Life,Writing and Everything

I’m sure that many of you must share some of the same experiences of writing with me, which is why I raise this issue.

OK – and I admit it – maybe a frustration rant would make me feel better. πŸ™‚

I’m not a full-time writer, but hold down a professional job to pay the bills. Sometimes it is satisfying work, but other times, like now, it is incredibly dull. God, I can feel my life draining away. My brain would try to escape and set off in search of bright lights and excitement, but sadly, it is still required to keep up the appearance that I am producing useful work, worth paying me for. Also, at least to myself, I like to maintain the illusion that I’m reasonably good at what I do, particularly when I have enough to do, and am inspired by the work.

The thing is, working does take up rather a lot of time, physical and mental energy. I know that a lot of people out there have this amazing capacity to go home after work and write, and I have immense respect for them. It’s just not something I can do when I’m tired.

Reading is another matter – I can do that at almost any time, and it helps me escape. But reading requires a much smaller injection of creative energy from me.

So I’m wondering if anyone has any tips on combining writing and work? Is there any way to avoid writer’s frustration, and yet continue to eat on a regular basis?


37 thoughts on “Life,Writing and Everything

  1. I feel you on this one.
    I also work a full-time job to pay bills and have to write after work. And you’re right! It is tough.
    Here is my kicker:
    Some days, I just have to write because I am full of inspiration and creativity. And other days, I write because I know that if I am a writer I just need to write. Passion and practice, like Jeff Goins says, is the key to writers. We just need to write.

    Keep it up. You’ve got this! You have a reader! (Me)

    • Thanks Freddie. There certainly are days when I just have to write. I suspect that I need to follow some advice I read somewhere else on here (I wish I could remember where): ‘Write first’.
      The suggestion was that we stop putting all the other bits and pieces of life first, and letting writing fill in any empty spaces. There is something in that I think. Writing seems to be one of those important, but non-urgent tasks, which are harder to make time for somehow, than all the urgent things.
      Hopefully this is just a passing blip in my system. πŸ™‚

    • Usually, I eat lunch! I also blog, try and get out in the daylight, and sometimes run errands. But maybe if I was disciplined about it, I could set a day where I write a work.

  2. I have written tons of blog posts on the subject, but generally it boils down to whether or not you really want to be a writer. I am a high school English teacher, a father of four children between the ages of 7 and 12, and even though I have summers off where I spend a lot of time writing, I have summer conferences, and life in general that get in the way. I could point you to my blog for some posts I have written. Just select “Writing Problems” or “Writing Techniques” under “The Library”. I have to strictly budget out my time, write 1000 words a day even if it’s crap, and spend precious time blogging as well. Like I said, it all depends on how serious you are about wanting to write something.

  3. I’m really glad you wrote this post, Kat. I’ve been feeling the exact same way for weeks, ever since we started a new project at the office. 8 hours of works (plus 1h 45 mins total commute) drain any energy I might have at the end of the day to write.

    I hope your readers come up with some more tips.

    Thanks for sharing. πŸ™‚

    • Glad to know it’s not just me! I feel a bit awkward having out something negative up here, but actually it’s really helped: this morning, I’ve managed to revise a story. It’s really quite reassuring to know that other people are in the same boat.

  4. I have the same problem! One thing that works for me — sometimes! — is to set a timer for five-minutes and just write whatever comes to mind. The purpose of the timer is to remind me that I’m not locked into anything. At the end of five minutes, if I’m not feeling moved, I can get up and do something else. But if I do fall into a writing groove, I can always keep going. This makes it feel less like work and more like play; I find that this strategy removes some of the pressure from writing. I’m now WRITING. I’m just writing.

    • Good thought, Marc – thanks! It probably is the pressure of trying to multi-task to some extent. Sometime where I am just writing, in a definite way, could be just te shot. I’ll give it a go, and let you know how I get on. πŸ™‚

  5. I am not a writer, but I love words. I think that the idea is to try to live in the moment, and be 100% where you are, and not in one place focused on the other.

    Maybe your heart is telling you it is time to make the move.

    • You’re quite right – it is very hard to only be in one place, mentally speaking! I suspect that it’s not doing a lot for my work either, so perhaps some greater discipline is required. There have been some great suggestions from people, so maybe they will help. Thanks for dropping in!

  6. Yes – I know how this feels! It doesn’t help to have a regular day job where you’re staring at a computer all day. Sometimes the last thing I want to do when I get home is turn on the computer. It helps to carry an old fashioned notebook around just to jot down sentences or ideas here and there. Then I can look through those notes when I get home and see if anything inspires me enough to really write (even though we’re not supposed to wait for inspiration and all that). Freelancing can also combine writing and work – it would be nice to be able to just do that – maybe someday.

    • It’s funny isn’t it? If any of those snippets of inspiration come to me, they usually end up on the back of bits of random paper. There are three haikus on the back of a planting plan which will surprise one of my colleagues one day. The thing is that then I lose them. As I’m going by the gallery today, might see if I can pick up a small notebook. I have a larger one I keep research in, but that’s not always on hand. Good thought – thanks!

  7. It’s a fairly common feeling among those of us who have day jobs to pay the bills. There are plenty of evenings when I come home and just don’t feel like writing. What I do, and it usually works, is open up an older story file and read through it slowly. Before I get too far in, I’m writing again or at least considering things for the current piece and, possibly, editing and revising the file which was opened.

    For me, it’s the mistakes and ideas for the file I’m reading that breaks that feeling. If the feeling persists, then I consider that a cue to take a short break and focus on something else whether it’s a book, a movie, or family time.

    • Thanks Candace – good to know it’s not just me! I think your strategy sounds like it might work. Marc had a good idea for setting a timer also, which might work more with new pieces. I’ll give it a go, and let you know how I get on. I always feel better when I am writing well, so all advice on how I might break this pattern is very welcome!

  8. Feel your pain, I’m in the same boat and a single mother to boot. Here are some of my tricks. 1) Write in the morning. I do half an hour to an hour. 2) Write regularly no matter how little but create a routine. Steadily writing for half an hour a day in a focused fashion (head down, e-mail and phone off) for half an hour every day or 5 times a week, then slugging through and not really concentrating. 3) Periodically take a day off to write, especially during a particularly key points; 4) when commuting, if you drive, use the space to think through plot points, characterization etc…; 5) Carry a notebook and jot lines, phrases etc.. that you can use in the current manuscript, it does move you forward. 6) When writing at work, try to use it to practice skills (even if its a technical paragraph).

    • Hi Sabrina,
      Wow – I’ve nothing to complain of really, compared to your lot! I can’t imagine trying to combine writing with the demands of being a single mum too. I’m very impressed that you find the time at all.
      I like your suggestions. Someone else also suggested the notebook, so I got one yesterday, and was making notes in it this morning on the train. It sounds like I really need to be more disciplined in terms of time management, and making sure that writing is important enough that this time isn’t eaten into.

  9. I don’t think I can be of any help. I write for work and it is mind numbing at times doing proposals and boring research. So I enjoy writing for pleasure where I can be witty or manipulate characters to my satisfaction; I enjoy it even more than reading now. Good luck though! I feel for you (and don’t feel bad about reading–a good writer reads a lot).

    • Thanks for the thoughts! I know that it is many peoples’ dream to write for a living, so very interesting to hear that it’s not always all it’s cracked up to be. I don’t think I could ever feel really bad about reading, except when I get too involved and am late for other things! It’s rather like eating vegies – you can never have enough. πŸ™‚

  10. Oh man, I feel you, Kasia. I’ve been struggling with that especially since I’m finding myself in a very active period of my life. I’ve been through times when it seems like I was living in a desert, socially-wise, so I’m sort of enjoying this particular phase maybe a little too much. It’s hard because it leaves less time for writing, whether my brain’s turned off or not. Still, even when I’m not doing something social, it’s hard to get my brain cells to keep ticking after they’ve been ticking at high speed all day.

    I find changing the scene helps: like turning down the lights, turning off my netbook (I use another old laptop for writing and my little netbook for the Internet), or sometimes making tea helps. Even taking a bath or shower can help. All of that signals my brain that we’re not sitting at a desk again to do more work, but are sitting at a different desk to do something else; something good and exciting.

    Having said that, often I’m just too fried to write and I just have to know that I’ll have days where the writing will flow. I figure as long as I’m doing *something* towards my writing every day – whether it’s plotting out a scene, working on a character sketch, doing research, whatever – that counts for writing.

    Good luck getting through this bit.

    • Thanks Mara! Enjoy the social stuff – that’s important too.
      Good thought about changing scene. I think that trying to make a distinct break and a distinct writing time may well help, and also considering all the other stuff which contributes to my writing, but doesn’t require such an energetic brain. There certainly seems to be a lot of stuff which isn’t actually getting new words on paper, and perhaps I should try and concentrate on those when I’m tired.
      Thanks for dropping in! πŸ™‚

      • Yeah I’m terrible at taking my own advice, especially when I’m tired, but once in awhile it works.

        PS I finally had to sign up for your blog by email because WordPress has apparently been holding out on me πŸ˜‰

      • Really? That’s very interesting. I wonder why?
        Thanks so much for your persistence, when there are so many interesting blogs out there. πŸ™‚

  11. Someone else I follow wrote a blog along similar lines, but talking about how hard it is to write when you have the distractions of kids etc, and I made a similar (though less extensive) comment there to the one I’m about to make here…

    One thing that I do is to I create a list of practical tasks that relate to my writing. These are tasks that need to be done, but don’t necessarily require creative inspiration or much time and space, some examples of the type of tasks that are on my list would be:
    – Researching some factual information that is needed for something I’m writing.
    – Deciding on some magazines that I’m going to pitch article ideas to and finding out the editor’s name and contact details.
    – Producing/reviewing a timeline of when I want to get certain bits of writing done by.
    – Searching the internet for upcoming writing competitions.
    – Printing out some sections of my writing that I want to take to work to proof read during my lunch break.

    Get the idea? Tasks that don’t require much creativity or inspiration, but you still feel like you’re doing something to advance your writing. So during the times when you are being creative and writing, don’t stop to do these tasks, write them on the list and do them during those other times instead!

    • I really like that idea Vanessa! There are so many related things, which do take up time, and which need to be done, but which aren’t all that taxing. I’ll give the list a go – although it could be very long at first!

  12. It’s a horrid dilemma, isn’t it? I’m afraid I don’t have much in the may of suggestions. I often find my brain depleted after a hard day working. I’ll move to put my son to bed, and find myself asleep as well. But I do try and constantly remind myself of my dream…to be a full time writer. So I can sometimes fight through the fatigue. Good luck!

    • Thanks! Glad to know I’m not alone. There seem to be some good suggestions from others on what to do to help the whole writing process when you’re just too tired – so maybe we should both try them? Love to compare notes.
      Rather a sweet image of you falling asleep while putting your son to bed, by the way. πŸ™‚

  13. It appears that you have received enough input on this subject. My two senses: try writing after you wake up in the morning. Also, keep a free-writing journal and don’t worry about how bad what ever you jot down is. Forget about grammar, spelling, flow, everything; just write. If you’re already doing these things, then I’m sorry I don’t have more to offer. Good luck!

    • Thanks Matthew. On suggestions from these comments, I’ve purchased a small notebook, and I’ll see how that goes. Otherwise, my research all ends up in one place, but the other thoughts which occur to me during the day end up not on paper at all, or scattered through various anonymous pieces of scrap.
      Not sure about the morning thing – it seems to work for many people, but as I already get up so early for work, I’m not sure that it would be a successful tactic, at least on work days. I might give it a go on weekends though.
      Thanks for your encouragement!

  14. I feel like the frustration is so terrible that until we can support ourselves through writing (which is not an easy task to do) we won’t be fully able to express ourselves in writing. The demand of our “normal job” (office, restaurant, etc) is too great for us to take our time with our writing. I feel bogged down when I work over 40 hours a week because I have to pick between reading, writing a story, or writing my blog. I want to do all three, but all too often I must choose one. You are right that reading seems easiest to accomplish. It just doesn’t provide the results we need to fulfill our writing desires. My solution is shutting everything off and forcing myself at night to just write. It might work for you or it might not. Won’t hurt to try, right? Good Luck! By the way, I nominated you for the Reader’s Appreciation Award–

    • Hi Amy,
      You’re right – having that real time to think properly is a luxury most of us can’t afford. I have found that some of the tips above seem to be working, so I’ll try your suggestion also. Hope to post at some point on what was successful!
      Thank you so much for the award nomination! What a great idea this one is, and I’m flattered that you though to include me. By the way – the new hair colour looks fabulous. πŸ™‚

  15. I’m exactly the same as you, which is why most (all) of my writing lately is taking place strictly in my head. I haven’t even had a chance to blog in about two months. It’s killing me!!!

    • Damn frustrating, isn’t it?
      All these comments have been a great kick in the bum for me though, and I have found that, at least for now, some of them seem to be working. Some progress at last!
      The little notebook idea as actually been the most successful so far, but we’ll see what sticks.

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