(This post is especially for those writing or blogging full-time or as a side-hustle, which basically refers to your passionate part-time pursuit.)
Remember the time when writing or blogging was just a hobby?
Mornings were sweet and the breeze messed up your hair, but you were okay, and you laughed because you remembered something silly about your siblings, cousins, or friends, and there was that smell of toast in the air.
Then, remember the moment you decided to turn your hobby into a career? Or part of your career? Or a very serious hobby (with the possibility of getting published and read, perhaps, could be, hopefully, please, please)?
Are you one of those people who can't help working (just a wee bit) even when you're on vacation?
Do you feel guilty that you're even thinking of work?
You're on a break! Free that mind. Relax. Stop thinking about work because your family needs you. Dang it, you need you!
But when you don't scratch that work itch and force yourself to "enjoy" your vacation, is there . . . stress gnawing at you?
You're a self-employed creative. If you don't work, you won't be able to feed your family. If you don't write everyday, you'll let Ray Bradbury down. If you don't . . . , gosh can you consider yourself a real writer?
Oh, as if the creative life isn't difficult enough. We are such wretched creatures, aren't we?
I was on a week-long break recently and there were moments I heard conflicting voices in my head. In the end, I just did what was best for myself.
I gave in.
To both sides.
Possible? Oh, yes.
Here are 3 ways we can feel and act better to rid ourselves of that guilt and stress.
1) Give yourself a pat on the back.
Do this before anything else.
The only reasons you're thinking about work even while on vacation are because:
a. You love what you do.
b. You're one heck of a responsible badass.
Either reason is worthy. You love writing, sketching, or brainstorming on story ideas, which is why you show up for work everyday. Your work matters to you. You don't need complicated analyses of why you do what you do. You care. You show up.
And it's perfectly fine. It's perfectly normal and even admirable. Well done.
There ~ guilt for thinking about work resolved.
2) Set time boundaries and give yourself permission to work.
There's an itch? Scratch it. But scratch it smart.
If you're on a family vacation, you can't let everyone wait till you're done replying e-mails or till you've figured out that plot twist that's been bothering you, right? (No, you're a responsible badass to your family, too.)
So make a deal with yourself: work for only 30-45 mins a day. Pick the most urgent tasks, deal with them with as sharp a focus as you can muster, and go on with the other plans for the day.
Trust yourself more. Trust that you'll get to the rest of your work after your break. Many writers I know get sucked into torrential tasks because we don't think those tasks can wait. But they really can. Let people know you'll get back to them in x days, that's all. One to two short, friendly lines so your clients or editors won't keep waiting for your reply, plus you'll get to focus on each task when you're back fully.
3) Stay engaged with the moments on your vacation. The car rides, the walks, the funny shops, the amusement park, the fabulous lunches, the afternoon naps, the conversations, the never-ending sky, the cultures you're marinating in. Stay engaged, notice them, observe people, and record them in your little notebook only at the end of every night. (*It's important that you aren't scribbling every other minute during your travels. That's cheating your family of your attention. Wait, what if you forget what you've observed? Not likely. Once you pay attention to a certain smell, or colour, or mood, it is registered in your mind. Trust that. You just need to recall it later. Maybe with a bit of chocolates, or cakes, or tea. And if you still can't recall it, then it probably wasn't that impressive, hey?)
Collecting ideas and inspirations - who says you can't be working while vacationing?
. . .
So here are the 3 simple steps for all of us wretched creatives. Honestly, our work may be tremendously insightful or amazing or what-not, but it won't mean much if our families aren't happy. So enjoy your work and have a fabulous vacation!
Do you scratch the work itch while on vacation? If so, how do you help yourself handle both work and play?
Give a fellow wretched creative a click, won't you?
This week's post is partly inspired by my dear friend, Barbara from March of Time Books. I knew she was diagnosed with osteoporosis (brittle bones) but never knew how severe her condition is. These days, Barbara strengthens herself through long, leisurely walks in the British countryside and pilates. She even tried Tai Chi for a while. I find her way of coping with a health issue very admirable. And I like how she's taking care of herself. Something many of us want to do, but aren't doing. Especially us creative spirits. We don't seem to take enough care of ourselves.
Book launches. Blog tours. Editing. Writing. Blogging. Illustrating. Studying. Submitting manuscripts. Submitting essays. Marketing. Networking. Honing your craft. Kids' birthdays. Parents-in-laws' visit. House repairs. Health issues etc. (Not to mention stress at every corner.)
Sometimes I read a particular friend's blog telling us how "crazy" her week has been and I feel happy for her (as well as a little envious, I admit) that things seem to be going great. Being busy is good news, right? Then week in, week out, her weeks are always "crazy." Then comes the flu, or cold, or migraines. Oh no.
Hey, my lovely fellow artists, let's do the things we love for a good, long time, okay? Don't burn out and expire before we're due.
I don't have a list of tips on how to stay well. There's a sea of information out there on moving well and eating well. Pick your favourite sport, fish, fruit and vegetables. Add them to your lifestyle. When your body feels good, your mind feels good, too. (Do I sound like an ad here? Sorry!)
I do have an additional suggestion: Nourish well.
Your mood, I mean. How about bringing your mind and heart out on a date? How do you want to feel? What do you want to think about? Perhaps catch a movie that might stir you? Perhaps go for a walk (Before Sunset-style)? Perhaps take a long bus ride where you could take notes on observations along the way?
Here's one I did after a physiotherapy session (for my back, which is good now. But see? Didn't take care of myself enough and it became a $150/session payback.):
Gnarled trunks. Yellow-grey stone buildings. Round streetlamps grown yellow. Beautiful lime-coloured tree-tops. Banners of drunken prawns. A drunken prawns exhibition? Drama Centre -- ooh, a drunken prawns theatre production. Drizzling rain. Like light snow. Lots of folks wearing Japanese straw hats. Tall, old buildings like out of a late-80s TV show. Rows of old shops. Tour agencies. Stamp makers. Chiat Teck Arts & Frames Maker. Muay Thai Fitness. Schoolkids on board. Chatters. Taunts. Shushes. A shopping mall with Euro rustic design and a very traditional Chinese name . . .
(Yes, Singapore is full of contrasts.)
An artist-date + writing exercise. Talk about efficiency, hey?
I'd love to, but I simply don't have the time!
Which is why you MUST make the time. How long do you think you'll need? 30 minutes? 2 hours? You can afford this amount of time just once a week or fortnight. You really can. If you won't take care of yourself, how're you going to take care of everything else?
Actually, it will get easier (especially with exercise). Just pick something you love for each category (fitness, food, dates). Like Barbara. She's having such a good time on her walks, sporting blooms and napping foxes. I'm quite jealous!
Your turn. Have you been taking care of yourself? Do you go on artist dates (visiting museums, catching movies, street-straying, scribbling on bus rides etc.)? Would love to hear about them!
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Want to know what children's stories can inspire & lead to?
by Kate Hanney
Really enjoyed the honest voice of this narrator ~ a teenager let down by his mother and the foster care system, and almost-picked up through his involvement with a gang.