I Only Have So Much Brain Power
October 31, 2013 8:14 AM   Subscribe

For the overwhelming bulk of my adult life, I've had the "creative-thing-with-a-day-job" model. I've been in the market for both opportunities recently - and just made some great headway on the "creative thing", but not on the "day job" bit. Help me make sure that I don't worry so much about the day job problem that it takes away from jumping on the new creative opportunity.

I've actually been focusing strictly on the job hunt for the past 4 months, with the plan that I'd sort out the creative angle later once that got settled. That's still unsettled - I've had a couple interviews for things, a couple of other leads, and have gotten temp work and a lead on another temp assignment when the current one ends. But then a writing opportunity fell into my lap (thanks in part to another MeFite), and lo and behold, I have just landed an entry into a freelance travel writing gig.

The problem is - I really, really want to capitalize on the writing opportunity, but the brainpower and thinking I want to do to really get going on that (generating ideas for articles, writing them, etc.) is being tied up in scanning for job offers and fretting about exactly how my health insurance situation would shake down and things like that. Unfortunately, the writing would ABSOLUTELY not be able to support me financially no matter how much I hustled.

Any ideas for helping me compartmentalize my thoughts so I can keep momentum on the day job search, while amping up things for the writing so I don't slack off on this? Thanks.
posted by EmpressCallipygos to Work & Money (6 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
You need, for freelance writing gigs, to look at the money they're paying you and allocate a specific number of hours so that the rate is reasonable per article. Then set those hours aside per day or per week and treat them like you'd treat any other job: those are the hours you research and write for that client.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:33 AM on October 31, 2013 [3 favorites]

I've led a similar life and only recently have had the luxury to shift 80% of my focus to my creative endeavors. I'm loving it of course. When I was doing the balancing act, scheduling myself was what worked best. Block out times that are for job hunting and other specific times that are for your writing. Discipline yourself to stick to your schedule. Also, though your creative work can't support you, it can certainly supplement your (eventual) salary. That's a nice thing and it can help you define the creative work as part of how you make a living. The compartmentalization was important to me because it allowed me to remain concentrated on what I was doing at the time rather that worrying about the other stuff in my life. Good luck! Keep going!
posted by txmon at 8:35 AM on October 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Nthing cutting out time and keeping a schedule - and I'd do the same thing for job search time. You could assign days (Tuesday is writing time, Wednesday is job hunting), but I find for me personally having a set amount of time daily that is set aside for writing helps me avoid the frantic thoughts ie "Why am I doing dishes? I could be using this time to write!" that tends to creep in when you're used to creative endeavors being a side project. Depending on how your writing gig is structured, could you make a calendar with deadlines and then count back and mark sensible benchmarks (this many pages on this day)? To me, treating the writing as just as valid and important as the day job thing (not more important, not less either) is helpful at cutting down anxiety on what to do at any specific instance. Good luck!
posted by theweasel at 10:35 AM on October 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

A few year back, I split my time between Job A (startup) and Job B (consulting gigs) and my brain was pretty scrambled. One thing that helped immensely was to have two separate physical locations: Job A was done at a shared office, Job B was done at internet cafes. Even though technically-speaking time is a zero sum game, I think that we are naturally wired to visualize [activities] as happening in [places] so it is easier to focus when you decide that, for example, home is where you stalk jobs and starbucks is where you write.
posted by rada at 11:14 AM on October 31, 2013

Best answer: I sometimes find that co-working is a helpful approach for the faff that I find difficult to pull together. Maybe find someone to be with, or to have a daily 10 minute check-in with a friend on the job apps front so that it's easier to put the job search in a box and find time for the creative work. The 10 minute check-in could simply involve what you did yesterday, what you're planning to do today, and one thing you learned.

I wish I could suggest something more substantial than a productivity activity; it's not an easy situation to be in. Good luck!
posted by honest knave at 4:05 AM on November 1, 2013

Response by poster: The suggestion to check in with someone got me thinking in a totally different direction - I remembered that I was LinkedIn-connected with a management counselor-type guy, and asked him if such a service existed anywhere for people who were looking for simple day jobs. He thought that was so cute he said he'd help me out himself.

So this has solved the problem in a different way; so thanks.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:28 PM on November 3, 2013

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