Work with a capital "W" or Sometimes You Just Have to Sit on a Beach

Today I went to sit on a beach. Before I went to sit on a beach I had an internal argument between my Mean Inner Voice and my Nice Inner Voice, Mean Inner Voice telling me that “It's a weekday and what do you think everyone else is doing today? Not sitting on a beach that's what” and Nice Inner Voice telling me that “It would be nice and probably quite good to go look at the sea.”


Cut to: One day where I had nothing particular to Work on and I was all too much thought and not enough thought at the same time.

“I'm sat in front of my laptop and I feel uninspired. I should keep Working, or trying to Work. I should not leave my desk and laptop because this is Work and on a weekday you do Work because otherwise “They” will know that you're not doing Work. Who made the rule that you have to work on a weekday anyway? Maybe I should just NOT Work because who CARES if it's a weekday and who are “They” anyway. Ok no, weekday = Work, I'm sorry “You Guys” I will definitely start doing Work now. Oh god it's 10am – see this is what happens when you go off on one and are definitely still no closer to actual Work and “They” can definitely tell now. Ooh a Facebook notification. That could be to do with Work. Nope, ok now you really should do some Work.

Work. Um. Ok. So. Um. Ok, I'll make a List. Ok, List made. Ok I'll do the first thing on the List. Oh wait, I need to do that before I do that first thing. Oh and that, and that. Oh! An email! I'll reply, that is definitely Work. Ok, back to the list. Ah yes the thing I needed to do before doing the thing. Oh! It's 6pm! Ok well I my eyes have gone kind of squinky and dry, maybe I should call it a day. Haven't crossed anything off my List though. Ok, I'll just add the things I've done to the List and then cross them off. Ok, yay! Accomplishment! I did Work today and I won't get in trouble with “Them”. Until tomorrow...”

There endeth a not particularly productive day.

Working from home and working for yourself can seem like the ideal life to a lot of people (indeed, I wouldn't change it for the world, fashion retail was nearly the death of me) but, and I don't think it's just me (please say it's not just me!) there's hum of anxiety at the beginning of every day when I'm not working on something specific. That feeling that if you don't do something productive today “They” will find out ("They"/"Them"/"You Guys" is the name I've give to what is actually, I have discovered, my inner voice (the mean one, not the nice one) telling me that I'm not being useful to society right now).

It's an interesting thing working for yourself. In a way, you're never going to work for a tougher boss. You put a lot of pressure on yourself, you HAVE to, otherwise you're never going to get anywhere. The key to not burning out, freaking out, tapping out (or any other kind of out) is to find a balance. Making yourself work, progress and grow is important (if you don't do the things, no one else is going to do the things), but recognising when sitting in front of a laptop is not really getting you anywhere (see above stream of consciousness) is equally important. 

Work with a capital “W” is not the only work that counts. Work with a capital “W” is the kind of work that feels like work. In terms of photography, there is the actual shooting and the post-production (the best bits!), then there's the admin, the emailing, the website updating and the (gah) taxes. All very important and essential stuff.

But then there's the stuff that doesn't actually feel like work, and feels like cheating. That coffee with a friend that made you feel all glowy, that walk along the sea front that cleared all the negative thoughts away and made room for much more beautiful things, the film you watched instead of staring at your laptop and doing nothing for 90 minutes.

All these things feed your soul, your brain, your creativity and without them you wouldn't have those great ideas that lead to you having to do Work with a capital “W”. It is all work. (See, Work with a capital “W” is really just the bi-product of all the other stuff!)

In Amanda Palmer's "The Art of Asking" (it is SO GOOD, read it and remind yourself that you're actually doing ok really) she writes about the creative process:

This is how a creative human works. Collecting, connecting, sharing. All artists work in different mediums, but they also differ when it comes to those three departments. Some artists love the act of collecting .We might call this experiencing, or emotionally and intellectually processing the world around us: the ingredients - the puddles of ice, the sweater - that go into the poetic metaphor. Or the wider and longer-term collection: the time it takes to fall in and out of love, so that you can describe it in song, or the time it takes a painter to gaze at a landscape before deciding to capture it on canvas. Or the nearly three years Thoreau needed to live simply on the side of a pond, watching sunrises and sunsets through the seasons, before he could give Walden to the world.

I remember reading it and thinking - “OH MY GOD, IT ALL COUNTS, IT'S ALL WORK, LIFE IS WORK, I CAN USE IT ALL” and then promptly sitting down in front of my laptop and probably having a very unproductive day (see above stream of consciousness).

I'm still having to remind myself that it's not cheating if I'm not sat diligently at my desk from 9-5.30 Monday to Friday. The reason I do a creative job is precisely so I DON'T have to do that. I need to remember that the collecting (and connecting and sharing) is just as important as the Work (if you can't tell, this whole blog post is basically an open letter to myself), but I think I'm getting better at it.

So, yes, sometimes you have to sit in front of a laptop and do Work, but sometimes you just have to sit on a beach.

P.s. I think “MIV and NIV” (Mean Inner Voice and Nice Inner Voice) would make a GREAT informative children's book about self-esteem and if anyone wants to write it and give me 50% of the royalties, I'm in.