Concentrated Effort and the Illusion of Traditional Workflow
So many of us who work our own hours feel compelled to keep the same shifts as our friends, family, and loved ones. Whether it’s the echoing work ethic of another era, feelings of guilt (internal or external), or advice from others (given as a mantra or maxim), the illusion that being glued in front of a computer equates to work is not necessarily true for all of us.
While sitting down and recording one’s words in some form or fashion are necessary and important for a project to go from concept to finished, all work isn’t required to be done in traditional shifts. Some folks work well fueled by coffee and long days. Others work best in fits and spurts or shorter sessions. When push comes to shove, creatives can crank out the necessary words to fill up a column, a page, a sidebar, or a column, but I’d argue their best work comes forth when they are in a comfortable environment. A suitable chair, an appropriate workstation, the right software, and all that jazz are part of the equation, the hours matter as well. And these words are as permanent as those written on water. The nature of the work sometimes requires an alteration of the environment. For me, horror is best written in the dark hours, or at least the creative jam sessions. The daylight hours lend themselves well to analytical work, such as outlining and the like. Afternoons can be for review and planning for the day ahead. And the point of a project can dictate the hours spent writing. Early on in a project, there might be many words written as the writer works to make the idea(s) manifest. Then there is reflection (especially when it comes to RPG) and consideration which is not necessarily done at the keyboard. The world is indeed a stage. Though I may not be writing every waking moment, I am assuredly working on something even if it might appear I am staring out into space or watching a show. Some folks want to beat themselves up for playing a video game or watching some random this or that. Creatives develop a filter. They need to take in content. They need to do it in an atmosphere unencumbered by distraction (either internal voices telling them “to get work done” or external judgments anyone on the internet is quick to dispense). You need to give yourself permission to not only create, but to refuel. We have to have experiences to write about them. We must soak in information. We must put our stamp on it. We must do what works for us. And the same routine may not work twice in a row. Keeping yourself off balance can invigorate your work.
If you’re watching a show when you feel you should be writing, make a choice to devote yourself either to the show or get up and scribble those words down. Otherwise, you are doing yourself no good. And when you’re working, work. Be in the moment. Don’t cave to distractions. Organization and structure is a necessary thing, as are deadlines (even if they be secret and known only to you).
I’ll share one anecdote. Typically, I have a hard time with downtime, especially when I’m swept up in a project. I need to be constantly on something each and every day to feel most engaged and up to speed, otherwise I can feel like I’m having to spend awhile reorienting myself (which is rather unsatisfying, to say the least). It doesn’t have to be all the hours of every day, but enough to mentally mark my place to keep momentum properly flowing. I’ll admit, there have been times when I’ve spent nearly every waking moment consumed by a project where my health suffered a touch, and I’d get the work done and be drained for awhile. I know I’m not alone in this. I’ve chatted with other friends and colleagues who have similar anecdotes to share. I admit saying one suffers for their art is romantic and all, but not good in the long run, and plays havoc on relationships. While we want to do what we do, we should aspire to be more than the sum of our parts, and we need to live life along the way.
Today’s takeaway: manage your time wisely without regret. Want to spend some time watching a show instead of writing some words? Good show or bad, it’ll teach you something (if you allow it to).
Until next time, I bid you, dear reader, adieu!