Slacker Syndrome

“I’m such a slacker… I don’t [fill in the blank] as much as [fill in the blank].”

How many of you have said this? I know that I say it all the time, usually to looks that could kill from my co-workers. You see, in their eyes I already do too much and don’t spend any where near enough time just relaxing. By that same measure I don’t do any where near as much writing as some of my writing buddies – interestingly enough, the writers who write more than I do are the ones who have careers that I’m jealous of. So, when I do take the time to relax, I feel like I’m slacking. And those writers that I look up to, insist that they are such slackers because they aren’t living up to the standards they set for themselves based on the writers they are chasing. I can’t say for certain, but I suspect it goes on up the line from there.

There is a term for this (10 points to anyone who can guess without reading further…)

“Slacker Syndrome” It’s the condition of thinking that no matter how hard you are working, you think that you aren’t doing enough. It tends to go hand in hand with work-aholism (the belief that you have to give more than anyone else does to the job – usually a ‘day job’ – to the detriment of your friends and family). The first and most obvious difference is that Slacker Syndrome tends to attach itself to freelance type activities where work-aholism is attached to a work for someone else situation. For this post I’m going to concentrate on the Freelance activities – since most writers are essentially freelancers.

As with most things in life there are benefits and disadvantages to Slacker Syndrome. We’ll start with the disadvantages.

1) Added stress. When you are falling behind or facing high expectations, Slacker Syndrome will add to that stress and actually hurt your productivity. Think of those all nighters that college students are famous for – pushing yourself that hard, even over a short term, can and often does harm you more than the benefits of the hard work – those college students may have managed to get the studying in, but they show up to the test so tired they can’t think straight and fail anyway.

2) Lack of fun. When you are driven by Slacker Syndrome you skip the parts of life that are fun, after all having fun is slacking. The problem is – especially for creative types – the fun part is what feeds the creativity. For me, I find my stories in my play. I learn as much about story telling when I’m relaxing as when I’m studying story telling – possibly more (I’ve never tried to quantify it)

3) Lack of sleep. Sleeping is slacking. Dreaming is just a waste of time. Well not really. Biology has insisted on sleep for a reason. Sleep is when your body gets to repair itself. Dreams are when your mind makes sense of all the craziness of the world. Sleep and dreams are required for a healthy life – and if you think that sleeping is slacking then what about convalescing while you try to get over the opportunistic viruses that took advantage of your weakened immune system.

4) Annoying your friends. Really how much fun is it to hang around with someone who is always complaining that they should be doing something else. It’s not much fun really. Keep that up too long and you’ll find that you don’t have any friends left. Even if you don’t complain in front of your friends, but turn down invitations so that you can be writing more you’ll find that the invitations trail off after a while until you don’t get them any more. No one likes to be turned down too often. If you think you don’t need friends ask yourself who’s going to care when you finally reach that publishing goal. Who’s going to tell you that you’ve gone off the deep end or give you that perfect quote that will make your story? You need friends every bit as much as you need sleep and food.

And now that I’ve told you all the reasons to avoid Slacker Syndrome, let’s look at why you want it.

A) Motivation. In a day job you have the external incentive to keep working in the form of your boss. But even with that you probably aren’t going to give 100% to the job. When you work for yourself, you need something to make you do the work. Slacker Syndrome give you that. By trying to not be a slacker, you have the motivation you need to tear yourself away from the TV or book or kitten and actually get the work done.

B) Standards. Everyone needs standards to work up to. Slacker Syndrome encourages you to look to someone who is better than you to set your standards. That will give you a goal to work toward, since you aren’t at that standard yet. One caution with this is if you look to high you will set unrealistic goals – you simply can’t produce at the same level as a full time professional writer if you have a day job to pay the bills.

C) focus. You need to focus to get your job done. The world if full of distractions. What’s a poor writer to do? When distractions threaten to take you out of the work zone, Slacker Syndrome to the rescue – being distracted is slacking after all. We all know that more productivity is the result of better focus, and having that simple thing to slap us back to focus when we stray will be helpful.

So there you have it: Slacker Syndrome in all it’s glory. It’s up to you to decide if it’s something you want to embrace or shun. Personally, I like to keep it around and just remind myself to keep it in check. It helps that I have a husband who is willing to grouch at me when I don’t watch enough TV and cat’s who will take over the computer if I haven’t given them enough love (or dinner). Find your own controls and get out there and quick slacking.

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