Inside the Mind of a Writer

Are You Dying To Succeed?

IMG_0759Most writers have a day job, a means to pay the bills while we slave away over our laptops at all hours of the day and night trying to write, publish, and market our novels. But today’s post will apply to anyone who’s living the life they have while trying to build a better life—the one they want.

As a new independent author, there are a lot of things I need to do, things I need to learn, and everything is my responsibility. Everything. Succeed or fail, it’s all on me; and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

The harder I work, the more I accomplish, the more successful I’ll be.

Ambition is great, but how much is too much?

In an effort to create time to chase my dream, I traded sleep for caffeine, pushing myself to function on thirty-two hours of sleep a week. My family urged me to slow down, but I didn’t listen. I had work to do, goals to meet, and… I had it under control.

Or, so I thought…

This week my writer’s journey nearly came to a screeching halt when I encountered a flaw in my plan. One that is probably all too common for writers. I often joke about being sleep deprived and living on caffeine, but in reality, it isn’t a laughing matter.

Chronic (long-term) sleep deprivation leads to many serious health conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, depression, and obesity, to name a few. It is also responsible for 100,000 auto accidents a year in the United States—71,000 injuries and 1,550 fatalities.

A few days ago, I came dangerously close to becoming one of those statistics. I had plenty of caffeine pumping through my veins and didn’t feel tired, but I’d spent months pushing my body beyond acceptable limits. Traveling home from my day job, at sixty miles per hour in rush-hour traffic, I experienced a dream-like episode. I was fully awake and aware of my surroundings, could hear myself talking as I realized I was in serious trouble, but I felt disconnected and unable to control what was happening.

As I later learned, this is a common symptom of chronic sleep deprivation.

I was lucky, there’s no other way to see it. I somehow managed to make it home safely. This encounter scared me, as it should have. It also landed me in my doctor’s office to address the damage I’d done to my health, including high blood pressure, something that had never been an issue for me.

My doctor told me these episodes would have eventually led to hallucinations, and I would have likely seen the characters from my book in the room with me. I’ll admit, I had a moment where I thought meeting Nico, the handsome hero in my novel, would be fun; but I’m smart enough to understand the severity of the situation.

He also assured me that the damage I’d done to my health is reversible, but I have to adapt a lifestyle that includes proper sleep habits and a minimal amount of caffeine. Good news, but not an easy pill to swallow for someone driven to succeed. I need to give up at least fifteen hours of productive time every week… to sleep.

I’ve accepted this as a setback, a limitation, but my journey continues. I know what I want to accomplish, and I’m determined to reach my goals. I’ll just have to be frustrated by the slower pace, and work harder in the time that’s available.

So, why am I telling you this when I could have easily kept it to myself and spared myself the embarrassment? Simple. I’ve read enough posts on social media and had enough conversations with other writers or students to know I’m not alone.

If sharing my experience can make even one person aware of the dangers of sleep depravation and help him/her change before it’s too late, it’s worth publicly owning up to my mistake. —CJ

4 thoughts on “Are You Dying To Succeed?”

  1. See, this is what’s great about you. Not a lot of people would be brave enough to share this, and YOU wouldn’t have done it a year ago, but as we tell our tales of writing we need to occasionally explain the little bumps in the path.

    As I’m reading this, I’m saying WOW a lot, you know?

    And I remember you saying how late you stay up and that family members said you should get more sleep. In my world, they are the wimps, right? But didn’t I just crash and bur myself a few weeks ago, getting sick with the flu for about three hellishly long days? Maybe it was partly my body’s way of saying “slow down,” too. It worked. It slammed the brakes on just about everything. And you may recall I barely wrote a word on a recent vacation to Italy. It wasn’t intentional, but it was hard to tell my wife to relax when I wasn’t appearing to relax.

    Great insights. Great ability to open up and share not just the high spots but also the obvious struggles we writers face AND ALSO some of the not-so-obvious challenges.

    Writers need to know THAT stuff, too.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Dan. I appreciate your encouragement.

      I’ll admit that I really struggled with this, still am. In my mind, I was weak, and I’d failed—I couldn’t handle what I’d set out to do. It took me a few days to reconcile everything internally, and I’m working on a new compromised plan of attack… I don’t do gray well (things are usually either black or white).

      Because of all that, this isn’t the type of thing I would typically share. You know I like to keep personal stuff private, and you’re right that I wouldn’t have been strong enough to tell this story a year ago.

      As the week progressed, this was the only topic on my mind; and the post began to write itself, as they tend to do. I considered taking a week off from blogging, but it didn’t feel right. The purpose of my blog is to share my journey as an author—what motivates, inspires, and challenges me. Withholding this challenge because I was embarrassed wouldn’t have been right, plus it’s information that can hopefully help someone else.

      I’m not proud of what I’ve done. It’s not cool. But, it needed to be shared.

      Listen to your body. Listen to your family and friends (including me). Slow down when they tell you to.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Jenny!

      We all push ourselves too hard at times… and we all think nothing bad is going to happen to us. I learned my lesson the hard way, even though I was incredibly lucky. The danger is real, and I think most people (like me) either aren’t aware or don’t believe it. I’m glad you found this helpful.

      Liked by 1 person

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