This is an important read for freelancers. I’ve fallen into this trap a LOT lately and it has affected my health.
I’ve since made it a goal to better balance work with the rest of my life. You can’t be productive unless you take care of yourself first.
The Workaholic Pedestal
We freelancers have a tendency to never truly be away from our work, regardless of the time or day of the week. Especially if like me, your work station is in your home. We work long hours and dedicate ourselves fully to whatever project we have at hand. We loose sleep, skip social gatherings, eat whatever is quick and easy so we can get back to work. I have noticed that there is a sense of pride in general among freelancers that we are so in love with our work that we can dedicate ourselves this way. Passion for your chosen profession is definitely a plus!
However, I have also observed a downside to this part of freelancing. That dedication can cross the line into an unhealthy workaholic lifestyle, and other freelancers actually encourage it. There is an underlying unspoken rule in freelancer culture that if you’re not working, you’re slacking. I’ve seen other freelancers take subtle stabs at their peers for taking time off to see family, to tend to daily life, or to just have a day (or three) to simply BREATHE and do something other than art. Doing things like comparing your work load with others’ work load, making yourself out to be the harder working one. Referring to things like showering, cooking, and cleaning as “free time” or “vacation”. It creates or adds to guilt surrounding work, which is really not a nice thing to do to your friends and peers.
The disclaimer here is that clearly not every freelancer does this, and I think those that do are not being purposefully malicious, so please don’t misread this as an attack. I’m guilty of playing into this myself, we are just falling into a part of the starving artist stereotype; The idea that your chosen craft/art must encompass ALL of your being, every day and every moment for you to truly be passionate about it.
The truth is, there IS life outside of art and work, and it’s not a contest. We are living beings that must eat and sleep, and we are social animals that must have a connection with others. So not only do we HAVE to do things other than art, but it’s also ok to spend time doing other things that make you happy. It doesn’t mean you are less passionate about your work, or that other artists who spend more time on theirs love it more.
And yes, there are deadlines we must work under. But none of us want to be starving artists. None of us enjoy loosing sleep, eating crappy or skipping meals, working our fingers to the bone, letting friendships fall apart… These are not good things. You aren’t a cooler or more a passionate artist for making those sacrifices. So I think instead of putting that lifestyle on a pedestal, we should be encouraging one another to take time to care for ourselves, and to have a life outside of their work. Just like anyone else doing any other kind of work. =)
YES. Thank you. It makes me really uncomfortable when I hear professionals saying things like “if you are not drawing 24/7 you’ll never make it”, implying that having outside interests or taking care of yourself means you will fail. You undoubtedly need to be dedicated and focused to succeed as a freelancer, but what is the point of having the so-called freedom that freelancing is supposed to provide you if you can’t even leave your desk every once in a while? Exercise, get outside, socialize, have other hobbies. I’ve found I’m more productive and happier and healthier and more passionate about my work and my career when I take time off, every day, to get away from work for a little while. Building a career is important and rewarding, but your life is not comprised solely of the amount of work you are able do. Your life is not defined solely by how many hours you clock at your work desk.
This mindset is rampant throughout college and even in the professional studio environments too. It’s so sad, I’ve fallen Ill because of it and still have a hard time breaking away. I see many of my peers ruining their bodies and minds too to live up to an ideal of working 24/7.
It feels really relieving to see I’m not alone in this. The guilt of not always feeling inspired. The frenzy of not wanting to let anyone down (especially yourself) can completely break you down. I’ve been beyond fortunate to have some of the most understanding and compassionate bosses ever, so the idea of the letting them is crushing. One of the most valuable things I’ve learned since I started freelancing is to take time for yourself when you need it. Not “when I’m done with this project in 2 months I’ll relax.” Take care of yourselves artist friends. <3
Actual free time (not just eating or showering time) is so important. You’ll be able to work longer and harder if you take frequent breaks.