Waves of Productivity

Yesterday, at about midnight, as I was thinking about going to bed, it suddenly occurred to me that, other than a couple of brief breaks (lunch, a run, a half-hour with my guitar) I’d been working — like, actually getting work done — since about 10 in the morning.

I’ve heard freelancers talk about the dangers of this happening — that you end up working all day and night, that you need to start imposing restrictions on your time so you don’t, y’know, kill yourself. Certainly I would never want to let myself work 12-14 hours a day every day.

But I don’t. I don’t often do more than six, despite my best intentions. I often can’t concentrate that long, or have other things to do that I let get in the way. Sometimes I just have days where I can’t get anything done, when my body needs to veg and recharge. Even in the midst of an ongoing project, like when I was working on the first draft of my novel, I could rarely do more than four hours a day on it, and usually only two.

And often, when I don’t get as much done as I would have liked, I beat myself up about it. But I also accept that it happens.

And then I have a 12-hour day of pure productivity, when I just go and go and don’t even ntoice the time passing. So when this does happen, I don’t worry about it — I celebrate it. It’s not like I was driving myself into the ground — if I was, I would have stopped. No, I was just seized by a current of productivity and creativity, and I rode the wave to the end.

It’s a fantastic feeling, to me. The same happened as I came to the close of my novel — I wrote 63 pages in the span of four days, the most I’d ever written continuously in such a short time. The writing was probably bad, all told — I’ll certainly be editing and rewriting and editing and rewriting it. But there’s a certain rush in that creative process — a rush that wasn’t just the caffeine. That creative drive, that focus on a project, it was a fantastic place to be for those four days — as it was yesterday.

Talking about the process of creating the ARG The Beast, Sean Stewart writes:

“Sean?”
“Yeah?”
“So you know how we’re going to be shooting that video of the scene in Basta’s house in two days? Where the sentient house is watching the rich guy get Kate Nei to reprogram the sex-robot to kill anyone who fools around with her?”
“Sex-robot reprogramming scene, right.”
“So we’re going to need a script for that scene.”
“Good point.”
“And it should be… you know. Kind of emotionally tense.”
“Absolutely.”
“Also, if you could work in Socrates somewhere, that would be good.”
Ah. The Seven secret words. We had been carefully embedding them in secret places all throughout the game as a special bonus easter egg for the very alert. This was a week before the trailers came out with nothing but those words, huge on a black background. <Sigh>. “Existential crisis of killer geisha robot, side order of Socrates,” I said. “When do you need that?”
“Um… 4 hours?”
“Four hours?”
“Yeah.”
“I’ll have a draft in 2.”
Damn, I thought, hanging up, I LOVE this job!

I would love to be in a situation like that. I crave that kind of energy, I thrive on it. To be able to be in a room with other creatives, bashing ideas off each other, creating content in a frenzy of activity, passing it around for edits and rewrites and then sending it away for production… I’m sure it would exhaust me without frequent breaks, but I would love every minute of it.

I feel like I would’ve made a good journalist, if my interests lay elsewhere.

I think that’s part of the reason I love transmedia projects — by necessity, they’re collaborative efforts, and I think if you have the right team of people, it could be a blast to create. Even just hour-or-two meetings, throwing around ideas and discussing possibilities — of which I’ve had several, some recently — are great. They get my blood rushing, my ideas flowing.

There’s of course a danger if you’re putting in too many hours every day — you neglect other responsibilities, your personal life, sleep, you drive yourself into the ground and burn out. But for me, these days of riding the wave are rare and welcome. They make up for days my mind won’t let me get anything done, and make me feel better about teh days I take off. They’re a fantastic rush.

The trick, when you’re a freelancer or generally don’t have a regular work schedule or salary, if to find the balance that works for you. If you can work that much every day, perhaps you need to force yourself to stop at a certain time, or take longer weekends, or get out of that business after a couple years. If frequent breaks or a nap help you be more productive when you do work, play to those strengths if you can.

Me? I take advantage of the wave when it comes, and do my best the rest of the time. But I try not to sweat it when my body forces me to slow down. I know another swell is on its way.

And that energy, that excitement is what makes work worth doing.

Life, Musings, Writing , , , , ,

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