For a long time I thought I was way too lazy to be a workaholic. After all, I’m capable of sleeping 12-14 hours in a stretch and I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have a mound of clean clothes waiting to be folded. But I’ve come to realize that I’m more of a lazy persons sleep system trapped inside a workaholics brain. I have a hard time resting, and accepting what I’ve done, and sitting still is not high on my list of character qualities.
Is this good? Sure, sometimes. I doubt I could have made it through a year of working, interning at two different places simultaneously, going to classes, keeping up with homework, and writing without that workaholic nature. If I’m really excited by what I’m doing, I can work with singular focus and accomplish a significant amount of work in very little time, and even have fun while I do it. Those things all come in usefully in the working world.
But the down side is feeling like you’ve never done your best. I’m not always sure I even know what my best is, and I always feel like I could have pushed just a little bit more and accomplished just one more thing. And that side of working, especially creative work like writing which requires every bit of you, isn’t healthy.
Being a hard worker often goes hand in hand with wanting control. I do want control in a sense, because I’m creating things with my name on them. I want a reputation for excellence, not to just hand off the first thing I can dish out. But the publishing world is rife with lack of control, and sometimes no matter how hard you work success may not look the way you were expecting, and to succeed you’re going to have to be okay with that.
Kate Brauning is a lovely writer and editor I’m privileged to have met through Twitter (@katebrauning) who posts #subtips regularly, and recently she reminded us that the only thing we’re in control of is the books we produce. Everything else is out of our hands except creating a great story and telling it well, and that as long as we’re doing that, we have something to be proud of, and we can feel like we’re working as hard as possible on the most essential piece of writing- the story.
This really resonated with me, because it speaks to that workaholic passion to be excellent, to produce quality and put my name to something I can be proud of. We can’t control everything, friends, not in publishing and not in life. But we do control the most important part- who we are and what we do with our circumstances. So whether you’re more workaholic or more couch surfer, whether you like control or have no problem living open-handed, remember: you control yourself, and your words. And you can always strive for balance and excellence in the things you do have control over.