With the finish line in sight for retirement from career #1 and my transition to career #2 as a writer, I look forward to some solid years of finally getting a lifetime of ideas, plots and characters committed to paper.
Some of those characters (and their families) have been taking up residence in my head for so long that I look forward to sending them eviction notices from my brain.
But in writing circles, I often hear why wait until tomorrow what you can do today? …Why wait until retirement?
The answer is a pretty simple one: at the end of most work days, I’m tapped out.
I am extremely fortunate that my career already offers me the opportunity to create, write, proofread and edit a variety of corporate documents.
That is a choice I made and I stand by it, as it has offered me the gift of thirty years of challenging emails, memos, presentations and user manuals. What is most rewarding is that in writing for different target audiences and on behalf of a variety of executives with differing styles and approaches, my creative muscles have been stretched like silly putty in multiple directions. I couldn’t have asked for better training in writing.
Even at this point, I am still learning and I still have moments when the word nerd in me gets goose bumps when a finished product comes together really nicely. For example, a couple of months ago, I coughed up a Standard Operating Procedure in under two hours that brought me a huge sense of satisfaction for having downloaded some of the contents of my brain into a living document that will be used by my colleagues for years to come.
But at the end of the day, when I am in heavy production of the written word, often with short deadlines (which is also a challenge that gets my creative juices flowing), as much as I love every moment of the process, there isn’t much writing energy to spare for personal projects.
On numerous occasions over the span of my career, I have tried to commit to myself to personal writing quotas, whether that was 1000 words, 500 words, an hour, or even just half an hour. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t.
The times the word quotas worked were usually preceded by work days where I felt like I was using a different part of the brain, whether that was number crunching, problem solving or attending meetings.
But the days when I was wearing the corporate writer hat all day, it was a challenge to keep the writing neurons firing after more than eight consecutive hours… at least for me it is. Even if I did persevere, would it be quality work?
I recall a time when there was a 150 page bilingual document that needed proofreading on a short deadline. By blocking out interruptions and having the quiet time I needed, I was able to get the continuity, flow and momentum to increase my revision speed. But at the end of an intense day, as much as I was euphoric with what I accomplished, my brain was very tired.
I believe that it would have been a mistake to work on my own creative projects that night, if I needed to wake up refreshed and to remain vigilant to continue proofreading the next day.
I am not suggesting for a moment that setting writing goals or quotas are a bad thing. In fact, I fully expect that when writing becomes my full-time gig, I will indeed be setting goals for myself. If I was on contract to a publisher to deliver a written product by a certain date, then you better believe that I’d be working on a daily quota system to ensure I meet my target.
I am just suggesting that when we don’t have a pressing, revenue generating, bound-by-law commitment, as writers, we shouldn’t feel discouraged if at times, this popular and widely-used practice doesn’t mesh well with our personal lives. For that reason, I have been careful in not committing to writing projects outside of my career or my blog, to ensure I had the creative energy to still deliver my best work to the priorities before me.
We all have so many responsibilities, sometimes conflicting ones, which are draining on our creative energy. When that happens, sometimes writing quotas are the solution to keep us on track. Other times, we just need to be patient and ride out the busy periods until the time is right. The bright side is that during that time, characters, plots and ideas have a chance to take root in our minds and to mature, which can sometimes be as beneficial as the actual writing itself.
On social media, I like the positive and encouraging messaging when people are successful in making a personal writing goal work for them. I fully support that movement.
We shouldn’t feel guilty when life’s demands get in the way. Personal writing quotas are indeed a fantastic tool, we just need to work within our circumstances and to do the best that we can. I also think we need to cut ourselves some slack in recognizing that we are human, we are not machines.
If my career was completely unrelated to writing and consistently worked a different part of the brain, I’m sure I would already be producing vast quantities of creative content in my free time.
In the meantime, I still write, but my goals are very flexible and very relaxed. I am perfectly happy with producing one quality blog post per week. Meanwhile, I constantly scribble creative writing ideas on index cards. Those ideas will keep until I retire and will help me hit the ground running when I transition to full-time creative writer.
As much as I have yearned for more time for creative writing over the years, for now I feel deep gratitude for the writing opportunity that life has handed me: an opportunity that puts food on the table, a roof over my head, clothes on my back and offers me the best training in the world.
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Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,