Friday, October 3, 2014

Royal Fatigue

The glorification and glamorization of busy.


-- Bertrand Russell

Disclaimer: this primarily of advice to myself and to my fellow entrepreneurs. It may be applicable to most of you reading, but please do not take offense if you truly believe that your use of time and your attitude about that does not apply to these words.

For a few years now my life has gradually become an invisible but full fledged tax write-off. I categorize every experience as if it were an expense. Those time expenses that can benefit my workflow or my business and general survival -- so that my brand will live too. Gone is rest and leisure unless categorized under "reference material" or "studying" -- all for the purpose of applying any sort of profitable time into work. I have trained myself to become a workaholic to the point that my body physically reacts negatively to rest. My body will not allow itself to relax. It's the strangest and most contradictory form of selfishness I've come to know.

I've been reflecting on these problems for months and constantly find myself struggling with it. I struggle with balancing living life and the pressures of productivity like a smoker who has been working on quitting for a decade. I realized a few things during this time. It's not just me. This is as much a cultural norm as pumpkin flavoring in the fall.

I thought for forever that I was simply genetically predisposed to have obsessive work ethic. Members of my family have literally gone nuts as a result of nipping these behaviors in the bud too late. But then, after those people in my family fixed themselves, I wondered what it was that still seemed to pressure me to be twice as productive as the day before. I of course am responsible for my actions, but something outside of my own attitude still loomed over me. 

I want to be productive, I want to use my time wisely, and I want to benefit from my work... But what room for benefit do I have if all of my time is spent working?

I soon started to notice, mostly upon my fellow entrepreneur friends, that rest and leisure are now seen as an expensive luxury, instead of as necessity. It's a rare treat you receive after traveling X amount of miles or answering Y amount of emails. All normalcy looked as if it had escaped from my fellow artists' lives. Their work is their life. As is mine. 

Being too tired is so glamorous, isn't it? Busyness and fatigue are badges. Those badges no longer represent fathers and mothers who have resentful children because they're not really with them even when their parents are present. Those symbols project "I'm going places, I'm getting more done than you are therefore I am more successful, I am worth more, I'm tired because the world needs every moment of mine, I'm busy because I'm important, I'm important." 

You know how you feel when you look at old Hollywood photos? The glamour in partying, leisure, vacation, gigantic libraries, camping. It was all so gorgeous and interesting. Now, all my feeds tend to be about hopping planes to New York, reading books for blogs, meeting friends for meetings, and posting photos of food from those meetings. Is there nothing left for ourselves to be done in private, anymore? Nothing that can't be judged by our followers/subscribers/customers? 

Say you are very good at balancing your business and you life. That's great. You put your computer away at five and take the rest of the day for yourself. But. Now I'm guilty of this. You're also the first person to take a photo of your glass of wine or your meal or you cuddling your cat. Like how a new mother shows off her child. You are making your recharging time your work. Any person with a business knows that social media can be a full time job. Stop that. This time is for you, not a chance for 73,000 other people to give you their opinions on your food and drink. These photos or your Netflix binge and check-ins to restaurants at airports and clubs in big cities become their own badges. A public pat on the back for a reward that you allowed yourself to experience because you were productive. Let everyone know you deserve this slice of pizza today because you finished an eight hour shoot.

You could have called your mom in the time it took for you to choose a filter and come up with something interesting to say. What of those two thing is more valuable than the other? The last time I talked to my mom was almost two weeks ago. Not because I don't want to, it's just that doing anything outside of working sounds like the most daunting task in the world. Ironic, right?

Now, I know all too well the importance of social networking. It seriously almost does require 24 hour activity in order to sustain relevance. But it must to stop somewhere.

Since I've been in Nashville I've been trying to get out more. Going to events and parties and openings and the like. It's been a blast and I've met some interesting people. But let's be honest. It's been for work. Not just for the sake of it being fun. It's networking. It's making appearances to tweet about later. I probably would have had a lot more fun if I wasn't thinking about what other people thought about my work or what I was going to say about my going out later.

We are not super humans. When we try to expect that kind of performance from ourselves, we will always fail and that feels awful. Particularly for a person like you and I. Every day this week has been awful for me. I ran out of juice. 

It's an ugly cycle. Getting up before the sun does, fitting in a workout, coming home for breakfast, ripping into work during breakfast, taking a break to shower, and then spending the next twelve hours finding and making up ways to be productive... there's not enough coffee or B12 in the world to sustain that kind of lifestyle consistently. And I know that. But I still do it. I fear losing the glamour of busy. I fear sitting with only myself and focusing only on what's in my head because I know there's not a whole lot left in there at the moment other than a to do list for tomorrow or the movie I watched last night. This makes me so tired, but not in the ethereal moody way you see on tumblr. 

A popular internet figure posted this pretty photo on their tumblr. It's partially what compelled me to write all of this. This is another somewhat relevant piece of media that came to my attention after finishing this photo set.

This week I've been too tired to work the way I usually do, but have also acquired a tremendous amount of guilt from being normal and watching an entire Netflix documentary without editing photos or video or checking email while doing so. That moment I took for myself felt wasted, but waste and productivity can mean completely different things to the next person. For me, it was an accomplishment.

Give yourself some credit. Stop trying to feel guilty. For me, reading a chapter in a book is an accomplishment. If I can do that without checking my email, I've done a good for that day. For some of you, being productive might mean getting the kids to school alive. That's great. Don't define your levels of success, productivity, or even leisure based on your favorite model on instagram. You will make yourself sick. It happened to me because of me. So be wary of your expectations of yourself as well. Your self worth is not measured by your busyness, whether it be private or public.

I'm going to work much harder on this in the next couple of weeks and I'll report back to you with a few new photos as well. I encourage you to at least reflect on your attitude toward yourself in correlation with time. Perhaps considering if it's something you need to tweak some. Maybe you don't need to change at all. But we would never know that unless you took a break to think about it, right?

Please feel free to supply your thoughts on this matter or to follow up with me if you have decided to change anything!


  1. Cassie, I wasn't sure what to expect with this post, but you always surpass anything my brain could have concocted anyway. This was a fabulous read and heavily 'felt' as I also struggle with these issues. Ghost and I actually talk about this a LOT lately.

    Honored to be among your creative colleagues,

  2. "Doing anything outside of working sounds like the most daunting task in the world." — This statement perfectly sums up my life. I have a strange aversion to opening text messages on my phone because responding to a friend – or even worse, initiating a conversation – takes away from my work time and feels painfully tedious.

  3. It's very interesting to read this side of the coin. We would believe that people like you have encountered a balance in their life that allows them to administer their social media in a way that doesn't take over your personal life. That's part of what I admire of the people I follow. I feel that honesty and passion is the most important thing when you share something, and in your case it feels that way in every picture, which is great, and it's not just a part of your brand, it is actually you. I think you need to forgive yourself and just as you made yourself a workaholic, you can make yourself calm down a bit and enjoy the moments of silence. I understand it is the most difficult thing in the world, to make your brain shut up when you have a billion things to do and another billion mails to answer. It took me three years to recover of a burn out, and in all that time it doesn't mean I didn't do anything. I just gave myself the chance to be at peace with doing things very slow, because (and it took me a while to understand) my health comes first, and without it, I can't do anything. I would recommend treating rest as seriously as work, and add spaces to your agenda or daily schedule as if they were tasks, because if you wait for the day when you feel like "now it's the time to rest", you will keep on waiting until that time comes in a form of a burn out. I speak from personal experience, it was horrible and when you get better eventually, you're left being even more vulnerable to it happening again that ever before, so you feel like walking on eggshells all the time. Remember that, because you're an artist, your whole work is based on your very existence. That means the message or feeling, or even aesthetics that you wish to express through your work are based on who you are, on your life experiences. In a burn out, all of this is taken from you in a form of the most crippling depression. What will be left? What could you possibly express? That's why I stress the importance of rest. You are doing yourself a disservice in your personal and professional life if you do not teach yourself how to find a way for your body to rest. If you do it well, your work and social media presence will not get diminished. You're just working in a smarter way. Take care ♥

  4. Very well written and gave me a lot of food for thought, thanks for the great read and content as always! -Lindsay of Sheaves

  5. I've been thinking about this since you first posted it and I'm excited for the second installment on this topic. While I agree that social media can be all consuming, I haven't yet figured out a strategy or pace that's slow and successful for promoting work. It seems as an artist or entrepreneur, if you don't post something interesting daily or at least weekly, you're quickly forgotten.

  6. My empathy is great. I obsessively try to spend every waking moment toward furthering my business and creative endeavors. Every night I tell myself that tomorrow I will knock out a veritable grocery list's worth of productivity, only to wake up around eleven in the morning, feeling as if I've been mowed over by a large vehicle the night before. My relationship has been taxed at times because I would rather stay home and work than go out, anywhere. My failure comes in the form of low stamina; a perpetual tiredness of which I have next to no control. It may be chronic fatigue, it may be fibro, or it may be something else entirely, but I am incapable of rising with the sun. I agonize over my inability to hold a full day without collapsing to rest several times throughout the hours. I am also very tedious, methodical, meticulous, and a perfectionist in everything that I do. I work very slowly because of this, and this too inhibits my productivity. I happen to love working myself to the bone and earning exhaustion, but more often than not, I am exhausted before I've even risen from bed. I hardly bother with social networking anymore either, because taking photographs of anything, let alone my own face, becomes a full-blown production of perfection! Who has time to find the perfect angle for this pasta? I'll die of starvation before I've done so adequately! I live my life mostly in the shadows now; I don't even have a Facebook account anymore. Fact of the matter, I would love to experience nothing more than the well-earned, worn-out tiredness, instead of this relentless exhaustion, but still I push myself to remain productive; even if all I have finished within an entire day is a chore or two, a slew of tumblr reblogs, and a few jewelry orders. We are not alone.


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