Making Time For Time Off

Wednesday, June 06, 2018
One recent Friday, I made plans for a lunch date with friends and it was an hour’s drive to the restaurant so I knew it would be a long day away from work. One of my friends remarked that it must be hard, working at home. Yep, I agreed, it is hard. But not because writing is hard (though, ahem, it’s harder than it looks). Rather, having the self-discipline to work when you’re the boss is not always a walk in the park. Particularly when it’s a gorgeous spring day and you want to take a walk in the park instead of working…

When I want to take time off for other activities in my life, I have to plan for it. That’s not so difficult; it just takes a bit of organizing. What is difficult are those times that I can’t exactly plan for, the moments that come along either expected or unexpected, when emotionally, I’m not in the best place to write. I suspect that we all have those moments. But like most working writers, I have deadlines to meet, and curling into a ball under my desk is remarkably unhelpful. I have a few strategies that are helpful, though, starting with making time to take time off.

Accept that you need time for yourself. Why is it so hard for us to take care of ourselves? I mean, really, we’re pretty good at taking care of everybody else’s needs, but when it comes to our own needs, maybe not so much. We believe we must soldier on, no matter what. So first, give yourself a break. Give yourself permission to take time off.

Next, do something good for yourself. So you’ve taken that first step, which is taking a step away from work and writing. And now it’s time to take care of yourself. For me, that means meeting with friends for food and laughter, or heading to Tybee Island to reconnect with family. Maybe it’s a day of sitting on my deck, reading. I love to read, and like comfort foods, I have favorite books and authors that comfort my soul. It might even be binge-watching a season of one of my favorite comedies on Netflix. The point is, I indulge in something that makes me happy. Granted, it doesn’t change the reality of my life, but it gives my sea storm of emotions a chance to subside. And that’s a very good thing.

Then get back to work. Oh, that was kinda wonderful taking time off from work, wasn’t it? But too much time off and I start to defeat the purpose of taking time off. Namely, my work piles up and guilt sets in. Or I get too far behind and want to throw in the towel and walk away. And so the trick to taking time off is striking a balance. It’s not just hearing, but listening to that voice that says, “Okay, you’re better now.”

And you know what? Mostly, I am. I take a couple of good, deep breaths and appreciate the gifts I’ve been given, including this writing life I love. Time to get back to work.

~Cathy C. Hall 


Sioux Roslawski said...

Cathy--It's like the old advice: You can't take care of others unless you first take care of yourself.

If you don't keep yourself fresh and invigorated, your writing will become stale.

Knowing you, I imagine you don't take time out for yourself often enough... but that's only my opinion.

(Have you seen the show, "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel"? I think it's an Amazon show. I enjoyed it. What funny series do YOU watch? I'm looking for something to watch until Orange is the New Black returns. Or has it already? Ooops. I gotta check.)

Margo Dill said...

I also heard recently how important it is sometimes to be still. How do we be still as writers? workers? moms? etc? etc? We wear so many hats! Is there time to "be still." But there has to be or we can literally go insane. :) Good post.

Cathy C. Hall said...

Sioux, yes, I watched Mrs. Maisel when I could see it free. :-) I loved it, by the way.

Right now, I'm catching up with that unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt. You can't be sad, watching Kimmie. :-)

Stillness, yes, Margo. It can be downright uncomfortable to sit in stillness when there is so much to do!The trick to that is sitting somewhere away from all the distractions. Even if it's just 10 minutes. Ten minutes of stillness can feel like a lifetime. ♥

Angela Mackintosh said...

Sioux, Cath ~ I haven't seen Mrs. Maisel, but I have my eye on it. I wondered if it was funny. Have you seen "Fleabag" on Amazon? I thought was of the funniest I've ever seen, but I'm also completely immature. ;)

Cath, I know what you mean about planning for it. When I went in for my most recent surgery and needed time off from WOW I spent two weeks planning to take a week off. It's insane! I agree, we need to take time for ourselves. If one thing is out of balance then our life is out of whack. Too much computer completely drains me. I need to get out in nature for at least an hour a day or else I go crazy. When work piles up, I've been prioritizing with an effort vs impact scale. Which project will bring the most impact with the least amount of effort? That's where you want to invest your time. Remove the big, heavy things from your life, and that's the secret sauce to efficiency! :)

Cathy C. Hall said...

The Secret Sauce to Efficiency sounds like a great title, Ang--write that book! (I'd read it!)

Sioux Roslawski said...

Angela--(Sorry, Cathy, to bypass you and speak to Ang)

I DID see "Fleabag" and thoroughly enjoyed it. "Mrs. Maisel" is not as... well, it's not as "graphic" as "Fleabag" (and I know you know what I'm talking about ;).

Renee Roberson said...

Well ladies, now I have a whole new set of shows to binge watch. I've had my eye on Kimmy Schmidt and Mrs. Maisel so thanks for those endorsements! When I started back working full-time last fall, one of the decisions I made was to not put add my new job's e-mail to my phone. Sometimes people from work text me to ask questions, but other than that, I stay blissfully ignorant in the evenings and on the weekends when we don't have shows running. It's one small way I try to keep sane and make sure I carve out time for my writing, too.

Suzanne Pitner said...

I hope you can take that time for yourself, Cathy. I've basically taken a year off of writing, which at first was very hard. I stopped taking new gigs. The thing I discovered was that I had time to relax and enjoy my family more than I had in years. I'm still super busy, but now I can sit back when I need to and give my loved ones the attention they need. When your Beneficient Mr. Hall went on ahead of you, it made me stop and slow down and hug my own DH a little more tightly. Hang in there, smell the salt water, (but not the sweat) and take care of yourself! Be well, friend!

Cathy C. Hall said...

Good to hear from you, Suzanne. And good for you. ♥

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