On Not Burning Out

Over the past few months, I’ve struggled to get everything done. This has perplexed me, as I thrive under pressure. I haven’t been able to figure it out.

It hit me the other day. I started writing as a hobby. It was a way to stretch my mind, get some of the ideas out of it. Now I’ve got this list of things that I NEED to do, things that I WANT to do, and things that I don’t feel CAPABLE of doing.

Being brought up in a good Christian family and taught that desires MUST be sublimated in favor of duties, I focus on the NEED and ignore the WANT, while the things that I do not feel capable of stress me out.

My first love in writing is world-building. I come from a family of engineers who find things like proving creationism through numbers to be a relaxing hobby, and who can cobble together just about anything from nothing. Building things is in my blood. I love systems, analysis, organization, figuring out WHY things work.

The last major world-building I did was for Inherent, over a year ago. Nightmare didn’t get built, it sort of vomited itself out onto the page. I didn’t have much input there, it’s just built itself, to my strenuous protests. It is the antithesis of Inherent, where everything is perfectly documented, mapped, charted, plotted and constructed. I don’t even have a list of cities or characters for Nightmare!

I let my duties get in the way of my love. I have that tendency. I forget to socialize, to do basic errands or go out to things that I should go to. I have to force myself to go play with people, to go out into the sunlight, etc. This is part of why I keep the day job that I have: it keeps me out, interacting with people in a highly social environment. Otherwise, I’d sit in my studio until I bogged down and cabin fever got ahold of me.

I get so tied up in the ‘I have to do this NOW’ that I stress over it and don’t do anything else. Because I don’t do anything else, I get stuck on these, too. A vicious circle.

I created a near-future SF world the other day. I researched, thought, plotted, chased everything down, and wrote it out. I also wrote a 700 word flash piece in 40 minutes, talked to people, edited, did all sorts of stuff. And I was happily exhausted at the end of the day, because I’d had fun.

The more I start trying to do, the more I’ll feel that I need to stop doing fun things. I’m trying to pick up freelancing work, so I know my fiction will suffer.

But every time I start getting frustrated, I have to remind myself of my schedule in CA: full-time school, full-time work, ranch work on weekends, participating heavily in forums and RPs, writing 5000 words a day. Sleep, what? It wasn’t a well-balanced lifestyle. But hey, if I could get that much done, when I wasn’t in control of my own life?

I sure as hell can get it all done here, and still have fun.

That’s the key to staying productive and focused: fun and work and life in a balanced way. Nothing novel, but something we should probably all get reminders on, daily. I know I need the reminder!

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