Image from the Internet
Just before my recent bout with back pain, I was working from 9:00 am to 3:00 am, with a few hours out of that total for non-art errands and activities. The rest of my time was some combination of studio practice, blogging, administrative work, and going out to look at art. And it went by fast! Didn't I just get up to start the day? Oh, wait that was yesterday. My job is interesting but 15 hours a day, seven days a week, is two full-time jobs and and a part-time job. And like most of you, I have no perks like vacation, holidays off or company-paid health insurance.
So recently when the sciatica hit, I was forced to spend the better part of a month semi-drugged on the couch. Talk about a screeching halt. Let me tell you: Time goes by really slowly when you're just lying there (even if you've gotten hooked on NCIS, which seems to have its own channel).
Now that I'm more or less better and back to work, time has speeded up again. I'm fortunate that my "outside jobs" are art related and that most of what I do can be done from an office in my studio, but I'm back to putting in too many hours. If the sciatica has taught me one thing it's that I have to slow down.
No, I'm not giving up this blog, and I'm certainly not going to stop painting and exhibiting, and I'm not giving up the painting conference that I founded and run. But I am going to think twice about the other ways I have used my time. I've cut way back on Facebook, for instance. E-mail too. Delete, delete, delete. Do I have to participate in every exhibition that comes along? No—especially if it requires packing and shipping, paying for the shipping, and has no catalog or web presence. I figured this out a long time ago but, you know, the siren call to show is strong.
There's more. I've stopped writing letters of reference for friends and colleagues. I wish them well, and I hope they receive the grants and residencies they apply for, but I don't have the time to get pulled into their efforts. (As I wrote in a MM post a while back, Enough with the Reference Letters, I don't apply for any grant that requires letters of reference because they're a time suck for others. Hell, I hardly ever apply for grants, period, because they're a time suck for me.)
And more. Do I have to accept every speaking engagement that offers a "small honorarium"? No. If an institution can't meet my established fee, I can't work for them. I'm sorry to say that I've contributed to your low honorarium by having accepted pittances in the past. (Honorarium = minimum wage for your invaluable professional expertise.) I have found that the preparation, time and travel involved in a speaking or teaching engagement has sometimes cost me more than what I was being paid. One thing is for sure: the folks who are inviting me or you to speak all have wage-paying jobs with benefits. Let's not let them nickel and dime us.
There are some exceptions.
. If you're early in your career, you're probably trying to get your work out there as much as possible. Go ahead, show. But it's still smart to be discriminating about exhibition opportunities (Coffee shops? Restaurants? Community centers? Be choosy.)
. And even as you progress in your career, you may agree to speak or demo or participate on a panel for free. I have organized and/or participated in a number of blogger panels and events over the past few years, finding that outreach--to work with colleagues I admire, to promote my blog, or just because the topic is interesting--was a worthwhile tradeoff. My colleagues, established artists and bloggers all, must have felt the same, too, because we've all given our time for free.
But back to cutting back on activities. I'm not sure how much my cutbacks will help. I am still a Type A who likes to work. But I'm really, really going to try. My well-being depends on it.
Of course there's a larger point to this post, and it's about you:
. How many hours a week do you work?
. Do you feel it's too much?
. Have you experienced work-related stress or illness?
. Have you been able to cut back?
. Have you accepted too many low-wage jobs?
. Do you still?
. When was the last time you took a vacation?
I'm not asking you to respond specifically to these questions, but as you consider them, please tell us a bit about your work habits—or, more likely, your overwork habits.