I recently read an article that gave me a better understanding of how passion projects fit within productivity, and why I haven’t been able to finish a major project since high school.
The article explains two key methods of focusing one’s energy: Learning Vacations and “Vegged-Out Learning.” Learning vacations are days you devote entirely to learning (or writing, as the case may be), in which you don’t have to exert mental energy in other directions. Learning vacations would be your days away from your day job, where you get to do the work you actually care about. “Vegged-Out Learning,” on the other hand, requires very little mental energy, and can be done when you come home burned out at the end of the day.
My mind works in the worst possible way for a career writer. I come up with grand ideas for new novel-length works that I struggle for several days to put into action, then I hit a wall, stop writing, lose interest, and don’t look at the idea again. But after reading this article, I realize that, perhaps the reason I hit these walls is because I’m coming at my projects in the wrong direction. I’ve been trying to work on personal projects after working a full day at a job that isn’t exactly fulfilling all the time. It’s always difficult to motivate yourself to exert any kind of mental energy when you’re already exhausted.
But that’s not to say that I shouldn’t spend time writing every day. However, instead of trying to write a novel after work, spend some time writing in a journal (believe me, I can come up with plenty of opinions to write in a journal after work) or re-read some prior drafts or research to get re-acquainted with the world. Or brainstorm topics for future blog posts…
I’d recommend reading the article, especially if, like me, you feel bad about not having a complete draft of that novel done after four months of trying to write it while working 40 hours a week. We’re not superhuman, and there’s only so much we can do in a day. But we can always do something.