Thursday, May 06, 2010

Give Yourself a Break

While working in corporate America, I was fortunate to have a job that was pretty much 9 to 5. Sometimes I’d take home the stress of waiting for clients to sign their contracts, think I should have followed up with one more contact or scheduled one more meeting. But mostly I was able to leave work in the office and enjoy my evenings and weekends. Vacation days were even better--ah, the joy of getting paid not to work.

But for the Gainfully Unemployed, for the freelancer, there’s always more work to do. So it’s hard to decide when to take a break, when to relax...if you even can. Authors/writers can always produce another page, enter another contest, send out another query. Performers/freelancers/those starting businesses can always do one more thing to market themselves and their services. When you have an actual deadline-- lines to learn for an audition or performance, an agent/editor waiting for timely revisions-- letting go of the pressure to keep plugging away can be difficult. Especially if you don’t have a lot of paying projects coming up.  The drive to do as much as you possibly can to further your success can be relentless.

Setting goals helps: If I cross X items off my list and do Y number of proactive things today, then I can reward myself with Z. I like to exceed goals, not just meet them. And how do you know your goals are ambitious enough in the first place, that you’re not letting yourself off easy? Often there’s a nagging voice in my head urging me to do X + 1 or Y +2. It says, “If you’re not in it, you can’t win it.” And, “Just put one more iron in that fire.” The voice does not say, “You’ve worked hard deserve some time off.”

On the other hand, I know that everyone needs to refill the well, have some down time, hang out with family and friends. I also believe that the creative subconscious works best when we’re not thinking or focusing the project at hand...perhaps why people say they get good ideas in the shower. Why many (including me) keep a pen and paper in every jot down an inspiration, preserve that “aha!” moment before it floats out of our minds.

When do you take a break? And when you do, can you truly enjoy it?

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