I spent a morning recently building some interactive online dashboards as part of my day job. It was not exciting work and mostly it was frustrating, as software wouldn’t co-operate, or connections fell over halfway through trying to achieve a thing. I looked at the clock. Yes! Quarter past twelve.
Nearly lunchtime, or actually lunchtime if I liked. An hour of My Own Time awaited me.
In that time I was going to write. Yessss!!!
I realised then, that whenever I saw that clock tick to My Own Time, I was excited – not to be stopping the IT work, but specifically to be starting to write. Scenes and voices began pressing themselves against the inside of my forehead. I thought of looking at one last customer email and decided it could wait.
Writing would not wait. I didn’t want it to wait. I was thrilled it was lunchtime, delighted to be able to start doing what I enjoy.
So off I dashed, ready for fifty minutes of solid writing, plus ten minutes of mad-rush eating to sustain myself through more IT tasks in the afternoon.
How can I maintain that excitement – forever? I’ve never sat down to write thinking, Oh God, not this again. I have very frequently sat down to my day job with a sinking heart. So how do I stop my writing becoming like a wretched broken dashboard with nuh-uh errors and drearily slow connection time?
I was curious to explore this. What makes my unofficial-job of writing so exciting? What keeps it that way, year after year? After some thought came up with this:
Control and ownership. My writing belongs to me and I can do it any way I like.
Freedom. I can try new genres or styles, write poetry or news articles, or paint watercolours if I choose. I am not working to a brief – or rather, I am, but it’s my brief.
Feedback. I get regular feedback from my writing group, and from readers of my just-for-fun fanfiction. This means I can respond and learn on the job.
Personal development. I read craft books and blogs and apply new techniques in my work. If I had endless money, there are conventions, courses and festivals I can attend to improve my writing. But even working with free and cheap resources, the opportunities for growth are huge.
Escapism. I write fantasy, and I write it because it lets me travel to other places and meet interesting people – a bit like my real-life job, except I don’t have to stay in a lot of budget motels to do it.
Progress. I can see wordcount building up and structure taking shape. Ifd I read stories I wrote fourteen years ago, I can see the improvements I’ve made in style, technical approach and structure. And eventually I will be tracking, I hope, progress in the form of sales.
And not to forget the big reason, the overarching reason I do what I do, mostly for free, devoting hours of my life to it:
Working with words. I have to do some writing in my day job and it’s among the best aspects of what I do. Words are powerful, and fun. Of course I want to spend as much time working with them as I can.
To me, these things are what keeps me thrilled to dash off at lunchtime and write a ton of words towards my current project. And it strikes me that by paying attention to each point, ensuring that I continue to learn, escape, experiment, respond – then for me, writing will always remain exciting.
What keeps your writing exciting?