Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Indie Writer and the J-O-B


I haven’t written much in the past month or so, either blogging or novel/short story. I wish I could say that it’s been due to something exciting like secretly training to become a ninja assassin or being struck by lightning and granted superpowers instead of, you know, ruptured eardrums and heart/breathing problems. No, the cause of my writer’s purgatory is much more mundane: I got a new job.
Fun fact about Indie Writing: it doesn’t generally pay enough to keep you fed (if you make enough money from your writing to support yourself I’d say that you’re officially a Professional Writer). Regardless of how passionate you are about your writing, the truth is that as an Indie Writer writing still remains a hobby and is sometimes if not often shuffled aside for more practical aspects of life, i.e. a flippin’ job.
Ever since I returned back to the US from Beijing last September I’ve been looking for a job. I took advantage of this six month unemployment to focus on my writing and basically turned writing into a full-time non-paying job (whatcha call it? Volunteer work? Community service? Slavery?). I would wake up each morning at 6am and after a quick catch up of email and news, I would settle down with a cup of coffee and work on some writing project pretty much all day. It was great fun and even therapeutic but unfortunately it didn’t exactly lend itself to a sufficient cash flow into my coffers. As I did NOT win that billion dollar powerball jackpot a couple months back, I actively sought out employment. It wasn’t until about a month ago that I finally landed a real money paying job and I learned something. It’s something I’ve known for a long time and even realized before, but this was definitely a refresher course in the fact that having a “real” job wrecks hell on the Indie Writer life of writing.
Writing is one of those things that take a lot of time and even more energy. I have literally sat down to write and then looked at my clock to find that six hours has past, even going so far as to forgetting to eat. You know what else takes a lot of time and energy out of your day? A job. Kind of the unstoppable force meets an immoveable object scenario, neh? You need writing but you also need a job. One invariably must make room for the other and unfortunately writing gets shoved back. Toss in the requirements of family and just life in general and you’re not left with a whole lot of time to do something that is so exhausting.
Writing is indeed a very demanding mistress. It puts a lot of stress on you, but the good kind of stress (kind of like the whole good/bad cholesterol thing). When I write, especially when I get really into it such that I forget meals and sleep, I am exhausted after. Like literally heavy breath, lightheaded exhausted. Writing uses a lot of mental power which in turn translates into physical power. Any writer knows what I’m talking about. You sit down, write for six hours, your fingers pounding away relentlessly. Even though you haven’t moved much sitting in front of the computer all day, when you’re done your body feels like you just ran a marathon at full sprint. In short, you need a damn nap.
The job I found to pay the bills is extremely physically demanding, but not really mentally demanding. Now, I’ve had jobs that are mentally demanding but not so much physically. I’ve had jobs that are physically demanding but not so much mentally. I’ve even had jobs that are demanding both physically and mentally. Given these experiences I can say with utmost conviction that there really isn’t much of a difference in terms of a job’s affect on my writing. After working all day, you come home and the first thing you want to do is relax. Now, as writing is that good stress and relaxing, you’d think that it would be easy to slip into after a long day of work. Yeah, not so much. I’ve tried to write after coming home from work and it just doesn’t work. I need to unwind from the job, relax my body and mind otherwise I just stare blankly at the monitor with ever growing frustration. Unfortunately, by the time I’ve unwound enough to get the creative juices flowing it’s time for bed to start it all over again the next day.
So what to do, what to do? First things first, it’s very, very important not to lose sight of why you write and don’t just give up. As I said, the Indie Writer is indeed a writer and needs to write. Don’t allow your frustration to overwhelm you and abandon your writing completely. The best thing I’ve found in getting a necessary job and writing to coexist peacefully is to find little slots of time you can write, times when you’re not exhausted by the burden of work and the consuming (albeit still wonderful) requirements of family. For instance, I’m writing this post in the morning during the hour and a half I have before I have to go to work (if that sounds like enough time to write, just know that I’ve been working on this one for four days thus far). There are also days off. On your days off plan a schedule to write and stick with it. Set aside a few hours dedicated to writing and keep it consistent so that it eventually becomes a good habit. But above all, don’t allow yourself to give up and keep on writing.