All the hustle and bustle of the new year has got me all revved up, and I’m working harder than I have in a long time. I’ve got a major new consulting client for whom I’m acquiring vintage SF, fantasy, and horror e-book rights; still working to close a deal for Némopolis; two more big clients lined up that should be closed by the end of the month; a novel in circulation; my Fathomless Abyss novella begging for more attention; and more. I promised myself (and everyone else, via this blog, Twitter, and now, suddenly, Facebook) that I would hit the ground running in 2012, and I have done just that, even though 2012 is only nine days old.
I’ve extended that increased work ethic out into my personal life, too, driving down to Portland with twelve hours’ notice to look at a college with my high school senior daughter, and today we start applying for financial aid and to that and other colleges. I have a home to do list as long as my work to do list, and I’m knocking little things back left and right, though the dog still needs to go in for a nail trim, and the garage door opener that only sort of works is past the point of everyone’s patience . . . sigh.
I’ve always thought that the really ugly to do list, the point where you should start to worry, is the one with no items. If you have nothing to do, that probably doesn’t mean you’ve finished everything because you’re so awesome. Lets face it, it’s more likely your absence of to do list items is a result of no one trusting you to do work for them, or a symptom of your own laziness and disorganization: You haven’t gone out there to get some work.
But even only nine days in to the super-active all-success 2012, I’m thinking about maybe a day off.
The weekend was spent with college visits, National Portfolio Day, and a long drive. I already feel like I need a day off. I thought about maybe today, since my wife is taking the day off from work, and later this evening we have a school event, but I had to be on the phone with an overseas consulting prospect at 7:30 am, this blog must be serviced, I have something I’ve been meaning to write for a Gamasutra blog, too, and I have to file my state taxes for Athans & Associates and the National Buy a Book Day Foundation (which has a to do list all its own), and then there are these college things we have to do.
Okay, then, so no day off.
But eventually I will take one. I have to, and so do you.
Most of the authors I know hold down some kind of “day job.” When I had a day job like that, I used to tell people that I wrote books instead of playing golf—which is to say, everybody has some pursuit, hobby, avocation, etc. that is separate from work and home, and sleep. Mine generated a little money, which golf doesn’t tend to do (unless you’re good and you gamble), but still, I put in an honest day’s work, then a second honest day writing.
Now all that’s mixed up. I have deadlines and tasks to do for clients, and a writing project—that Fathomless Abyss novella—that I’m horribly behind on. I can mix up my work day however I want to. No one is tapping his fingers waiting for me to get back from lunch. No one is expecting me to punch in at a certain time. I have no “sick day balance” or anything like that. And I’m lovin’ it—don’t get me wrong. None of this should be read as a complaint. I’m not bitching that I have too much work to do, or too little. In fact, I want more work—can do more work, and am actively seeking out more work. And I spend more time with my family than the average American dad. Of that I’m sure. I have been keeping up with my favorite TV shows, too, and exercising, and reading.
But still I’m worried that I’m doing it wrong. Have I actually achieved that Hoy Grail of contemporary America, the optimal work-life balance?
Yeah, probably not. In particular, I never really take a day off anymore—not entirely.
To some degree I blame my cell phone. I used to have to work to sign into my wizards.com email address from home. Now, my Athans & Associates email is with me at all times, with two sharp little vibro-buzzes alerting me to incoming emails, literally 24/7. My little business is international in scope, and I’ve always had strange sleeping patterns, so yes, I do read emails at 4:30 am, or 6:30 pm, or whenever I happen to be awake.
Instead of working a lot for eight hours, five days a week, I work at least a little almost all the time, with concentrated bursts of sit-at-the-desk-and-get-busy for a couple of two to four hour blocks five days a week. For a habit-driven guy like me this can be a little tough to manage. I’m a deadline guy, a detail guy, with a strong Midwestern/Greek immigrant work ethic, too, and it’s hard to turn that off.
Or am I just being too self-involved now? Everybody thinks about “work” when they’re not officially “at work,” right? Especially if they’re as lucky as me and there’s a very fine line between “work” and “fun.” If I finish up the really relevant items on my to do list before lunch today can I take the rest of the day off, and spend a little time with my wife? Of course I can. But that phone will be with me the whole time, so if you need to email me about that thing, well, you go right ahead.
Writers: Write! But don’t forget to take a day off from time to time, too. From both the day job, and the novel. Both will be better off for it tomorrow.