Creativity, while seemingly endless for some, is a beast we need to feed in order to have it work for us. We cannot simply expect to be running at 100% all of the time without stopping, reflecting, and spending time to nurture the force we require to make our best work. As some of you may have noticed (I’m hoping someone other than my mother did), I have just taken a one-month break from writing here at Fstoppers. This was a personal month taken to reset and bring my focus back to what’s really important. This is something I feel we all should do from time to time. Let me explain.
This hiatus wasn’t just spent away from writing on Fstoppers. I had completed all my commitments for the month of October before the month started and booked no other meetings throughout the month. It was going to be a month where I focused entirely on my client work and getting back into a rhythm that was more than just subsistence.
You see, I bit off a little more than I could chew over the past 12 months. My regular commitments were four Fstoppers articles a month, a monthly article for the Fujilove Magazine, and two monthly articles for Fujilove (although I’ve also taken a few months off from these). On top of this, I was wrapping up my first eBook, traveling for my Tattoos of Asia project, running a tour in Vietnam with Pics of Asia, and, somewhere in the middle, getting my client work done and having an occasional cup of coffee with my wife. Needless to say, the fumes I had been running on were getting thin. I had overcommitted. So, it was then that I began to practice what I preach and made time for myself and things other than my work.
It’s a wonderful thing to be producing work, content, and maintaining relationships with people all over the world. If I ever complain about the work I am privileged to do, let me buy you a ticket to come and reenact a Batman and Robin meme. The reduction of my energy to fumes was not to do with a dislike of the work or burnout from doing it; I simply signed myself up for too much of a good thing. I’m a bit of a “yes man” at heart. I love to please everyone at all times. This can be draining, despite the pleasure involved with actually making it happen. While most of us love what we do and that’s why we do it, from time to time, it pays to take a step back and reassess.
Most regular jobs give a worker a week or two, possibly more, every year to spend time completely away from work and free their minds for a while. As the CEOs and freelancers of the world will know, it can be really difficult to do this for us, as we’re responsible for more than completing one task in a larger machine. The machine is our responsibility. Simply stepping away from it and hoping it will continue to do what it does is a much more involved task for us.
So, I spent a month taking the time to complete my backlog of client work, make my backups, get those couple of blogs for my own site done that I’d been wanting to do for months, catch up with some friends, and cycle the river paths of Seoul. I slept late when I could and took the time to assess the work I’ve been doing and revitalize my desire to continue working this much. I even took a couple of trips with friends to see Korea's beautiful autumn scenery, something I have missed for several years, as it's our busiest time of year for photography here. All in all, by big-city standards, I took it easy for a month.
One of the biggest benefits of taking this time off, however, was being able to create for the sake of creating. I love to document my daily life, the coffees I drink with my wife, the short trips we take, and the streets of Seoul as I move between locations. Creating without consequence is a freeing activity that really set me back on the right track to be able to come back to all of my other commitments. I made more inconsequential images over my hiatus than I've made in a long time. I wasn't answering to anyone, not even myself. This was a treat!
It was about two weeks into this while I was tossing out all the emails that I hadn’t had time to open that I came across a mail-out from David DuChemin announcing that he’d started a new podcast, A Beautiful Anarchy. There were four episodes up when I opened the site, but it was the second episode that caught my eye: OVERWHELMED. That one word pretty much summed up how I’d been feeling, so I made a cup of coffee, put my feet on the desk, and listened to what the man had to say.
The next 13 minutes and 41 seconds were quite cathartic. It was good to know that someone else was feeling the weight of taking on too much — not only that, but someone as prolific as David DuChemin. A man with dozens of books and workshops under his belt and thousands of photographs online had taken the time to create yet another piece of work describing how, at times, it all gets the best of him, too. It was a comforting few minutes of relaxation and a fine cup of coffee to boot.
So, what am I getting at here? This isn’t a post to elicit pity or comfort from our readers. Nor is it a post to advertise DuChemin’s new podcast (though you really should give it a listen). This was just something I needed to write. I needed to bare my soul a little, put into the world the things that were going on, and put them to rest so I can focus on what’s to come.
I hope that, in some small way, this post helps anyone who may be struggling under the never-ending workload we sometimes subject ourselves to. Don’t let the to-do list be your master. Take some time, prioritize, and reset if you need to.