the work is never truly finished.

There's always more to be done. We can either respond with overwhelm or with a focus on the process.

the work is never truly finished.
Photo by Tine Ivanič on Unsplash

Until a few months ago, I was trying to navigate this creative life with a goal-oriented mindset.

Aiming for a certain number of words a day, a certain number of books a year, a certain amount of monthly/yearly income ...

For a long time, I thought that my job was to set things up so that these processes and systems would run smoothly on their own. As though someone else, not me, would be responsible for their execution.

I'm not sure what put that idea in my head. One of the things that comes to mind is an authors' group I used to be part of back in the days when I was on social media. The 20BooksTo50K group over on FaceBook.

It was an excellent resource and a great community space where several authors shared what worked for them and what didn't, which proved to be extremely valuable insights for others. You only had to ask a question, and you'd find countless helpful answers from various perspectives.

The idea behind 20BooksTo50K was that back then (a decade ago now, when the self-publishing industry had only just taken off, and perhaps this is true even now, I don't know), but the basic premise was that if you had one book, you'd need to sell several thousand copies of it to earn 50K a year, a full-time living. Conversely, if you had more books, say 20, you'd only need to sell that many fewer copies per book to get to that income level.

Essentially, the more books, the greater your chances of increasing your income without having to drastically widen your readership.

I completely agree with the idea of this. What I didn't expect was my subconscious response to this goal.

I had inadvertently latched on to the magic number of 20, and simply couldn't wait to finish writing that many number of books so that I could sit back and relax and enjoy my life as a full-time author.

I didn't realize right away that this was the attitude I had cultivated. It was only in hindsight that it became apparent to me.

But I remember feeling impatient with myself. I'd set high writing targets, feel frustrated on days when I couldn't meet them, and constantly feel as though I'd never reach this goal of completing 20 books and earning a full-time living.

(By the way, there are authors who have 100+ books and still don't earn anywhere close to that 50K. Conversely, there are authors who have far fewer books and have seen greater financial success. There really is no correlation or equation, except for the probability that the more books you have, the greater your chances of selling an increasing number of them.)

Anyhoo, ever since I set my eyes on that 'finish' line of 20 books, I couldn't wait to reach it. In the process, I grew frustrated with the daily work of writing and couldn't bear the thought that I'd have to keep doing this day after day after day until ... until when? I had no answer to that either, which only added to my overwhelm.

I'd ask KrA countless times, "How long do I have to keep doing this?"

As though someone were holding me hostage and forcing me to write.

By focusing on the outcome, by demanding that my process of writing yield something more than the pleasure of writing itself, I had completely lost all joy and delight in writing.

It was the saddest thing to happen. The saddest realization.

Even more startling was the observation that most of us tend to adopt this kind of a mindset without realizing it. Not merely in our work, but in parenting, in life itself. The 'once-I-get-past-this-milestone' approach.

It doesn't help that these structures of goalposts and milestones are imposed upon us by society and culture. Once the little one begins to go to school. Once the middle-grader begins high school. Once he/she finishes high school and gets into university. Once he/she gets a good job. Once he/she gets a promotion. Once he/she has a certain amount in their bank.

The work doesn't end with the crossing of these milestones. There are more challenges to face, more problems to solve. But in always looking ahead, we lose sight of what's in front of us.

No wonder I found myself in burnout for much of last year. Writing had become a chore and it seemed pretty pointless to keep at it without knowing when I'd finally be able to stop.

Sometime earlier this year, when I started setting up my own online store over at PayHip, I had the chance to spend some time with the works I had already written and published.

It brought back to memory not how many copies of each book I had sold or the glowing reviews that kind readers had left or the less-than-stellar ratings they may have received.

It brought back to memory the sheer joy of writing. Looking at all those works filled my heart with great pride and joy.

To be reminded that I had indeed spent a lot of time at the writing desk, ploughing through all the doubts and fears and letting the story unfold of its own accord, to be reminded that the worth of my writing is not the income it does or does not generate was a relief.

It's only natural, only human, for us to want to be seen and heard, to want our creative works to be read and appreciated, to know that the endeavours we spend so much of our life on are making a difference in someone else's life.

Even though we are not entitled to the fruits of our labour, it is only natural that we desire them. It was just baffling that I was so caught up in that desire for a particular outcome that the very act of creativity had become something to dread and feel anxious about.

When I focus on the present moment and the sheer joy of writing today, now, in this moment, simply for the sake of writing, everything else ceases to matter. Obviously, I'm very lucky that I don't need my writing to sell and put bread on the table, and I can't speak for those who are in that situation.

My point is, after I finish writing today and progressing on other activities like formatting my books, uploading them on various retailer platforms, etc. etc., the work is not done. Tomorrow will be another day, and there will be more stories to write, more to format and upload, more promotions to participate in, yet another newsletter to send.

Things will fail, things will stop working. A website you rely on will run into technical difficulties, and you'll have to wait for that to be resolved.

The work is never completely done. There's always more to be done.

We can either respond to this fact with overwhelm and anxiety, a sense of dread that this is how every single day of the rest of our lives would likely be.

Or we can tap into the joy we felt at the very beginning when we first ventured out on our creative paths.

When I first started writing, I remember thinking that I'd love to do this and only this every single day for the rest of my life.

Looks like my wish has indeed been granted. Although for a while in between, it had started to feel like a curse.

Because, in chasing everything else peripheral to it, I had lost sight of the joy of writing itself, I had ceased to be content with the act of creativity itself.

Now as I've been making my way back to that place of joy and delight, it helps to remember that I've already arrived at the destination I had set my eyes on when I had first started writing: to be able to do this every single day.

Now it's up to me to make the most of my stay in this destination, however long that may last.

Your turn now. What future milestone are you waiting to cross so desperately that you've lost sight of the amazingness of this moment?