Deep. Breath. In. Out.
God. This is hard. This is always hard. When you’re an entrepreneur — a solopreneur — you don’t really have anything to go on but your gut. And what if your gut is wrong?
What if you think you’re doing the right thing, and it turns out you’re driving your business right into the dumpster?
What if you’re pretty sure you’re making a good, informed choice, but really you’re screwing up royally?
It’s enough to leave a person paralyzed.
I’m there right now. I’ve shifted my blog writing from maybe half of my daily work time — or two or three posts a day — to one post a day, if I’m lucky. Really, it’s more like maybe five posts a week.
In some ways it’s very good. God knows they aren’t rushed. I’m not scrambling for content. I’m taking more time with them, because I can. I’m a few big mama steps back from the edge of blogging burn out, which is a nice thing.
I also earned about 25 percent less from blogging last month than I did the month before. Intellectually, I know that’s okay. I prepared for it. I knew it was coming and I made up for it before hand with other revenue streams.
But I’m an emotional being, you know? Sometimes, I am, anyway. And so sometimes I have to just tell myself to take a breath. In. Out. It’s okay. You’re okay, Shaunta. Everything is okay.
In fact, Shaunta, you are rocking this shizz.
Finally, after a decade of trying, you’ve figured it out. You’re earning a full-time living with one freaking blog post most days. Not even every day. Plus, you’ve got all that other stuff going on, which amounts to a killer business that you pretty much plucked right out of your dreams.
So, just breathe. You’re doing what you’re supposed to. One little item on the bottom line doesn’t always reflect the whole picture.
Are you breathing?
Serious question. Inhale right now for me.
There we go. Feels good, right? Now look at your business with an honest, critical eye. Not the kind of eye you reserve for yourself. We all know what that eye’s like.
It’s a bastard.
The eye we reserve for ourselves sucks. It’s the one that says we suck, even though if we turned it on anyone else in exactly our position we’d see something else entirely.
So, pluck out that eye and put it in a box somewhere. Very Macbeth, I know, but go with me here. You don’t need that eye. It doesn’t do you any good. Or at least, it does more harm than good.
You want the eye you turn on someone you love. Your best friend. Your lover. Someone you admire. Someone you want to be when you grow up. Someone whose faults you can forgive.
That’s the eye you’re looking for. Turn it on your business.
What do you see?
I see that five times a week is probably not quite often enough to write. I need to get to seven — and I can, easily.
I see that I’m having fun with posts that aren’t about writing, but I’m not writing enough about my core topics right now and it’s hurting my bottom line.
I also see that it had been a long time since writing had been this fun for me, though, so there’s that. And fun is a good thing. Finding a balance between fun and work when your job is also your hobby can be tough.
I see that I needed a vacation after nearly four years of working twelve hour days almost every day of the week — and I was in a position to take at least a semi-break the last couple of months while I re-evaluated what I was doing, got a new project up and running with Ninja Writers (which replaced some of my blogging money) and did some traveling.
How about you? If you’re honest and don’t let yourself fall into the trap of beating yourself up or treat yourself differently from how you’d treat someone you trust to be hard worker who is trying their best to do a good job — what do you see?
Now that you’ve taken your breath and your look — what’s your plan?
Another way to think about that is to ask yourself what advice you’d give me. Or someone else — that person we talked about earlier that you really care about. The one you’d never turn the critical eye you reserve for yourself on.
Think about that advice. And then make a plan.
When I see my bottom line slipping, even a little — and even when it was planned and I knew it was coming — it’s easy for my inner former-poor-person to slam the panic button and run around like a maniac screaming Work more! We must work more! Why aren’t we writing???
When I’m in that mindset, my plan looks like this: Write fourteen posts a day.
Or something equally insane.
So this exercise helps, because it by passes Miss Panic Button and is far calmer. I can see that I’m not quite where I want to be, but I’m not that far off. Mostly it’s because of traveling and just being a little overwhelmed by being off my schedule.
So, my plan is to write more — but only a little. Every day, instead of most days. And to write about writing a little more often. I’ve let that slip too far away, without even really noticing it.
I have one more trip planned for the end of this month, although I’ll be working during it. After that, I’m not traveling again for at least a while and I’ll be settling back into a work routine.
I’m actually missing that.
And then I’ll reevaluate.
For the Record . . .
There are times when the panic button response — or something closer to it — is reasonable. I’ve been there. Those are the moments when you turn that positive-critical eye on your situation and see that All Hands on Deck is the right thing to do.
It’s time to put everything you have to finding a solution.
Even then, breathing is a good thing. We all need oxygen.
Being able to tell the difference between an actual “All Systems Go” situation and one where you’re just responding with anxiety to a situation that isn’t as terrible as it feels (and that you wouldn’t consider so bad if it was happening to literally anyone else on Earth) is an important skill.
Because when things do reach that place — first, you want to be able to actually see it with clear eyes.
And then be able to take an honest evaluation of your resources.
And finally be in a position to throw everything you have at finding a solution. That’s harder to do if you’re curled in a fetus position under the coffee table, you know?
Having a clear idea of your situation now, instead of constantly being pretty sure things are way worse than they are (even though you know better, so you’re not REALLY planning for anything super bad) is a fairly dangerous way to live, in my opinion.
It’s like the Boy Who Cried Wolf. Your brain, your heart, your adrenaline — all of your systems — get used to a constant level of upset and when you finally do need to do something about your situation, often it’s much later than it might have been if you’d had clearer eyes earlier.
Anxiety is real. Sometimes there’s not anything you can do about your body’s response to things. But you can control how you respond to that response. And if you’re reserving that intensely critical eye just for yourself and you find yourself saying or thinking things about yourself or your business that you’d never say or think about anyone else — it’s time to evaluate your response.
Shaunta Grimes is a writer and teacher. She is an out-of-place Nevadan living in Northwestern PA with her husband, three superstar kids, two dementia patients, a good friend, Alfred the cat, and a yellow rescue dog named Maybelline Scout. She’s on Twitter and Instagram and is the author of Viral Nation and Rebel Nation, and The Astonishing Maybe. She is the original Ninja Writer.