Thursday, 4 August 2016

Finding the Joy To Keep Writing

My day job has a two week summer shutdown which gives me a two week unpaid writing holiday.  (That would be a holiday to write as opposed to a holiday from writing.)

It's given me a bit of perspective.  I've been enjoying writing 5000-7000 words a day and I've found it to be a quite manageable schedule, something that I could easily fit into the hours that my children are at school.  When I finish for the day, I'm eager to get started again tomorrow.  When I get in front of the computer in the morning, it's easy to leap back into the story.

So why isn't it that easy when I'm working my day job?

Obviously, I have less time.  Rather than 6 hours, I only have two and a half (or an hour and three quarters if I need to use that time to have lunch).  But my usual output in that time is 1000 to 1700 words, which isn't proportional.  Even worse, there are a number of days where I end up not being able to write at all.  Sometimes it's because I have to sacrifice a writing day to chores or errands and sometimes it's because my day job spills out past my usual end of day.

But I think there's a more subtle influence at work here and that's the energy drain that comes with a job that I'm good at but don't love.  I don't hate it and I actually quite enjoy my co-workers and a number of our clients, but I can't ignore that I usually finish my work day and I feel drained, not energized.

I can counteract that draining somewhat, by using music to artificially boost my energy levels and get over the inertia, or giving myself a twenty minute break with something energy-boosting so that there's a definitive break between my day job and writing.  But it still forms something of a drag on my productivity.

Over the years, I've discovered a number of things which drain my energy to write rather than boosting it.  There are some old favourite books which I love to read, but which I know will sap my energy.  (Also there are also some books that will send me running to the computer.)  If I don't have new stories (can be movies, television or books), then I find it harder to generate my own work.  There are particular encounters and situations which will drain me.  Watching the news drains me.  

There are always going to be parts of life which drain me.  That's a fact and one which I have to take into account.  But I can also make sure to include plenty of things which I know will boost me.  I have a short list of new shows that I haven't seen waiting on Netflix (including Supernatural, which I'm hoping to get started on in the fall).  I go regularly to the library and try a wide variety of genres so that my mind always feels like it's growing.  I have friends who are like personal caffeine/euphoria IVs, they will always send me away with a buzz (and, more importantly, are always willing to do a quick meet up).

You would think that doing something you love would be its own reward.  But the reality is that the promise of that reward isn't always enough to overcome the inertia of drained energy.  It becomes too easy to sit there and say "I'll do it later" until later becomes never.

Pay attention to what lifts you up and what brings you down.  A car can't run on an empty tank and neither can a writer.


  1. Great insight, Jennifer. No matter how much you enjoy something you still need the energy to do it.

    1. It's funny how our brains can sometimes trick us out of the things we enjoy by convincing us that it's all too much work.

  2. Great post! Stay focused on your goals but also give yourself a well deserved break!

    1. Right now I'm in full-tilt mode but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I've booked a little me-time as a reward (once the kids are back at school).