1. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    Slower writers: What are you doing with your time?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by BayView, Oct 12, 2017 at 12:47 PM.

    I'm a fairly fast writer and get tired of all the "churning out" lines that are thrown around, so maybe this is partly defensive, but mostly I think I'm just curious... what the hell is taking people so long to write?

    Is it just a question of not sitting down and doing the writing? Either getting busy with something else or procrastinating (writing boards, anyone?)?

    Or are you putting the time in and still it takes a really long time?

    Like, by my calculations, even if you're a super-slow writer, say 250 words an hour, if you spend an hour a day on writing, you'd have a novel-length draft in less than a year.

    I can't imagine that most of us write that slowly? Do we? Or are people writing first drafts but then spending forever on re-writing, editing, etc?

    Or to look at it another way... if we assume that professional writers are probably able to write at least 1K per hour (that's only 17 words a minute!) and can write for 2 hours a day, 5 days a week (with the rest of their time spent on editing, promo, etc.) then that works out to 6.25 books a year (2hrs/day x 1000 words/hr x 5 days x 50 weeks / 80K words per book), but we're shocked at the idea that a writer could produce that much and start talking about "churning out" or whatever.

    Why is it shocking? Where do people see the obstacles arising? Is it hard to imagine having that many original ideas? (Probably not - most of us talk about our long lists of "plot bunnies" or ideas waiting to be written). Is it the numbers themselves people see as unrealistic? It's surprising to think of someone writing 1K per hour, or 2 hrs per day, or...?

    What's slowing people on this forum down, or, alternatively, why are people surprised by other writers who write more quickly?
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2017 at 1:19 PM
  2. OJB

    OJB Senior Member

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    Sometimes I can't get the tone of the story right and it slows me up considerably.

    Also, if a scene/chapter I've thought of is rather weak in concept when I start writing, it shows. Things read forced, and I'll stop and consider what different direction to take things before continuing.

    -

    I could blame the fact that I write in meter as a major slow down, but even if it takes me 2x as long, I still should be able to get 1000 words per night, and right now I am hovering around 400 words.
     
  3. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    So when you "stop and consider" does that mean sitting at the computer and figuring out possibilities, or does it mean fully stopping, walking away, not writing any more that session? Does it mean walking away for days? (Sorry if this feels like an interrogation... I'm trying to picture it in my mind!)

    ETA: And do you anticipate your verse novel being standard novel-length? I've only read a few novels in verse, but I feel like they were shorter than 80K words... maybe.
     
  4. Lifeline

    Lifeline Out of the Night Supporter Contributor

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    I can only speak for myself. I'm a super slow writer. Before I sit down and start writing, I spend hours, days, sometimes weeks or even longer, deciding on a specific course of action. I read blogs/articles/books for research to be able to judge exactly how I want a specific problem to come together. I take ages to make something resonate.

    When I sit down and actually write, I am, maybe not the fastest, but I've been known to chunk out 1k in half an hour. Of course, disregard the editing afterwards that cuts that word count by one 5/6th. Sometimes when I know what I'm gonna write but the scene is challenging, I write sentence by sentence, maybe 600 an hour. Depends on the challenge. I don't equate writing quick with writing well, though nothing says that it's impossible for the quality to be remarkable.

    But my goal is not to write professionally. I just want to tell one good story :) I'm still in the learning stage. Everything else I'll consider afterwards.

    ETA: And when a specific scene is not 'right', doesn't resonate, I am literally unable to keep writing. The words won't come. I might get a few hundred words in, but that's it.
     
  5. OJB

    OJB Senior Member

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    I'll walk away and go to dinner. A lot of my ah-huh-moments come when I am not sitting at my computer. I don't walk away for days, I usually write something every day. I think the best way to describe my problem is that I get bored with my idea (meaning it's not a good idea) and I try to find a better, more exciting idea for a chapter or scene.

    I'll give a example.

    In my current WIP, in the second chapter, the MC gets lost in a fog while being chased by some dogs. But I grew tired of writing it quickly because, how many times can I write "She sees the dogs and runs." It took forever to write the scene.

    I recently changed the idea of her being lost in the fog to where she hears a variety of different sounds (Howling, Chains being dragged, singing, screaming, the sound of a hammer hitting steel etc.) instead of being chased. It is now a fun chapter to write because I can't wait to get to the point where the MC sees what the source of the sound is.
     
  6. big soft moose

    big soft moose All killer, no filler. Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I tend to go in bursts - some weeks I write 2-3k a night every night, other weeks I'm lucky to get 250 words a night. In the slow weeks its to do with life getting in the way - if I have a taxing day at work and don't get down to writing till 11pm I'm not going to achieve as much as if I have an easy day and start at 6pm
     
  7. OJB

    OJB Senior Member

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    Sorry, I missed this question, I am aiming for 20-25k.
     
  8. big soft moose

    big soft moose All killer, no filler. Contributor Community Volunteer

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    If we achieved Stephen Kings 2k every day we'd be writing first drafts every 50 days or fewer, I guess it would really then come down to how long editing, formatting etc takes but theoretically a full time could knock out 6 or so a year... there's probably not many who do though
     
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  9. xanadu

    xanadu Contributor Contributor

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    I'm not a professional writer. I have a day job with a commute full of just-outside-the-city traffic. I get roughly 6 or so hours a day to myself, which includes eating, showering, laundry, and all my hobbies. I have a few of them, and I try to work on projects in each of them every day if I can. I usually have a game I'm playing, a book or two I'm reading, a song I'm composing, and my creative writing. Sometimes I can't get to everything in a day (some days I go to the parents' house, some days I go out for a drink with friends, etc). Only so many hours in a day, and I almost always go to bed without having accomplished everything I wanted to that day. So some things just have to take priority, and that priority changes all the time.

    I think it's all about momentum for me. When I'm between projects, it's hard to keep the momentum going. But when I have a good groove, I can do a thousand words a day most days. I can finish a first draft in a few months. But that requires a lot of focus on the creative writing, and one or two of the other hobbies have to fall off for a while. And vice-versa. When I was working on writing and recording a new album, I barely wrote any prose at all.

    I'm sure there's some level of procrastination, but if I'm not writing my novel/short stories, I'm involved in one of my other hobbies. I have been more productive lately, but until I get a firm routine down it'll still be spotty. And traffic's been getting worse lately, so my commute's been eating into my after-work downtime.

    Now, as far as editing goes, that's definitely procrastination. Once the first draft is done, I tend to move on to a new project, whether writing or something else, and it's hard to go back. That one's totally on me for lack of discipline.
     
  10. Iain Sparrow

    Iain Sparrow Senior Member

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    My writing partner is in charge of first drafts. I "churn out" the final draft that we eventually send to our editor. And when I say, "churn", I mean churning cream to make butter. That'd be, very slowly. The process is wonderfully unconventional. She stays one chapter ahead of me, sometimes two, and we don't move forward until we both agree it's ready for the editor's axe.
    Writing historical fiction isn't easy. You should see the pile of classic literature I have on my desk for reference!
    If at the end of a long day of writing (12 hours) I've two pages (1,000 words or there about) to show for it, well, I'm quite satisfied with myself. As long as I'm happy with the output it usually doesn't matter so much how long it takes.



    This took the better part of a day. It was a good day.
    __________________________________________________________________________________

    Troubled thoughts flitted in Rosemarie’s head; Valerie’s sudden arrival under the fog of secrecy was peculiar. There was no mistaking that. Was Valerie still in danger? If so, then why return now? And of all places, why here, and on a night no less when all of Paris was attending the theatre?

    Rosemarie stood at the top of the stairs on the landing opposite two garishly painted doors. She knew to knock first, but with arms full of boxes stacked so high that she could scarcely see her way, and harried seamstresses bumping by her, she dispensed with the cords of etiquette and backed into the fitting room unannounced, promptly caught her heel on the rug, and tumbled into the room.

    “Rose!” came a cheerful voice. A young woman — her face painted porcelain white, cheeks caked with rouge — was, save a garland of flowers around her waist, unabashedly naked.

    Rosemarie sprang to her feet, straightened her dress, and presented herself to the naked woman standing on a footstool.

    “Valerie!” Rosemarie sang out.

    “Young lady, have you ever considered knocking first?” mumbled Hugo the tailor, his mouth full of pins.

    “You know I would if my hands weren’t busy! I’m so sorry, Valerie. I don’t think anyone saw...” Rosemarie shut the doors behind her and entered the brightly lit apartment. An enormous oak table strewn with the instruments of the tailor’s trade took up the center of the room, on the far corner of which sat an elaborate birdcage, home to the second floor’s most thieving and untidy resident, an acquisitive black and white magpie that welcomed each visitor with the aplomb of a Bombay pickpocket. Rows of lavish fabrics and racks of costumes lined the facing walls. On the back wall, spanning the entire breadth of the room, was painted the most remarkable trompe l’oeil; it was of a sun-dappled forest clearing, where a sisterhood of muses frolicked amongst the ruins of a Roman garden. So absolute was the illusion that one might step into the mural and be inexplicably banished from the natural world. But all Rosemarie saw was her friend standing, statuesque and unashamed and returned to her so unexpectedly. It was as though one of the muses had broken free of the bonds of pigment and brush strokes to sojourn in the musk of flesh and bone.

    ___________________________________________________________________________________
     
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  11. izzybot

    izzybot Oportet Vivere Contributor

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    When I was working on LAFS, I put in 2-4k every day, most days. A couple times I only did a couple hundred or didn't write at all. Then I stalled out for about a week of no writing at all because I was close to the end and didn't know how to wrap things up, so I had to figure it out (and also quell my anxieties about the whole thing). And then the first draft was done, 95k in just about four weeks total.

    It's not done-done because I need to do a lot of editing, and editing is way easier to procrastinate on - it's harder and not as much fun for me. (I've also had personal / rl stuff come up like losing my job and laptop and dealing with health and family issues, which is always going to be an aspect as long as I have this body and family :rolleyes:) I didn't edit while I was writing; that was the churning out phase. So the writing went pretty fast, and it's other stuff that's taken a while.

    That said, in the actual writing ~process, I do tend to get distracted a fair bit. I stare off into space, I check social media, I play with my cat. It can be tough to get myself in the right mindset and focus up. That's why I set myself daily goals. No going to bed until the chapter's finished - so you should probably get started on it before 2AM.
     
  12. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    It honestly took me 5 years, from the start to the finish of my first draft, to finish my first novel—1996-2001. And I worked on it for hours, every single day, unless something major prevented me. I hated not having a chance to write, and was always keen to get back to it. I even hated going on holiday, back in the day before I had a laptop, because I had to stop writing for 2 weeks. Writer's block was not a problem at all. Nor was social media, which hadn't been invented yet. :)

    The novel (at that stage) was 312,000 words, and needed heavy editing and lots of work to get it down to its present 206,000 words and finished state. But I was so motivated. I went to bed at night, thinking about my story, and woke up in the morning thinking about my story. It was always in my head. I used to work out scenes, plot twists, even dialogue while I was walking to work, and carried a notebook to scribble the ideas down. I was totally committed to that book.

    Ever since then, I've more or less stopped writing. I started my second novel a couple of years ago and have four chapters written, but I lost the urge to write at all for a while. Research takes up time, as does editing and tweaking the first novel. (I'm still tweaking one chapter.) But that's not it. I'm just getting distracted by too many other things. And I find that when I have spare time, I don't think about my story much at all, but about lots of other things instead.

    I wonder if maybe I'm doing too many other things with the same kind of energy. I'm writing constantly to friends, swathes of online comments and posts, mega beta reading projects and detailed feedback and critiques. That's all writing. And I find myself thinking more about other people's stories than I do my own, working on their story problems, thinking about their characters. I'm trying to find a way to turn that around. (Like saying No to any more beta reading, for a start?)

    Of course I was never trying to make a career out of writing. And perhaps I'm one of those people who really only has one, or possibly two novels in me. I am only motivated to work on these two stories, which are actually connected. I don't go around looking for other story ideas at all. I guess I'm a one-trick pony, but I'd like to think it's a pretty good trick!
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2017 at 3:57 PM
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  13. archer88i

    archer88i Contributor Contributor

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    I am probably not, generally speaking, what you're thinking of when you think of a "slow" writer, but I do have slow periods like some people have described above.

    They are intentional.

    My day job is demanding and I have other responsibilities outside work, so I don't necessarily have the time I need to think, actively, about my story. One of the most influential things I've ever read was "The Eureka Factor," an essay by Isaac "We Don't Need No Stinking Badges" Asimov. (I'm sure I don't need to tell you how he got his nickname; his reputation speaks for itself.) He pointed out that the human brain does a lot of its work behind the scenes, under the covers, between the sheets, in the can, while singing in the shower, etc.: if you occupy your conscious mind with something non-taxing, then your unconscious mind will continue to chew on a thorny problem so long as you keep it primed, occasionally, with focus and conscious thought on the problem.

    Specifically, he suggested going to see an Arnold or Stallone flick whenever you get stuck. Obviously those don't come out twice a week anymore, so you might need to branch out into the Fast and Furious franchise or something.

    If I finish a scene, I will pretty much always have a plan for the next scene, but that doesn't mean I know exactly how I should write it. When I don't know, or I don't even know what the scene is meant to accomplish, I set the manuscript aside for two or three days. In the evening, instead of writing, I'll pull out a game like From the Depths and maybe build a battleship, or I'll take an evening and hang out with friends. The objective is to be refreshed when I come back to the work, and to have magically discovered what comes next.

    That sounds really stupid. Thing is, it works.
     
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  14. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    That was it for me, before the Highly Flavored Novel whatsit. Was it totally obvious, by the way, that your kicking me to write is what kicked me to figure out why the bleep I wasn't writing and thus triggered the HFN? Thank you. Very much so.

    So around the time of the start of the HFN, I put a bazillion other hobbies aside, except for the garden, which I put on starvation maintenance, because a garden that's put totally aside dies. So that made more time. But time wasn't really the main issue. Failing to sit down and write in the time that I already had was the main issue.

    This is it now. Not that I'm not making progress, but it's probably a-novel-in-two-to-three-years progress. (My goal is first draft by April 2018. But there will be More Drafts.)

    Yep.

    I'm writing first drafts of scenes and spending forever on re-writing, editing, etc. And then there's a good chance (about fifty percent, maybe more) that that scene is going to land in the scrap heap.

    But I'm not going to break that habit until the HFN has a complete first draft--unless that habit grows to the point that I look to be stretching way past that first draft goal. That habit, I've realized, is the second part of the HFN method--a scene has to reach a certain level of polish for me to get the brain "zing" that is at the core of that method. So it's not productive on a task level, but it is productive in the sense that without it, I just wouldn't write.

    And right now, dealing with a work burnout situation, I especially don't want writing to be associated with the big pool of brain-intensive things that I'm forcing myself to do against resistance. If I don't solve the burnout problem, a lot of skills, I think, are going to go down with that ship, and I want writing in its own little happy lifeboat before that happens.

    Later, I might be able to write with less frequent fixes of zing, and so I might be able to write faster. But I'm not messing with it yet.

    This is part of it for me. I have ideas, but I struggle to make those ideas coalesce into a plot. So if I did write a lot faster, the writing would just outpace the plotting even more than it already does. That's something to work on.
     
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  15. Reollun

    Reollun Member

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    It could be said I'm a slow writer, but the problem is not that I write slowly, but it takes me quite a lot of time to sit down and start. I am one of those writers who need to feel perfectly confident before they start working, and it also does not help that I'm easily distracted. I have had a novel I worked on for 6+ years and never really finished it, because I eventually realized I lost all enthusiasm for it and did not see any potential in it. At other times, I find myself surprised how quickly I am able to finish a chapter, as their is always an idea inside my head that every word I write is a kind of bonus.

    Saying all that, my biggest problem by far was to establish a regular writing schedule. Now I manage to write between 1-15k a day, which is a significant improvement. All-in-all, I would not call myself a slow writer, but a lazy one.
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2017 at 1:17 AM
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  16. 8Bit Bob

    8Bit Bob Member

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    Often times I just don't have the time to write, so it takes me quite a while. When I actually sit down to write I can do around 1k an hour, not sure if that's considered "slow" or not.
     
  17. Alex R. Encomienda

    Alex R. Encomienda Senior Member

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    I've been spending a lot of time on writing short stories so I have about four unpublished stories that I have actively been submitting to journals and magazines.

    My novel has been a very big mess lately because I thought I wanted to go a certain route with it but then changed my mind AFTER the first draft so my second draft is basically a rewrite. I have decided though that when I'm finished with it, I'm going to queary agents to represent it for about four months. If I don't get any luck within that time I'm just going to self publish it.

    But to answer the question more specifically, when I'm not writing or sitting at my computer brainstorming/editing, I'm working, eating dinner, spending time with my father or just watching television and listening to music. I'm not a full time writer (yet, hopefully) but I could say I've been putting the right amount of effort into getting my work published.
     
  18. Quanta

    Quanta Active Member

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    Me, exactly. Even when I write a post here, I sometimes spend a ridiculous amount of time editing it so that it says exactly what I want it to say, then I post it, then edit it twice(even if I have previewed it).
     
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  19. Laurus

    Laurus Disappointed Idealist

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    I'm a fairly slow writer, and I get tired of all the arithmetic that gets thrown around that assumes humans write with the efficiency and consistency of machines.

    Life, I guess. Your premise doesn't account for anything but writing.
    Family
    Friends
    School
    Work
    Mood
    Too drunk
    Too high
    Too idgaf
    Other hobbies
    Fatigue
    Other projects
    Thought processes
    Depth of the story
    On
    and on

    Maybe the fast writers have more time, are more capable, or are just more dedicated. Don't let it go to your head.
     
  20. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Member Supporter

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    Daydreams
    Revision
    Daydreams
    Revision
    Daydreams
    Revision
    (x 20)
    Done.
     
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  21. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    Well, my premise allocated an hour a day to writing, which would leave 154 hours a week for everything else. Or for pros, two hours a day to writing, five days a week. That leaves 158 hours a week for everything else.

    But, fair enough. If you can't find the time, you can't find the time.
     
  22. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    For me, it’s all in editing. For the monthly short story contest it usually takes me about three hours writing time to complete my story.

    Then I make passes at it every day for the next two weeks or until I go a day or two without making any corrections.

    The first pass is usually spelling and awkward grammar. Then later passes I move things around and make sure the events happen in the most logical order for the story or the point I’m making. I usually also tend to remove large parts of the story as I find parts unnecessary. Then I read it aloud or have a TTS program read it to me which helps me make it more lyrical and avoid awkward sounding wordings.
     
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  23. Dracon

    Dracon Senior Member

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    Life gets in the way, and even when it doesn't occupy time per se, it still occupies the mind-state. Some people are able to write as an escape the stresses of life, and that is a great talent to have. Part of the reason I take so long is I can't write at all when I am stressed, or have lots of other things in my mind. Even if I'm not doing anything strictly, I am distracted by other worries and thoughts.

    Two nights back I decided I was going to have some "time off" and dedicate an hour or two solely to writing. I accomplished nothing more than writing a few vapid sentences and half-heartedly shuffling a few paragraphs because I didn't have any inspiration to add to it. I shouldn't really have tried, because I know that it doesn't work for me.
     
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  24. KevinMcCormack

    KevinMcCormack Active Member

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    As mentioned in a few posts, there's a difference between 'per hour' productivity, versus, 'per week' productivity.

    For many writers (I'm included in this subset), seven hours as one hour per day is not the equivalent of a single seven hour session. I spend the first half hour saying, "Now, where was I... what was that character doing... where did I want this scene to fit into the plot, darn, did that scar mean something? I must have put it in there for a reason..."

    This is related to the science of why multitasking is less productive than focusing: there's an overhead cost to task switching on a per-session basis. Depending on the type of writing, focus may be critical, and shorter sessions take proportionally more runway-to-flow time.

    I remember reading a motivational tip: "Make sure that when you stop for the day, that you have some more writing to do, so you can pick it up where you left off tomorrow." - I thought: "Must be nice to control when you stop writing."

    For me: I stop writing when the clock says it's time to catch my bus. Or when the kid barfed on the carpet. Or when my wife asks when's dinner going to be ready, she's starving. What was I thinking about when I stopped? Either I pause before breaking and invest some time writing Future Kevin a crib of notes about what's in my head right now (overhead time not spent writing per se) or I try to remember what Past Kevin was doing when interrupted, at the start of the next session.

    To the point where I think the only actual benefit of daily writing if the interval is just one hour, is that it creates the concept of a habit for writing, which has value to me over and above any finished content. There will come a day when I have a writing timeslot that achieves 'critical mass' of low overhead to flow ratio, without distractions, and being in the habit of daily writing will make the transition to 'writing as my occupation' easier.
     
  25. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    I'm maybe good for one book a year. My job can be intellectually and emotionally taxing, so sometimes when I come home from work I just want to chill on the couch with a glass of wine and my husband. When my daughter's home from college I like to hang out with her. I enjoy hiking, running, cooking, reading, shopping, watching TV, faffing around on the internet and a bunch of other things. It means I get less writing done, but it also gives my life balance. I get extremely overwhelmed when my life doesn't have a good balance of work, play and relaxation.

    The thing about writing for me is that while I take it seriously and try to be as professional as possible, I don't want it to be my job. I want it to be the thing that I can do as much or as little of as I like (which is why I don't do NaNoWriMo) - it's all up to me. I turned a hobby into my job once before and now I don't even do that activity recreationally because I got so burned out on it. I lost all the joy and enthusiasm I used to have, and I would hate for that to happen with writing, so I keep it low pressure and write when it works best for me.
     
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