This is mostly a post about writing but I think it’s the sort of thing that also isn’t about writing at all. And it’s something I’ve been wanting to talk about for a while.
One of the pieces of advice you hear for writers again and again is to keep writing. Don’t get distracted in research. Don’t spend all your time redesigning your website or “marketing” on social media – WRITE.
I thought about that frequently this past year when I was doing a lot of things that weren’t writing. I recorded an audiobook. I produced that audiobook. I redesigned my website. And also published my second book (that I also managed to write). Sometimes in all the not-writing I felt guilty. Sometimes I didn’t, but even then, without the guilt, sometimes I still wondered if I was doing the wrong thing, because I wasn’t writing.
But there’s two reasons that not-writing is sometimes the best thing to do.
The business of Business
I’ve chosen, for the time being, to be not just an author but also a DIY Publisher. That means that spending an entire day formatting a book is the business of being a publisher as much as writing is the business of being an author. Some days (or hours) are devoted to one thing and some to the other.
But none of us are only ever one thing in life. We’re writers and parents; employees and entrepreneurs; people with friends and obligations and vacations and in the midst of all that, goals we want to accomplish.
Focusing on the things that will get you to the goal, instead of diverging into the things that won’t, is the only way you’ll get there. Or can be the difference between accomplishing it in a few months instead of a year. But even in the midst of that we all have lives and some of us aren’t content with a single goal to keep us occupied.
Having parallel goals or multiple interests may mean you sacrifice time from one thing to pursue the other, but it doesn’t have too…
Rhythm and Energy
To be honest, I can’t write all day. Thanks to some great information and tips from Susan Dennard and Erin Bowman, I’ve determined that my peak writing is 8am – 1pm. After 4pm, I couldn’t write, even if I tried.
We all have rhythms in our day – the times when we think most clearly and can organize things or solve problems – the moments we can run 3 miles but can’t think straight – the hours when we’re most social and can make phone calls or reply to emails and the point when we just need to be alone and relax.
Keep Writing is fine advice. Or keep painting or keep working on your doctoral thesis.
And don’t get me wrong, focus is important. The ability to diligently work at something until it’s done will accomplish tremendous things in your life.
The real power, however, is learning to balance that focus with the times when you’re most productive. Recognize the times when you do that thing best and Do It. Then give yourself the freedom to do something else, without guilt, in your off peak time.
This can allow you to leverage analytic tasks with creative ones; to be social and market when it’s easier and then curl into your cave and knock out a few quiet tasks. You may find that you can accomplish more when your goals don’t conflict with one other; when you utilize the different rhythms of each to let your goals thrive in the midst of also having a life. And you can keeping doing not one but two things. Who knows what you can accomplish then.