The thing I hate most about short-deadline, high-importance projects is the way I feel after it’s done.
I mean, there’s not much I like about short-deadline, high-importance projects in general. If it’s “high-importance” and “short-deadline” together, the circumstances that led up to it are usually not good, and the work is usually unpleasant. When the work happens to be security documentation—and in the 20 years that I’ve been technical writing, security documentation takes the prize as “my least favorite kind of documentation in the world”—the situation is even worse, because in my experience nobody really wants to do security documentation, and they resent you for making them do it, even if you’re in the same boat they are.
Security documentation doesn’t care about your Agile development methodologies. It doesn’t care about your assumptions and it doesn’t care about what’s common knowledge and what isn’t. It wants traceability, all the way down, because it gets audited and the auditor will only see what you document. It’s painstaking. It requires a level of attention to detail, assuming you’re doing it correctly, that takes a lot out of you… especially when you’re creating documentation from scratch.
All of which is why I disappeared for pretty much all of April. In April I worked on this and this alone, put in a massive number of hours, almost ran out of funding, really pissed off my daughter because I a) work from home, but b) was still never around, and, at the end of the month, I made the deadline.
During that I had no room for anything creative. I tried a few times, but it was impossible to switch gears from the mindset I needed to have get paid into the mindset I needed to have to create fun things. So April really screwed up a number of important things I had planned for 2014, including the beginnings of a Patreon thing (there’s no point in using Patreon if you can’t commit to a publishing schedule, and April was going to be a precursor of that schedule so I could, you know, tempt people with content and stuff).
But all that aside—the thing I hate most about these high-importance, short-deadline projects is how I feel after it’s done. That’s when the adrenaline stops and your body crashes in some way. One time, I got strep throat. Another time I realized I’d hurt my back because I’d been slouching in my chair for 12-14 hours a day for three weeks straight. This time I got insomnia. Not “I just don’t feel tired” insomnia, but the kind where you feel tired all the time, desperately tired, but lying down doesn’t make you fall asleep, you’re just lying down in bed thinking about how insanely tired you are, so basically you get up and do something until you’re so exhausted you collapse in bed, pass out, then wake up not really feeling refreshed. I tried writing and doing a few comics in this state, too. I managed one comic.
Last night, however—last night I tried a trick my dad has used when he’s had to deal with insomnia, which is I sat down in the recliner in our living room, kicked it back, and just relaxed. I didn’t try to sleep—I was playing a computer game—but I wasn’t trying to do anything else, either. I wasn’t really paying attention to the game, and eventually I found myself nodding off. So I turned off the computer, got out of the recliner, went to bed, and slept. Almost seven and a half hours.
It was glorious. I can actually think today.
April has been educational. I have a lot of irons in the fire, creatively, but the paying gig owns the forge. I need to find a way around that. I know other people have. It’ll be an ongoing project for me. Anyway I can think semi-coherently again. Back to the fun stuff.