In early 2010, I was in a pretty bad place. I had just quit my job at a call center because I was calling off at least once a month or every two months because of my chronic back pain, and I’d much rather quit than be fired, again, for my health. That was a low point for me. I remember that my back went out – again – and I knew I’d have to miss work – again. Missed work meant missed wages, and we were already financially strapped. I remember sitting on the edge of my bed, in tears, ready to give up on everything, not just my job, because I couldn’t see it getting any better. Ever.
Little did I know my life was shifting in ways I could never have predicted. Within a month, my mother called me and told me that she needed to get to California to take care of her ailing brother and his wife. Since I was off work anyway, I decided to go with her, driving her to California and providing emotional support for her, since she was frail and in poor health as well.
Being in California was good for me in a lot of ways. I was able to connect with California friends, particularly a writer friend of mine and possibly my biggest and loudest cheerleader. She was also living “the dream” in that she made her living with her writing, and I was all ears how to make that happen for me. I remember our conversation vividly. Like me, her life had shaped itself where she couldn’t hold down a typical nine-to-five job at a brick and mortar company. She told me that she had to make the writing work. There was no Plan B.
That conversation stayed with me when I returned to Texas, where I began to look for opportunities to write for money. I ended up freelancing, which was fortuitous. Not only could I make money with what I wrote, I could manage how much I would make. I worked when I could, rested when I needed to, and managed to bring in enough money to supplement my husband’s income to meet our needs.
Freelancing taught me how to work with editors, which made sure the quantity of what I wrote was quality. Each project was another bill paid, so that taught me how to use my endless drive to churn out completed article after completed article. This training would serve me well when I began self-publishing in 2011.
The freelance stuff eventually dried up so I threw myself into self-publishing. By the end of 2012 I finally saw that pay off. In 2013, I made twice as much as I had ever made at any brick and mortar company. In 2014, I doubled that.
I credit this ALL to the idea there can be no Plan B. There can be no safety net. Your margin of error shrinks and you have to learn to trust yourself to make things work, and reject anything that doesn’t ultimately serve your goals.
By 2014, I was also fortunate enough to get a handle on my back pain. I found a much better (and natural) management tool that actually worked, which meant I could work even harder towards my Plan A. The results were incredible. I found myself even higher on my own personal mountain, with everything I wanted well within sight.
In 2014, I also came face to face with my physical limitations that had nothing to do with chronic back pain. If I want to continue climbing this mountain, I need to be stronger than I’ve allowed my physical body to become. In order to reach those higher peaks, and continue climbing even higher than that, I need to condition myself.
Hence my #oneyear project. When I say that this is totally health-motivated, I am 100% sincere. My physical limitations were sidelining me in my own life, preventing me from enjoying time spent with the family, doing the things that we all want to do. I couldn’t even consider a trip to the beach without a certain amount of dread, because I knew what kind of chore it would be to walk through the sand towards the shore. The last time I went to the beach, it took three breaks to walk up the incline from the beach back to the street.
If I can’t do that, then how the hell am I going to do anything a successful writing career entails?
It occurred to me today that the same principle applies to both. If I want to conquer these physical limitations, there cannot be a Plan B. There cannot be a safety net. It’s not something I can opt into or half-ass, any more than my career. I either do it or I don’t, and each choice comes with its own consequences.
Every morning before I actually get on that bike, I’m faced with both choices. There’s the voice of action, that says the only way to condition my body to be strong is to do the work. Then there’s the choice of inaction, where the devil on my shoulder whispers all sorts of excuses. I know how to play the game by now, I know how much I can get away with.
But I also know that if I ever want to experience true change – true triumph – I can’t entertain those excuses. I have to treat this journey the same way I treated my career. I managed to fight and claw my way up into the coveted minority of working writers just by obeying the “No Plan B” rule. It was all or nothing. I went for broke. I accepted no alternative.
If I could do that, then this other stuff is a piece of cake. Unlike my career, which depends on a thousand of variables out of my control, my body is my domain. These results are completely, totally, entirely dependent upon me.
Perhaps that’s what makes it so damn scary.
But there’s no Plan B. So scared or not, I’m out on that high wire, no safety net, no margin of error.
I can make it happen. And so I will.