do in one year, that’s okay! Just get another job and keep plugging away. I’ve been working on the same damn book for nearly nine years – NINE FREAKING YEARS! But I’m not discouraged. It’s a long, hard road, and what you learn along the way is what is most valuable.

  24. Meghan, my first novel was started in 1990 and finished in 2005, and it’s only around 45,000 words. :-)

    But it’s done, and I’m happy with it, some other people have liked it, and who cares about the rest?

  25. It takes a lot of courage to do what you’ve done, Kristan. You’re an excellent writer. I have no doubt that one day it will all pay off.

  26. Trisha-
    Are you referring to Andy or Riley? :P

    I would LOVE to relax and “float” for a bit. Maybe once all my freaking air conditioners are fixed, I will do that.

    Shari, Rachele, Sarah, Stacy, Juliann-
    Thank you. You guys are the best.

    I agree: problems are problems. It’s good to have perspective, but everything is relative and legitimate. I just feel like on the internet it’s wise to include a disclaimer. :P

    “It’s a long, hard road, and what you learn along the way is what is most valuable.” {nods} So true!

  27. Chin up Miss!

    Life changes like the flash of a lightening bolt. One day, one week, even one month can seem like it’s all spiraling out of control, until one moment when an idea sparks you or an opportunity comes along that you can’t refuse.

    Deep breaths!

  28. Thanks, Bronnie! I think you’re right: the ups and downs and twists and turns are part of life. They can come any day. Like a rollercoaster, if you hang in there long enough, you’ll be at the top again. :)

  29. Kate

    Hi Kristan,

    I feel your pain! I’m in quite a similar situation except I’m down to my last 2 months before it’s back to work and I think ‘naked in the bathtub’ is a perfect way to describe what I feel like today. Good luck, hang in there and thanks for letting me know I’m not alone!

  30. Great post. People tend to glamorize quitting the day job. It’s seen as brave and freeing and a leap of faith. And it is. But it’s also so scary at times. It’s good to see both sides.

  31. Kate-
    Hello, and you’re welcome! Make the most of those 2 months. Anything can happen!

    Exactly! Thank you. :)

  32. Hi Kristan,

    I’m new here, but this post puts me firmly on your side. I encourage you to take deep breaths, relax, and take this year as a chance to undertake some ambitious projects that you might not have had the time for otherwise. As a self-built writer I identify with your anxieties. Just keep learning about the craft, keep writing, and keep marketing yourself. And if you’re not a naturally organized person (I wasn’t), formulate a structured plan for all of those aspects of your career and stick to it. As I’m sure you already know, this writing thing is a long-term, repetitive effort. :)

    If you spend this year building your author platform and writing, it’s a year well-spent, no matter what. Take courage!

    One last reminder. This might seem random, but I’ve found it really useful: try to get active a little every day. Take a walk or a bike ride. Do a simple, short workout. Crank up some James Brown and dance like a crazy fool in your living room. Whatever it takes to get your blood moving.

    I’ve found that even if I just move a little every day, my mind is much sharper and my body’s happy to be used. I used to run, and that almost eliminated my anxieties for a while. When I had to stop running, the anxieties came back. When I started running again, they again subsided. Go figure.

    If there’s anything I can do to help you, critique cover letters etc., just drop by my website or send an e-mail. We’re all in this thing together.

  33. Thanks for your support and encouragement, Nicholas.

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