When you’re a writer or blogger it’s hard to take days off — especially if neither writing nor blogging is your full-time job.
If you want to be consistent with your blog, see your byline in your favorite publications, or finally finish your book, you often feel as if you have to spend every spare minute away from the day job working on your passion project. But I’ve realized this attitude does our writing (and our bodies) more harm than good.
The Danger of “No Days Off”
There was a time when I proudly called myself Javacia “No Days Off” Bowser. I woke up at 4 a.m. every weekday to blog or work on freelance stories before heading to my day job to teach English. Then I came home exercised, cooked and ate dinner, and worked the rest of the night (grading papers or working on See Jane Write) until I was too exhausted to keep my eyes open. I would get up the next day and do it all again.
Instead of using Saturday as a time to catch up on sleep, I’d wake up by 6 a.m., exercise, and then do as much work as I could before that evening when I would finally allow myself to have a date night with my husband or fun with family or friends.
Then one day I got a headache that just wouldn’t go away. It lasted for days, then weeks, then months. My vision was blurry and I felt dizzy all the time. Because I spend way too much time on WebMD, I was convinced I had a brain tumor. No really, I was. I started drafting my will and told my husband how long he’d have to wait to remarry if he didn’t want my ghost to haunt him and his new wife.
Of course, I did not have a brain tumor. I just needed to go to sleep!
After my bout with my imaginary brain tumor, I decided to implement what I call “Self-Care Saturday.” Each Saturday I would sleep in and I wouldn’t do any work for my teacher life, my freelance writer life, or for my blog or business. The only work I could do was housework and I’d spend the rest of the day spending time with my husband, hanging out with family or friends, watching TV, reading, getting a massage, or doing absolutely nothing.
The headaches stopped and I started to actually like my life. I didn’t dread my early mornings and long days knowing Self-Care Saturday was on the horizon.
The boost in my mood helped me be more productive, too. This meant I was getting work done faster and thus getting to bed sooner. I started getting about 6 hours of sleep each night. I know that doesn’t sound like a lot — and I know it’s not enough — but it felt like vacation rest to me.
Now that I’ve left the classroom and I’m a fulltime writerpreneur, lots of folks want to know if I still get up at 4 a.m. every weekday. Absolutely not! Some days, when my to-list is as long as my arm and nothing on that list can be put off to another day, yes, I will wake up at 4 a.m. to get everything done. But most days I don’t. I’m still working on establishing a steady wake time, but depending on the day I get up at 5, 6, or 7 a.m., and I get about 7 or 8 hours of sleep.
Related Reading: A Day in the Life of a Freelance Writer
And now that my passion project is my full-time job I can have two days off! I know you think that’s not a big deal because most people with a 9 to 5 have two days off. But I now get to have two days off AND work toward my dreams, which didn’t feel possible before.
I decided that my other day off would be Friday, not Sunday, because since I was a kid I have never been able to be productive on Fridays. As a teacher, my Friday lectures were shorter and I could never bring myself to grade a single paper. I’m not sure why, but if you give me some work to do on a Friday I’m going to do it half-assed. Or not do it all. Sorry.
Actually I’m not sorry. I did feel bad about this for years, even after I became my own boss. I gave myself pep talks on Friday mornings hoping I could whip myself into shape.
Eventually, I realized this was dumb. If I didn’t want to do work on Friday I didn’t have to! So Friday became my day to clean my house and binge watch reruns of NCIS Los Angeles. I check my email occasionally throughout the day since I know other people are working, but mostly Friday is mine. I’m free to do what I want.
The beauty of being my own boss is I can take days off whenever I want, as long as I properly plan. For example, this summer after a particularly busy week when work bled over into the weekend, I took off on a Tuesday.
Why Writers Should Take Days Off
There was a time when I felt guilty for taking time off. But a former colleague of mine, T.J. Beitelman, who’s also a published author, once told me that he believes most of the creative writing process happens away from the keyboard. The things that inspire great work happen when you’re out living life, not simply staring at a blinking cursor on a blank screen.
So on my day off I’m not only doing things that revitalize me but things that can re-energize my writing and blogging, too.
This blog post was actually prompted by a member of the See Jane Write Network and Collective asking what a typical day off looks like for me. Honestly, each day off is different, but they always include self-care, quality time with my husband, and hanging out with family or friends. Brunch is usually involved, as is a trip to the movies.
Drawing from the things I normally do on Fridays and Saturdays, I’ve put together a list of 15 things you can do on your days off:
- Go for a long walk or run in your neighborhood or on your favorite trail.
- Read a book.
- Catch up on your favorite magazines, TV shows, or blogs.
- Catch up on Red Table Talk, with a bottle of red wine.
- Have brunch with friends.
- Have a Girls Night Out.
- Have a date night with your partner or dinner with your best friend.
- Go to the movies.
- Write something just for fun.
- Attend a local festival or concert.
- Visit a local art gallery or museum.
- Take a road trip.
- Get a massage.
- Take a bubble bath.
- Absolutely NOTHING!
What do you like to do on your days off?