Confucius (allegedly) said: Do a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.
Who am I to argue with Confucius?
So, that’s precisely what I did. Because I loved television, I studied television in college, and then I went to work in television. I loved to watch figure skating, so I became a television figure skating producer. After my oldest son was born and the travel associated with skating competitions became unmanageable, I switched to working in soap operas–because I loved soap operas. In the meantime, because I loved to read, I also wrote books, primarily figure skating mysteries and romance novels.
Ultimately, having three kids and going into an office every day became too difficult, so I switched to freelance writing part-time. And, in addition to raising children, I began writing about educating children. And about finding free stuff to do with children. And just general raising children (do I really need to link this one)?
In other words, every single aspect of my life, from my marriage, to my parenting, to the stuff that I do for fun, became a job. At which point, it ceased to be fun.
I can no longer watch television without analyzing it to death (a primary reason why nobody wants to go to the movies with me. Apparently, being trapped in a dark room with a person who sees every plot twist coming from a mile away is… annoying, to put it politely).
I can’t watch skating without thinking of how I might turn it into a book. Or how I would have covered a given story if I were there on-site.
I can’t read without comparing it to my own work, good and bad.
As for my kids, well, let’s just say everything is blogger fodder.
I am now basically working 24/7.
And I don’t like it.
And I don’t know what to do about it.
Truthfully, I’ve never known what to do about it. I’ve never known how to just have a hobby. When I enjoy something, I can’t fight my impulse to want to be a part of it. And, being a creative person, becoming a part of something means wanting to contribute to it.
I suppose one loophole would be for me to stop trying to monazite my efforts and just write and create for fun.
But, here, reality intrudes. My husband is a teacher. We have three children. We live in New York City. I need to make money. Yes, all my (sometimes over the top) efforts to save money do contribute to the family bottom line, and it is appreciated, especially by my husband, who doesn’t pressure me in any way. But, it’s still not enough. My choices are: Make money doing something I don’t enjoy, or make it doing something I do enjoy. And Confucius says….
So here I am, following ancient Chinese advice… and feeling utterly exhausted and burned out. It’s not so much the physical effort (though trying to write with three kids home from school for the summer does come with its own fun challenges), but the fact that I have no way to turn the work-button in my brain off. Everything is fair game to write about. I can’t just take a break and do something fun. Because everything I once considered fun is now a potential money making opportunity.
It’s the same with work hours. Back in the day, I went to the office five days a week and relaxed on the weekends, knowing that my salary stayed stable. I have no office now. I need to snatch writing time whenever I can, because I only make money when I do. No paid vacation. No sick leave. No “personal days.” So I write and research and market before the kids wake up. Or while they’re in school. Or on the weekends….
About a year ago, when I thought I was as drained as I was ever going to get (wrong!), I laid down a hard and fast rule. No turning on the computer Saturday and Sunday, or else I’d completely lose my mind. So no actual typing on the weekend (a sort of double Shabbat). But, remember what Jack Nicholson tells his wife in The Shining, “Just because you don’t hear me typing, that doesn’t mean I’m not working!”
So, yeah. That. (Though I have yet to grab an axe and start chasing my loved ones about the house. The way I’m feeling these days…. Stay tuned.)
I really believe that, to quote what Mr. Nicholson was actually working on while snowed in at an evil hotel: All work and no play makes (Alina) a dull (girl).
I can turn off my computer. But, I can’t turn off my mind.
And since Confucius has proven to be no help, I’m turning to you. We know what he says. What do you say…how do you separate work and play, when they’re one in the same?