Happy Friday, everyone!
Today’s post is a little later than normal. Why? I seized a rare opportunity to have my young nieces over. They’re at the age where they’re starting to learn about the adult world and question why the grown-ups do the things they do, so it was hardly surprisingly when — while we were walking the dog, no less — I was asked the question all new freelancers cringe at, and writers in particular: “So what do you do all day?”
My initial answer was simple and honest: “I do what I love.”
What I didn’t tell them was that it’d been a busy week. A stressful week. Still is — every so often while we were painting on the patio I guiltily caught myself thinking of all the things I could be ticking off my list instead. Of course I’m grateful, but there are times when the ‘feast’ portion of the ‘feast or famine’ lifestyle can feel overwhelming. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that you love what you do because you’re caught up in minutiae or deadlines — it’s hard to remember why you took the leap in the first place.
With Valentine’s Day just gone and my ‘Month of Love’ underway, I thought it apt to take some time to reflect on why we pursue our passions — and how to keep them going when times are tough.
Without getting too philosophical, pursuing one’s passions of course boils down to the ever-elusive pursuit of joy. We all want to spend our time doing what we love and avoiding what we dislike. This might present itself as just making a hobby into a full-time business, or it might be more about enjoying the challenge rather than about making money. It may be a religious calling or psychological need. For me, it was a combination of honoring my nine-year-old self who decided she was going to be a writer, finding fulfillment in making use of my education and talents, and the immense satisfaction I get from not only making my own schedule and being my own boss (and thus, exiting the ‘rat race’ that caused me so much stress and existential discomfort), but also helping others to boot.
However, human as we are, we are not inexhaustible. Sometimes the well runs dry or you get lost in the woods. ‘You cannot pour from an empty cup’, as the saying goes. So how do you replenish yourself?
- Don’t be afraid to take a step back. Put it away. Turn off your monitor. Go do something different for five minutes, an hour, a weekend, a month. Coming back to it with fresh eyes can be like meeting an old friend, and you’ve regained your energy for it in the process. Take a retreat, go get some sunshine, take a nap.
- Talk to someone else about it. Often when we’re explaining what we do to other people, it causes us to remember aspects of our job or passion that we’d forgotten because it’d been a while since we’ve done/encountered that aspect. Not to mention that when someone shows interest in what we do, that’s an ego boost!
- Do something related that has less rules and pressure. Writing a thesis with strict formatting and references? Make a casual blog post about your current sub-topic. Proofreading a novel? Try a wordsearch instead. It’s like stretching.
- Similar to the above, shift gears and focus on a different but related aspect of your passion. For example, when I don’t have the inspiration to write I’m browsing Pinterest for character or setting ideas or watching a movie set in a similar era.
- Write down or otherwise share and diffuse your worries or frustrations. Bottling it up can not only make you feel like you’re the only one who has ever or will ever experience your stress or disillusionment, but actually begin to undermine your work. Try journaling or venting to a friend or engaging in a social network for others in your field. Ask for help.
- Remember why you started.
I’m glad I painted and played hide and seek with my nieces today instead of whittling down my list further. Watching them make art with no inhibitions or doubt, only joy, reminded me to continue to seek out and recognize my own. I was reminded of a fantastic quote by the late, great Ursula K Le Guin:
“The name of our beautiful reward is not profit. Its name is freedom.”
What are your favorite ways to recharge? I’d love to hear about them!