I live a lot in my head. I have full conversations and play out multiple scenarios for anxiety-inducing events.
When people think about writing as work, they usually think about the time when you put pen to paper or fingers on the keyboard. They don’t count the time you spend turning an idea over in your head during a long walk. Or when you play around with the intro sentences while you’re washing your hair. They also don’t think about the time spent stressing about a deadline.
Everyone writes differently and I spend a lot of it in my head before any words actually get written. I’ve taken to writing in my note-taking app, Bear, the random phrases or words or sentences that come up while I’m at the dog park. Because I know they’ll disappear immediately if I don’t. One time, I was writing a piece and referenced the thoughts I had written down. To my surprise, I had written the exact phrase I had thought of weeks ago (this then led me to wonder if I was actually creative enough or if I just have a limited vocabulary).
I recently made the decision to stop working on a project because of the time and stress generated from thinking about it, let alone actually working on it. But that last phrase “actually working on it” is my issue. Thinking about it is still work even if no words are written or actions are taken. I was spending more time being miserable about the project than working on it and it was affecting the rest of my work.
Immediately after making this decision, I felt that proverbial weight lift off my shoulders. I did make the decision logically, mapping out the pros and cons, calculating my time, and comparing it to my average hourly rate. But it was also emotionally influenced because all that mental stress took a lot out of me, depleting me of any brainpower to work on enjoyable things.
I think we try and power through too many things. Some are unavoidable (I powered through putting my data together for my CPA to file taxes for me) while others can be managed with alternative solutions. There’s no pithy conclusion here. From now on, I just plan on being more cognizant of how much time and energy I spend in the “thinking” portions of work and including that in the general “cost” of work.