Long Live the Lazy Days
Published on May 23, 2023
A Creative Courage article from Amy Jones
Long live the lazy days. Yeah, you heard me.
For anyone in the early stages of a creative career, it’s easy to think of yourself as a greyhound let out of the starting gates. Careering (literally) round the racetrack at full speed; because you love what you do, and you want to do as much of it as possible, to be as great as you can. Borrowing time from lunchbreaks, evenings, and weekends here and there, until it becomes a habit. And for the creatives that do, it always ends up with the same conversation:
“I don’t know how I’ll do this for another 20/30/40 years.”
Well, of course not. But no athlete sprints 10,000m. Even Mo took it slow in the Olympics.
Any creative career, like a marathon, is a long old race. It’s about endurance more than anything else. Sure, a great start helps. But as months turn into years, struggle to keep the energy up and you’ll fizzle out. Setbacks and challenges will come and go, just as frequently as the wins, threatening to take you with them each time. And as years turn into decades, find yourself pushing too hard for too long and you’ll quit the sport, or at least fall out of love with it.
Whatever your job: treat it like long-distance running. Sprinting, jogging, pausing for a pee break. A comfortable pace for you that, every now and again, can handle what is always required of us: a burst of higher intensity. A period of increased speed and effort. Perhaps it’s a pitch, a deadline, or a job we’re particularly pickled by. Protecting your pace helps you appreciate what you have that many don’t – the zest for work, the love of the craft, the desire to succeed – and not to be killed by it.
So how do you protect future you? How do you keep the joy in the job? How do you balance performing at a high level with the appropriate recovery time?
Days reserved for not achieving all that much.
Ironically, it takes real work to be unproductive. It’s easy for 5:30 to turn quickly into 7, or to splash about in your emails on a Sunday afternoon. Easy to work through lunch. Easy to start early, stay late. It’s much harder to actively find the time to switch off, and even harder to protect it when you have it.
What I’m really talking about here is self-care. God, I know. Self-care. You came here for serious thought leadership, not some woke bullsh*t. But stay with me.
I used to think self-care was self-indulgent. That they didn’t have ‘self-care’ in Madison Avenue. Don Draper didn’t take long bubble baths, apply face masks, or soak up the scented candles. (On reflection, that’s probably why he was such a dick.)
But this is the thing about self-care. We all do it a bit differently.
Sometimes it’s making plans. Sometimes it’s cancelling them. Sometimes it’s switching on a show or switching off completely. Other times it’s picking up the phone, or letting it ring out. (Don’t tell my mother.)
Sometimes it’s something creative. Knitting, pottery, an Etsy side hustle. Other times it’s ANYTHING but. Gruesome horror movies, being a ‘plant-mom’, lying in a dark room and crying.
And in the long run, it makes you better.
There’s a saying about how hens lay one egg a day, and all the activities in between, like feeding, lead up to making another when the sun comes up. (I’ve probably butchered that. The quote, that is, not the hen.) If eggs are great ideas, then everything we creatives feed on outside of that today, helps us generate the next one tomorrow. Perhaps it’s a scene in a Netflix show that’ll shape your next TVC, a new skill that helps you look at a brief differently, or a book that’ll help write your next headline.
So be more hen.
Dare to have downtime. Work at being unproductive. And long live the lazy days.