Thursday, January 12, 2012

Taking a Day Off Doesn't Mean Taking a Day Off

Joe Bunting, guest poster on the blog The Write Practice and the e-book 14 Prompts that I think the world of, recently wrote a post entitled You Have to Choose . He decided to turn his computer off for one day a week, to focus on his personal life.

To say yes to life, sometimes you have to say no to work. To spend time with your friends and your family, those people who make life meaningful, you have to stop.  He ended on the note: Six days a week we write. One day we stop. I challenge you to join us today.

Admirable, but I argued that we don't have to take one day off per week. What we do have to do, however, is recognize when personal time takes priority, but that doesn't have to be one day per week. I respect Joe, but I politely disagree.

If we choose every Sunday, which is the choice of most who work full-time, who says your family or friends are ready, willing and able to spend time with you on that particular day? What if they want you on Saturday? What if they need you on Wednesday?

What if someone needs you when they are off work or out of school but not during the day? What if they go to bed early and you don't?

My point is that flexibility is key for a writer to take time off. I work 40+ hours per week at my job as a writer. Yes, I'm lucky in that regard. I usually touch my computer daily unless I'm on the road, and even then, I'll tap email on my phone or laptop. Why? Because I have clients, readers and fans who appreciate my availability and adherence to deadlines.

I enjoy my work. Heck, I'm thrilled about my career. My family appreciates the fact I'm working a job that compliments my personality (and attitude). I'll get up on Sundays, and my husband will say, "Remember to moderate today!" I'm a moderator for the Sisters in Crime listgroup, and Sunday is my assigned day. Some afternoons, as I head to my computer, he'll ask, "What are you working on tonight?" or "What chapter are you editing tonight?" or "Get your newsletters out today?" I really appreciate that. He knows what I do and respects it. He tends to brag. So do my sons.

Note that I said "night" several times. We can work 40 hours per week and do it at our leisure, or when we have the best chunk of time. I'm a night owl and hate mornings. So I work in the afternoons, evenings, and up to two or three AM. I have that option. In the spring, when the yard needs weeding and the garden planted, I especially enjoy working nights. In the summer, when I can appreciate my lake with family and bask in the bright sunshine, I also enjoy working nights. In the winter, when the chickens need closer attention, I can address their needs in warmer noon day sun.

Flexibility is so key in this profession. If I decide to go to dinner with a neighbor or see a movie with my husband or attend a writers' conference, I make adjustments. Seeing family and friends at night might mean rising a little earlier or working a double shift another day to make time. Going out of town means a week of double time to buy three or four days of liberty.

I did the eight-to-five thing for years, dreaming of this day when I freelance. However, the diligence I then owned to work a forty-hour week still applies. Some folks tend to let the hours melt away if given such latitude and no parameters. That's another topic for another day. You still have to possess the perseverance to meet your deadlines. But the last thing I want to do as a freelancer is to adhere to the same schedule I had as a bureaucrat. Yes, family still comes first, but now I have the luxury of giving my time to them as they need it, seven days a week.


Andrea said...

I'm a night owl too, usually going to bed around 4 am. I'm terrible at getting my writing done when I don't have a deadline but I'm learning how to make my own deadlines. I'll have to think of some penalty for missing those "self-inflicted" deadlines.

Lyn Fairchild Hawks said...

Hi, Hope,

Joe has a point if a person feels his or her life is out of whack...that the work is all. I'm all for hitting the reset button. But call it workaholicism, call it obsession, but rarely does a day go by that I don't do something about my writing. Perhaps it's having a 40-hour day job and a writer's life crammed in between--I don't feel I have the luxury to take time off. What I do is schedule my fun and my husband calls it "toasting and hosting"; I'm always running around catching up with someone I miss.

I could judge this highly-scheduled life or I could look at most other folks I know who when they're off work make all other sorts of kids, to the gym, etc. Everyone's making choices, no more or less valid. Sometimes my biggest challenge is getting others to see that my writing time = real time and not a time to catch up on the phone. I turn the phone off, the display away from me, and pretend I live on the moon.


Joe Bunting said...

You make such excellent points here, Hope. You're lifestyle sounds both exciting and restful at once. Thanks for this reaction to my post and idea.

Robin said...

How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live. ~Henry David Thoreau

Dianna Graveman said...

I made the leap to full-time freelancer (mostly as an editor) last October, and I love it. But I spend day and night meeting deadlines because I do not yet have the courage to say no to paying work, even if my schedule is full. Forget telling people I can put them on the schedule in a few weeks--they want their work done now or will go elsewhere(or at least I fear they will!). I finally worked up the nerve last week to refer work to another editor, but I had to grit my teeth as I did it. I guess learning to say no is one more skill full-time freelancers need to develop--at least this one.

Thanks for the great post!

Hope Clark said...

This is definitely a situation of "to each his own" or "live and let live." Some of us need a day. Others of us take the moments as they come. I adore the flexibility, but some need the discipline. But I like the blog post Joe did. It makes us all think about over-working and the need to make time for friends and family. Just came from a funeral, for a man who took the time for friends and family. It was impressive.

Anonymous said...

You make a great point, Hope! I feel a little better about doing some work every day of the week, knowing that I stole a few hours for myself/life/family each day. Freelancing allows us to give our time to our families/friends/lives as needed -- and to our work as needed, as well. Being able to work in the evenings or on weekends brings a ton of freedom into our lives.

Yesenia said...

I am not a full-time writer (I hope to one day be one, though). Right now, I'm a full-time student and about to be a mom. Not to mention the housework and spending time with my partner. That would be one of the great benefits of being a full-time writer. You can be super flexible when things come up, although you have to make sure writing is getting done.

Coleen Patrick said...

Enjoyed this post!

Kelly Robinson said...

Writers are never really off-duty, are they? I get mocked a bit (good naturedly) about the scraps of paper I'm always scribbling on when an idea strikes.