My hard drive crashed yesterday.
Not my computer’s hard drive.
MY hard drive.
It started with some strange flickering and flashing across my visual screen. Then it worked its way up to bursts of static. All the while I kept trying to work, kept sending emails, kept trying to brush off the vertigo, dizziness and rising nausea. I didn’t have time to be sick. I thought I could just push through it like always.
But I wasn’t getting sick.
At 10:00 yesterday my screen went black for a few seconds, maybe as much as a full minute.
Genuine lost time.
When I realized I’d had my first ever legit blackout I grabbed the counter, fought down the fear and cancelled all my appointments for the day.
By 10:30 I was virtually comatose in my cool, dark basement.
Full sensory deprivation.
Even the thought of reading, watching a movie, looking at my computer made my head swim, my stomach knot and my guts twist.
For the next few hours I lay there, in the dark, and tried not to think.
When I rebooted last night I had an epiphany.
I’ve exhausted my RAM, forgotten to defragment my life, and blown up my hard drive. All available disk space is being used. I’m spent. I’m dry. I’m done. Not only have I failed to back up my files, I’ve forgotten to plug in. My battery is so dead it’s like a black hole devouring all the energy trying to pour in.
The worst part is, I knew it was coming. I could feel it. I’ve had too much on my plate for too long and I haven’t known how to let any of it go, so I just kept holding on tighter.
Then yesterday – I had to let it all go. I didn’t have a choice. My system crashed and all the pieces went tumbling out.
I took a step back and looked at what had happened. I knew my lifestyle was unsustainable. Yet I kept doing it every day, as if somehow by doing the insane, I would somehow find sanity.
Not so much.
Maybe I had to go to the school of hard knocks for this one. And maybe I have learned a little something. Something that I refused to see until a potentially catastrophic event happened. Until I collapsed.
What I have learned is that I’m doing it wrong.
My whole business model is based on me being a miracle worker. Which I’m not.
So, I am re-assessing, revising and restarting.
I read a couple of blogs semi-regularly. There’s always the (other) Red-Head Writing and her fabulous weekly Bitch Slaps to remind me to get real, in business and in life. And then there’s The Renegade Writer, who posted recently about finding your freelance line in the sand. What won’t you do for a client? What lines have you put around yourself and your business to protect it from heinous fuckery? (Which, as she points out, is defined differently by everyone. She doesn’t do weekends. I… well, that’s just the problem, I don’t have any lines. I’m not even sure I have sand… But I’m getting some, read on…)
So, today I took a hike. Literally. To remind myself why I had moved my family back to Colorado. To remind myself why I left corporate America nearly a year ago and never looked back (except to laugh and sing na-na-na on occasion). To remind myself why I got into the Word Slut business in the first place. And to find some sand in which to draw a few lines.
What I realized is that this job I do – it’s a team effort – it has to be. It’s not about telling my clients what I can do FOR them, it’s about listening to what they want to achieve and offering them ways they can get there. It’s about letting them know that if they’re not invested in the outcome, if they’re not reaching for the stars right along with me – then we’ll never make it.
And it’s about the long game. We’re playing chess here in the publishing industry, not Big Stakes Texas Hold ‘Em. The industry is changing, almost daily. We all have to keep our eyes on the board to make sure we’re thinking that one great move ahead of the curve. It’s not about betting the pot on a single hand, a single card – it’s about pacing ourselves and setting ourselves up for a real win, one that we learn from and can repeat.