Monday, January 16, 2017

Lessons learned in 2016

2016 was a horror of a year for me. I know many feel the exact same way. I had to learn to get along with myself. One would think after 31 years I would know myself, unfortunately no. I decided to share the hardest lessons I learned in 2016, the personal ones and the writing ones. 

It’s okay to be me
If you meet me in person you’ll quickly pick up that I’m socially awkward. I wouldn’t be sure how to keep a conversation going and would end up talking about the most absurd things. Online, probably not. At least I don’t think. But, I’m learning to accept my social awkwardness.

Enjoy reading writing books, blogs and tips, but don’t take it too seriously
I know, I know. Don’t yell at me. I’ve followed every single piece of advice to the letter. I did everything I was told will have readers notice my book and, well, I didn’t do much aside for driving myself crazy. Literarily and figuratively. I don’t think anyone really has all the answers. There’s always a part that is up to fate and that’s okay. I used to worry about not getting book reviews so much, I would trigger a migraine. Maybe my first book is not that appealing, or maybe my blurb is crappy, or maybe readers don’t like my cover. Either way, I did the best I could, and now it’s time to move on to book 2.

Stress is the enemy
When I get stressed, I feel anxious. When I’m anxious, it triggers a depression episode. So, I have to keep writing and growing my own writing business and not stress about it. Easier said than done, but I have started using adult colouring books, and surprisingly, it helps me calm down. I don’t have to be a full-time writer right now, even though that is my goal for the future. I will get there. It’s okay that I can’t make a living off my writing yet. I will someday. I know I will get there.

Life is not all or nothing
Some of us do things at a slower rate than others. That’s okay. Again, I’ve read articles and books that tell you you must have a blog and a Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and whatever else account. I did all that and most days I wish I sticked to only blogging. You can have all those accounts if you don’t mind, but even having just one of the above social media accounts is enough. If you don’t accomplish every goal you set yourself once off, doesn’t make you a failure. It teaches you patience. Trust me, it’s a hard lesson to learn.

I’m more than just a writer
No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t write a sentence last year. At least not towards my second book. I made myself sick worrying that my first book was simply a fluke. As I learned to work with my anxiety, the more open minded I became. I’m by no means free of my anxiety or depression, but I know a little bit more about how to be calm and patient with myself. It’s okay to like doing other things, like reading, dancing, colouring and so forth. I didn’t always see it that way. I want to be a writer, so I have to write almost all hours of every day. Not true. If you’ve reached your writing goal for the day, go do something else that also brings you joy.

It’s okay not to be perfect
Stupid, I know, but I always pushed myself to strive for perfection in every aspect of my life. I’ve never been good at that. Do you know how hard it is for an accident prone person to achieve perfection? It’s impossible, but so is perfection. I thought that if I wrote an error-free manuscript I would feel happy. I didn’t. Besides, I still found an error, which I added after my editor gave me my final manuscript back.

Enjoy the journey
It doesn’t matter whether it is life, a road trip, or taking on the hard task of writing a book. Every word, part of the journey, must be enjoyed. Don’t tell yourself that once you do  . . . that you will take a moment to breath, or once you do . . . you will feel happy, it doesn’t work. I know, because I’ve been doing that all my life. Until recently, I didn’t know just how unhappy and harsh I was with myself. Being that unhappy is simply not worth it.

I know myself better than anyone else does
If you’re looking toward others to define you, you’re doing something wrong. Nobody will know what is right for you, or the best for you better than yourself. I know that now. Sure I look toward my siblings to tell me if certain business decisions make sense, but only I know if I’m ready to give up on writing. Only I know whether doing a career change is really what I want. Only I know how a situation makes me feel. Others can speculate, but only you know. So trust yourself. I’ve learnt not to trust myself. I used to think that it’s all, or nothing. But life isn’t like that. You can do more than one thing. Humans are complex creatures. I know I am. I love writing, but I also love watching TV. If I complete my writing goal early in the day, I can spend the rest of my day doing the other activities I like.  Trust your instincts. It’s kept you alive thus far.

If you want to live a better life, be kinder to yourself
When I first heard that I was too hard on myself, that I was bordering on mentally harming myself, I couldn’t believe it. I thought that was normal. That I was encouraging myself. Nope. I was being disrespectful and abusive toward myself. Self-destructive even. Learning to care for myself was so strange. One of the first exercises I had to do in therapy was to tell myself three good things about myself everyday, for a week. I couldn’t do it. I still have a hard time with that to this day.

Never take anything for granted
I was never focused on my health. I was arrogant to think I would always have it. In 2016 my health went downhill drastically. I’m still fighting to get it back, but I learned to be grateful for even the crappy days, as it reminds me I’m still alive. Unlike many who lost their lives in 2016. I focused so much on being a good writer, that I burnt myself out, trying to please everyone. Another task which is impossible.

So in conclusion, be kind to yourselves. At the end, you are the person you spend the most time with. Yep 2016 was a tough year, but I intend to make 2017 a much better year and actually start enjoying myself. The opposite of depression isn’t happiness, it’s living. I want to live this year. 

How about you? Did you learn any lessons in 2016?

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