This one is difficult to answer because it requires a certain amount of brutal honesty with myself that is almost impossible to achieve. Trying to be that honest is like trying to see your own blind spot. After all, does working out take away from writing because I am not actually sitting down to write, or does it contribute because I can get into a groove and think about the ideas and writing problems while I jog? Does reading count? Which reading? Fiction or non-fiction? Which non-fiction?
I suppose the level of honesty will vary according to the type of writing under consideration. If we are talking about just general writing, like blogging, then I can tell myself that everything is contributing to my writing because I’m constantly collecting material, even if it is only things to bitch about. Painting my living room counts under these conditions because it gave me material for a blog post.
If we are talking about my history writing, my academic writing, then I can pile on a lot of bullshit. I can rationalize that even blogging contributes because – hey! – at least, I’m exercising the writing skills. Then, anything that contributes to blogging also, by extension, contributes to the academic writing. Right?
Honestly, however, if we are talking about academic writing, then I can only count that which propels the academic project forward. Only the reading and research that will affect the project can count. Only the writing that involves the project can count. Those both require focus and energy that the blogging and its contributing activities do not.
If the writing under question, then, is the academic writing – and my discomfort and procrastination in actually getting to that point indicates that it is the type of writing intended in the question – then the main thing that I do each day that doesn’t contribute to writing is my job. Teaching and grading and going to meetings and setting up speakers and so on and so forth do not contribute to my writing in any substantial way. The writing can contribute to the teaching, but the teaching – and especially all of the other stuff – takes away the time between classes, which could be spent in writing. Hence, the more of those things that I have to do, the more resentful I become because they take away from the writing. Not that I hate those other things. I just want less of them to do so that I can focus more on the writing.
At the moment, there is not a damn thing I can do about it. This is, after all, my job; and I’m lucky to have a job that at least gives me the tiny bit of time that I do have to devote to writing. Within the scope of the job? Well, I’ve been thinking about that, lately. I have cut down on the number of events that I plan. I’m looking to get off a committee. Mostly, I just have to jealously guard my time for writing and not worry that people will think that I’m not “a team player” or “not doing enough service” or whatever the hell else I’m afraid will jeopardize that job if I just say “no” or not give a damn that I’m not being perfect at the job.
I need to invest the perfectionism in the writing.