I can’t take credit for this. This is taken directly from a conversation I had with Ursula Vernon, who was trying to give me a “buck up little camper!” talk.
See, what happened was I was procrastinating and playing my DS and doing laundry and watching The Office when there was something work-related I had to do. When I finally got my head straight and did what I was supposed to, I killed it, efficiently, well, and even got a compliment from the client. But as I was walking to lunch, I still felt lousy and unaccomplished because I’d wasted that time. I thought, man, if I could be productive like that all the time, I’d be unstoppable.
Ursula gave me a great metaphor for this (well, no, first she said, “if you did that all the time, you would die.” Then she gave the metaphor): traditionally, a pound cake needs a pound of butter, a pound of flour, and a pound of sugar. The thing that makes it really good is the butter, right? * So if butter is the best part, why not make a butter cake? THREE POUNDS OF BUTTER. CHURCH LUNCHEON, HERE I COME!
Three pounds of butter? You’d die.
The butter in this metaphor, says Ursula, is the time that you work and you’re on top of it, you’re nailing everything, you’re creative and clever and productive and awesome. But if you ate just butter, if you were so on fire creatively all the time, you’d die. The flour is the boring stuff in your life, the laundry and the gardening and the cooking and the driving. It’s boring and tasteless, but the butter needs it for support to make a cake. **
Your mind needs downtime to process awesome creative stuff. You need time to wind up the clockwork toy that is your brain, and the winding up is the part of your life where you’re not sitting at the computer (or notebook or easel or drawing pad or musical instrument, etc). How many ideas do you have when you’re away from your computer? Driving? Showering? Shopping?
This is why I worry when someone says they can’t wait to quit their job so they can “write all the time.” I have no day job, thanks to the economy, and promise you, people who write as their day job don’t do it all the time. Just like we don’t eat butter all the time. We need procrastination, manual things to do, times where our brain clicks off to let the subconscious play for a bit. ***
One thing the day job and parenting gives you, besides all the negative stuff I’m pretty sure you’re thinking of right now, is structure in your life. You have a time you need to be at work, you have a time to get home, you have a kid who needs its own schedule. While this can give you a sense of being overwhelmed, you can look at your schedule and see where your holes are. If you fill the holes up with TV and video games (I don’t judge; I do the same thing) then think about removing those things and writing.
Because right now, I look at the day, and the time I have to write is a huge lump that procrasti-brain decides can be pushed back further and further, and suddenly it’s 9:30pm and I should be relaxing but I haven’t written yet and HOW CAN THIS BE WHAT EVIL CREATURE HAS EATEN MY DAY?
I think I’m talking about two different, but linked, things here. The point is, time doing things other than creating is necessary. Wishing for a full day with nothing to do but write, well, be careful what you wish for. If, right now, you are finding other things to do than write when you have 30 min of free time, you will do the same thing if given 8 hours. I promise.
So. Pound cake. Turns out the flour is necessary. I’m going to go do a load of laundry now.
* Note- I could argue that the most important thing was the sugar, but that’s a moot point in regards to her argument.
** Note- if I am completely honest with myself I will admit that DS playing is not really flour in my life. It’s not much of anything except for dopamine hits to my easily-addicted brain. Maybe it’s Cheetos.
*** Note- While procrastination and the like are necessary, remember what happens if you have too much flour and too little butter. Yuck. Don’t go overboard.