The Day Job
Over at Tamboblog, author Tamara Siler Jones discusses the problem with trying to balance writing and a career that involves similar creative endeavors. It’s an interesting discussion, and one that strikes home for me, because what I do most in my job is writing. Not fiction, but advertising. (Insert your own joke here.)
“I believe that creativity is like a muscle. Use it or lose it. And there are a variety of different types, some possibly connected. Visual creativity – like painting; Auditory creativity – like music; Muscular-skeletal creativity – like a gifted athlete; and so on and so forth. Lots of different kinds of creativity. If you keep using the same creative muscle over and over and over at your job, my personal experience indicates that doing the same type of activity is probably not gonna happen in your spare time.”
There are times when I get home from a particularly long day, the kind of day when there have been “Too Many Cooks” Syndrome when it comes to fussing over a script, when the last thing I want to think about, much less do, is write anything else. This is the biggest reason why that old advice about writing something every day doesn’t work for me: if I force myself to write something when I don’t feel like it, I produce crap. Crap so bad that I wouldn’t even post it anywhere anonymously.
The funny thing is, it is during periods when I’ve had the most frustrations in the day job, that I feel the need to write, to get my creative juices simmering, to work out my frustrations on other aspects of the day while (hopefully) spinning them into a decent narrative.
There is no doubt in my mind that I would have finished my novel long ago had I not worked in a writing-intensive job. But I like my job, and I like writing. So since the day job is the one that pays the bills, I have little choice but to show up. In my case, when something has to suffer, unfortunately, it’s the writing. Until I get the writing done, and until the magical day when I can make more with that then my current income, there are times when it will have to take a backseat.
I do disagree with one point she makes: I don’t believe that there is automatically the “use it or lose it” dynamic with the “creativity muscle.” When it comes to writing, I believe that you can learn as much, and at times, more, from reading. Reading isn’t using the creative muscle to come up with words of your own, but you are getting a look at how other authors have successfully or unsuccessfully told their tales.
I’ve learned at least as much from reading other people’s writing than I have at attempting my own. When I sit down at the keyboard to write or revise my work-in-progress, even if I haven’t touched it in a week or more, I find that I don’t have to gradually pace myself as I would if I were restarting an exercise routine: the passion to write is there, every bit as much as always, and it’s ready to take control whenever I find the time to allow it. That’s one of the things about writing that I like best.