So sometimes it’s hard to get back into the discipline of working when you’ve given yourself a break. This has been doubly true for Death by Cliché 4. First of all, I had written far ahead of my Writer’s Group. This was great on the one hand, because when those bad two weeks of 110 hours of daily work hit, I didn’t need to produce any new words. On the other hand, I fell out of the habit of writing a full two weeks before I started my vacation.
Then came said vacation, and 94 hours of Civilization VI, followed by a fair number of hours of Master of Orion, and lots of very purposely not working.
I returned to my day job and objectively a terrible, stressful week. I was the only one submitting to Writer’s Group last week, so I canceled it to give my brain relief from yet another deadline. I think it’s maybe the second group I’ve canceled in the year (not counting scheduling conflicts, like conventions).
Finally last night I managed to get some time to really work on the book for an uninterrupted hour and a half. I had my chapter quote work, which I had kinda thrown out. I had about one and a half chapters, but the second chapter had been entirely written in fifteen-minute chunks and I just couldn’t get my feet under me.
But last night, after the house was quiet, I finally forced myself to really sit down and finish chapter 2. By the end, I felt like I had my rhythm back and the book no longer felt like an insurmountable challenge. The book had never been that daunting. It was the idea of working again that had been daunting.
So now I know that about myself. In fairness, I knew it about myself before. I have to relearn that pretty much every time I come off a vacation, but every time it just feels like it’s too much and that I will never get my feet back under me again. I know in my head that isn’t the case, but it always just feels like so much work.
But you have to do it because that’s the job. Butt in chair. Day in. Day out. That’s the habit of the profession. That’s the discipline you need to develop.
And my point of this post is that you don’t just always have that discipline, even after years of perfecting it. It’s a constant struggle to maintain it, and even a small vacation can seem to wreck it entirely. Sometimes just a long weekend is enough to tear down your good work and leave you feeling like a complete neophyte.
The thing that years of experience does bring you is the memory of the habit. Like a mold in which you can quickly build the habit again. As bad as it felt to start, I had my habits back probably after the first hour. Maybe after the first thirty minutes. It’s like physical conditioning. A well-conditioned athlete still gets tired, maybe more slowly than a slob like me, but it still happens. The real difference between him and I is that when I exhaust myself it takes forever to recover, and it takes him five or ten minutes.
It’s the same with work discipline. Build the good habits and you’ll lose them just like everyone else, but if you build them well, they will come back to you, and they will come back very quickly. So keep plugging away. It doesn’t get that much easier, but the amount of time that it stays hard gets shorter, and that’s what you are really fighting for.
Also, a really good video game probably doesn’t help the whole process. Two make it just that much harder.
The next installment awaits...Slouching Towards Amazon: LTUE Post Mortem