This past week I took my family on vacation. We went to a resort and enjoyed our time there to a great amount. While I was there, I purposely put down my pen and paper — ignoring my writing duties — as we all enjoyed our time together. But like all things, vacations end and life in the “normal” world must resume.
Every do often I need to have my perspective adjusted. Too long going in one or another mode of thinking and it becomes difficult to understand why things are the way they are and how one might be contributing to it. For me, I cannot point to anything outside of myself for reasons that I have not been successful at my writing. It only took almost 8 years of spinning my wheels and a vacation to finally accept it.
Being successful as a writer does take chance. As rare as that chance might be — as some describe it being like trying to catch lightning in a bottle — it is even far less likely when one does not put some prerequisite efforts into the equation. Things such as writing and publishing with some regularity is a start. Then there’s the whole idea of marketing and selling the work. Don’t like any of it? Well tough shit. Learn to like it or at least learn to do it in spite of not liking it or else don’t expect shit.
These are things I have to start telling myself. And I have to be blunt about it. Blunt and stern. Because nothing is going to happen unless I start making it happen.
In a way, I’ve spent the last 8 years or so — really the last 25 years — of my writing life hoping that some strange event would suddenly propel me into the stratosphere. Suddenly, people all around would know who I was as a writer, clamoring to get hold of whatever writing of mine they could manage to. Sure, I always knew that it wasn’t the case, that my being accidentally discovered and selling millions upon millions would be a fate as unlikely as one could imagine. But isn’t that what we delude ourselves with? That idea that life will reward us with untold riches in exchange for the most meager of efforts? Isn’t is so that we always hope to win the lottery, even despite not wanting to put the effort into buying a single ticket?
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve put effort into my writing. One could argue if it was enough effort or if it was the right effort. If one argued those, they’d be absolutely correct. I cannot say with certainty that my efforts were either the right effort or enough. That leads me to an epiphany I had leading up to my vacation.
My time and how I spend it is chaotic. There’s little to no organization in how I approach just about anything. This includes work and play. Effort and relaxation. How both are handled are in such a way that I get rewards from neither work nor pleasure. Each exists in a half-hearted attempt. In so, both my writing and the time spent between it suffer. About the only truly scheduled time (other than my day job — but that is not included in this topic) is waking up to journal and then read. After that… well, one can only guess at what I might be doing.
Think of it this way: I would go to write, only to then sit idly watching videos on YouTube, or maybe half-heartedly play a video game. My mind is half focused on the need to be sitting and writing, but instead, the activities I am doing are more on the relaxation. Then, when I go to relax, instead I am lamenting on the poorly spent efforts of writing. Both activities bleed into each other so badly that I cannot separate them, all the while distractions become a guarantee while I get neither work done, nor do I fully relax. And I wonder why I feel so exhausted without achieving much…
It might seem lame, but I almost need to start maintaining a better schedule. Sure, there’s a lot of argument that spontaneity would be lost, but right now my spontaneous lifestyle is getting me where? I haven’t tried scheduling anything other than my journaling and reading, and guess what, those are accomplished every day. Even on vacation. I woke up early, wrote, and read — each day — without fail.
Writing on vacation was not going to be done. I wanted to ensure that I did not think about sitting down and writing. It was a vacation after all. The reading is always for pleasure (even when it isn’t) and the journaling is self-reflective exercise. And as much as I derive pleasure from writing, the point of the vacation this time was to avoid it, to better understand that need to put more effort into clearly defined boundaries between work and play. Honestly, it helped drive home the epiphany I had prior to going.
My goal for the future is to begin to better separate work and play — effort and relaxation. I want to better experience both separately and to better utilize both. With effort, I should start to notice my productivity go up while also enjoying a more deeply satisfying time off each day. If I want to make writing work for me as an alternate career (as a replacement in the future or side-hustle), then things need to change from how they’ve been. For too long work and play has been tangled too much to the point where neither end up fully realized. That needs to change if progress is to be made.