I think it’s time I readjusted my attitude about my day-to-day. It needs it.
I know many writers who write part-time — that is, they balance their writing time with their current day job and/or parenting duties. It can be a frustrating attempt at balance, especially when your Day Job Brain functions much differently from your Writing Brain. I play with numbers and emails all day, and I’m extremely well versed in business-speak. That job entails a lot of logical, linear thinking. Nine times out of ten, point A and point B should lead to point C. [That tenth time is the exception setup, what I often refer to as “it goes like this…except when it doesn’t.”] It’s not exactly a tough job — okay, it is in its own way, but I’ve been at it for seven-plus years and I’ve gotten used to it. I don’t let it stress me out all that much anymore.
My writing, on the other hand, includes a lot of nonlinear plotting, multiple points of view (not just in narration but in character personality), and a lot of leaps of faith, in hopes that it’ll all make sense at the end. It’s the dreamland I always look forward to, where I can play with words and images, make up fantastical things, and tell fun stories.
Just as logical, but completely different frames of mind. I’ve been doing both for so long I can easily switch between the two when need be.
Lately I’ve been in a rut, however. By the time 4pm rolls around and I log off, I just want the day to be done already.
Okay, maybe the situation’s not quite that dire…but after eight hours of the Day Job, sometimes the last thing I want to do is work on something else. I want to be lazy and goof off! I don’t even want to go out at night…I just want to sit around and whittle the time away. Thankfully my ingrained guilt receptors kick in soon enough and I get to slog away for a few more hours doing whatever it is I need to do creatively.
How did I get this way? And don’t tell me “you’re getting old.” I may have just recently turned 44, but I’ll be damned if age is going to be an excuse for being a lazy bum.
I started thinking…what was it that got me excited about writing previously, anyway? Or excited about going out to do something?
As always, I thought back to a time where I was truly excited about my writing time. I thought about my Yankee Candle days — I had a half-hour commute each way, I moved hundreds of boxes all day long, and yet I still managed to make a weekly habit out of doing a comic book and new cd run in Amherst. I was also able to spend two solid hours writing at least a thousand words every night. My personal best in terms of word count that I’ve been trying to reach for ever since.* Or my days at HMV, where I’d drive 50 miles to the mall I work at, slog through the day, drive 50 miles back home (or the 70 miles to Amherst for the occasional comic book run, then an additional 30 back home!)…but still balance that with the hour before work writing longhand, and the hour or so at home, transcribing to the computer.
Point being: I know I can do it. There’s no doubt about that.
So why am I complaining that I can’t, or don’t want to? It’s not as if I’m particularly exhausted, mentally or physically, or can’t stand the project I’m currently working on.
I mean, I’ll be heading over to Amoeba over on Haight tonight to see The Church, one of my favorite bands, play an in-store show. The store is only a few miles away, and I’ll probably be home before 8pm anyway. And yet, why do I feel lazy enough to want to come up with an excuse for not going? I mean, come on. It’s the freakin’ CHURCH, for pete’s sake! They only sing my favorite song ever! Why the hell am I feeling so damned lazy??
Finally it dawned on me, just today: I was looking at this current schedule from the wrong angle.
I work at home, so it’s not as if I have to deal with a commute; I wake up at 6am, have breakfast, read some webcomics and catch up on the Twitter feed, and log on at 7:30. I take two fifteen minute breaks and a half hour lunch. I log off at 4pm and we head over to the YMCA soon after to get our exercise. Dinner is usually around 5:30-ish and I’m writing by 6:30pm, all the way to about 8pm. I get my daily words and my project words done at that time…and if the work day is particularly slow, I sneak in some personal writing, such as this particular blog entry. The day’s packed to a reasonable degree, but I’m not draining myself in the process.
All the same, I’ve been suffering from a terrible case of the Don’t Wanna’s.
And that’s the issue right there! It’s not the schedule or the work/writing balance that needs fixing: it’s my attitude.
So I submit this: let’s return to my YC-era work mindset — my day job is my paycheck, but my writing is my career. But don’t forget to have fun as well.
I’ll still dedicate the same time and brain power to the day job, of course. But let’s also look forward to logging off at the end of the day.
Let’s remind ourselves throughout the work day that, once I’m off the clock, it’s time to go and have some fun! Let’s look forward to walking around the neighborhood after work. Let’s look forward to playing in that imagined world for a few hours. Let’s look forward to having fun with what I love doing the most.
It’s not about trying to do everything at once. It’s simply a change of attitude. Look forward to life. Look forward to that bit of entertainment. Look forward to that writing time at the end of the day, because you know and I know it’s a hell of a lot of fun, even when it does get frustrating.
Chances are, the payoff will be worth it.
* Mind you, I’m not trying to force a thousand words on a nightly basis, because it depends on the project. I’m working on Walk in Silence but not logging any new words because most of the work has been what I call ‘framing’ the flow of the book. My sort-of daily 750 Words have been consistently over 750 and flowing quickly, so I can safely say I’m counting the words where they really do count.