I listened to a Tim Ferriss Show episode recently all about quitting – how to know whether you should quit or continue, how to persevere through what Seth Godin calls “The Dip,” and how to assess whether you’re progressing, stagnating, or going downhill.
One of the guests on the episode, bestselling author and entrepreneur James Altucher, said a few statements that really stuck with me:
“Every project in the world has a half-life. Every brand, every personality, the sales of every book or movie, or a business… everything at some point has a half-life where it starts to decline after that …”
“What about if something is only going okay? It’s not bad and it’s not great … When do you persist, and when do you abandon? … The reality is you always have to take a step back and say, ‘Am I smoking crack about my own idea, or should I put this down and move on to the next idea?’”
His words resonated with me because I had just read The ONE Thing by Gary Keller and knew that I needed to narrow my writing focus. At the time, I was writing not only contemporary women’s fiction and young adult fantasy, but also faith-based fitness books. I was building two newsletters and writing weekly 1,000+ – word blog posts, one for you lovelies (fellow writers) and one for my fitness audience.
A little secret between you and me: I loved writing the fiction newsletter and the writing-related blog, but I viewed the fitness articles and emails as homework, an assignment I could ace but didn’t necessarily enjoy.
I noticed that my ambivalence toward the fitness books, newsletters, and blogs was growing into a stronger emotion, one more akin to antipathy. I caught myself actually groaning when I sat down to write yet another blog post on healthy eating, body image issues, and workout tips.
There’s a simple reason, one I think can best be summed up with one word: Burnout.
“You don’t understand burnout unless you’ve been burned out. And it’s something you can’t even explain. It’s just doing something you have absolutely no passion for.” – Elena Delle Donne
I wrote my first fitness book during college. Since its publication in 2009, I’ve written six more, all of which I was passionate about writing and sharing. Hundreds of blogs and dozens of articles for the Health section of Charisma magazine were also written within a seven-year period. My creative soul was trying to tell me it was time to close the book on fitness, and to follow my fervor instead.
About a year and a half ago I started this blog and reworked all of my social media presences to reflect a writer, not a fitness aficionado. I made a conscious effort to read more books on the craft of writing and entrepreneurship than on health and fitness. I started brainstorming more fiction ideas and got to work on them.
But I was also trying to keep the fitness side afloat as well with continued blogs, articles, and my online training business. And, needless to say, the groans continued. I felt like a child who’d unjustly been put in time-out, made to sit in the corner while all her friends got to play at recess.
I envied my author friends who were writing what they loved, pursuing their projects wholeheartedly, waking up every morning excited to get to their keyboards. I knew my “one thing” was fiction, and yet for so long I gritted my teeth and carried on with my fitness projects because, well, I’d done it for so long.
After hearing Mr. Altucher’s on the podcast, I took his advice and asked myself the question, “Should I put this down now?”
I knew the answer before I asked it. I just had to convince myself it was time to take action, to walk a new path on my writing journey, and not to view the change in direction as failure, but as progress. I knew it wasn’t failure because my passion had withered. True failure is when we give up, even while our passion is still vibrant.
You need to be doing fewer things for more effect instead of doing more things with side effects.”
― Gary Keller, The ONE Thing
Do I still love fitness? Absolutely? Do I still enjoying nerding out while talking about hypertrophy, strength training, and macronutrients? You betcha. But currently, I’m viewing fitness as a hobby, not an occupation.
I might write another fitness book when inspiration strikes, or another article if I feel the desire, but the key difference now is that I’ll do it out of love, not obligation.
If you’re unsure whether what your writing is right for you, then I encourage you to analyze your feelings toward it. If you dread sitting down and writing every day, then chances are good you’re either writing it for the wrong reasons, or you simply haven’t found your sweet spot yet, i.e., the genre, tone, characters and themes you were made to explore.
Don’t waste one more day writing something that doesn’t set your soul on fire. Your time is valuable, so make sure you’re spending it as joyfully as possible.
“Your next step is simple. You are the first domino.”
― Gary Keller