It’s been a long month, and an even longer year.
That’s not to say it hasn’t been a successful year of getting a lot of things done, because it has. Since I talk all the time about the importance of tracking your goals, here’s a quick list of things I got done in 2017:
- Turned This Blog Into a Regular, Consistent Project – Last January But I Also Have a Day Job was a mere scattering of posts with some half-finished static pages and few regular readers. For the last 12 months I’ve posted an entry a week, gained a lot of readers, followers, and collaborators, and reached a lot of people who want to get a better handle on their jobs, their creative work, or both—and that feels pretty good.
- Read and Reviewed an Average of One Book a Week, Every Week – The Stack of Books Next to My Bed project was something I started when I realized I wasn’t reading as many books as I used to, or as many as I wanted to, and that my To-Read pile was growing more towering than ever. While the height of the pile hasn’t changed, I’ve definitely been reading at a more consistent pace than I have in years, which has led to my discovering a lot of great new books and cutting back on screen time. It’s also been my pleasure to share a few books written by friends of mine, and to get the word out about others that have stirred me in ways I haven’t been stirred in a long time.
- Finished the Third Draft of My Novel – I’ve been working on my novel about grad school in the Midwest since late 2015, and the third draft was the first one that’s really started to come together: the scenes feel tighter, all the major plotholes have been filled in, and the powerful moments are really starting to pop. There’s still a lot more polishing to be done, but knowing that I finally have something solid has felt really rewarding, as is knowing that it’s mostly all downhill from here.
- Wrote About My Day Job Work for Other Venues – My major side projects this year have been essays, including one for The Billfold about my experience working unpaid overtime and another for 4Ties Literary review about how working as a painter helped me become a better writer. Both projects stemmed from ideas I originally had for this blog and wanted to expand, which has reminded me that so many of the projects we work on are tied together in ways that can only help us.
- Got a New Day Job That Pays a Livable Wage – I put this one last because in a lot of ways it’s the least important: my old Secret Work-From-Home Day Job was great for writing but wasn’t exactly sustainable, while my Secret New Office Day Job takes up a lot more time but provides the money I need to cover all my expenses and actually save a bit at the end of the month. I’ve got a lot of work to do sorting out the ideal Day Job/creative work balance, but for now things are going OK.
This brings me to a few other things:
I’ve Been Working Too Damned Much
I mentioned this in my last novel progress update, but an end-of-the-year rush at my Secret New Office Day Job has had me working 55-hour weeks since Thanksgiving, with the pressure to stay late just barely subsiding after Christmas. While the extra pay boost (yes, it was all paid!) was a BIG help, it drastically cut into my evening work schedule and had me going into the office every Saturday, which is usually the one day I save for not doing any Day Job/creative work so I can rest, clean my filthy apartment, and spend time with friends.
The combined stress of not having time to myself, not getting my projects done, and having to prepare for the busy Christmas season (buying and wrapping presents takes time!) put me in a bad place that I didn’t want to be in last month and don’t ever want to be in again.
The main reason I don’t want to overload myself with Day Job work anymore is that when I work too many Day Job hours I start resenting that Day Job for taking time away from my creative work, which is not only the work that I want to be doing on a regular basis, but the work that I want to move me away from Day Jobs in general. When I’m not getting closer to these creative goals I start feeling like the changes I want to make are never going to happen, and that’s when I feel like I’ve lost control, or that my Day Job is controlling me instead of the other way around.
This is definitely a shitty feeling, but after much thought I’m contemplating taking some steps to make sure this never happens again—watch for more updates to come….
My Focus Needs to Be Narrower, Not Wider
One thing that’s stunted my progress over the last year is my tendency to take on too many projects that scatter my energy in too many directions, so that instead of making a lot of progress on one thing, I make a little bit of progress on a lot of smaller things that aren’t as impactful, and that’s not good.
I also have a tendency to say Yes a lot, and while this has helped me snag a lot of opportunities, too many obligations have taken up a lot of time that could have been spent on my main projects—like my novel.
I’ve realized that starting now I need to start being more selective about how I spend my time and choose more wisely when it comes to taking on new projects. I still intend to finish everything I started last year, but when it comes to saying yes, it’s more important for me to be more selective and avoid unproductive time sucks.
I want to stress that this blog isn’t one of the things I’m cutting back on, but a lot of other things have to be put on hold—at least until I can reach a better place with what I’ve already got going (one more time, I’m mostly talking about the novel).
This Blog Will Be Off for Most of January While I Rest and Take a Kick-Ass Trip
Months ago I scheduled a trip to India to attend a friend’s wedding and see a country that I’ve wanted to visit forever, and later this week I’ll be flying halfway around the world for my first overseas trip in two years. I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time and want to enjoy it as much as humanly possible as a new adventure, a break from Day Job work, and even (gasp!) a break from thinking about creative work, because we all need breaks from creative work too.
With that in mind, The Stack of Books Next to My Bed will be back in February (likely with a new name!) and the Day Job Blog will resume around the same time with more advice, reflections, Novel Progress updates, and recounts of my work-related adventures—plus a few more surprises to come.
Don’t worry—this definitely isn’t one of those moments where I say I’m taking a hiatus as the first step toward blogging less frequently and then quitting—you’ve got my promise on that ;-)
More New Stuff for 2018
Despite my not wanting to take on anything new, I’ve got a few Super-Secret Projects lined up for 2018 (all of which have been in the planning stages for a while!), and even though they’re still Super-Secret for now, I’m hoping to unveil them over the next few months. Some are side projects, while others are things I’ve been meaning to add to this site but just haven’t had the time for—like I said, I’m slowly getting caught up ;-)
Finally, one thing that is ready is the But I Also Have a Day Job Occasional Mailing List that’s been lying dormant for most of this year. If you hate Facebook or have too much on your RSS feed, this is definitely the best way to keep up with Day Job posts and what I’m working on in general—plus I’ll be holding a few giveaways and sharing some other thoughts especially for mailing list subscribers, so if you like free stuff you can sign up right here.
And after all that, here’s to a happy, productive, and energetic 2018, and I’ll see you all in a month!