Monday, December 24, 2012

Am I Wasting My Time?

Every now and then I look at my old life and my new life and wonder which is better. 

Last year, I worked at a frustrating job where I had to fit in as much writing time as I could in my windows of spare time. All I could think about was how nice it would be to write all day with no distractions. 

Now I write from home full time, and oddly, some of the writing "spark" is gone. I remember being so on fire at work that when my lunch hour was over, I'd close my Word document feeling angry and resentful that I had to stop. I haven't been on fire like that since I quit.

It's baffled me for six months why my writing career feels less like a passion and more like a chore. Finally, I decided I must be falling prey to the most debilitating question a writer can ask:

Am I wasting my time?

When I was at a job where there was hardly any work, all I did was waste time until I could go home. Instead of doing things that were the most worthwhile, I did things that were the most fulfilling. Writing was what got me through the day.

At home, I ask myself every single minute if what I'm doing is worth giving up that job. If the answer is no, I find it next to impossible to do it. Sometimes the answer is always no and I find myself doing nothing at all.

The problem is I'm working on a rough draft. When I revise Sacred Fire (a novel I've worked on for five years), it's easy to spend hours on it because it's a semi-finished product. It's polished and beautiful, so I know the work I put into it is worthwhile. 

Voodoo Queen, on the other hand, is a horrid mess. I wouldn't show it to someone even under torture. It's hard to put so much faith into such an ugly little thing.

One thing has saved me: my Work Diary. I've kept one for the past two years, and I read it over every now and then to remind myself how unhappy I was before I quit working. By keeping track of my progress every day, I know that even if I'm upset with myself for not being more productive, I'm still getting much more done than before.

John Lennon once said, "The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time." I need to post that in big letters on my desk. No more pressure and guilt; I need to give myself permission to waste time writing. 

It sounds contradictory, but it's not. When I write a scene, instead of constantly asking myself, "Am I just going to cut this scene later?" I should say, "I enjoy writing this scene." When I'm blogging, instead of asking, "Does anyone even read this?" I should say, "I enjoy blogging" and go for it.

It's something I'm still working on.


  1. I like those questions you've proposed at the end. Not asking "Am I going to cut this later?"

    I think we all go through these phases. And I know a lot of writers who've hit a reflective phase in the past couple of weeks. Reflecting on your work is healthy.

  2. I absolutely love that John Lennon quote, Teralyn. I should also post it somewhere in big letters... Perhaps embroider it into my sleeves so every time I look at my arms I see it... And not just as part of my writing life. It is also a good thing to remember in every day life as well.

  3. I ask myself the same question all the time. Then, I read a section from several books that inspired me to write, along with a passage of favorite poets. I find I want to spin magic like they did once more.

    The editing of a book is something completely different than writing the rough draft. The rough draft is magic, the words flowing out of you. Editing is another mind-set: you are a surgeon of prose then, not a writer of it. While you edit, try writing a short story for the sheer fun of it, then go back to editing. Or you could write snippets of dialogue for a future novel that you've been kicking about in your head to keep the fires stoked.

    I pray that all your New Year wishes come true, Roland

  4. What a brave post! I am still wallowing in your former life; every moment I can find to write is precious and every moment I find to write and am inspired is even better.

    And I hate writing first drafts. I much prefer revision.

  5. .that line of J.Lennon is really inspiring. And its true we should enjOy everything we do in life cuz everything that makes us happy its worth the time.

  6. Have just discovered your blog and love it! Lots of great advice and good observations.

    Sorry to hear you are having a little flat spot. I find this can happen for me when I begin to focus too heavily on the destination (will it ever be published?) rather than simply enjoying the journey. Easier said than done of course.
    Good luck!

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  8. Very interesting article. It taps into some of the things I'm currently feeling about writing and being a writer. As if writing isn't hard enough, I feel a bit overwhelmed by the extras...blogging, facebook, fans, followers, twitter. Yikes.

  9. I love that line from John Lennon and live by it. Sometimes I think we need to just step away from our writing. I love to write but also create in other ways. When writing gets to feeling like a chore, I draw, when drawing becomes a chore, I write. It gives me a sort of balance. Anyhoo, I am a new follower and look forward to seeing more from you =)

  10. wow! that amazing feeling of being on fire or passionate with what you do.

  11. It's a tough question. You know if ever it creeps in my brain, I dismiss it. I enjoy the time I spend writing, and that's enough.

  12. Hi! I'm new to the blogging world and I find that I love to write as well, but more than anything I love to read. So I started a blog on blogger about book reviews, and now I find myself afraid of losing originality as well as not quite sure how to get out there for people to see what I write! Any advice would be beyond greatly appreciated.


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