It’s natural, as the year winds down, to find one’s self taking stock and contemplating changes in habit for the new year. Of course the boundary is entirely arbitrary: it might make sense to start the new year on the shortest day or the longest.
The boundary is entirely arbitrary, but it has emotional weight. So that matters.
Something that’s hard about working by myself—on the couch, in yoga pants with only occasionally combed hair—is that accountability has to come entirely from the inside. If I don’t get my job done, there are penalties: I don’t get paid. But nobody can fire me. (I might starve to death, obviously, and editors might stop asking me for things. But nobody is asking me to fill out a timesheet. Thank cod.)
But because I work for myself, I feel like I have to do as much as possible and be as efficient in my use of my time as possible. And there’s email, and charity stuff, and ARCs to read, and emerging writers to support, and friends whose books I loved and want to boost.
Another problem is that I have to go out looking for social outlets and “networking opportunities” (i.e., making and maintaining friendships) which, if I worked in an office, would be unavoidable. Social media fill this gap… but social media is also an incredible timesink, and a constant outrage and anxiety generator.
That’s how they keep you clicking, after all.
(There’s also a performative aspect to the social media thing, which I’ll get into in my next newsletter/Patreon post. That one will be subscriber content. Because I do need to pay that mortgage, after all.)
So I need to maintain those connections, but I also need to not let them eat my life.
One thing I’ve been working harder on lately is focusing on one thing at a time: trying to fight the creep of multitasking in my life. Writing an article, say, such as this one… rather than writing an article and checking slack and checking twitter and checking email and listening to a podcast all at once.
It turns out that when I try to do six things at the same time none of them get done very well.
So, more and more, I’m working to stay off the internet in the mornings. To just do my damned job, and then do the other parts of my job (I refer to the two halves as “writing” and “authoring”) like answering email and self-promotion and reviewing copyedits and smack-talking badly behaved professional organizations on twitter in the afternoon.
That means, sadly, not clicking on all those beautiful links to “What Did We Put In Our Rectums Last Year?” until after writing time is over, alas. On the other hand, it does help get the damned writing done. And it turns out I’m a lot less stressed when I focus on one thing: the thing that I decided to do for a living and worked hard to build a career in because I was good at it and it gave me joy.
So on that note, Happy New Year (arbitrary!) and I hope 2020 treats you well.