what to do when life gets hard

Embrace the Wobble


At this point most of you are already aware of my origin story so I won't delve into the details. For those of you who don't, the short version is I've been writing for twenty years while working a full time job with the goal of someday making my writing my full time gig. For my plan to be successful each day I need to provide value at my day job, produce new writing, promote my writing, try to be the best husband/uncle/son/beagle-papa/friend that I can be, and deal with all of the other responsibilities life thrusts upon me. To make it all work I've honed a juggling act over the years that maximizes the productivity of nearly every minute of every day. I envision each aspect of my life to be like the spoke of a wheel. Most of the time the wheel rolls wonderfully well, that is, until a spoke gets out of balance. When even one spoke is unbalanced the wheel of life begins to wobble. Sometimes the wobble is caused by circumstances beyond our control. I’ll provide a little backstory, my wife and I bought our craftsman-style bungalow at the worst possible time in the Fall of 2007. It just happened to be at the eve of the Housing Crisis of 2008, when real estate prices were at their peak. Lucky us. Like millions of others we were duped to believe the myth concocted by the banks that you would never lose money on real estate. We all have witnessed how that worked out. Two years after the crisis began we owed $60,000 more than the market value of our home but we continued to make the payments. Fast forward to 2015 and the market has come back with a vengeance and we want to get out while the getting’s good. We’ll break even if we’re lucky. For the past few months my wife and I have been working hard to get our house ready to sell and are looking for a new place to live. We want to downsize and find a condo that will be much less expensive and require less time and effort to maintain. These two life events have created such a wobble that the progress in writing my second novel, Truth Is Stranger, has completely ground to a halt. There just aren't enough hours in the day to get everything done. I'm not whining… okay maybe I am whining just a little, but I know I'm not alone. Many creative people find themselves in this same predicament but it can be a stressful and anxiety-inducing way to live. After all, you have this wonderfully creative outlet that fills you with such positive energy and joy but it doesn't yet pay the bills. You have to eat and you don't want to be homeless so as a result your creative endeavor is usually the first thing to suffer when life becomes overly demanding. As a writer, I understand how easy it is to become frustrated and depressed when the demands of life make it so there's no time to write. Being stuck in the wobble makes me feel as though the dream of writing full time gets further out of reach with every revolution of the clock. This is especially true since everyone says it’s not a good idea to wait more than eighteen to twenty-four months between the publishing of your first and second novels. I’m no stranger to the wobble. I’ve been here before and have learned a few things about it that I’d like to share. Following are some tips that I've discovered to survive the wobble unscathed: 1. Be gentle with yourself and with others. During demanding times it's easy to be hard on yourself and those around you. Take a deep breath and release any feelings of guilt for not reaching your goals as fast as you planned. Also, it's important to never become too busy to express gratitude to those in your life who make you happy. 2. Continue to create something every day, even if it's something small. When times are particularly demanding I write haiku on my phone while I'm walking the dog. I've found that whether I'm working on a poem, a blog post, or a novel, the joy that comes from the spark of creation is just as great. 3. Take care of you (both body and mind). Eat right, exercise and get adequate sleep. Your health is your greatest asset. If you have a healthy body it's much easier to have a healthy mind. You need to keep your wits about you during times of wobble. Keep your body in the best shape you can and you'll be surprised what you can accomplish during demanding times. Remember, often times the untrained mind is the weakest link, it will cry "surrender" long before the body does. 4. Meditate. This will help to keep you calm and grounded despite what life throws at you. Meditation also fosters feelings of compassion and altruism even if these feelings are not in your nature. One quick way to forget about your challenges is to help someone else. I’ve been meditating regularly for over twenty years and even a few minutes of meditation per day will cause lasting positive effects in more ways than you can imagine. 5. Trust that the universe is unfolding as it's meant to and look for lessons and opportunities everywhere. Life rarely plays out the way we've planned but we must remember that the journey is half the fun. It's surprising what great lessons the journey has to teach us. We must be flexible and always remain aware to the lessons that are being presented to us. 6. Don't worry that ideas or opportunities will stop. When you truly believe ideas and opportunities come from a limitless place inside of you it helps stifle a lot of the anxiety that comes from the wobble. 7. Continue to promote. Promotion is the one thing you can't stop doing as a writer. Even if this means you need to occasionally recycle old content or post quotes or memes. You have to regularly stay in front of your audience to keep them engaged and coming back. 8. Harvest ideas from everything in your life, even your struggles. Write down ideas, even if you can't immediately act on them. This post is a good example. I reaped a blog post from my the depths of my current wobble. 9. Give yourself permission to say no to those who demand your time. I learned this important lesson from James Altucher, a mentor of mine. He says if requests for your time don’t immediately spark a “Hell Yes!” response from you learn how to politely decline them. This holds true especially during times of wobble when your time is even more precious. 10. Make time for joy and laughter. Both of these things reduce stress and increase your quality of life tremendously. 11. Keep in mind challenging times never last forever, the wobble will end at some point. In my experience challenging times rarely last long. In fact, the wobble seems to end just after you get to a point where you feel as if it never will. As the saying goes, it's always the darkest just before the dawn. 12. No matter what, never stop taking steps toward and believing in your dreams. I’ve lived long enough to realize there’s nothing in life worse than regret and as long as you’re advancing towards your goal each day, even if it’s just a little bit, there is nothing to regret. Be one with the wobble. Learn from it what you can and you will come out stronger on the other side. Stay strong and wobble on! ~Eric Vance Walton~