Returning to the fray
2018 was a slow year, workwise. I was only doing the bare minimum to keep the business going and otherwise focusing on recovering from the big burnout of 2017. It was wobbly and sometimes stressful and as I approached 2019, I spent a lot of time wondering if I even wanted to keep going. After all, part of what brought on the burnout was an unsustainable work situation.
The Big Dream
I decided to focus on the one thing I was dead sure I wanted to do – finish writing and publish the book I had started. A complete rework of my former signature online course, The Creative Doer.
I set a goal to publish the book early fall 2019 – and I did it, but holy wow, the amount of work that went into it. The writing of a book is a huge thing, and then the rounds of editing and rewriting and proofreading. But producing a book – that’s a whole different beast. The paperwork, the million big and small decisions, designing the book, choosing fonts and paper, doing illustrations, finding the right printer that would also function as worldwide distributor of the book – as I wanted to launch not just in Sweden, but in all English-speaking parts of the world simultaneously.
I hired a designer, Lisa, to help me create the actual book, and an assistant, Åsa-Saga, to help me understand the ins and outs of self-publishing globally. Without them, it would have taken me another year, no doubt.
But we did it. The book launched the first week of September, and it still feels kind of surreal to hear from women from all over the world, reading and loving my book. It was a huge dream come true. Maybe my biggest dream, this far.
For those of you wondering: No, it’s not making me rich – it hasn’t earned back what I invested in creating it yet, but that’s fine. A book is about as far from a get rich quick scheme as you can get.
I’ve heard many versions of the advice that you should put 10% into creating your product and 90% of your efforts into launching it. And while these percentages are extreme – if you’re an entrepreneur, there’s some good sense in it. Because it’s the launch – the marketing efforts – that will get the product you’ve created in front of the people who need it. That’s what will let you earn money from it. And if you run a business, earning money is what will keep your business alive.
Well, I probably put 99% of my efforts into creating this book, and ended up with 1% left to launch it.
It’s not ideal, I knew that. But I also knew that, given the resources I had available to me, it was the only way I could get the book done this year. So I decided it was ok. This book will have a long life. It will be part of my business and my work for years to come, with or without a big launch. Next time, I’ll plan it differently though.
The most challenging part of the year was the fact that I needed to bring in money all along, since I did decide to stick with this work and keep running my business. I couldn’t allow myself to be completely swallowed up by the book process. Anyone who’s known me for any bit of time knows how obsessive I tend to be about my passion projects, so I struggled a bit with this.
But I hustled on the side. I put in my work in Write Your Self (my other business). I took on a big ghost-writing project, finishing a book for a client just weeks before finishing the last draft of my own book. I planned and hosted a retreat, I offered my 8-week online intensive, The Creative Sessions. I translated a book and edited another.
And I’m not going to lie. Halfway through, I felt pretty darn tired.
No surprise, considering the work load, but still. It made me wonder all over again. Is this even doable? Can I find a way to do this work in a sustainable way, that doesn’t have me on the verge of burnout once or twice every year?
I love my work, that’s not the issue for me. I know I’m good at what I do, that’s not the issue either. What it’s all about for me now is sustainability. And at this point, sustainability seems to boil down to money.
Can I make enough money from this work without working unreasonable hours, without straining myself and my creative capabilities, without being stuck in front of a screen longer than is healthy, without giving too much of myself to my work and too little to my family?
Can I make money with less effort? (Asking that question makes me uncomfortable and excited in equal measures. Always a good sign.)
Anyway, I’ve been down this road enough times to know to slow down when I feel tired like that. The last quarter of the year, I made space for the tiredness and the heaviness of my doubts and just stayed with it. I kept asking that question – can I make money this way without draining myself? – and waited for an answer to surface.
And it came in the shape of a realization: I made all the money I did this year sort of on the side, while spending most of my working hours on my book project. And that’s basically what I’ve been doing for years and years, always building some new, big thing. A new business, a new course concept, a book. Big projects, costing time and money, while making money hustling on the side.
I’ve always made money. Sometimes a lot. It’s just that I’ve poured it right into the next big thing, leaving far from enough to take care of me properly.
But what if I don’t create a new, big thing in 2020? What if I were to allow myself a year where I ONLY build on what I’ve already created, and put most of my working hours into actually making money from those things (instead of the other way around)? Wouldn’t that shift the pattern of overworking and underearning?
And then it was clear what I would do. I would re-launch that beautiful course my book is based on. The Creative Doer. The course that was already created, that hundreds of participants had loved, that I loved, and that has the potential to do plenty more good – if I only make use of it!
So I launched it. More than thirty women from nine countries have already signed up and it’s going to be a wild ride. (Registration is still open, we begin January 31. Come join us!)
I’ll keep making better use of all the things I’ve already created in 2020 (Write Your Self, I’m looking at you). I’ll go deeper, I’ll work less, I’ll sell more. And I actually feel quite excited about it!
So thank you 2019, for making me fed up enough to break the cycle.
As for the rest of it …
Well, it was rough, wasn’t it? On a global scale: Glaciers melting, fires raging, backlashes following the #metoo uprising, racist parties on the rise in Europe and elsewhere.
On a personal note, we moved to an apartment downtown (our small town) and I find myself struggling without the forest next door. I didn’t expect it to be such a big deal but it is, for my mental health, my sense of place and belonging. Even so, I still appreciate the breathing room we gave ourselves by moving here – I don’t think I could have managed the book project otherwise. And I’m insanely excited about finding or building our new home. Like, I’m not sure I’ve ever been so excited about anything, ever. Wish me luck!
Three things I loved in 2019
Books: There are so many, but three books that made my heart beat wildly and hopefully is: Wilding, by Isabella Tree, The Hidden life of Trees, by Wohlleben, and The Tao of Equus, by Linda Kohanov. All about the MASSIVE healing power of nature and what happens when we re-assume our true place in it. Horses and trees, folks. That’s where my heart is these days.
Series: Unbelievable, a series about a young woman charged for falsely reporting a rape, and the two detectives who decided to find out the truth. Disturbing and painful, and also a massive relief to see this story told from a truer perspective than what is common. I wasn’t surprised at all to find out a woman wrote it.
Also. The dragon fight during the Battle of Winterfell in season 8 (Game of Thrones, should you have missed it). Oh my God.
Travelling: We’ve never done much flying as a family but this year, in an effort to reduce our own carbon footprint, we decided to stay on ground completely. We stayed in Sweden for our vacations – exploring the unbelievable beauty of the far north, Abisko National Park, and two islands in the south, Öland and Visingsö. Less time on airports and transits, less money spent. The children loved it and so did we. As exciting as it can be to travel the world, I really do believe we need to learn how to find adventure close to home more often. Because sustainability, and simplicity, and rootedness.
Photo: Daniel Amrit Forss
Happy New Year, my friend. Thank you for being part of my 2019 <3