Well, it’s that time of the year again, the oh-my-goodness-Christmas-is-coming-why-am-I-not-on-holidays-yet time of year. The time of year in which I start feeling like a school kid, peering at the clock and itching in my seat, restless to be anywhere but where I have to be.
I have a pretty good job, as far as day-jobs go. I spend my time watching surveillance footage and writing up reports to send to clients, which means I write for a living, if not the kind of writing I really want to be doing. But sometimes all the unwritten words start piling up on me, making it hard to breathe. Sometimes the fact that I spend more time writing words for other people rather than myself wears on me.
So, in the past three years of full time work I’ve developed a few strategies for surviving the day job. And here they are:
1. Secret Identity
You spend all day in a cubicle. You make regular trips to the water cooler, where you may or may not drink from tiny plastic cups. People think you’re all mild-mannered and stuff. You may even wear thick-rimmed glasses.
But at night, you have superpowers. You bend words to your will.
Face it, you’re basically a superhero.
2. Use Your Angst
You know that feeling you have on a Monday morning, the whole week ahead of you and nothing but an excruciatingly slow-ticking clock to mark your hours slaving away at your desk for little pay and even less appreciation? No? Just me? (Just kidding, boss! I love my job! You’re awesome!)
Use those emotions to fuel your writing. I’ve come to appreciate lately how living the hard stuff is so vital for a writer. We whisper to our readers: come this way, I understand, I’ve been there too. But if we haven’t really been there, our work is inauthentic, like diet coke or home-brand chocolate. What is even the point?
So, use it. Jot it down and file it away for the moment you need to write about a character who is trapped or worn down, or feeling kind of hopeless. Stick it to the man with your words!
3. Leave at Lunchtime
This one is vital to me. What is the lunch room if not another, slightly larger cubicle? Get out. Get a coffee or go for a walk. If you can’t do that, put some headphones in and leave in another way. Lose yourself in a book or brainstorm your next scene. Use that time for yourself. It belongs to you and you alone.
When you’re stuck inside all day, you really start to feel that trapped feeling in a big way. Everything around you is grey, grey, grey. I have a window to look out of, so I’m lucky in that way, but I still start to feel worn down and listless after a full day of work.
That’s why I started going for walks after work and in my lunch breaks. Find a way to spend some time outside every day. You’re not trapped — there’s a whole wide world out there, and it belongs to you 16 hours of the day! Get outside, drink in a little Vitamin D, and breathe.
5. Start the Weekend Early
I figured out awhile ago that the weekend feels so much longer if you start doing stuff on a Friday night. For me, “stuff” generally means writing, but it can also mean going to the movies, having friends over, or having a celebratory beer or cider. Don’t wait for Saturday to start enjoying yourself. Make every moment count.
This works on a weekday, too. Don’t just slump on the couch when you get home from work. This is your time! Use it!
Excuse me while I go polish my Clark Kent glasses. This superhero has work on Monday.