The Object Lesson: Choices

I started the writing thing in a serious way–more serious than I had been up to that point, anyway–shortly after I graduated from college. Because I graduated in a weird mid-year kind of way, I had the spring semester and then an entire summer in which I had really nothing on my plate but a job at the library on campus and, eventually, finding a place for me and Rob to live in while I went to graduate school.

To that date I hadn’t done more than dabble in a really vague kind of way in original stuff, and it seemed like as good a time as any, as I expected to be brain-splodingly busy once school started up again and I was tossed into the navigation of a PhD program. One difference between a regular job and school that became freshly apparent once school was no longer something that I was doing every day is that school wears out the brain-meat in a way that most normal 9-to-5 gigs do not, at least in my experience, because you’re rarely ever done. The work comes home with you. The work follows you around. You go out with friends, the work tags along. You go to bed, the work sits on your pillow and stares at you. Fridays? Hah. They are meaningless, my friend. In a general sense I always found school less draining than a lot of the other jobs I’ve had, but it did seem to make me brain-dead in a way that they had not.

So at least, the job I had–locating and scanning articles for Inter-Library Loan–was singularly un-taxing, and I found myself with an unforeseen surplus of mental energy. So the writing began, took off in a biggish way, and here we are.

Except that I’m now back in school and trying to balance the creative and the academic sides of my life in a way that I haven’t really before now. It’s working better than I thought it would, I have to say. Some of that is that I’ve discovered a hitherto unsuspected ability to thrive on stress at the same time that it’s making me a horrible crazy person, but I think most of it is just a combination of time management–which is a fucking survival skill in grad school, among other places–and the setting of realistic goals. I’ve talked some in a previous post about the changes I’ve found myself making in the ways I write–minimum daily wordcounts, not waiting until I want to work to get to work, etc.

But other things, mostly in the areas of creative output, have sadly ended up on the chopping block. Because something else that’s made itself extremely apparent is that I just don’t have a limitless amount of writing-type energy or time, and if it’s going somewhere, that means it’s not going somewhere else, in a kind of creative opportunity cost. I’ve noticed that while I still like writing fanfiction and I still do bits of it here and there, it’s much less of a focus. I used to be involved in a pan-fandom RPG, and while I’m still there and I intend to stay there for a good while longer, when it came time to reorganize priorities, it slipped several rungs down. I’ve essentially resigned myself to being a one-character player, and I’m not as heavily involved as I used to be. Sometimes that makes me sad, though I don’t regret it because I feel like my energy is still going somewhere great, even if it’s not going to where it used to. But there’s a sense of looking back and wishing that there were a few more hours in the day or just a little more of me to put into the things I want to do. Not a new feeling by any means, but new in this context, and not entirely pleasant.

So yeah, in a sense that was a hardish thing to get my head around: if I’m going to do this and take it seriously, there are other things that are going to be done less, if they’re done at all. And choosing what to work on and when is important. Before the last few months, I saw writing as a talent and a fun past-time and an incredible form of expression, but I didn’t really see it as a discipline. Which is exactly what it is, when it’s going to be done well, at least by me. There’s the effortless, ecstatic side, when everything is flowing and smooth and words just tumble off the ends of your fingers. There’s the hard shit, when nothing is any fun and it’s all drudgery and getting a sentence down feels like dragging something heavy out through your eye socket. But then there’s the stuff that lies between, the actual management of it all, the ego to the superego and id, and without that working to control the whole mechanism, a lot just doesn’t get done.

This is probably true in a lot of contexts outside of writing, but writing is where I really began to become aware of it, and it’s something else I’m grateful for, to the muse or the man in the cellar or whatever it is that keeps me coming back for more, and kept me here long enough to work some things out. I might have worked them out elsewhere, but hey, I didn’t. So, as I said above, here we are, and this is how we roll.

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