“A book is a dream you hold in your hand.” – Neil Gaiman
It just hit me one day: I’m not getting any younger, I’m not going to randomly stumble across additional free time, and my novel isn’t going to write itself. It was this same day that I realized I needed to continue doing what I love and finding even more ways to fill my cup because it’s only been half full lately. Don’t get me wrong…a glass half full is great. But it was like being on cruise control for too long and it was time for a little acceleration.
My Silk + Sonder planner is one of the reasons I was able to prioritize self-care, healthy habits, and the things I love. I was easily doing more reading, writing, and focusing on projects that mattered to me because I made them a part of my schedule. I was even working on my novel every week. But something was missing. It didn’t feel productive or enjoyable like it used to. I wanted to find a way to prioritize this project while still making it fun and efficient. Then, the lightbulb turned on: PTO.
With the ongoing pandemic, the chances of me taking a vacation are non-existent right now. But I thought there was no reason why I still couldn’t take the day for myself. I’m a saver, so when it comes to earning things, it takes a while before I want to spend it whether it’s money or accrued time off. You could say I’m a little indecisive. 🤓
I was fast approaching burn out or was at least wading in the burnt out waters without fully realizing it. I needed time to unwind from the work week and pay more attention to my mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional needs. No one else was going to do it for me and I wasn’t going to magically get a gift that had extra time in a box for me to work on my novel and do more of the things I loved. I couldn’t wait for life to hand me these things because—reality check—it never will.
So I took my first day off in a long time that wasn’t a corporate holiday and it felt good. I told myself I would continue to plan for a day off every month or so because it was the best thing I could’ve done for myself. I started my day with yoga, sat on the office couch filling out my Silk + Sonder planner while my virtual coffee shop played in the background, and ate a healthy breakfast. After I got ready for the day, I started focusing on the things that would refill my cup: journaling, reading, getting some fresh air, enjoying one of my favorite TV series, and getting some things done around the house (Yes, cleaning is therapeutic for me. Outer order = inner calm).
I didn’t immediately pressure myself into writing or give myself an unrealistic deadline. Instead, I made a list of things I could do during my time off rather than things I had to do. I did them on my own terms and it was so much more enjoyable for that reason. I started working on my novel and promised myself that I would do it for at least 20 minutes and then I could stop. But I didn’t. I worked on it for 3 more hours and it felt good. This was such a drastic improvement since I had shelved the project for a couple years after grad school.
Sure, if I “wanted” it badly enough I could carve out 20 minutes or even an hour a day, but it wouldn’t be sustainable in the long run. I don’t want to reach burn out for a project that I’m passionate about. What would be the point? Moving forward, I’m going to be strategic about when I take days off and trying to enjoy as many 3- or 4-day weekends as I can because I deserve the time off. I work hard and I need time for myself to achieve my goals because it’s not always realistic to work on a novel after you’ve put 8-12 hours into your work world 5 days a week.
I’ve also never imagined that I’d be a writer who works all day on novel and publishes constantly mostly because it’s a hard lifestyle to achieve while supporting yourself and trying to build your career. In the end, it all comes down to the fact that I’m doing this for me and am trying to build my dream life. I’m going to publish the book. Then, I’m going to publish another. And I will have the life I deserve and the one I’m meant to have because I was destined for so much more than a 9-to-5. I see myself in my dream house with my office space that has a big, built-in bookshelf (one of those fancy ones with a ladder) that is full of my favorite novels. And mine is propped up there with a best-seller sticker right next to my degrees because I’m so damn proud of my accomplishments. Writing gives me life and purpose. It’s who I am. That’s why I’m doing this for me.