Last week was vacation for me from my day-job. Indeed, I also decided to lay off writing for the week, choosing to use the time to focus on reading instead. In conjunction with the reading, I wanted to think about what I was trying to do. Writing is not an easy job, as simple as some might believe it to be. Sure, it isn’t physically grueling. The act of writing involves sitting in front of a computer or notebook (or standing if you have one of those desks for that). The challenge is mostly mental. It is a long, arduous task often taking months just to finish the first draft of a project, providing that it is of novel length. In fact, many writers (including me) have talked of how their work took years. Years of research. Years of planning. Years of writing… and rewriting.
But it is fun. Writing is an obsession, something that no matter how long I stay away, or how I might try not to, I simply always return to the page, dithering on about some made-up world, made-up people, etc. I enjoy writing.
As anyone might guess (either from the many times I’ve said it before, or by being intuitive) I want to make writing my full-time career. While I enjoy my day-job, while I want to succeed in my day-job, I would rather sit at home with a notebook and computer in front of me to work on some grand story. (Or a silly, little story… doesn’t matter to me so long as I want to write it.) Of course, so long as the writing is fun.
That’s the trick of it, right? Granted, there are different kinds of fun, kinds that don’t even outwardly appear to be fun per-say.
Making it as a writer in the modern era is far more complicated than just going out there and writing. Based on every ounce of information I’ve absorbed over the years, from my own accounts to those stories I hear from other writers, there is a fair amount of work that isn’t fun. Marketing and sales, for instance.
Writing can be only writing… if I didn’t care about the outcome. Yet, I do; I care. How could I not care considering that I wish to make it my career? How could I not if I wish people to read what I write?
The problem was in how much pressure I realized that I was putting on myself, not to write well, but to just write; not to have fun with the marketing, but to just stare blindly at the marketplace. And I’ve spoken about these issues before. (Indeed, it is why I’ve now felt the need to rewrite/re-edit Gravity.)
There’s a lot of other residual problems, too. Vacation helped me cut through a lot of it.
One of the many things that I decided to do over the week was to put my phones down as much as I could. I didn’t check Instagram, doing nothing more than posting a picture of one of the books I was reading, I didn’t check Facebook, nor did I check email, or much of anything else. By the week’s end, I had spent an average of only 22 minutes a day on the phone, down from a little over an hour each day. Any you know what? It helped alter my perception a bit. All those times I had talked about wanting to just use the phone, or social media, or other technology as a tool, I began to understand how to do that.
There was another thing that happened with it though— I began to understand how much I was letting the outside world stifle me. Partly it was looking too much at how others posted, not to glean information from, rather, I was looking at them in envy. I was jealous. It is one of the biggest pratfalls in social media in all its facets: using it to judge one’s self against the curated newsfeed of those whom we admire. We scroll endlessly looking for examples to use against ourselves (often subconsciously), justifying those negative thoughts in our head. Or sometimes we get caught up in the pursuit of stats. “How many likes did I get?” “Oh, why isn’t my post getting any comments?!”
Interpersonal interactions of flesh and blood are far more desirable. I’ll tell you what, I was more inspired staying away from the networks for the week than I was scrolling through them. And I follow a lot of art blogs, dancing, and other artistic ventures! Certainly, seeing a drawing in real-life is far more impactful than observing an image of one on the computer.
Books have been helpful as well. I spent the days reading, changing my nightly habit of scrolling through social media or watching ASMR videos to lighting up my Kindle and just reading until my eyelids became too heavy to keep up. You know those moments when you read and you slowly realize that you think you read the last paragraph about a dozen times over? Yeah… that’s when I’d finally toss the Kindle to the side. Sleep came right after. It has been an amazing feeling.
Even in the morning, where I used to grab my phone right away to check emails, look at Instagram, and fool around, has been replaced either with my notebook or with grabbing a book (physical or via Kindle) and reading. And I open the computer to write.
It feels nice.
Vacation is supposed to be a time to unwind, to recharge. I let this one be that, in a different way than I would have thought. I took a deeper vacation away from all the things that bugged me, that I felt that was causing me to stray from my goals or desires. I wasn’t thinking; I was only chasing this dream of being a writer without doing anything to really make it happen, all the while putting pressure on the task to the point that it became bad. And then that built up, then there was that fateful event in October. It all spiraled. This vacation helped put that all in point.
The hardest thing has been returning to “routine”, though. Not letting the return of non-vacation life dictate that all the work I had done on vacation was over. To quell my social media, knee-jerk desire to grab my phone, open the app, and scroll mindlessly I give myself a couple of minutes to look. Then I put it back down. No more than a few minutes. It has to be that way.
While I am home, the phones get sat on the table, left alone. Unless I run an errand, they stay. It’s been helping to reinforce this new feeling: life is there to be lived and then written about!