Episode 30: When do you know it’s the right time?
In which our protagonist realises sabbaticals can’t last forever
I’m in resistance mode. I’m resisting a lot, a lot of the time. I’ve crawled almost all the way back into my hermit hole (that’s kind of like a Hobbit hole, just darker), and the fear is all-consuming.
The reason for the resistance this time? I have to face the future. The time of reckoning has arrived: the business needs my attention. What on earth am I doing about work?!
Am I ready to return to the world of being a productive member of the economy? F*** no. I might not be wanting to hide in bed all day anymore, but I’m still exhausted and confused and angry and Very Much Not Ready. (Case in point: this newsletter is late because I stared at the screen most of yesterday, unable to make my fingers move across the keyboard.) And yet, the world has spun around and the tax man has come a-calling and now the business bank account is looking rather sad. We’re not talking about imminent demise by any means, but we are talking about it being time to consider how to make work work for me in a way that’s workable.
Workable work: that’s the order of the day. Because, quite frankly dear reader, the thought of going back to life as it was in the before-times fills me with abject horror. Panic attacks. Tight chest, headache rushing in, struggling to breathe, pins and needles. Staring at the wall, immovable, unable to face anything at all. And that is not a mental state conducive to top-notch productivity.
So here I am, facing an August - my birthday month - considering my options.
Option one: there’s what I did before. I can put the word around to say I’m back in action, and see what happens. I am in a fortunate position to have had clients continue to check in on me to make sure I’m ok, so I have good relationships. I am just… not particularly interested in general copywriting work anymore. I never was, truth be told. I just did it because I could, which is really how my entire London career has gone - take this job now because I can’t deal with the current one anymore and it uses the same skillset; ok, now jump to this job because I can’t deal with the current one anymore and it uses the same skillset…
Or there’s option two: something else, maybe? Some hybrid of old and new? Ditch the old and focus on the new? This is the dilemma.
Same old, or same difference?
One thing I did say I wanted from this sabbatical was space and time to think about what my future looked like. It wasn’t just about focusing on my health, though that is obviously a very big and very forceful driving need for the break and its timing; it was also about what I need from my life so that I can attempt to be happy, or at the very least content. Before, I was just existing, keeping myself busy while I waited for the end. I don’t want that anymore. I want to live.
But spending every waking hour getting worked up about B2B copy is not my idea of living a full and contented life. All the self-reflection I’ve done since the plague hit has led me to wanting to be creative for myself, and to help others to express themselves and be creative in their own projects. Dear reader, my dreams are not filled with financial regulatory compliance - but what are they filled with?
Which brings us to option two: something else. This is what I’m pondering now. I’m realistic, I am; I know that I’ll need to go back to some of what I did before. I have bills to pay, a mortgage to contribute to. I also know I cannot go back to working for other people; I am a freelancer - nay, a director of my own business - and that helps me to set and flex my pace as needed, which is necessary given my general health. The exact ways of old, though? Those are a thing of the past. I’ll narrow down on format; instead of saying “oh, it has words? Sure, I can do it.”, I’ll focus on articles only. No more emails and landing pages and social media and brochures and case studies and… general marketing copy. There are plenty of great freelancers I can refer to for those jobs. I’ll do that for one day a week, a few days a month, which will leave me time for my (mythical) own writing and the new stuff.
Here comes the fear, again
Yes, the new stuff. That’s the other thing that’s paralysing me, the other thing I’m resisting. I’m starting to accept that my move into coaching isn’t “another service” I’m adding to my business - it’s a whole new thing. A friend referred to it as a “career change” the other day, and I realised he was right. I might want to focus on working with writers and creatives, but it’s a whole new ballgame. And that, I assume, is why I’m resisting the move. Why I haven’t started looking for “practice clients” to help me get the 40 hours of coaching I need to qualify. It’s not a safe and comfortable place, it’s not something I know like the back of my hand. I can’t quickly bash out a coaching session and move on. People would be looking to me for guidance, to help them move through blockages. It’s NEW. And new is scary.
The fear is taking hold. The fear tells me I have nothing to offer that new world. The fear tells me I’m not capable. The fear tells me that I can’t even get over my own blockages, so what makes me think I can help others with theirs? The fear tells me to just give it up now before I make a fool of myself and have to go crawling back to my old clients with my tail between my legs and beg for copywriting work.
I’m not sure if you’ve ever had this, dear reader, but I often come across this issue: intellectually I know what to do, but physically I cannot make the move. That’s the fear, paralysing me, trying to keep me safe. But a new career direction is not a T-Rex waiting to pick me up in its ridiculously tiny arms and munch on me for dinner; a new career direction is me taking care of myself and finding workable work. It’s me being selfish and not thinking about anything but what I need to help myself to flourish and grow.
...so when is it the right time to make that leap? And how do I know when it’s the right time? Because right now, I’m overwhelmed by these Big Life Choices. And it’s put me back in my cage, where I now cower, useless, afraid and unable to make a move.
What’s the right way? When’s the right time?
If you figure that out, give me a buzz, yeah?
The week ahead 🗓
Writing: I’m fleshing out the setting of my folk horror novel while also keeping up with a writing mindset course with Urban Writers.
Work: Revising ahead of the next coaching module next week. The weeks go too quickly!
Health: I’ve started doing a “lazy” yoga class followed by a meditation class at my gym on Friday nights; it’s a lovely end to the week.
Routine: Self-care in the morning; work and study in the afternoon. Plus, join me and hundreds of others at the LWS Writers’ Hour every weekday: 8am London, New York, California and NZ. (I tend to host the latter.)
On the stereo 🎧
Tonight, Mr Lauren and I will head to the BFI Southbank cinema to attend a preview of the new Sparks documentary by Edgar Wright, and Mr Wright himself shall be in attendance for Q&A. I’m trying to get into the mood…
And here’s the doco trailer, for good measure. Excited!
Off the shelf 📚
I’ll admit to being a bit of a Grady Hendrix fangirl. While his books are not exactly high literary, they are for sure page-turners of the highest order and I gobbled up earlier works Horrorstör and We Sold Our Souls in a matter of days. This one, his latest, lasted barely 24 hours in my hands.
The Final Girl Support Group is a fun take on the obsession with 70s/80s/90s slasher films, but asks the questions we don’t often get to: what happens to those teenagers, the “final girls”, who defeat the monster but have to go on living their lives? Hendrix has them in their late 30s and 40s, attending group therapy in a church basement more than a decade after their “heyday”, and puts six final girls in various states of PTSD. And then someone starts trying to kill them all over again…
OK, so it was written by a middle-aged white bloke, but few are more qualified to talk classic slashers than the man who also wrote Paperbacks From Hell. This is a love letter to genre cinema that is full of strong women and societal commentary while putting characters through the ringer. It’s also already been optioned by Charlize Theron’s production company, so, y’know, it can’t just be me going all fangirl.
Ever wonder what happens to those final girls? After the cops eliminate them as suspects, after the press releases their brace-faced, pizza-cheeked, bad-hair-day class photos that inevitably get included on the cover of the true crime book? After the candlelight vigils and the moments of silence, after someone plants the memorial shrub? I know what happens to those girls. After the movie deals get signed, after the film franchise fails, after you realise that while everyone else was filling out college applications you were locked in a residential treatment program pretending you weren’t scared of the dark. After the talk show circuit, after your third therapist just accepts that he’s your Zoloft-dispensing machine and you won’t be making any breakthroughs on his watch, after you realise that the only interesting thing that’ll ever happen to you happened when you were sixteen, after you stop going outside, after you start browsing locksmiths the way other women browse the windows of Tiffany’s, after you’ve left town because you couldn't deal with the ‘why not you?’ looks from the parents of all your dead friends, after you’ve lost everything, been through the fire, started knowing your stalkers by their first names, after all that happens you wind up where I’m going today: in a church basement in Burbank, seated with your back to the wall, trying to hold the pieces of your life together.
Visual confirmation 📷
I’ve been posting a lot of selfies to the ‘gram lately, but it’s with good reason: an exercise in self-acceptance. Here I am showing off my new t-shirt from Disko Kids.