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.
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:
Wearing so many different hats creates opportunities for stress and overwork.
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.
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:
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.
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Writer, librarian and illustrator, Ryan M. Williams, author of more than twenty novels, writes across a range of genres including fantasy, science fiction, romance, paranormal, and mystery. He earned an M.A. in writing popular fiction from Seton Hill University and an M.L.I.S. from San Jose University. His short fiction has appeared in anthologies from Pocket Books, WMG Publishing, and in On Spec Magazine.