I'm the author of a book, SOLO: How To Work Alone (And Not Lose Your Mind), the idea for which came into my head in 2013, when I realized how unhappy my solitary, work-obsessed freelance writer life was making me - even though from the outside it looked pretty successful. I realized that if I was finding working alone hard, others would be too. Fast forward a few years (and two babies) later, and I finally got the book deal in 2019, which is when I started writing what I thought would be a useful book for just a few other freelancers, like me. When it came out in September 2020, the whole world had changed, and suddenly the audience was far larger than I could have imagined (or wanted). Now, alongside my writing work - I'm a featured journalist and I also write cookery books - I give talks and workshops to organizations, charities and educational institutions, helping people and groups cope with the challenges of remote work, as well as for freelancers and small business owners. SOLO has so far been translated into seven languages, and although I thought it would only come out in the UK and Europe, SOLO has also been released in North America, Australia and New Zealand.
The whole experience was totally unexpected, but it has been quite amazing to hear from my readers - who email all the time - that the book has helped them through this extraordinarily difficult time. To extend the conversations started in SOLO, I also host the @the_solo_collective podcast, now in its second season, in which I interview experts and other solo workers about anything from imposter syndrome, networking and loneliness, to how to create a brain and body-friendly home working space and even what to feed yourself when you work alone.
What were the biggest initial hurdles and how did you overcome them?
My biggest initial hurdle was not realizing that my career was a long game - I wanted to do so much when I was young and I was so frustrated that everything wasn't happening immediately (plus I didn't actually have a clear idea of what I wanted my career to look like, or what was important to me in terms of creating a successful life on my terms). We rarely teach young adults to think broadly and creatively about how their lives might pan out as a whole but instead we teach them to crave very specific types of success (often related to income and status) and I certainly got a lot of that at the London School of Economics, where I studied for my first degree. The combination left me wanting a lot, with no idea how to get it, which was quite painful, for quite a long time.
What books are you currently reading?
I'm reading a book called Scarcity - why having too little means so much, by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started?
That it would all work out in the end! And that I didn't have to work quite as insanely hard as I thought I did; that long hours are not actually related to productivity and in fact can damage your ability to work creatively and happily.
What advice would you give to an upcoming youth or talents locally and internationally?
Take your time and think carefully about what you really want from your life - as opposed to what other people tell you to want, or what you've been told you're good at and should therefore pursue. The life you are living is yours alone, so it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks you should do with it; no one else has to sit comfortably in your skin apart from you. Work out what meaningful work is for you - not what society tells you meaningful work is.
So many of us get into pickles because we think we should do a meaningful job but can only think of jobs like teaching or medicine as meaningful. But meaning can be found in anything as long as it fits with you - from gardening to car maintenance to social care to...writing about food and work, as I do! And, as long as you're thinking about this stuff, rather than being swept along by life, it really will all work out in the end. ____________________ My websites: www.rebeccaseal.co.uk and www.howtoworkalone.com.
My instagram handles: @bexseal and @the_solo_collective.
My twitter handle: @rebeccaseal
My linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rebeccaseal
Listen to my podcast The Solo Collective - everything you need to know about how to cope with working alone. "It contrives to be kind, realistic and genuinely helpful, all without lapsing into business speak and psychobabble. Install a copy on whatever surface is functioning as your desk, and you may even feel a little bit less alone." The Observer. My latest book, SOLO, is out now