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You're Allowed to Disappear
- Michael Thompson
“You’ve been at this for six years. Throw yourself into something else. Your writing is a reflection of your living. You’re allowed to disappear.”
A friend said this when we were talking about the realities of making a pro-longed living online.
I followed his advice.
In the end, despite having a six-digit audience across platforms, I stayed away from the online game for nine months.
A fifth of my youngest son’s life.
Long enough for my normally pale skin to get a consistent tan, and then back to my default pinkish-hue again.
The first few weeks were terrifying.
Most of my income relied on my writing. And just before stepping away, I signed a book deal.
Saying I needed a delay before I even started wasn’t an easy conversation. This is especially true since all the other publishing houses I had hoped to work with said no.
But it wasn’t a question of me asking for permission.
Life changed and my priorities had to change with it. Writing a book when writing an article felt like work wasn’t the state of mind I wanted to be in. A made a commitment to myself I’d only do it if I could find a way to make it fun.
But book deal or not, money wasn’t what got me into writing in the first place. Back in the forgotten world of 2017, that wouldn’t have been very smart.
Putting words down on paper helps me process the world and my role in it.
I write because it helps me see.
Plus, any money I’ve made from writing came from the stories that were rooted in looking back at my past.
But over time, without realizing it, I forgot reflecting and having stories to share demand one thing — actually doing something with your life worth reflecting on.
So as I navigated personal issues that took up a great deal of time and headspace, I threw myself into other somethings like teaching seminars at universities and helping three people doing a lot of good in the world to get their books to fly.
Sure, I lost short-term traction for my own “personal brand.”
But long-term, it’s hard to see how pausing my own writing to help other people advance theirs while teaching storytelling to hundreds of people will hurt my future.
If anything, it’s the opposite.
Creating is the long game.
My dad once told me the odds are high each of us will work for fifty years which means one year represents just two percent of our career.
I’ll never forget it.
It means to chill out and look at the big picture.
This whole creator economy thing is in its infancy.
The beauty of creating stuff for a living is there’s no such thing as retirement — we get to follow our nose until we don’t have a nose left to follow.
But this doesn’t mean we need to listen to all the people pushing the importance of consistency.
The key to long-term success isn’t consistently working — it’s consistently taking care of yourself.
If you need it, disappearing for a month is a blip on our lifeline.
The same goes for the time I took off.
It’s barely one percent of my career.
And I’d be shocked if choosing silence won’t allow me to say what I want to say for longer.
Sometimes the best thing you can do is disappear.
“If you don’t know the art of disappearance, learn it because you will need it every time you get bored of the society you are living in.”
Mehmet Murat ildan said that. I like it. The thing about creators is we’re all different. Some people live to write. They have zero problems knocking out 30 articles in 30 days month after month and year after year.
Other people though, those like me, live and then write. Sometimes we may push how much we publish to mix things up and test ideas and styles. But much of the time, quantity isn’t on our radar.
This isn’t a jab at the former and praise for the latter — it’s just a fact we all operate and thrive in different ways and troubles arise when we try to be like someone we’re not.
Stepping back allowed me to see the beauty in our everyday lives again.
It reminded me of who I am without my work.
Maybe you’re like that too.
Maybe the writing advice you need isn’t to cut more adverbs, delete the word “that” from your essays, and get obsessed with copywriting to drive clicks and sell online courses.
Maybe the writing advice you need is to step away from the noise and immerse yourself in the real world again to live stories worth later reflecting on.
Prior to taking the leap, my internal conversations were full of worry about all the bad things that would happen if I stepped away.
What pushed me over the edge though, was flipping the question on its head and asking myself — “What’s the worst that could happen if I didn’t?”
If you’re sick of the hamster wheel, opt out for a bit.
Arrows travel further the more you pull back.
You’re allowed to disappear.
Thank you for reading and best to you and yours,