The Workaholic Pedestal
We freelancers have a tendency to never truly be away from our work, regardless of the time or day of the week. Especially if like me, your work station is in your home. We work long hours and dedicate ourselves fully to whatever project we have at hand. We loose sleep, skip social gatherings, eat whatever is quick and easy so we can get back to work. I have noticed that there is a sense of pride in general among freelancers that we are so in love with our work that we can dedicate ourselves this way. Passion for your chosen profession is definitely a plus!
However, I have also observed a downside to this part of freelancing. That dedication can cross the line into an unhealthy workaholic lifestyle, and other freelancers actually encourage it. There is an underlying unspoken rule in freelancer culture that if you’re not working, you’re slacking. I’ve seen other freelancers take subtle stabs at their peers for taking time off to see family, to tend to daily life, or to just have a day (or three) to simply BREATHE and do something other than art. Doing things like comparing your work load with others’ work load, making yourself out to be the harder working one. Referring to things like showering, cooking, and cleaning as “free time” or “vacation”. It creates or adds to guilt surrounding work, which is really not a nice thing to do to your friends and peers.
The disclaimer here is that clearly not every freelancer does this, and I think those that do are not being purposefully malicious, so please don’t misread this as an attack. I’m guilty of playing into this myself, we are just falling into a part of the starving artist stereotype; The idea that your chosen craft/art must encompass ALL of your being, every day and every moment for you to truly be passionate about it.
The truth is, there IS life outside of art and work, and it’s not a contest. We are living beings that must eat and sleep, and we are social animals that must have a connection with others. So not only do we HAVE to do things other than art, but it’s also ok to spend time doing other things that make you happy. It doesn’t mean you are less passionate about your work, or that other artists who spend more time on theirs love it more.
And yes, there are deadlines we must work under. But none of us want to be starving artists. None of us enjoy loosing sleep, eating crappy or skipping meals, working our fingers to the bone, letting friendships fall apart… These are not good things. You aren’t a cooler or more a passionate artist for making those sacrifices. So I think instead of putting that lifestyle on a pedestal, we should be encouraging one another to take time to care for ourselves, and to have a life outside of their work. Just like anyone else doing any other kind of work. =)
I feel so lucky to follow so many talented and skillful artists on various websites, Facebook specifically. They’re cool and very nice people and exceedingly helpful to those struggling with art. But my goodness, I swear this freelance business is boosting some of their egos just a tad too much, to the point where the same artist(s) will post a status about freelance almost daily. These posts range from how to deal with freelance and the benefits (good), the scary realities of freelance (not as good but helpful) to judging how other freelancer’s work (not good at all), to making condescending comparisons about other people’s jobs entirely (bad!). They become the epitome of ‘The Workaholic Pedestal’ and could really benefit from reading this post.