Friday, April 27, 2018
Making Energy is Exhausting
Have you ever felt exhausted after working at your desk for eight hours? And then to make it worse, when you tell someone how tired you are, they answer in amazement, “How can you be tired? All you did was sit at your desk all day?”
Now that I am older and perhaps wiser, it’s easier to resist the urge to give those people a very loud piece of my mind. More importantly, I realize that energy is not as simple as scientists might suggest, especially when it comes to people. It is more than a unit of work; it is more than the thing that runs my laptop. It is one of the main things that make writers write, and often, prevents them from writing.
At work, my most energetic moments came as I sat still, eyes transfixed to the screen. The office lights around me would go into energy-saving mode because nothing had moved in ten minutes. Dust would settle around me. Coworkers would wonder if I was comatose, yet my mind burned through energy at an alarmingly high rate. And at the end of all that motionless work, I would get up, walk a lap around the floor, type up what I had worked on, and regain my energy. Yes – my stillness used energy, my motion restored it.
Even though this defies everything we learned about thermodynamics, it makes sense because this is about personal energy. We are neither batteries nor computers, but beings made of contradictions who can find peace in the chaos, who can seek patterns in nature, and who can somehow fall asleep during The Avengers (I’ve seen it happen).
So as a writer, in order to find our energy we first have to ask, “What gives me that energy?” Chances are, it’s not always writing. More than likely, we have a few activities that bring us joy and contentment, and by doing those, we build up our ability to do other things. Obvious ones might be working out, taking a drive, calling a friend, or a little time on FaceBook (those candies won’t crush themselves). However, these activities are unique to every person, and what works for someone might not work for another.
This is where we go back to “the process.” In the last post, I talked about exploring the process as a way to figure out how to make time to write. Well, the same applies to energy. Our job as writers is to first understand ourselves. In developing “the process,” we discover those things that really charge our batteries, then use them to give us what it takes to start writing. This will become particularly important when we are not in the mood to write.
When we first ask ourselves, “What gives me that energy,” we can start with simple questions that inform us about how we write: Do I need to be calm to write? Is day or night better? In an empty house? People-watching at Starbucks? Music in the background? Once these questions inform us about how we prefer to write, we can then think about what it takes to get us from where we are to where we need to be. Eventually, we start to see how our process can help us write regularly, and how we can get more out of the time we spend on the keyboard.
– And for those who were wondering, this post was written in the main floor of the Chicago Cultural Center, early afternoon, among twenty people all quietly enjoying a late lunch and with no idea that I am about to write a short story about them. That’s part of my process.