Working hard…or hardly working?

Hello. My name is Laura, and I have a work problem.

Let me explain further. You see, a comment from P.S. Hoffman on my RoW80 Update yesterday caught me a little: “But you’re so busy!” Of all the things that could be said about me, I wouldn’t have expected that one, especially on a day when I felt like I took “day off” to new extremes. And this isn’t the first time I had a day pass me by when I think to myself, “UGH I’m so lazy. I didn’t do anything. I’m such a waste of space!”

I know it’s important to take a day off every once in a while, but I realized that, even when I take a “day off,” I still write, I still network, there’s quite a lot I still do. But is it really enough to constitute as “busy”? That’s when it hit me that I have a very faulty concept of “work,” especially now that most of my work consists of doing something I absolutely love for little to no immediate, visible, tangible “payment.” My brain is still stuck in work-as-hard-as-you-can-in-a-thankless-job-you-hate mode, even though it’s been months since I’ve left that kind of life far, far behind.

How do you define work? I know that submitting a story and getting a chapter of a book written during a day is some pretty important work, especially if I throw a promotion of something into the mix, which is what I’ve been doing for the most part these days. But my brain is still in the process of defining my 24 hours at the part-time job, quantifiable, official, blah blah blah, as more “valuable.” It’s so bizarre to make that mental shift, and I have a long way to go in that respect. I don’t feel like I’m working as I sit at this computer, typing this up, but I am. Spending two hours every morning doing all of this is work. It’s good work. And I keep myself busy. But I enjoy it immensely, so it might never feel like work. And that’s okay. I just have to keep reminding myself of that until I break through that barrier and start to truly believe it.

What do you think? Do you find writing work? How much writing do you have to do before you feel you’ve put in a good amount of work? Is it possible to ever break through the mentality of the typical 9-to-5? I’d love to hear some thoughts…if you’re not too busy.

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14 thoughts on “Working hard…or hardly working?

  1. Great post and something I thought about recently while feeling pressured to finish up a second novel. There are no deadlines to make, just the “when is the next book coming out?” questions, but I felt pressured none-the-less. So I was forcing myself to sit down and “work.” And I found, that I wasn’t enjoying it much. Writing to me has always been a hobby that I lucked into being able to do a little something with. So, I don’t look at it as work, at least not now. Maybe someday if I’m ever able to quit my day job and focus solely on writing, but I hope even then, that I continue to see it as fun and enjoyable.

    1. So far, it has been for me, and it’s been several months. I spend all morning on my writing and promotion and network, and it never feels like “work,” so I have to make myself look back on what I did accomplish to keep from feeling like I accomplished nothing! It’s really surreal, and it’s a good thing, I’m just not used to it yet.

  2. I am retired, so I won’t “work” at a regular job. I’m pretty lazy at home, actually, and some would find my life boring. That’s okay, because I spent years working long days and being so exhausted I could barely move. When I am writing a piece that I am really “into,” especially if I plan to submit it (for pay or not), I consider that “working.” I put time and effort into the work, and a lot of soul. I can even feel tired or stressed as a result of intense writing. It’s not always fun. My sister once said, “Writing must be relaxing for you.” It’s not. When I’m really into my writing, it’s not relaxing. It’s work. Funny how we’re all different on this subject.

    1. I totally get the stressing out and feeling tired parts, too, because I also feel that way quite often. But it still never feels like work to me, which is really bizarre. It’s normal to feel stressed out or tired out over work, but when it doesn’t feel like work, it almost feels as though you’ve stressed out about nothing! But it’s not nothing, and it is work, my brain just doesn’t believe it, lol.

  3. I’m the SAME way. I don’t see writing as work either, even though I know I should. I have an artist friend who insists that art is work and even though I logically agree, it’s hard to break that conditioning.

    1. Exactly. In a way, I guess it’s a blessing in disguise. If we saw it as work, wouldn’t we eventually grow to resent it for that fact? I should just accept my blissful ignorance and keep on keepin’ on…

  4. It’s work, but it’s work that I love, it’s work that I believe matters, so I have a lot fun doing it. Sometimes there are frustrating moments–when I know something doesn’t work but can’t figure out how to fix it, when self-doubt sneaks up behind me and taps me on the shoulder, etc. All those things–marketing/promotion, networking, writing, revising, doing writing exercises, even keeping a writing journal–are work, even if they don’t fit the mold of the nine-to-five.

    I left my office job last year to write full time, which feels a little like that moment when you realized you’ve just jumped out of an airplane and you’re really hoping that parachute opens. I do miss the collaboration, the deadlines, the social aspects of office work, but I had to give writing full time a chance. I knew I would have regretted it if I hadn’t. But sometimes I feel like to be a productive member of society, I should be in an office–which is silly because some of the most important things that have been done haven’t come out of an office, but out of living rooms, basements, garages, etc. What we do is work, even if we love it so much it doesn’t feel that way.

    Great, thought-provoking post!

    1. I think you really nailed it with the comment about being a productive member of society. When you spend so much time in your living room on a computer while the world goes on outside, you don’t feel like you’re contributing anything, even though you clearly are in your own way.

    1. Man. “Work” has never done anything to settle me down; it usually only stresses me out, and I need the writing to settle me down. But I’m not working as much, so I guess I’m less stressed, so I think being so settled makes me think something must be wrong, lol.

  5. Writing is most definitely work. So is blogging and interacting on Facebook. Anything that helps market your writing is work, just like the writing itself. So, yeah, you’re busy. I work a full-time job, proofread for clients, do my own writing, and do the social thing. I’m busy, too. And, yet, no matter what you do or what your schedule is, there are going to be SOME people who think you have plenty of time to do what THEY want you to do. Oh, wait…that’s a story for another time. LOL Seriously, though, don’t ever think you’re not working. You HAVE to think of this as YOUR business. You’re a sole proprietor of an actual business. You have to treat it as such. And don’t EVER let other people tell you “oh, you only work part-time, so you have time for this and that”. Make others take your work seriously, too!

  6. Remember – you don’t have to be working to be considered busy. Whether you think of yourself as working or playing when you are writing, you are still occupied with thought, emotion, intellectual reasoning and insight, and the physical action of writing or typing the words onto paper. Busy is busy.

  7. I sort of drifted away from the 9-5 day years ago when I started tele-working. I started then to measure my work days in terms of accomplishment, of productivity, as opposed to 7.5 hours a day spent looking busy. From there, it was an easy slide into the open and free days of retirement, with the opportunity to be busy at whatever I wanted, including sitting down by the river with a good book. Then in 2010 I thought I’d try writing, and haven’t looked back since. That’s my work now – meaning that I spend a lot of my time doing writerly things. Things like writing, learning about writing, reading as a writer, editing, publishing, and marketing. This is more than a casual hobby done purely for enjoyment, this is a focus that I work hard at.
    It just doesn’t pay very well.

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