Monday, 28 October 2013

In Praise of Being Busy

Having a lot to do and think about is often stressful, but it can also be exhilarating. It can force you to prioritise and organise the various elements of your life. A long to-do list can be motivating and, when you tick off tasks, very satisfying. Being forced to do things can give you more energy. It makes you value the odd moments of fun or relaxation you manage to squeeze into your schedule. Being busy gives life a fullness that can yield a lot of pleasure.

I think my experience of depression makes me hyper-aware of the busy-as-good phenomenon. My lowest points have been drawn-out periods of inertia, when I neither wanted to do anything nor was able to do anything. Feeling stressed and anxious usually indicates an improvement in my life; it is a sign that I am pushing boundaries and challenging myself. But being busy is more than that - whereas I can spend two weeks stressing about a 15-20 minute appointment at the Job Centre when there is nothing else going on in my life, being busy means there is a limit to the stress.

I started noticing the pleasures of business when my dad had a heart attack in March this year. Despite the demands of hospital visits, driving him around and trying to ease my mum's stress, it was my most productive period of writing since I finished my MA the previous August. Although the seriousness of the situation may have made me realise I have to prioritise writing before it's too late (I don't remember consciously thinking this, but I can't rule it out), I believe the main reasons for this productivity were practical. Instead of thinking I'd get around to writing later, I knew that I had to grab time when it was available. I even scheduled writing sessions, rather than allocating 'sometime this afternoon' or 'later'.

Being busy also helps you develop a routine. Back in August and early September, when I was making an effort to be healthier and happier, I made myself follow a routine that involved eating a proper breakfast and exercising. I only realised how happy it made me when my dog died and I sank into sadness and then depression.

Now I'm busy with my new puppy and preparing to do NaNoWriMo for the first time - and I wouldn't have it any other way! I've endured one of the worst months of my life, but now I'm feeling better and I'm ready to be busy again.


  1. I agree, Hayley, that being busy produces greater, happier results. If I have to slot writing-time into an otherwise busy day, there's far more chance that I will make it happen than if there were unlimited time available.
    I'm so pleased you have your new puppy and wish you good luck with NaNoWriMo. You will definitely be extremely busy indeed and I'll be very interested to know how you get on. x

  2. An excellent post, Hayley. I can definitely vouch for busyness making us more productive - I often got far more writing finished when working part-time and studying, while the family were still at home. Sometimes having more time to play with can be counter-productive, as in what shall I do first - then spending too long deciding until its too late! Well done on signing up for NaNo - the new puppy must be so motivating too.

  3. Thank you, Joanna and Rosemary. Despite my observations indicating that being busy is good for my writing, on the first day of NaNoWrimMo, I'm beginning to think it's a mad idea!