Career rethink #4: Self-starting, but don’t want solitude

 You’re your own boss. But are you a kind one? Here are the best blogs for staying sane – and connected


All by yourself and prickly © Laura Eades 2014

When I took maternity leave, and then voluntary redundancy, I hoped that writing a novel might fit around childcare. But as any writer will tell you, left to your own devices you can become your own worst enemy.

I realised that if I wanted a solo vocation, I’d need to take action, and that communities were there waiting for me. So I looked to the internet to bring the temperature of my cabin fever down.

Who’s it for? Those of us who’d like to be productive, clear in our priorities, to be held by a routine, exalted in our own company. Not slobby, self-defeating Robinson Crusoes.

Leo Babauta, leader in forming mindfulness-inspired personal life habits (and highly prolific blogger who still manages to spend his afternoons with his family of seven), has written a couple of ebooks on productivity – Zen to Done, for example. It’s as simple to read as it suggests. But his blog has been a huge inspiration to me: prioritising, ending procrastination, your relationship to goals, making time for meditation and running… methodically eliminating all the self-sabotage that could get you down at the best of times, and that shows itself in technicolor when your hours are your own.

If you plan to be in charge of your own schedule, your decisions about how you spend the hours make the difference between being happy or self-thwarted.

He also runs a programme called Sea Change which focuses on cleaning up one aspect of your life – your finances, your clutter, your physical health – per month. Have you tried it? I’d like to hear how it is and plan to give it a go at some point.

Who’s it for? For writers trying to finish their shit and not waste their days making weird sandwiches. Being part of a community helps you set deadlines, pre-commit, get some encouragement. Working from home doesn’t need to mean working alone. 

But if your specialism isn’t writing, it’s worth looking at these powerful online communities and asking yourself: are there any online communities for freelancers in my area? Who’s helping and mentoring my people? Could I join? Could I also be a helper?

This NaNoWriMo page is all about committing to an edit, and includes pledges and a sense of community that help stop this solo activity sending you so low.

You can also find the Book Doctors here, who I’ve had an online chat with, and whose book I’ve read – ‘The essential guide to getting your book published’. I can verify that they give out very good vibes. I’d like to hear from you if you’ve had any other good ‘book doctor’ type encounters.

Who’s it for? Bloggers, writers, web entrepreneurs, coders, music-makers, business starters, coaches… actually, you could be doing anything, because the theme is that you don’t have to limit yourself to a specialism, but can get help to pursue all your interests here. 

This is a smallish, affectionate online community that aims to provide community, accountability, knowledge-sharing and motivation through online discussions and live Google+ hangouts. The members are largely young, web-savvy and prepared to give most things a whirl. I’ve had great blogging advice, tech help, and business coaching via their online forum.

The hosts are mostly on the East Coast (USA) so live chats tend to be during the evening – their breakfasttime.

Who are they for? Business startups, entrepreneurs of all kinds, self-employed people who want a community, not an office. People on the phone on the hotdesk next to you might not help if you were trying to concentrate on a creative masterwork. 

My friend’s making a radio programme about these spaces, and she took me to one she was visiting here in Berlin. I attended a shared breakfast event – someone gave a presentation about a new brand of rice they were marketing; another person had invented a tech gadget he was launching. People pitched in with ‘have you met such-and-such, they are doing something related’. On the wall was a timetable of masterclasses – tax, for example, or coding, or using a 3-D printer. It was really vibrant.

Does anyone know anything similar, just for novelists?

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How do you manage your own company? If you’re self-employed, how do you keep a balance; stay within a sense of community? If you’re a novelist, how do you prevent yourself losing the power of speech? I’d love to hear from you. Click on the pale grey dot with a plus sign under the blogpost to open up the comments section.


Read more about Reworking work on Illustrated Guide to Life: