One of the recurring themes for me is, “Am I doing enough work?” Here I am on day 242 of writing every day, not missing a single day, where I have successfully upped my daily word count from 500 words to 1000 words, and I still question myself.
Compared to where I’ve been in every other year in my life, I am doing well. But that wasn’t the question, was it? Am I doing enough? The answer is a resounding no. I can always do more. We always have little left in the tank, don’t we? It’s by pushing ourselves that last little bit that we achieve what we didn’t’ think we could.
I’m not doing as much as I could be. I’m doing as much as I can without impacting my day job because honestly, I need to make sure I’m putting serious effort into that job as well for two reasons. First, that’s where I make all my money, I need to maximize my income over the next few years. The more I make in my day job, the sooner I can be a full time creative. Second, I have to make sure I keep that job. It’s a sales job, and sales jobs are linked to, well, sales. So I have to spend a decent amount of energy to ensure that I’m operating at a peak level.
I took a month off once
A year ago, I took a month off between jobs. It changed me. It was fantastic. Until that point, I always thought I’d work right up until I die, and indeed, I probably still will, but my goal now is to live off my creations instead of working a “normal” job. I just need to stockpile enough money so that I can “retire.” During that month off, I found that I easily kept myself busy for 5 hours each day. That was before I was writing every day, but I did write most days during that month. The beginning of my blog and my re-dedication to writing was born in that month-long sabbatical.
I have more than enough to keep me busy. It’s the boredom that gets me, the feeling that I should be doing something productive. It creeps in about an hour into a movie, or by the second or third sitcom if I try to binge watch. I haven’t given in to that feeling this year yet. That part feels good. I can be proud that I am moving forward and being productive.
But could I do more? Yes, I’m sure I could. I’ve managed to fit in learning a new language and learning to draw, so I could easily be doing more work. I just have to waste less time. I have to be like I need to be on the race track – either on the accelerator or on the brake, no coasting. I coast a lot when I drive, unfortunately. It’s a hard habit to break when you didn’t start driving a race car until you were 42.
I don’t do enough planning
It’s not only the amount of work, it’s the focus of the work. I need to sit down and plan out my weekly writing. If I were able to commit my mornings to a single piece of work, I could really get work done, instead of writing about how much work I need to get done still. I haven’t quite mastered planning out the work I want to do. I have 450+ ideas in my ideas folder, but only a few one-line story ideas. I need to create more story ideas. From those, I can focus my morning writing into something more productive.
It’s very possible this is just my nature coming through. I feel like I have the daily habit down now, so I need to move on and focus on more salable work. That’s not a goal for this year, though. My goal is to have 100 posts on the blog. And not 100 salsa reviews. Although I’d enjoy that as well, that has to be above and beyond 100 actual posts. At last check, I was around 70 for the year, and need to do a little over one per week to hit my goal. That shouldn’t be tough. I have almost 50 drafts going, so I just need to focus on editing for a few days, and I’ll have posts ready. I’ve started to use the weekends to get posts polished up and ready to go, sometimes even scheduling the post for the week, so I don’t have to worry about the extra work during the week. My days have been crazy at work, with back to back meetings from 9 AM to 5 PM most days.
Time has power
It’s the power of time that allows me to produce more work, though. I was able to up my daily word minimum to 1000 words in June, and that resulted in 21% more words for the month, an increase from 26,000 words in May to 32,000 words in June. That’s almost another week worth of writing. That’s where I can get more work done. I need to address writing like I used to do with my reading in college. I’d fit 5 minutes here and there throughout the day, resulting in an extra 50 or so pages each day. It was the only way I could keep up with my literature degree schedule. I’m not sure 5 minutes of writing here and there will be productive, though unless I have a single story I’m working on.
I need to go back and flesh out the story I’ve been working on, rework the idea, rework the rough outline, and use that to be my “work a little here and there” work. I could have that story done and novel-length by Christmas. The challenge then is to find the time to plan that out. I spent time last week with my only writing friend. He’s written a few books now and has the process down. I need to go to a longer dinner with him and pick his brain on the process. From what he told me, he does a lot more planning and outlining and backstory than I have. So maybe that’s just what I need to do, when I have a few minutes, write some backstory, or write anything that I think might fit into the novel, and then worry about organizing it later. The key is to just write more, work more, produce more.
Time to think
I’ve recently finished Dorothea Brande’s “Becoming a Writer.” Finally. That book wins my personal award for taking me the longest time to finish. I first started reading it when I was 20. Anyway, in the latter part of the book, Brande gives great advice about thinking about the story you’re working on. Just thinking about it. That’s it. Not writing it down, not fleshing out characters, just thinking about the story and letting your brain wander around that idea. I’ve been using my airport commute the past few weeks to test this out, and it works. I’ve moved the story along quite a bit. If I ever get my weekends back (we’re currently doing some remodeling) I know that I’ll be able to really get a handle around the basic story. It’s coming along, I just need time to think. And plan. And write. And…
I just need to focus more. And I need to not feel guilty for not working my day job continually during the day. As long as I’m getting the main work done, I should feel no guilt by switching to my writing. Accelerator instead of coasting, that’s all I’m talking about here.
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2 thoughts on “Am I Doing Enough?”
Iain, your very well written post made me a little tired. I love that you have a passion to write and praise for keeping it up every day. I only wish I could be so persistent to write everyday. I am sure people who get books printed or write for magazine have this kind of steadfastness. Since I am a little older I can look back and see how I was as tight with time as you are now and I had to be, it was the season to be that way due to kids, husband, work. I am glad I was determined to keep things moving in my life. Oh there were a few set backs, health, parents health, moves, hard moves, kids graduating. Now on the other side of that, I have picked up a blog, love writing. But here is something I love as much as writing, reading others post and encouraging them in some way. If I can do that I am fulfilled in my heart. Somewhere in all this I am writing a book. I have lived a very exciting full life, I am 72, and have wisdom that comes from hindsight that has given me insight. It takes time to gain that, it takes being fully where you are right now to gain wisdom. Our pastor use to say, live like today is your last but plan like you have an eternity to live. Finish today, put it to bed, rise for a new day even though you may do the old things, it builds character. Blessings. I will be back Iain to read more.
Thank you so much for this. There’s nothing that makes me happier than knowing someone has read and liked what I’ve done. I have a post somewhere about my routine – I have to get up at 4 AM just to make sure I have time for me. It’s crazy, and I hate getting up, but I just love the way I feel after I’ve created something from nothing. Thank you again for your very kind words.