Wednesday, June 15, 2022

all work and maybe more work

One thing I've been thinking about quite a bit the past few months working on my own is the concept of leisure. What is it? Is it important? What legally constitutes leisure activities and what does not? Do hobbies count? Maybe, but what if you're hobbies are in some way like a job? It's especially wrought and all wound up if you are an artist, since so much of your way of being in the world is a kind of are never NOT being an artist, even if it's just thinking like one? 

I remember as a child longing for the sort of job that would be very different from my parents. Both worked long days (sometimes nights for Dad) and would arrive home exhausted, dragging through whatever obligations of the night (cooking, cleaning, mowing the lawn) and then watching tv in the evenings, then going to bed.  My father was, and still is, a reader, so he would augment his watching with reading (  I have not quite been able to double task like this.)  My mom, when she worked in the home babysitting neighborhood kids and relatives, painted endless bisque objects (small figurines but also large pieces like lamps.) Later when she worked as a phone operator/mail person, she was too exhausted to paint and mostly would watch tv. Weekends meant housework and yard work but also things like long drives and camping trips on occasion. 

Granted my own schedules were different from my parents working evenings, but so much of my non-working time over the past 20 years has been devoted to creative work. It guided what I did around my job...either in my mornings at the studio or my late nights and all my weekends. If it wasn't the press and the shop, it was my own creative work. It pretty much guided even what I might have considered leisure...trips to conferences and university visits, readings, and outings with writers.  I had occasional dates, but not frequent enough to feel like something taking a lot of time outside my normal routines. My relationships were guided by stolen time, literally and just in a general sense of  long lunches and midnight movies. Ditto friendships, .most of my friend group were people I worked with in the library or met in the writing community. My relationship of the past few years is someone also trying to balance the same things with multiple gigs and pursuits. (though admittedly as an actor, his are occasionally paid quite a bit more.) 

One of the goals of leaving the library was of course to free up time to work on those creative things, or at least, work on creative things  (the content writing work is not the same as poems obviously, but still a kind of writing.) The first few weeks, as I figured out how to structure my days, I was careful to leave time in the evenings after 9pm or so for "liesure" and to block off my weekends. Nights would find me making dinner and maybe doing a little housework, but really, I wasn't quite sure how to spend this new unharried time. I wasn't ready to settle in with a movie or something on streaming.  It was too early for bed.  Shouldn't I be using this time for something productive?  Working on more poems, or maybe working on fiction? Planning social media content? Should actually be trying to squeeze in another paid assignment for extra money?  I did all of these things, but then would chide myself for not taking my new, freer, more leisurely life seriously.  Wasn't I supposed to be having some other kind of workj existence that I always wanted before but couldn't have working a full-time job?

I'm not saying I've figured it out by any means.  Lately, I work later on days devoted to freelancing, so usually finish up well after 10pm depending on when I get up and how quick I progress through assignments.  I'll be starting a new gig with a defined shift, which will give me a bit more structure in terms of needing to be online in 4-5 hour spans a couple times a week. . On press days, I may work a little shorter a shift but I rarely finish before 8 or 9. I give myself permission to keep going if I need to. I spend weekends if I can working on solely writing-related business, editing, and art things, making videos, and polishing the week's daily poems that I write over breakfast usually, though sometimes later if I get swept up in e-mails. . Somehow this feels okay, but then I worry that I traded one kind of overworking for another. But then again, some things that are work feel like leisure. Writing poems, making art. Even book assembly days technically feel liesurely, mostly cause I watch youtube videos while dong it. It also  doesn't quite feel as mentally taxing as layouts or design projects that demand detail-focused energy.

Weekends, though I am painting and making video poems, editing poems and making videos or reels still feels like leisure vs things done directly for money like freelance assignments. (The press and shop falls somewhere in the middle) In so many way, artmaking still feels like leisure except when it doesn't.  This is particularly true, not necessarily in writing or even editing, but more in the writing business side--the submitting and manuscript assembly and answering e-mails portion of it. Otherwise, it's more like play.  Perhaps this sort of quandary is also a necessary one when you make your hobbies side hustles, which I am notorious for on all fronts..(says the girl who once turned even thrifting into selling vintage on

Part of me wonders too, if everyone feels a bit like this during the pandemic, because even had I a huge going out places social life (I did not) any of that would be seriously curtailed now. So much of the complaints I hear of working at home is that it feels like you are always working because very little else naturally breaks it up unless you are super intentional about logging off and tuning out. 

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