Working Out My Worth

Good friends say things you really need to hear but don’t necessarily want to. And time to reflect almost always results in making some decisions.

The other week, my good friend Dr. Stephanie listened as I talked about writing before saying thoughtfully, “You are the best cheerleader I know. Why don’t you turn some of that on yourself?” She gave examples of how I’d encouraged her to take on a half marathon when she’d never thought of herself as a runner.

Her point: Is accomplishing anything in life any different from taking on an athletic goal?

Time Off to Evaluate

That conversation happened right before I decided to take a holiday work break. As a freelancer and, therefore, my own employer, there was no reason not to take a vacation. It’s not like we depend on my income (fortunately), and my blog is better for a refreshed writer.

With all that free time and opportunity for thought, I actually had to force a true break. I limited computer time and imposed a “no writing” rule. Until that one day, when somehow, before I realized it, doodles appeared in my notebook…the old fashioned way, handwritten, on that fresh paper canvas.

While I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions, I am a huge reviewer and data analyzer. I love to pore over bits of information to glean insight into the how and why of what I do.

I thought a lot about those doodles.

Inspiration via Fresh Paper

See, I’m a notebook junkie. I always keep one on the kitchen bar, pen (preferably blue ballpoint) close at hand. It’s necessary for two primary reasons: to cushion my daily New York Times crossword puzzle and for scribbling as I read. Those scribbles become blogs, articles, tweets, and lists: books to read, trends to follow, purchases to make, shows to see, people to know — you name it. I love to take notes.

notes image
I’m a compulsive notetaker and an obsessive crossword puzzler.

What I’d scribbled and doodled in my notebook during that writing moratorium were ideas for a novel.

Over the passing days, I watched those doodles grow as I jotted down another character detail. Plot points emerged; the setting took form. Words crept across the pages, expanding with the time I spent doodling away, dreaming.

I wasn’t actually, really writing…I was still honoring that work break…I simply needed to secure a few ideas before they got away from me…after all, what I was doing was just for fun….

The “aha moment” stared me down, a truth I couldn’t rationalize away.

Wrestling Worth Away from Public Opinion

Sometimes, the only way to successfully arrive at a destination is via the long route. (Or maybe I’m just justifying the time I’ve taken to get here.)

I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I became a reader. How can anyone who passionately loves book not yearn to create one? While organizing our storage shed over the holiday break, I stumbled across a bin that held some past writing. I found a science fiction novella, typed on my dad’s ancient manual typewriter when I was about 10 years old; cringe-inducing notebooks full of teenage-girl angst-y poetry; college English papers.

Photo of old manual typewriter from 1940s.
My dad typed his dissertation on this; now it’s art at my house.

Over the last 30 years, my writing shifted, becoming education-oriented. I created study guides, high school course materials, and informational items for newsletters, team manuals, and the like. Working for Austin Fit Magazine, I wrote everything…hundreds of articles, some lengthy, researched cover stories and others, short blurbs, web pieces – in other words, anything the office needed written between 2011 and the end of 2014.

In the year since I left the magazine, I’ve worked hard at developing my blog. I also pushed myself into a variety of projects, not all of which have been writing-related. But I was often driven to take on commitments by a need to establish worth. Would others view what I was doing as important or valuable? Had I left my position as editor in chief of a magazine for something others deemed better? Did my contributions to our household justify the time spent?

The fundamental flaw in this consideration was I allowed others to validate my choices, to balance the teeter-totter of my needs versus work via money, status, and prestige. I assigned very little (if any) weight to my desires, especially if they didn’t include a paycheck or title.

I’ve never made writing a book, a lifelong passion, my career focus.

I hadn’t because I’d never assigned the undertaking its proper worth.

Which I couldn’t do until I recognized my own worth.

Taking a Page from My Workout Log

As my friend pointed out during that winter walk, there’s no significant difference in taking the leap to write a novel than, say, deciding to train for an Ironman-distance triathlon or 100-mile run (or anything else; I picked these for their undeniable wow factor. But are they really any more impressive than what it takes for that first sprint tri or 5K? Another topic).

When I took on these athletic challenges, there was no guarantee of success. Each required significant expenditures — of effort, planning, money, and time. During training, I burdened my family in numerous ways. People often scoffed at my goals, some opining I was “borderline stupid” for the attempt. None of that outside opinion stopped me. I did not care if others thought what I was doing was important, worthwhile, or even a good use of my time. My desire to try, to test what I was capable of, outweighed the ball of fear often lodged in my gut.

Leah Nyfeler finishes Ironman Coeur d'Alene.
Finishing Ironman Coeur d’Alene was a huge milestone event.

Pushing myself athletically has always had a good return on investment. The confidence I’ve gained, experiences shared with friends, and improved physical health have permeated every facet of my life. I’m better and happier for those challenging pursuits that make my heart sing.

Why not apply that concept to work?

It’s time to take the leap and commit. To take on the feeling of fear, the “oh, shit” moment, and state a big, hairy-assed goal. To write it down and say it out loud. To give a goal proper worth.

Making a commitment to pursue my long-held desire is more valuable than any title or salary I could secure. No matter the inconvenience it might impose, the exercise is worth doing — whether others deem the outcome an amazing success or total failure — for what I gain and how I grow in its attempt.

I cannot deny the obvious: I will never accomplish a goal that I don’t acknowledge as worthwhile. And if it’s worthwhile, I need to give it my all.

I want to write a book.

I will write a book.

I am writing a book.

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Published by Leah Nyfeler

I'm a writer, editor, runner, and adventurer who is always looking for the next new story, exciting adventure, and good meal/book/movie. My focus is on helping people find their best, healthiest self through sharing what I know and how I've come to learn it. In addition to my blog "Enjoying the Journey: Observations on the Fit Life" at, my articles have appeared in a variety of print and online magazines. You can hear me as part of the 2015 Austin cast of Listen To Your Mother.

0 thoughts on “Working Out My Worth

  1. Opinions…here is mine: you are a darned good writer and I have always thought you should write that book! I m stoked for you my friend.

  2. I Think you should make me a minor character in your book. With a few good lines. And maybe part of a mysterious twist. Or, better yet, make me sort of a hero at the end. Oh heck, just make me the star of the whole shebang!

  3. I love this post. Even if you never earn a cent from your writing (by the way, you\’re way ahead of the game on that!), being a writer is who you are. It\’s what feeds your soul and brings you joy and anguish and life. It\’s your love affair. (Have you read Elizabeth Gilbert\’s Big Magic?). I\’m so glad you are putting this proclamation \”I am writing a book\” out into the Universe. May it conspire to help you realize this goal.

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