Too Much of a Good Thing

"To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time." - Leonard Bernstein

While chatting with a friend earlier this week, the concept of time and writing came up. The dream – so it seems – is to have all the time in the world to write. Without the constraints of a day job or other things to get in my way. Getting to write because it’s what I love to do, and what I’m passionate about. It’s  a milestone that writers can struggle their whole lives for.

But … to be honest … I hate it.

Possibly because I didn’t actively choose it, the opportunity was just there and I fell into it one (shitty) freelancer job at a time. Maybe I would feel differently if I’d published a best-seller or two, socked away some cash and then decided to trade in my nine-to-five for pajamas and pre-dawn sessions. It makes me feel like an ungrateful sod because I’m not churning out a novel every year, as though I’m spitting in the face of the Gods who’ve granted me this amazing gift of time.

It’s not because I don’t want to write, I (almost) always want to write. But, right now, there’s no pressure to complete anything. Ever. I don’t have to worry about getting a paycheck and without boundaries or time constraints, my brain has nothing to stop it from reeling outward indefinitely. It just rolls on and on for days, with no signs of stopping.

It’s driving me batty.

So much, that I’m taking steps to get a second job outside of the house. As glourious as it may sound, having all day to write – without any boundries to speak of – leads to a false comfort level (procrastination), and I end up putting off more things than completing them. While talking with my friend, I realized I wrote more in high-school – when I had less free time – than I do now.

Even when I had school, friends, homework and such to compete for my time. Part of it, I think was that those time constraints made writing sacred. Not in the sense of “I must have all my chakras aligned, my acid-free notebook and my quill pen filled before I can write a single word” meaning of the word. But in that I protected my time much more than I do now, because there was less of it to go around.

It allowed me to put a lot more value on my writing time.

Which brings me round to the quote at the top of the entry. We live in a world that is doing everything it can to be stress-free, work-free and / or dirt-free. (I could do a whole other entry on why “Work Smarter, Not Harder” pisses me off. Because Gods forbid anyone should have to – or want to – break a sweat for something.)

But not all stress is bad stress. There are even studies that suggest it’s not “stress” that harms us, but our perception of it. When I’m under pressure with my writing it creates a positive stimuli loop, and I feel energized and engaged in a way that I don’t experience when I can tackle a project as I please. Apparently there’s a word for “good stress”, or stress that causes someone to thrive under pressure. Surprise! The writer likes learning new words … on with the vocab lesson.

“Eustress occurs when the gap between what one has and what one wants is slightly pushed, but not overwhelmed. The goal is not too far out of reach but is still slightly more than one can handle.” – Wikipedia

Keyword there, of course, being slightly. There’s a line between being positively challenged and being so overwhelmed by something that my brain starts to meltdown. I think, in my current writing situation, I’m looking for eustress the only way I (currently) know how to get it, procrastination.

Trying to write without boundaries and challenges to overcome, is like trying to write while in a permanent state of vacation. Sure, it sounds fabulous at first, until you’ve spent the entire day sipping drinks and watching the tide go in an out without putting a single word to page. Not a bad thing in itself, but after a year or two … or eight, you lose track of things. When you’re an INFJ like me, there is such a thing as too much freedom.

need routines and fences to work within, goals to shoot towards and external motivators to push myself. I can definitely understand the romantic idealism behind getting to write every day unhindered, but it just doesn’t work that way for me. I’ll take challenging deadlines over beach dreams any day.

Categories: INFJ, Life, Writing
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