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Sunday, 27 October 2019

Don't Kill Yourself For Success


Danielle Steel is the bestselling author of all time and one of the most prolific authors alive. I've never read a book by her (romance novels aren't my thing, gimme Stephen King or Liane Moriarty instead), but her immense work ethic and creative output is inspiring.

She's published 179 books, 146 of which are novels. That's incredible. One can only aspire to produce such an exorbitant body of work in a single lifetime. I can't comment on the quality as I've never read anything by her, but one hopes she's better than Stephanie Meyer and E.L James. Regardless, she has a wide fanbase of people who adore her books, and that's what matters - enriching the lives of others.

However, I'd like to comment on her work ethic, which while staggeringly brilliant, I personally find dangerous. Steel said she works twenty to twenty-two hour days, and thrives on four hours of sleep per night. In an interview she expressed bafflement at the conceptual work-life balance, insisting that your twenties and thirties should be about working hard in order to have a good quality of life later on.

I agree and disagree. Working hard doing to create something you love is important. Dreams don't happen by falling out of the sky. People ask me how I've published four books at twenty-two; it's not a 'miracle.' I was inclined to almost give up before finishing Anne, the novel I published earlier this year. I had no idea how to write the last section. Did I sit down and force myself to bleed into the laptop? No, I took a break for several days and then came back and spat out the last 12K words.

Everyone is different. No two people are wired the same. I know that if I don't get enough sleep (my average is nine hours per night), I get very strange during the day. I become twitchy, agitated, zone in and out of things and can't even tell if I'm awake or dreaming at times. I need to rest and take breaks and pause. My parents drummed the importance of health and balance into us growing up. Exercising, eating regularly, and not overdoing things.

One thing I learned the most from doing my A levels is how dangerous it is to over-work yourself. One can still be successful and do well without it being a detriment to their mental and physical health. Maybe Danielle Steel is naturally robust enough to function on little sleep. But I'd be dead within a week if I tried doing what she did.

To be successful doesn't mean you stop eating, sleeping, showering and taking care of yourself. Contrarily, one needs to do all these things in order to remain successful and happy overall. When I was ill for two weeks, I didn't try and force myself to go do stuff, I stayed at home and let my body rest. Of course I wrote - I'm always writing - but I never try and force myself to write. If it doesn't flow naturally, that's a sign that I need to put it aside.

I'm not someone that believes you should spend ten hours a day working. Maybe it's because I'm physically fragile; sometimes lack of sleep causes me a panic attack. I'm obviously a hard-working person, and I take what I do seriously, but I don't do it at the cost of living healthily. Otherwise, what's the point in working? My writing gives me joy, I'm not doing it so I can have a better tomorrow, I'm doing it because I love it today and hopefully it'll help me out tomorrow.

I struggle to understand why people put themselves through hours of work they don't enjoy. Maybe my mental health pushes me to prioritize self-care. I already struggle with depression; why do something that's just going to make me worse? Writing isn't all fun-and-games of course, it's tough, as is being a musician (logistically more challenging). But at least when I'm down in the dumps, it's for the sake of something I overall adore.

Working an unfulfilling job that damages one's mental and physical well-being sounds like staying in an abusive relationship with someone who buys you lavish gifts. Sure, the gifts are nice, but wouldn't you rather be with a partner who is poor but treats you kindly? At least you can be sad in a happy environment rather than filling the void of misery with material items.

Related articles:

https://www.glamour.com/story/danielle-steel-books-interview

https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/2018/11/218105/danielle-steel-books-beauchamp-hall-successful-career-interview

https://www.theguardian.com/books/shortcuts/2019/may/13/danielle-steel-works-22-hour-days-is-it-possible

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