by Camela Thompson
I've talked about my reality check after publishing. The odds of having a hit out of the gate (much less a hit at all), are slim. It takes years and multiple quality releases to build a career as an author. Because this means years without an income, authors must choose to tighten their belts and supplement with any work they can get related to writing or keep their day job and work around a full time schedule. I chose to continue working as an analyst because I enjoy making companies more efficient and pointing to tangible results. That and the pay is good. I felt like a climber with the right equipment and environment. Now that I've hit a health crisis, I'm back to questioning everything.
Before you think I'm a wimp, let me explain what I mean by health crisis. I have been diagnosed multiple times by rheumatologists with systemic lupus. You'll notice my phrasing is a little odd. Systemic lupus is a thing that can come and go, and lifestyle changes can have a huge impact on symptom manifestation. If I manage my stress, eat an insanely healthy diet, and exercise daily, I can lead a normal life and forget about lupus. At these high points, my doctors question the diagnosis. Unfortunately, stress isn't something people can eliminate from their lives. Every couple years the symptoms come back, always with new variations and months of tests. Lupus is scary--it's an autoimmune condition that translates into organ systems being targeted by your own cells.
This summer, I made the decision to start a new job with a smaller company. The great thing about small companies is the potential for one person to institute a great deal of change. Most corporations have moved towards leaner development cycles, but companies with established infrastructures and multiple overlapping systems require more planning and more people to buy off on the change, which takes time. Smaller companies are more nimble and the influence of a single person can fuel or hinder success. The down side to small companies is that the strain on the individual trying to implement change is greater with less people to help tow the line.
Changing jobs carries risk for someone with a chronic health issue. Change is stressful, even if it's positive change. I knew the amount of writing would go down initially while I adjusted to new expectations. I suspected the autoimmune would kick up, but I couldn't be sure what that would look like.
I did okay for the first five months. My writing suffered, but I finished book three and revised it with feedback from beta readers. January marked the point when my health got in the way of meeting book related deadlines and I had to back out of participating in a convention panel. I not only felt like a bad co-panelist. I was angry I couldn't get on a plane and weather a few days in a different city. That was bad. February and March brought challenges that impacted my ability to get to work. Spinal pain interferes with my ability to sit and write or edit. My stomach issues made it impossible to go on vacation. My energy goes into making it through my work day without wearing my issues on my sleeve. By the time I get home, I can make it through eating before I crawl into bed. I no longer felt like a climber ascending a mountain. I felt like a climber dangling from a cliff space suspiciously eyeing a warped carabiner.
While I weather the coming deluge of blood tests and medical procedures, I'll need to cut back. I don't know what that looks like yet. My podcast has already suffered from infrequent posts, but my cohost has been patient. She's known me since we were eight or nine, and understands this happens every few years. For the first time, I may have to push back a book release. Only my publishing team is impacted by this change since it's not public facing. It bothers me, but I'll get over it. Writing will happen when I feel well enough. I joke that authors need a little bit of misery to fuel their stories, but too much hinders creativity.
The big questions encompass my day job. Perfectionism is destructive and causes harmful stress. Can I back off the throttle? Did I set expectations at a level I can't maintain? The potential for improvement drives me, but I need to pace myself. There are negative aspects to every job, but I realize the largest hurdles are self-inflicted. I love writing, but it's not feasible to lose a regular source of income.
What comes next?
Freelance writer and Dark urban fantasy author featuring vampires with bite.