There’s this notion today, especially popular among my fellow Millennial generation, called work-life balance; this idea that work shouldn’t run our lives. We’re not meant to be trapped behind desks all the time. And for some reason, this notion seems to be a difficult one to accept for the older generation. A generation that has worked in the same job for their entire careers, chugging away at the 9 to 5 (which really works out to the 8 to 7) putting food on their tables, and never complaining about their tired feet and how little they’ve seen their families that week.
My generation has deemed this unacceptable. And for good reason. There comes a time when the hours grow too long. When you grow weary of the faces you see at work daily and when all you want is to see a friendly, non-co-worker face and have a conversation that’s NOT related to win rates and change pages.
I worked a 16-hour day last Monday. Granted that is sorely irregular, but the past three weeks have been inundated with long hours, endless meetings, and severe stress. This has meant an exhausted and slightly brain-dead me — and therefore a complete lack of any effort toward the things that I want to do for myself:
- I have not picked up a book in three weeks,
- I have not picked up a pen in three weeks (besides when taking diligent minutes),
- I’ve hardly “picked up” my fiance’s hand due to arriving home so late each night.
Why do I do this? Because the job pays the bills. Because I’m an adult and I have responsibilities. But unfortunately, paying the bills doesn’t always leave time for more creative pursuits when your full-time job is in a much-less-than-creative industry.
So what is a[n aspiring] writer to do when work gets in the way of her writing life? Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you get too busy to keep to a regular writing schedule:
Disclaimer: these are probably good tips for any writer, no matter how busy she is. However, I write them down because I constantly forgot them during my most insane times at work. Repeat them with me. Make them your mantra(s)!
- Carry a sword. Sorry, a pen. I meant a pen. Inspiration really can strike anywhere! Be ready to jot fleeting thoughts down before they skitter out of your already
- Carry paper. It doesn’t matter what kind of paper. I end up writing on sticky notes of all colors and sizes (unfortunately not of all shapes; my office only stocks the basic squares). The point is to have the stuff anywhere you go. It doesn’t have to be pretty either. I’ve always been of the mind that whatever I wrote in had to be lovely so that when I died, historians sifting through my many pages of brilliance would see what nice taste I had (what, who cares?!). This is a ll a lie. It doesn’t matter!
- Don’t run from inspiration. When it hits, let it hit. Unfortunately, for me, inspiration hits most frequently at inconvenient times – when I’m feeling sick, when I’m busy with a million other things, when I have no clue what to do with the thing, etc. Try not to let this scare you off. Embrace whatever inspiration is taking a swing at you. Grasp whatever piece of it you can, write it down (even if it’s a single word), and then move on with your day. Maybe nothing will come of it, but maybe something amazing will.
- Chat with fellow writers. If you don’t have time for any actual writing, try to find time to at least talk about writing for a few minutes. You can do this any way you want: a quick phone call with a writing partner or writer friend, a group chat with your writing group, an email thread with your book club, or even hop on a twitter discussion! It doesn’t have to take long.
- Get plenty of sleep. I’m serious about this one, folks. A rested mind is important to creativity. Writers tend toward the night owl stereotype but we all need rest just like everybody else. I learned this lesson during that 16-hour workday I mentioned. It was not pretty. It takes a lot longer to catch up an exhausted brain than it does to lose it.
The most important thing is to keep your mind grounded in what’s most important to you! Even though I was busy with my day job, I never let myself forget that I have other goals. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that work is just work!
While my job has been non-stop hectic the past month, I think it should start to slow down again over the next few weeks. Hopefully that will give me a little more of my free time back to explore my options, test out my own advice, and figure out when and how I can move on to something more creatively stimulating — and less mentally draining!