It was just this past summer that I participated in the Talk Amongst Yourselves SixTAY Days of Writing Challenge. A sublime two months with enough literal output to sustain sixty straight days of blog posts. Now, how about what’s been written during the eighty-one days since the challenge’s final day?
This was not supposed to be the plan! After putting up the last post, there was of course going to be a break period where I would shove even the mere thought of writing out of my mind. But that was only supposed to be something short-term, just a week or two. After that, the ideal was to get back to writing with lax yet consistent regularity.
What happened instead was a decent start of two weeks where it seemed like I really could do that. Then, after putting up a post about Fuzion Frenzy and N.W.A, I just stopped—totally and completely—for a month and a half. Since that hiatus-breaking post, I’ve proceeded to continue having no output for another two and a half weeks.
There’s no better way to put it than the blunt way; I really fell off the writing wagon. Hard.
Part of it has most certainly been from severely miscalculating how long I might really need to get my motivation back. Some optimistically deluded fragment of my soul thought that after a couple of weeks’ worth of rest from the whole writing enterprise, I’d be all rarin’ and ready to go. All “Put me back in, coach!!” and all that.
In reality, I’ve been veering far more towards a desire to warm the bench than get back out there. Occasionally, that realization fills me with guilt. This is something I love doing! So what is up with me not feeling the urge to get back into it? The hell is wrong?
That cannot explain it completely, however. Within these last few months, I haven’t been completely unmotivated; I’ve had my moments. But those moments have led to something more deeply troubling: Even after collecting my resolve, I’ve lately found it way harder to perform the very act of writing.
Like, the day I wrote a piece about vanilla Destiny 2, I was determined to write a post, it was virtually a certainty that it was going to involve Destiny in some way, and even then, me and my brain sat at an empty blog-writing screen for hours, in total agony. Like turning the keys in the ignition, yet no matter how many times they turn, nor for how long, the damn car just refuses to turn on like it’s supposed to. It got straight-up uncertain whether something would’ve actually gotten written!
At least I did eventually manage, once I finally zeroed in on the hook from which all the thoughts and ideas could be attached and arranged. But it all still felt harder to do than it ought to be. Harder than it felt to accomplish just last summer, even. It gives me the impression that my brain’s just all sort of broken.
And, well, maybe there is a grain of truth to that. And it probably had something to do with those sixty glorious days of writing.
I do not mean “glorious” in a sarcastic or bitter, either; I mean that genuinely. I also pass absolutely pass ZERO blame onto the writing challenge itself, because there is nothing inherently wrong with voluntarily taking on the task of writing a post a day for sixty days straight. Rather, it was the specific way I slotted it into my life that likely tripped me up badly.
More precisely, I think it was due to trading in my usual free days in the week for more days to write.
I have a full-time job spanning Monday through Friday, eight hours each day. Typically, that means I have Saturday and Sunday off to not give a damn about work. Errands? Sure! But not the mental and emotional efforts, nor the long-term time commitments, that define a work day.
That works perfectly for me. One thing that’s become clear over the last several years is that though I may not be a slacker, I am also not a workaholic kind of person, and at this point have no shame about it. My job is not my life, and part of that is relishing my periods of rest, which includes appreciating how they keep me sane and level-headed.
For the writing challenge, however, in an attempt to keep up the post-per-day pace, I basically gave those free Saturdays and Sundays up. For this full-time worker, in fact, Saturdays and Sundays were the perfect days for writing precisely because I did not have to also go to work.
That eventually meant that many of those weekend days basically turned into the equivalent of full-time eight-hour days themselves. Writing TAY posts may be a hobby, but that process can still possess mental, emotional, and time commitments equal to—occasionally even exceeding—those of my job all the same.
Those days therefore became ones where I did not functionally rest like I usually would. In the bigger two-month picture, that amounted to weeks where I had few to sometimes no real breaks in between the constant churn of working and writing. Keep in mind, my 40-hour work weeks did not stop during this period; my writing was on top of all that work. If I was fortunate, I could being steal away some break time at work and use that to focus on writing, but that was the best I could hope for.
This all should have made me unfathomably exhausted; this is all far from ideal for a Justin. While the writing challenge was active, though, I ended up feeling only partial, manageable exhaustion. Some combination of sheer willpower and personal satisfaction must have been staving off a whole bunch of it.
Clearly, however, it did not dissipate those effects completely. Once the challenge was done, those floodgates came down, and a whole torrent of backed-up bullshit must have swept me right into the maelstrom. It’s something from which I still might be recovering even now, almost three months later.
Maybe I’ll eventually get out of that funk and concretely get my writing groove back. Maybe even taking this chance to vent these sentiments and reflect on my missteps, to release them out of my mind and into the open, might help out. Regardless, as of right now, this sucks.
Also, if it seems like maybe it’s more than just sheer coincidence that I’m relating all of this during a moment in time when crunch practices prevalent in the video game industry have lately been coming under especially heavy scrutiny...well, you’re not wrong. My childhood dream was, as my fourth-grade brain put it a “game programmer.” The more I read and hear about the working conditions for video game development, though, the more relief I feel that I did not fully dive in.
Having gone through even such a minuscule sliver of the hours and workload that many game developers take on, I can personally attest: Even when it’s completely voluntary like it was for me, taking on so many restless days or weeks is bound to take its toll on you with a vengeance. Going even farther, the idea that such a thing is apparently often encouraged in the industry—if not downright spelled out as a requirement—utterly horrifies me.