I’ve just come back from a restorative trip to Greece. Sun, sea, sand… yes and storms, wind and rain. It was too cold for the beach in the first week so I went on walks in the hills and gorges. This period away was intended to allow me time to stop. To get off the treadmill. To reflect and repair. And it did mostly, though I ‘had to do’ some work every morning, so not strictly speaking a complete holiday but doing that justified the time I spent ‘away from my desk’.
Should I have turned off the mobile and not taken my laptop? Working as a freelancer you have to weigh up the risk of potentially losing work and/or coming back to a mountain of admin when you return if you don’t keep up a little of it. However I don’t advocate either way, that was just my decision for that trip and I’m glad I did it that way.
The fact that I totally needed to get away brings me to the nature of our work as writers and how demanding it can be on our mental health. We can have sparse times and then we can overload ourselves and overdo it. Mostly we probably write alone, and some of us might also live on our own. That could mean days on end doing a Shirley Valentine and talking to the wall. No coincidence to my trip… though now I think about it…
I’m fine with my own company but that doesn’t mean I like silence all the time. My way of coping with the silence is to leave the radio on in the kitchen and to dance. I’m not much of a dancer but I can moonwalk a bit and I’ve got a perfect slippery kitchen floor to practise on, sometimes I’ll do my version of contemporary dance, cod ballet or occasionally I’ll get exceedingly dramatic and act out the whole song. It really doesn’t matter. It’s mostly silly but it’s me having some fun while I wait for the kettle to boil or the chilli to burn, but more importantly, the dancing helps my mood.
Mood is significant as, like many people, I’ve experienced some depression over the years. It’s a condition that has to be managed rather than going on its way never to return. Though I have hopes if I do everything right. But I’m human. And in this job there’s so much uncertainty, rejection, disappointment, and too much time alone with your thoughts can sometimes be a challenge. That makes it all the more important when you get the chance to enjoy the highs of this job, to really grab them and appreciate and enjoy your achievements.
A project I’d worked on intermittently over the last 4 years finally came to fruition this week. It was a new work performed with a chorus of thousands of children singing. Children singing literally fills my heart (even more than my dancing) and I allowed myself to just enjoy it. I don’t always do that. The inner critical voice. But in enjoying it I felt a lift that carried over to the next day…and I intend to keep it going all week.
It’s so easy to be self-critical, to put your work down, to think you ought to have done better or convince yourself you’re not as good as so-and-so and to allow those thoughts to drag you down (or is that just me?). It doesn’t matter what stage of your career you’re at. But the thing to remember is that (a) they’re just annoying pointless thoughts, and (b) anything you write is an achievement. Sitting at the computer is an achievement. Getting out of bed is an achievement, and getting a reading or performance at a tiny fringe venue with an audience of two and a cat, that’s a major achievement! Roll with it!
And if there are times when it’s a struggle, it all gets too much, it’s okay to stop and take a break. Step back… and then dance like there’s no tomorrow. Or go to Greece. Sayan Kent