I like the term “writaholic.” I don’t see myself as someone toiling away the days, trying to advance the career ladder. I’m not looking for the corner office or the huge paycheck. I’m following my passion. If I’m not writing, I want to be writing.
So I’m usually writing.
It’s as simple as that.
Except it’s not. Recently, my family has expressed concern that I’m working too much. But I’m not, I said. I’m doing what I love. Then they said a few things that made me rethink my assertion.
You’re working like your deadline is tomorrow, but it’s never going to come. You won’t speak to anyone. You get upset when we interrupt you. You’re turning into a hermit.
Now, let me preface this with a quick rundown of my situation.
Now, I have my family telling me this is unhealthy. And they were right. I’m not going out with friends. I’m not spending time away from my work. I spend all day editing, and my relaxation time in the evenings is writing!
I forced myself to cut back. I stopped eating meals in front of the laptop. I fired up my Netflix account.
After a few days, I began to fall back into the same damn habits. Because like I said, working 24/7 is my default. If I’m not, I feel like I should be.
So what now? Restricting work is not the answer. That just makes me feel like I’m sitting around twiddling my thumbs when I need to be getting shit done. Setting hours is not the answer. My work is too flexible, too chaotic. Some days I might need to work crazy hours, and I’m okay with that.
As I've been brainstorming solutions, I've considered the fact that 98% of my work takes place on a screen—my Macbook or iPhone. The other 2% is writing in my planner (unless I’m handwriting a story).
I have found that a lot of stress comes from my constant interaction with technology and with the Internet. There will always be another text, another email, another notification. And as long as I’m staring at a screen, I feel the need to answer them immediately. I am basically adding a constant task to my to-do list, so that everything else I am trying to accomplish only gets half of my attention.
There’s not much I can do about that. I need technology to do my job. But I also need to give myself a break from it—more than just turning off the wifi.
I have no doubt that this addiction to technology worsens my “writaholic” problem. The Internet is a fast-paced world, and by keeping myself immersed in it, I’m doing what my family feared: creating for myself an imaginary deadline that will never come. I know technology is not the only issue, and I’m going to continue to break unhealthy habits. I place a large emphasis on exercising and eating right—it’s a shame to destroy my body with stress. I’m going to make a real effort to see my friends more, to do more fun things, to let myself relax. But I have a nagging suspicion that if I could find a way to loosen my ties to technology, everything else would come more easily.
So here’s the plan.
Most every night, I read for an hour before bed. I do this because I believe in forming habits that force myself to make time to further your craft, and reading is just as important to a writer’s craft as actually writing. I always read print books during this time—I never read for pleasure on a screen.
Beginning now, I am going to designate that reading time as technology-free time. During that hour, my laptop will be far away, and my phone will be off. There will be nothing except me and the words. Maybe that will not only reduce my stress, but help me get back to what literature is supposed to be—outside of the social media and promotion.
If this is something you struggle with, I would love for you to join me. Set aside an hour a day—doesn’t have to be reading time—to be technology-free.