What I Wish I Knew Before I Made The Biggest Change

For over 20 years I have struggled with the habit of taking on too much, too fast. I’ve worked so fast that I’ve become a slave to my own creativity. I have no time to rest, learn, or grow, and when things go wrong it can be so devastating. In my time as a freelance copyeditor I finally realized what it was that I was doing to myself.

I am not making the biggest change in my life by taking a break from publishing, writing, editing, and marketing. Instead I am putting my hands together to launch my own consulting company, The New York Times Co. Now instead of one book or one article a week, I can cover three books, or two, or more. Even better, now I have a huge number of projects that keep me on track and in business. And most importantly, instead of doing this for money I am getting it for the joy of creating new things. And I will be able to have a full-time job without feeling guilty about it.

I still spend at least two hours a day editing and rewriting, but I think the biggest part of the problem is not me, it’s those readers that expect me to produce at a professional-level every time. If I can show them what I can do, the world will change. So here’s what I want to do, and hopefully you will do too.

Here’s how:

1. Create a plan for your workweek. The most important thing you can do to cut down on the time you spend doing creative work is to figure out how much you must do. It doesn’t have to be everything but it should be part of your life from the beginning. As someone who has always been at the cutting edge of creativity, I know how important the planning process is. It will give you more energy, more focus, and more confidence every time you take on a new project.

2. Identify the people you want to work with and work together. There are a few ways you can identify people who will be helpful to you in your plan. I want to work with people who are not afraid to give me a challenge; people with no fear of being out front and the voice of a new, experimental style of writing. I need people who will support me in my own personal growth, whether it means going to the library and searching for books on the topic at hand or simply sharing their own writing as my muse. I can trust these people.

3. Establish and enforce a system for dealing with the feedback. When I started the process I got many critiques, sometimes with good advice as well as often with criticism. Every critique is an opportunity to learn to respond faster, better, and more quickly than I could when I began. This goes for the negative as well as the positive. I am learning to make a point of responding in a way that does not dismiss or ignore the advice, but rather asks for better. As soon as I respond to the critique I take it on board. I know I can learn from my mistakes and make them less likely again.

4. Create a plan for your day. For over 21 years I’ve been living with an addiction to a drug called sleep. It was the first form of entertainment I had that I could fall asleep to. I could watch it on television and through the radio, or sit in bed and read. It was my escape. I would watch my favorite shows, but at the same time get up before dawn to use the bathroom and do my best to avoid waking up in the morning. I felt no guilt or shame, even though every decision I made was made with a goal and a reason.

Today I live in a city with no curfew and the only thing that I have to do is go to work or school. I have a plan. I work at a time that ensures I wake during my peak hour. During the day I am aware of my sleep cycle, which begins with a period known as the “morning hours”. During the night I am conscious of the times when I want to fall asleep. Because I have a schedule I cannot rely on my need to fall asleep to distract me from waking up.