Thursday, September 6, 2012

Write Pacing

I’m two days into my school year, and what’s my chief feeling?  Panic. 

Actually, my panic isn’t about the school year.  As I said last time, I’m only teaching one new class, so I feel pretty on top of my work, as regards both preparation and classroom time. 

I feel Atlas-esque - though not that muscular!
On the other hand, I do feel anxious about writing.  Realistically, this is quite ridiculous.  I have already made it through several years of teaching, plus two years of college, writing steadily the whole while.  Moreover, at least one of those years was far busier than this one promises to be. 

However, I’m at a bit of a loss while trying to figure out a new method for my writing, since I’m not actively dealing with a story right now.  For sure I have to do research, but that’s just reading.  For sure I have to edit, but that’s just old stuff I’ve already been over several times before.  How do I motivate myself to work on such projects, which aren’t of themselves incredibly captivating and/or motivating? 

Has anyone else ever felt this quandary?  It’s been so long since I took an extended break from new writing that I’m unused to the feeling. 

My real problem, you see, is this:  I am not good at working continuously. 

There are lots of ways to approach work.  There’s my mom.  She’s a bit scary, actually, because she can seriously work non-stop all day, besides meals.  Then she falls asleep like a log the second she lies down at night, before rising the next morning refreshed and ready to start the whole process over.  Okay – I exaggerate a little, but nonetheless my mom does have incredible energy, combined with astounding work ethic. 

I have friends who are much more restrained.  One tells me he takes ‘micro-breaks’ all throughout the day, which allow him to work quite steadily from the time he wakes up until he goes to bed.  He has dogs, so he plays with them, or he goes for a run, or takes a walk to pick up groceries, and these short breaks re-energize him for more work at his job, or on his various projects.  I personally think this is an awesome method.  

There’s also Vasnefy.  She is the survivor-type.  She has an instinct for exactly the amount of work that needs to be done to preserve her sanity and that’s what she does.  If she has to put writing aside for a while, of course it bothers her, but not so much as to ruffle her particularly.  An eternal optimist, she simply supposes she’ll get to it later.  Her optimism is usually proved correct. 

Lady Liberty here and I have a similar approach to work!
In a way, I envy these three people.  If I had my mom’s energy, I could teach all day, then come home and write till bedtime, without ever batting an eyelash.  If I had the ability to refresh myself without becoming dissipated,  I’d be able to maintain a steady pace and keep up on both work and writing.  If I had the survivor instinct, I wouldn’t feel panic and dismay at the prospect of having to take a break from writing; I also probably wouldn’t be such a perfectionist about work. 

However, I freely admit that I’m not like any of these workers.  My style is this:  I throw myself completely into my work, and stay in that state for usually around 10 hours.  Then, once I’ve hit my upper limit, I suddenly lose my will-power to keep working.  All I want to do is lie on my back and watch cooking shows (MasterChef is my latest craze…).  If I consciously work on it, I can manage to imitate another person's style, but after a short time I drift back into my natural approach. My brain doesn't seem wired to sustain effort for a whole day or even days on end.  It wants to get through everything in one long burst and then recuperate in peace.

I approve Bacchus' mode of relaxation!
You may ask why this is troublesome, but I’m sure any teachers out there can see what I’m getting at.  A high-school teacher’s work day almost always spans 10 hours, due to teaching hours, plus preparation, plus grading.  Then you have to think of meals and household chores as well, which tacks on another hour or two.

Since that’s the case, by the end of a paid work-day, I’ve put all my efforts into teaching, and the thought of having to work still more (because writing is still work, after all, no matter how enjoyable) is overwhelming.  Cue cooking shows!  No, I’m just kidding – I often do manage to get at least a smidgeon of writing done, but since for the next few months my prospects are only editing and research, I’m a bit daunted.  These tasks are less enjoyable and restorative than actual writing. 

So currently I’m trying to decide how to motivate myself, or perhaps how to pace my work and writing better, so that I don’t end up too tired to do one or the other.  Does anyone have any advice?  This is an area where I’m still experimenting to find a good balance, so I’m open to suggestions!  


  1. I can only hope you find a way that works for you. I've had to get up just a tad earlier to start my day - that's when I post my small observational piece. A fun habit. I have a few prompt sites I visit, but with my days being filled with watching my grandson, there is little day time for writing. So I make due with that space when one leaves, and the other (hubby) comes home with dinner expectations. I think I've caught up on your posts - Good luck with your new school year, and with your writing too.

    1. Thank you for your good wishes! I think they had their effect already, because after thinking about my writing quandary, I calmed down and actually got a bit of work done.

      Even if you also have limited time for writing, I must say I find your daily poems quite beautiful, so you take full advantage of your time. I myself feel like I'm still working on being able to do that, so I admire your ability.

    2. Thanks. Awe...I just have fun. I think of it as a kind of knack. But then I've been at it for awhile. The next goal then...(whenever) is to actually publish it in a bound volume and ...maybe sell it? That is the scary part... :)