From the abyss

One of the disadvantages of being self-employed is that there’s always work to be done. One thing I have a difficult time with is separating work from pleasure. I like what I do, which is both a blessing and a curse. It’s good that I enjoy my work, otherwise I wouldn’t want to do it and it wouldn’t get done. The problem is that it can be difficult to stop working.

When I’m on a normal sleep schedule, my generally looks like this: Wake up, take out the dogs, consume caffeine, work, take the occasional break to eat meals, and then sleep. I can easily work fourteen hours in a day.

Things get more chaotic when I’m under deadline. Eighteen hour days become the norm. Not once do I complain, mind you, because I enjoy what I’m doing, for the most part.

The problem is that I don’t take the time out during the day to do anything other than work. I neglect family and friends (frankly, Dena is eligible for sainthood after putting up with my crazy schedule). I neglect myself, too. The few other interests that I have fall by the wayside.

It’s time to throttle back.

I need to not let work consume every moment of my life. I have too many interests and I firmly believe that those interests are critical to making me a good, well-rounded human being. It’s ironic. In the past when I’ve interviewed potential employees, one of the questions I would ask was about their hobbies. I was more likely to hire someone who had hobbies other than work. It showed me that they were more likely to be an asset to the team by not focusing on only one idea to the exclusion of all others. Hobbies, even unrelated ones, give you perspective that can and often will bleed back into your work.

For the first time in a very long time I actually attended my writers group. I’m setting new goals for myself. I want to get back to my original plan of sending out one story per month for publication. That is a completely realistic goal, if I stick to it. If the average short story is 5,000 words and I can easily knock out 500-1,000 words in an hour, there is no reason I shouldn’t be able to write, revise, rewrite, and polish one story a month. Any failure to do so is simply a lack of commitment. One hour a day and in the end I will be happier, the quality of my work will improve because of the mental break writing provides and I’ll have something to show for it.

I’m starting this late in the month, but I will have a draft ready for the group by Thursdays meeting, even if it is a bit rough. In October I will polish one story and send it out somewhere (I have a stack of old stories to pick from and rewrite). November will be an off month, because I am going to have a go at NaNoWriMo again. The cycle will reset in December, once story sent out a month.

I recently had the opportunity to follow up on more non-fiction work, for a popular linux-related website and a publisher of Linux books. While tempting I find it difficult to motivate myself to move in that direction. It’s too similar to what I do when I work, using the same logical, orderly part of my brain. Creative writing stretches the other half in a much-needed way. It’s something I’ve enjoyed doing for longer than I can remember. In fact, I spent a few hours this past week gathering old manuscripts, journals and notebooks where I’d jotted down story ideas. I have drafts dating back more than six years and notebooks with bits of dialog I thought sounded neat, ideas and other assorted story-related fodder going back much further in time.

At the end of the day I have to do what I enjoy. I have never been productive doing otherwise. Stick to what I love doing and the rest will follow. It’s worked well so far.

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