The instant I stop writing for myself, I lose something.
I always wanted a job writing, and I’m lucky to have one — but I think it takes a conscious effort to move past all the writing I do for work to get back to the writing projects I want to work on. The last thing I feel like doing when I get home most days is writing.
The instant I stop writing for myself, I forget everything that drew me to writing in the first place.
I was pretty diligent about doing it anyway last November, after I made a commitment to myself that I would give NaNoWriMo an honest try. I didn’t write every single day at first, and I didn’t reach the 1,667 daily word count each day, but after a few days I settled into a routine of putting something down every day so I could log that word count, even if it was just a fraction of the daily goal. On the website, you collect badges for writing 7 days in a row, 14 days in a row, 21 days in a row, for having written a certain number of words along the way, and so forth, and I found collecting those to be motivating and really satisfying.
Each time I didn’t put down the full 1,667 words, I did some math to find out how many words I’d have to write the next day to get back on track, and I did my best to reach that goal the next day or the day after, even when it got harder. On Election Night, I worked until after midnight, and then the following evening I had to write more than 3,000 words — and I did.
It’s now mid-March, and I haven’t touched that project since.
I want to. But I haven’t, and that doesn’t mean I don’t want it enough, but it does mean I have to make a conscious effort to write for myself again after I spend a day writing — or reporting or making phone calls or answering emails or whatever else I spend all day doing that day—for my job.
“Don’t let work steal your joy,” my friend Jami said to me once, and she’s right.
The last thing I feel like doing when I get home most days is writing.
I can’t let my job — which I do enjoy, truly — steal the joy that writing brings me by sapping my energy to work on my own writing.
That’s certainly easier said than done. I already know this week will be a tough one: I have three school board meetings, all of which take place after a full day’s work, and an hour’s worth of voice memo I have to listen to in order to write a feature, and that’s all within just the first two days of the week — and it’s not all. I have an entire list, as usual, and if I write it all down here I’m only going to stress-think about it, so I’m not doing that. But suffice to say, making any conscious effort to work on my own writing after work for the next couple of days is going to be very difficult and it’s not likely to happen at all.
But I can try.
The instant I stop writing for myself, I forget everything that drew me to writing in the first place. I think it was so much easier as a kid, and the short stories (or long short stories, as they often were) I wrote for school assignments were written just as much for myself.
It’s time to reclaim that.