Embrace your ‘off days’ and make the most of them
Some days, you just don’t ‘have it’.
For me, that used to be every Wednesday. I did not like Wednesdays. Back in my 9-to-5 days, Wednesday did feel like halfway through the week, but then again the week was not done yet either.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
and miles to go before I sleep
Or: days to go before the weekend.
Nowadays, as an independent, I have both the freedom and the obligation of filling my own days, deciding for myself when and where to work. Wednesday has lost its meaning. And yet, I still have ‘In Between Days’ (inspired — of course — by The Cure, blaring through my radio this morning, inciting this story).
These are the days where I just feel empty. Where my morning shower usually provides me with more ideas than I know what to do with, on In Between Days, nothing will come. I do enjoy — as always — the sensation of the warm water streaming over my body. But my mind feels empty. In Between Days usually follow days that have been particularly stressful, emotional or tiresome. Somehow it feels as if I cannot sleep enough, even though my body decides it has indeed been enough and I just have to get up. But I do so grudgingly.
It is not that I am not thankful — for the roof over my head, all the luxuries I get to enjoy nowadays (which are not that self-evident, as you will soon discover when you will continue to read me), my Husband and my dog. I just feel too tired to get up.
Depression? Burn-out? Nah, been there, done that, got the T-shirt. That feels different. This just feels… empty.
It has nothing to do with inspiration. I always have inspiration. As I discussed with Husband in the car only yesterday, having lived for half a century means we have plenty of things to write about. That’s not the problem.
I often wonder if it isn’t just plain old laziness. I have plenty to do, time and space to do it in, but I just ‘don’t feel like it’ — you know, the kind of mood your mother would tell you to snap out of.
So, what would you like to do?
I would like to go back to bed. But my body refuses to lie down any longer than I have — at 53, my once obligatory 8 hours of sleep have reduced to a mere 6. After those, I simply cannot lie down any longer. Things start to ache. My mind begins to race. That concludes my rest for the night. I might steal a half hour cat nap on the couch later, in the company of our dog, but apparently I don’t need any more sleep.
I could try, but unless I am really sick, I get restless lying in bed. The result of years of parental indoctrination coupled with a few years actually spent in bed because of debilitating ailments. These days, I have trouble being in bed during the day.
Besides, while I do have the luxury of setting my own work times, it has proven more practical to work when everybody else does. Unless you truly work by yourself, it just makes more sense to work when your (virtual) colleagues do, too. You’ll find your questions answered more quickly, enabling you to stay in that work flow. That means I have not quite escaped the 9-to-5, but the upside is, I know when I can stop working for a while without feeling obligated to my principal, who provides me with regular work and income — again, quite a luxury for a freelancer.
Working 9 to 5, what a way to make a livin’
Another reason why the 9-to-5 really isn’t all that bad is that it provides structure. Without structure in your days, it can be quite difficult to find the drive to actually do something. It is asking a lot of your discipline. And for so many disciplined people, there are just as many who just cannot adhere to a schedule of their own design. They cannot handle their freedom. There is, however, no shame in that. It can be quite overwhelming being a freelancer, being solely responsible for just about everything.
Like freelancers and (small) business owners, writers tend to spend most of their time working. It is hard not to, when you are your own business. This is where structure comes in as well: to protect you from working too hard. To protect you from yourself. You need your rest. Your mind needs down-time to unwind.
As a writer, structure is particularly important. It is structure that provides you with a virtual coat rack you hang your stories on. Without structure, your writing would not make much sense to your readers. And as a writer, you have a responsibility to your readers to lead them by the hand in order to make them understand the message you want to convey. If you wish to be understood, you need to make yourself understandable.
A structure gives you peace of mind. It is something you don’t need to think about, something that is always there. The structure — by which you live, work and write — is simply there, for you to follow. Or not.
It may sound contradictory, but a structure provides you with freedom as well. Ultimately, it is your choice to either follow or abandon it.
If you, like me, occasionally feel rebellious, just schedule in a break. A break in the week offers you the opportunity to take a breather, enjoy some rest. Just let the day wash over you and do whatever feels natural. Go outside for some fresh air and fresh ideas. Or embrace the crappy weather and curl up on the couch with your partner or your pet (or both!) and enjoy a good book. You may even find the irresistible inspiration to… write (as I wrote this story this morning, after all)! By all means, go with the flow.
The day is yours to enjoy any way you wish.