April 23, 2018

Vacation Reflections

by Ryan

Last week didn't go as I had planned. I took a vacation to head down to Lincoln City, Oregon, for a writing workshop on writing fantasy. I've done several of these workshops taught by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. I signed up for this one (and the Anthology Workshop I went to in February) back when I was finishing my MLIS degree as a sort of celebration of graduating. Despite looking forward to the workshop, I found my stress increasing as it drew closer and I ended up getting sick and leaving the workshop early. It's made me think about vacations and the importance of rest and balance.


Juggling Responsibilities

As a writer with a day job, you're busy by definition. You're juggling multiple careers. Especially if you're an indie writer who (like me) likes to learn about and try everything themselves. I find that I have multiple demands on my time, all of which can build stress before a vacation:

  • Family. Very important, and unfortunately one that is easy to take for granted and overlook. I try to make sure that I keep my loved ones in mind when planning what I'm doing.
  • Librarian career. My day job as a librarian pays the bills. It's also a career that I enjoy, one that makes a difference in people's lives. Even this isn't one thing, though. My position includes district-wide responsibilities, management responsibilities, and data/assessment responsibilities. It's several jobs rolled into one.
  • Writing. A writer, by definition, is someone who writes. I have several book series, standalone projects, and nonfiction projects. Even if I was a full-time writer, I wouldn't have time to write everything that I want to write. I have to pick and choose where I will spend my writing time. My current Work in Progress is an idea that I've had for several years and hadn't made time to work on until now.
  • Publisher. As a self-publisher, I have more than enough work to keep me busy just getting my books published and available. This could easily be another full-time job. It's work I enjoy, although I wouldn't rule out getting help with it in the future.
  • Illustrator. I'm just starting out as an illustrator. I continue practicing, studying, and improving. I've started creating t-shirts to work on rather than my book covers. Eventually, I'd like to do both. Creating visual artwork is something I love doing, like writing. In order to get my books out, I've started using artwork created by other artists again. I plan to continuing licensing artwork until I feel  that art I've created will work effectively for my books.
  • Designer. I'm also learning design. Not only for my books, but the website, t-shirts, and other projects. Again, the sort of thing that could easily be a full-time job. I'm doing it now because I enjoy it, although I could see hiring someone for it in the future.
  • Programmer. This one falls more into the hobby side of my life as I'm not pursuing it for anything except my own interest. It does overlap with my work on the website and my interest in data, data analysis, and data visualization. Another area pursued simply because I enjoy it.
  • Marketer. Currently, this is a big focus of mine. I'm busy studying and learning about marketing today. Right now I'm focused on Search Engine Optimization, but I'm also looking at email marketing. I'm experimenting with a few paid advertisements as well. Up until now this is one area that I pretty much ignored. I want to learn and market effectively, but this is another area I could see hiring out in the future.

Wearing so many different hats creates opportunities for stress and overwork.

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The Importance of a (Restful) Vacation

I don't know what resting  looks like for you. For me, it typically means time off from the day job and other outside expectations. Ideally, that means staying home. In this case, my vacation wouldn't be restful. These workshops demand a lot from attendees and instructors.

The fantasy workshop came at an unfortunate time for me. I knew when it was, of course, but I'd already jumped into so many areas of my writing and publishing that the workshop turned out to be too much on top of everything else. I didn't realize how stressed I'd gotten in the weeks after the anthology workshop leading up to this one and my vacation.

There was an extensive and interesting reading list. Yet, reading books for the workshop meant that I didn't have time for other books I wanted to read. I had writing assignments to do for the workshop. It might seem like I'd have plenty of time to rest at the workshop—but that wasn't the case. On top of that, I found it difficult to sleep at the workshop. The bed was probably fine, except I'm used to sleeping in a hammock and it's hard to sleep well in a bed these days. I had the same problem in February.

With the lack of rest, and the general stress of the workshop, I started feeling sick. My stomach got upset, and after two fairly sleepless nights I decided to take care of myself instead of worrying about the workshop. Not the easiest decision to make, but when it came down to it I couldn't imagine another night. I apologized to folks and went home. No fault of the workshop, I just had too much on my plate and wasn't feeling good.

Taking Care of Yourself

The first night back from the coast, I slept over ten hours. Then I took a nap the next day for a couple more hours. I started to feel better. I spent the rest of my vacation week relaxing at home. It didn't mean I wasn't busy. I've been writing, studying, and drawing. I've also spent time reading books that I've put off reading due to other demands. I been playing Minecraft and World of WarCraft. And I've spent time catching up on TV shows and movies.

I remind myself of two things:

  • Get enough rest. Being tired doesn't help me, it doesn't make anything better. 
  • Have fun. Play is important. Mammals play. It's an important part of our psychological well-being. I try to keep my writing and art on the side of play. It's something that I'm doing because I want to do it.

I don't plan to have a day job forever. Either I'll transition to writing full time, or I'll retire and write full time. I won't hit retirement age for another twenty years unless I retire early. Even then, the earliest I can retire is still eight years off. Unless things change dramatically, I plan to continue being a writer and a librarian for the foreseeable future. 

I don't see any problem with doing both. It is possible to enjoy the writing life while working a day job—particularly if you're fortunate enough to enjoy your career as I do.

What about you?

Are you balancing a career and writing? Share your comments or questions in the comments. If you want to get my latest tips, instruction, and other news, sign up for my newsletter. It's free, easy, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

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Ryan M. Williams lives a double life as a full-time career librarian and a multi-genre writer with over twenty books. He writes across a range of genres including science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, mystery, horror, and romance. He earned a Master of Arts degree in writing popular fiction from Seton Hill University and a Master of Library and Information Science from San Jose University. His short fiction has appeared in anthologies from Pocket Books, WMG Publishing, and in On Spec Magazine.

Ryan M. Williams

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