As I prepare for my upcoming holiday to Paris–wrapping up sewing projects for the trip and getting work in order so things can carry on as normal while I'm away–I'm reminded of a post I wrote last year while away on holiday. Titled, Thoughts on Taking a Break from Sewing, it really seemed to resonate with a lot of you too. Sadly, since writing it I have moved my blog to this new dedicated domain and the comments were lost, but they were good, trust me! As this is a topic that is discussed a lot among me and my fellow indie sewing ladies, as well as my many friends that work for themselves, I thought this was a perfect time to revisit the thought of taking breaks from your work and your everyday life.
For me, turning the love of sewing and patternmaking into a job comes with incredible highs and intense lows. The highs are when things are balanced and everyone is loving your work, and there are exciting prospects on the horizon. The lows are when the life/work balance is out of whack, things don't seem to be moving smoothly, and you take criticism of your product as a personal attack. When what you do is so linked to who you are, it's easy to get really wrapped up in it.
I have done a pretty great job of taking real holidays every year–traveling to Europe, weekend escapes to Palm Springs with my girlfriends, quick trips to San Francisco and Tahoe–but like many of us that work for ourselves, I've not done the best job of taking breaks between holidays. Evenings and weekends and national holidays are time off for the typical 9-5 worker, but not so much for me. But I've gotten better at it, and as of late, I've stepped up my game even more: no longer communicating with customers on social media off hours, no checking/answering emails off hours, and setting up a personal private Instagram account where I can live a private non-work life. It has always said on my website that office hours are Monday–Friday, 10am–6pm Pacific Time, and I've broken that rule time and time again, but not anymore. If you email me or ask me a question on IG at midnight on Friday, I'll get to you when I'm back to work on Monday, just like when I worked in an office.
So, what was the advice from the post I wrote last year and how might this apply to you and your life? Here are the original bullet points, and new thoughts on each item. To see what I wrote on these topics a year ago, read the original post here.
1. Go somewhere foreign to you.
For me, one of the best gifts I give to myself is to drop myself into an uncomfortable and unknown situation. You might be saying to yourself, hmmm Christine, that doesn't sound fun at all! On one hand, you're right! It might not be fun. But you won't know that until you do it. That's why it's the unknown. Traveling to a place that is foreign to me, and/or where I don't speak the language very well, is the most challenging and rewarding experience ever. I have learned to be a much better observer, watching others as they do the thing I plan to do (buy a train ticket, use an exit, etc), and relying on my visual instincts to guide me in the foreign land. It has taught me to ask myself questions on how to solve things in the moment internally, instead of out loud to others, and has showed me that life goes on even when you make mistakes. It's wonderfully humbling, and that is wonderfully healthy.
2. Give Yourself Time to Think
This past weekend I was talking with some friends about a long weekend to Palm Springs I'm taking later this year, and they asked me what I do when I'm there. Read? They asked. Not really... mostly I use the time to think, daydream, and allow my imagination to wander in my sketchbook, I said. There are tons of scientific studies that link daydreaming and creativity, and for me it's absolutely true. My best moments in my sketchbook are those when I'm quiet with my own thoughts, allowing my brain to go where it wants to, fueling me with ideas. A lot of people associate being alone and quiet with being lonely, but they aren't the same at all. Give yourself a moment to be in your own thoughts. You never know what you might discover!
3. Get Lost
I know this is crazy to some people, but I love getting lost. I don't want to put myself into a potentially dangerous situation, but the idea of being off the grid and wandering with no where to be is thrilling to me. I always have a map with me somewhere for emergencies, but I don't go to it unless I really need to be redirected in a major way. I don't use GPS in my rental cars when on holiday (again, unless I'm in a dangerous situation), and I do not wander the streets of the foreign place I'm visiting with a map in my hand, ever. (OMG those people with their maps and fanny packs!) You will miss SO MUCH along the way if you are that focused on getting from point A to point B. Enjoy the way there, and allow yourself to not actually get there, as you might find something else en route that is worth stopping for!
4. Take Notes
Going back to the idea of allowing your imagination to wander, be sure to write things down along the way. I often just jot down a sentence that will remind me of something I saw, or a quick sketch of something to revisit later with greater detail. You think you'll remember all you saw and did, but you won't. So give yourself visual and verbal cues to draw upon after the trip is over. I'm always flooded with so much visual stimulation that to fully process it in the moment might take more time that I have, but I can note it down, or take a quick photo of it, to come back to later.
5. Do Something Else
I love sewing and I have built my business and life around it, but that's not the only creative outlet I have. I have been painting and throwing ceramics since I was a child; I majored in Film, Video, & New Media in college; I love shooting photos; and have loads of other creative outlets. Last year on holiday I rekindled my love of watercolors, and I did a lot of cooking. This year on my trip, I'm taking my 35mm camera with me to shoot photos, and I'm continuing my love of ballet and enrolling in ballet classes in Paris. I find that each creative outlet fuels the other, so if you find you're only sewing all the time, try something else to mix it up.
6. End the Race
I must say I've gotten better about this one in general, but it's always good to step out of the cycle of "what's new" and "what's next" in the world of indie patterns and remind yourself why you love it in the first place. Keeping up with the rat race can be hard and gaining some perspective on it is so healthy.
What tips do you have for balancing your life and work? This is all from my very specific perspective, but I think everyone struggles to balance this to a certain degree. And my issues are nothing compared to those that have much more important jobs, like working in hospitals or homeless shelters. I welcome your feedback and would love to hear what your struggles and resolutions are!