Paula Pant, who writes the Afford Anything blog, has been a freelance writer since 2010. Recently she posted some excellent advice on Instagram:
The time that you spend going to the gym, practicing yoga, writing in your journal or connecting with a close friend on the phone is not time that you are spending away from work.
Self-care is part of your work.
Even laptops need to recharge.
Paula is a very wise woman. Freelancers would do well to listen to her advice about self-care – especially at this time of year.
In November and December we are buffeted by invitations and obligations: parties, dinners, shopping, caroling, decorating, wrapping, hosting. Maybe you want to host a Friendsgiving or a holiday open house. If you volunteer, or are involved in community theater or music, this time of year is an utter whirlwind. And if children are in your life, then the holidays can really be a blast – an exhausting blast.
So much joy at this time of year, yet the holidays can be physically and psychologically demanding even for someone with a regular schedule and a decently paid job. If you’re a full-time freelancer who hasn’t quite hit the sweet spot of regular income, the holidays can be exhausting.
You’ve got to make time for these special events, which could mean neglecting pitches and writing. You need to find the money to cover activities and gifts. If you attend too many events and party a little too hearty, you could be looking at lost income.
And if you’re writing part-time in addition to a day job, well, good heavens, when do you actually sleep?
Does this mean you shouldn’t enjoy the holidays? On the contrary: It’s a great time to enjoy your favorite cultural or religious traditions. If you’re lucky, you’ll get the chance to learn about other people’s holidays – getting invited to a Hannukah party or a Kwanzaa celebration.
But please, please pace yourself. As Paula noted, self-care is part of your work. Stay as steady as possible with exercise practices. Be vigilant about getting enough sleep. Eat at least some healthy food before hovering up those rich appetizers and cookie platters. Watch alcohol intake, too; guzzle at least as much water as wassail.
This isn’t just about current deadlines, either. When you’re pulled in numerous directions, missing out on sleep and obsessing over making the perfect pepperkakor, what are the odds that you’ll be on top of your game when it comes to story pitches? Come January, you might find yourself with too few (or zero) assignments.
On the bright side, some of these holiday activities – parties, dinners, volunteer gigs – could yield new contacts and assignments for you. Again, though, if you’re not firing on all cylinders then you could fail to take advantage of these opportunities.
Work to achieve balance among your usual obligations and multiple holiday activities. Otherwise, something will have to give – and it might just be you.