Working for Yourself: Month Five (Breathe)

{End of book editing, with the painting, bought with book money, by Lily Stockman}

When last we met, talking about self-employment, I had just turned in the first half of my book. I was a ball of not-breathing, a doing, doing, doing machine. Now, the book is turned in, and I’m writing from a cafe in San Francisco’s North Beach. Life feels easier.

Early in May, I spent a week pounding out all of the final content for my book. Then I printed it out in draft, and went to Mexico. This might have been the single smartest decision I made this year. You see, self employment is amazing in a lot of ways, but it’s work that never stops. There is always one more post you can write, one more invoice you need to send, one more business initiative you could launch, one more design tweak you could make, 500 emails that you probably should find time to respond to (achem). And I, my friends, am a super do-er (but we’ll get to that). So for me to stay sane as a self-employed person, it turns out that I need at least three vacations a year (even if they are only vacations from the screen). I need to forcibly unplug, spend time with my husband, spend time writing in my journal (about business development half the time, honestly), I need perspective. And while you might not be able to feel the warm, blue, salt water of the Yucatan coast when you read the APW book, it will be there. That week of perspective, and of editing by the pool proved crucial for me seeing the book for what it was. It also proved crucial for me seeing my life for what it was.

{Editing the book in Mexico. Lots of this text has been changed since!}

I came back from that week away, feeling like I could breathe, feeling like I was allowed to breathe. Things felt easier. I finished the book. Things continued to feel easier. Suddenly I realized that it had been a hard few months, quitting my job, getting used to self employment, writing a book. Over the course of this year, I haven’t allowed myself to think that things were hard, because I had gotten exactly what I wanted. So how dare I complain, even to myself, right? But in retrospect, adjusting to a new life, while writing a 60,000 word book in four and a half months? That was decidedly tricky. But it has the upside of making life post-book feel simple. You mean I only have to run this one (admittedly rather large) website? That’s IT? Well, excuse me while I juggle, and also clean the house, and nap.

Which is, of course, exactly what happened. I’d heard that finishing a book was heartbreaking. Like it would feel like a tremendous loss, and I’d mourn for it. And so I prepared. I got ready to cry, and to feel lost for awhile. But instead, I’ve felt giddy… and swamped. I have a tremendous ability to fill my time, to launch new projects (getting back to me being a super-doer). I am the queen of forward motion. So while just two weeks after finishing the book, I already feel like I need another break, I’m far from devastated. I’m delighted. I’m in action. I’m in my element.

{Delightfully (?) out of focus picture from the night the book was finished. Tequila!}

Postscript: A few hours after I finished this post, I had a mild panic attack. And after getting over the idea that I was having seizure (M: My head hurts! It hurts! Am I dying? D: That’s a headache. You never have them, but it’s normal. M: WHY? D: Tension. M: Ahhhhgghhh!), I realized, “Ah. This is the other shoe dropping.” Which was oddly calming, actually.  I was, after all, expecting some sort of post-book fireworks.

You see, I was stressed by A. the realization that the book was done, and I still had a lot of work (confusing). And B. that I wanted to execute all of the last five months of ideas for APW in one week, and couldn’t (overwhelming, but explains A).

So, onwards, upwards. The next chapter for APW, here we come. One day at a time.

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  • It’s really exciting to follow you as you’ve moved on to self-employment. Your path is almost exactly the one I want to follow (except I’m a fiction writer by trade – despite my moms frantic efforts to make me “one of those paid bloggers”), so it’s wonderful to sort of journey onward with you. I hope it just makes my eventual transition easier.

    I can hope, darnit.

    Left to my own devices, I’m a go-go-go-er. After having the life sucked out of me by a pair of drab gray carpeted walls and brown paint, I really can’t wait to be able to make life and work happen poolside.

    Big congrats to you, Meg – you’re living a pretty effing awesome dream. Hard work is always worth it when you love it.

    • meg

      Ha! Lucky you that your mom understands the ‘paid blogging world’ at least. That is much more rare in our family. And while you don’t want to do it, that’s a step closer to her really understanding the paid WRITING world, yes? I think so.

      • Ha. This is how the conversation usually goes when we chat:

        ME: I hit another wall with this character. He’s not behaving and my plot list is really getting angry.

        MOM: I don’t know why you just don’t get into paid blogging. You’d actually get paid instead of sparring with an imaginary person you created.

        ME: …. touche.

        I should really look into freelancing while I’m sparring with said imaginary person, but um… I’m scared. One day your enthusiasm will rub off ;)

        • meg

          You *should* start freelancing. Seriously, getting paid for you work gives you confidence, wich will allow you to DESTROY DISOBEYING CHARACTERS. Or, sit down with them for a chat. Plus, I’m never more creative than when I’m not freaked out about money ;)

  • Class of 1980

    It is hard.

    Self-employment is more flexible, but also frightening when you realize it’s down to you and you’d better keep those balls in the air. There’s always a tremendous list of stuff that needs to be done and strategy to figure out how to keep it all going into the future. And there’s the abject fear of failing and having to work for someone else.

    The trick is learning how to be happy even though you never really “arrive”.

    Let me know when you figure out how to do that. You can give classes and I’ll sit in the very front row. ;)

    • meg

      “The trick is learning how to be happy even though you never really ‘arrive’.”

      Mmmm. Is all.

  • It’s been so inspiring to see your ups and downs and behind-the-scenes of your self-employment. Thanks so much for sharing :)

  • Jo

    :D My partner is a do-er. I laughed hilariously at David explaining to you what a headache was. I’ve had those conversations. I’m more of a tortoise: I compile my list, then I just put my head down and start checking things off. With the right music I’m a whirlwind, otherwise I plod without stopping to panic. It’s always really nice to have moments to pick your head up, look at what you’ve done, and then panic at what you have left. Then put your head back down, and keep going.

    I’m so excited for you!

    • Bloom

      Yes! Loved the thought of the tortoise with the check list, that’s so me. So important to remember to look up everyone once in while to realize you’ve actually moved forward.

  • Thank you so much for sharing all of this with us, it has been so fun to be along for the ride over the past two years and I look forward to everything that comes next. Really proud of everything you’ve done, congratulations and keep up with that breathing!

  • What a startling (part of the) journey over the past few years. Even the site before the redesign is just a fuzzy memory . . . (is that good or bad?) Onward and upward indeed, man.


    • meg

      I feel like that’s a bad thing ;) Old APW is still a driving force for me. I want to stay loyal to it’s little scrappy heart.

      • I came across some of the much older posts while composing a “Yay! You’re engaged!” email for a friend and I actually wondered for a second why there were so few Exactlys and no replies to the comments… duh.
        So it’s not gone from memory, it’s just a tiny bit obscured by the big, shiny-ness of the current incarnation. And that’s ultimately ok, because this one works really well and is making it easier on you to grow it.

  • Oh, I wish I didn’t know what a headache was! This journey for you has been exciting to watch and it is lovely to feel like a part of the community of watchers (and potentially, dreamers who long to do the same). I am feeling like I need my own vacation, though!

  • Erin

    Meg, can I shadow you for a day (remember those high school assignments? introduce yourself to someone working the career you want and write about what their day is like…) Perhaps some of your go-go-go would infect me. And then I would buy you drinks. Whaddya think? :)

    • meg

      Are you local? It would be SUPER boring to shadow me for a day though, because I just sit at the computer, go to the gym, sit at the computer, eat lunch, sit at the computer, take a walk, DRINK! Achem. Sometimes on the last one…

      • Erin

        Sadly, I’m on the wrong coast entirely. Boring or no, I think that kind of a day would make me seriously jealous, especially since it sounds like a lot of that sitting at the computer happens at delicious coffee shops! If I’m ever on that side of the country, I’ll still buy you drinks, though, if it’s a some-time :) Chatting about creative, lucrative pursuits on the side of full-time, un-creative yet lucrative jobs (a.k.a. your former life. Whee! New life!) would be most helpful, and more fun over scotch, no?

        • Erin

          Besides, I figure I owe you for all the help and sanity you’ve imparted over the years!

  • I love these posts. I’m a super do-er to.

    The day I turned our journal into the printer (coincidentally the day you turned in the book), I was in the car as we drove down to a wedding, on the phone with our designer, using a wireless card to download the PDF for a final time and look through it when we got a flat tire. My fiance got out of the car and CHANGED the tire while I gave our designer the go ahead to send to the printer. My fiance got back in the car and I was like, “You changed the tire? I thought you were calling someone.” And he was like, “Did you not FEEL the car bob up and down?”

    The day after I turned our first journal into the printer, I was at said wedding feeling total withdrawal from the Go-Go-Go of the past month. Try as I might, I couldn’t quite let go and unwind, and would occasionally sneak away from the wedding to check and see if I had any emails like some sort of addict. Eventually, my friend took my phone away from me, I had a few drinks, and was able to relax and enjoy the rest of the weekend.

    So yes, breathe. And congratulations! You’re a rock star and I can’t wait to read the book.

  • The photo of you & David toasting tequila on the night you finished the book is priceless! The joy in your smile is incredible :-) Keep taking things one day at time & enjoy the ride~

    • I love that picture. I feel like it sends off proud, hopeful, and “we’ve SO got this!” vibes.

  • I love your do-do-doness. I am not so much of a doer. Immovable object, yes. Irresistible force, not so much. So I used your inertia to get me moving.

    Seriously, right around the time you quit your job, I finally got off my bum and decided to move. The week you finished the book, I quit my job and moved to Miami. New career to commence next week. So um, thanks for all the doing. And sharing it with those of us who sometimes need a little push.

    A rolling stone gathers no moss. Or something.

    • meg

      Sounds like doing to me!!

  • i love reading about your journey into self-employment. Its oddly reassuring, even though what I’m jumping into is probably the complete opposite (quitting my job of 5 years that i just couldn’t do anymore to go back to school so will have likely the most regimented schedule i’ve had in years), I was accepted into the program right around the same time you left your job. so as far as moving forward, i guess there are some similarities there. anyway, very much looking forward to what is to come!

  • I never get headaches either… they always make me think I’m dying. I’m really not sure how people with migraines survive!

    ps. It’s nice to see your face around here these days. :)

    • meg


    • Steph & B

      Let some of your no headache goodness and wonderfulness rub off me. Maybe now that I’ve finished with grad school and *almost* finished with the thesis….and the big wedding bash is upcoming in a few weeks….maybe after all of that my migraines will go away. ::crosses fingers:: They really throw a wrench in doingness.

      And I absolutely love your “working for yourself” posts Meg. They are always so full insight and encouragement.

      • meg

        Well, I have a full body pain condition. So while it’s reasonably under control, I’m pretty sure you don’t want to trade! :)

        • Steph & B

          We could go halfsies…..Some days I’ll take the full body pain and then others you’ll take the migraines…..

          But really that sucks. Even if it is reasonably under control. I think you should add another vacay onto the list for having to deal with this. A full body message vacay perhaps? Or would that just make it worse?

    • Kaitlyn

      We survive with lots of meds, and an insane amount of understanding from our loved ones + employers/colleagues!

      • Dragon

        And sometimes lack of understanding from our employers leads us to unemployment and a fledgling consulting business. Three cheers for supportive partners!

    • aine

      we crawl under rocks till it goes away. There is no arguing with The Migraine. As I once told my fiance, “If someone convinced me that eating a puppy would fix it, I’d eat two.”

  • It’s interesting noting the parallels between people telling you you’ll be super sad after your wedding is over, and super sad after your book is done. Maybe, when you’re always looking forward to the next exciting thing and filling your life with good work, it’s easier to emotionally let go of projects when they are finished?

    That said, I’m proud of you both for finishing AND for taking vacation. More naps, FTW!

    • Interesting outlook — and much more positive, might I add . . .

  • aine

    I hear you on “I’m getting everything I want!” I moved in with my fiance in England for a few months. I was thrilled- we were on the same continent, we had time together, making our home. I was fine fineFINE, except for this weird little breathing problem. I went to the doctor and asked “Do I have asthma?” She didn’t think so, and asked if anything was stressing me out. “Oh nothing at all, I moved over here a month ago and we’re living together for the first time ever and we’re getting married in August…” Yeah. TOTALLY stress-related. (On top of all the fun things, I also didn’t have a job of any description, so I’d gone into not just living together, but being supported by him.) I had forgotten with all the “FINALLY TOGETHER!” there was a lot of saying goodbye to things- even something as simple as having my own room.

  • It’s so interesting to read about your journey in self-employment. Strange, how something like that can make you feel connected to someone you haven’t ever met.

    At some point, once I move to the Bay Area, I hope to run into you. It would be great to thank you in person for your blogged contributions to making me aware of what’s out there (and what is also out there and should stay ‘out there’, too).

    • I saw “once I move to the Bay Area” in this comment and was about to reply and say “I’m moving to the Bay Area, too!”, but then I realised I’ve already told you that. :)
      Also realised yesterday that I didn’t leave you my email address: RegularlyAmazed / gmail.

      • That’s what happens when we share internet hang outs :) I’ll drop you a line so you’ll have my address too.

  • Julia

    Congrats on finishing the book!! What an achievement!

    I love your updates on striking out on your own. I quit my job almost 2 years ago and the next day went to the Secretary of State to register my own company. I’ve been self-employed since Sept 2009. It is the best roller coaster around! The highs are so high, but the lows are pretty low. Now that I have a wonderful man to be there by my side to help me through it all, it is even more fun. David sounds like a perfect partner for that as well!

    As for being a super-doer, I am and I am not. (Like right now, reading APW instead of working!), but you will find the right balance for you. I’m a workaholic and love the feeling of having my check list done, the rush of zipping through things and having things fast-paced. But having my own company has also taught me to enjoy the slow periods as well. When you get more time to take on those projects that have been on the back burner, calling you to them. That has taught me to be a little calmer and take things in stride.

    You have the drive and clearly the talent and knowledge on how to create amazing work, so I know the book will be a great success. And being self-employed will be too! I’m sure you’ve already enjoyed working in your pajamas, not stressing over that awkward appointment in the middle of the day because there is no boss to be frustrated with you for taking time in the middle of the day, etc. Now get ready for the best part of all – knowing that all of the success you’ve had is because YOU did it.

    • The best part really is “knowing that all of the success you’ve had is because YOU did it”! When I first realised (while still studying for my Master’s) that I was making a living–all by myself–by freelancing, I was so impressed with myself! And I had only just begun, but it gave me the energy/motivation to keep going and make it happen. Then I met my partner, who is also a freelancer, and it’s helped a lot to have someone around who understands what it’s like and to help keep each other motivated (like Meg wrote not too long ago, we’re each other’s one-person cheering section). Every once in a while we step back and say, “Wow, we’re totally doing this. Yes!”

  • ka

    “A few hours after I finished this post, I had a mild panic attack. And after getting over the idea that I was having seizure (M: My head hurts! It hurts! Am I dying? D: That’s a headache. You never have them, but it’s normal.”

    Haha, this happens to me at least once a week. A friend and I have coined the phrase, “from zero to aneurysm” for how one twitch can make us think we’re dying, hahaha.

    And I love, love, love the painting. My favorite colors.

  • Congratulations (again) on finishing the book, and especially for making sure you do what you need to to get stuff done, like going to the gym during the day and taking a vacation when you need to get a bit of perspective. It’s a steep learning curve when you first start working only for yourself, and I think it’s mostly about learning how to make sure that you survive while getting everything done (because getting everything done was never really a question, was it?).

  • “You see, self employment is amazing in a lot of ways, but it’s work that never stops.” – right on.

    Deciding to quit my firm job (and convincing my soon-to-be husband to do the same) to start our own practice was the scariest decision of my/our life. I love working for myself and it’s wonderful. But the thing about working for yourself is all the stuff they don’t teach you – or stuff you never had to worry about when you worked for someone else like figuring out how to keep a profit and loss statement, sending out invoices, pay estimated quarterly taxes, negotiate a lease, marketing, having employees, etc. etc. etc.

    It’s sort of like getting engaged. You just assume all of your life, you find your dream partner, get engaged and get married – simple enough. But it’s all the stuff in between (the stuff you write about on this blog) that makes life oh so delicious.