Thursday, January 12, 2012

Workday Writing - Writing as a Second Job, Part 2

Last time I talked about the practice of writing on weekends and holidays, what problems I've found with it, but also why I'm doing something like it for this quarterly dare anyway.

This time I'm going to talk about two concepts - Daily Writing and Workday Writing.

Daily Writing

Daily Writing is what we usually do when we get serious about writing. If writing is your calling, and your profession, then you have to do it every single dang day of your life.

The advantage of daily writing is obvious: you form good habits and you build up a good sized body of work fast. And though there is a down side, this is one of the most important things for you do start with. Never a day without a line, as the poet said.

The thing to remember is that it's more than a habit. This is the thing that makes writing a part of your identity. You write, and you keep writing. And your mind always comes back to writing. It's via this daily writing that you make the transition from a wannabe who thinks about writing all the time to the writer who does write all the time.

In addition to that, slow steady progress can help you build momentum. Trying to write in powerful bursts can wear you out, and kill momentum (unless you're just creating short term momentum to help power through something specific -- like the last chapters of a book).

The disadvantages are easy to see:

1.) It's hard to do. Even if you love writing and can't wait to get to it every day, it can be far beyond frustrating when you're exhausted and life gets in your way. It can be heart-breaking to push and push and be prevented and prevented. And with daily writing, you will come face-to-face with your goals every day. More chances to feel defeated.

However, most of the time you can deal with that. It's just a matter of moderating your expectations. (That is, lowering them.) And, of course, learning to not waste time cursing the horse every time it bucks you off. Just get back on and get back on and get back on again. Life is one ornery bronco, and it's going to buck you off. No getting around it.

2.) You can burn out. If you are successful in training yourself to always go right back to writing after every disruption, you can wear yourself out. You can also push your life out of your life. This can be great for getting up some momentum, but it's bad for your life and sanity. (There is a reason it goes back at least as far as the Bible that you should take a day off once in a while.)

An issue closely related to burn out is losing the fun. If you push yourself hard enough, you can turn anything into a chore. While at some point you will have to learn to put the fun back into it, it can be helpful to learn how to keep working, even when it isn't fun. This is a skill and a hurtle you must cross sometime. But once you've got that under control, you need to go back to learning how to keep writing fun.

3.) It can interfere with your performance of your day job and life functions. As with item two, if you succeed in focusing your life energy on writing every day, you may have a hard time changing gears and concentrating on anything else. This is cool for you as a writer, but it also could make you a driving hazard on the road, and cause your boss to lose faith in you as a worker, and your family to leave you. (Also, don't forget to shower.)

Workday Writing

One solution to the problem of writing yourself right off the rails with a daily habit is to make writing a part of your ordinary work days, like a second job, or taking night classes. Do the work as a part of a routine, so it becomes a daily habit, but keep it within limits. Do something different on weekend or vacation days. Make those days for reading or blogging or doing publishing errands...or just living the rest of your life.

Workday writing has a lesser version of many of the problems with daily writing, but as long as this routine has you writing during the majority of your days, it will still have the advantages. You'll still create a habit, and still create steady progress.

The big disadvantage is that you may be writing on the days where you have the least time, and you are the most tired. Your only solution may be to keep the fun in it. You may have to forget lessons and duties. And you may have to play with your schedule to find the best time for you. Some people find it's easiest if they get up early, when the world is asleep. Or stay up late. Others find that lunch hour writing sprints can be very productive.

Every Day, But Not Every Moment

One compromise between daily writing and workday writing is to write every day... but don't try to do more on weekends or vacations. Do exactly the same as you would do on a work day. Then, when you're done with it, get on with life and vacation.

That compromise has been the method that works best for me, overall. Yes, I still struggle with doing too much or too little on certain days, as conditions change.

As you find the right schedule for yourself, there are always two things to remember: everybody is different, and even more important, everybody changes. As you develop as a writer, your needs will change. And your goals will too.

The goal I keep in mind is the transition to being a full time writer. Aside from financial considerations, one big issue is working around the Day Job.

The Day Job (and the time and energy it takes) is kind of an elephant in the room. It's this big thing that tends to suck up all the time, energy and resources, and we tend to build our lives around it. And we keep building until it becomes the structure everything -- including or writing habits -- is dependent on. So when its gone, very often it takes all your carefully constructed habits with it. You need to consider more than finances when it comes to quitting your day job for a life of writing.

Next week I'll talk about that. In the meantime....

See you in the funny papers.

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