Taking time off even from time off.

From a shoot on Monday. The GH4 hardwired to a big strobe box.

I have what I suspect is a nasty habit and I'm further convinced that most of the people I know have it too. It's the need to be constantly busy even when there's no need to be constantly busy. I've worked a bit in June and July and ample cash is flowing through the business. My body and my spirit want to take time to sit and contemplate and enjoy just being on the couch in the sun drenched living room, drifting in and out of sleep and tickling the Studio Dog's tummy with my bare toes. I don't even want to pick up the novel I've been trying to read through and "get some reading done." In fact, I don't really want to participate in anything that requires me to think about a process that ends with "done."

But my usual way of being is to keep my plate full of commitments. If I'm not writing I'm marketing. If I'm not marketing I'm shooting and when I'm finished shooting for clients my frenetic mind wants me to keep on moving like a perpetual motion machine and so when free time comes along I let my linear brain boss me around and send me out into the world with a camera and a lens and an agenda that's loosely predicated on "experimenting with new photography". Getting some practice in. Grabbing some images that I can use on the blog. But sometimes the forced photo leisure just flies apart and becomes a forced march through a landscape denuded of interest by my own lack of engagement. 

I think that certain strata of our culture feel useless if not wearing the yoke and plowing the fields of commerce. And yet, our underlying ideal; at least the one we give lip service to, is that one day our work in the vineyards of commerce will produce the wine of leisure and we'll enjoy it. 

But will we (collectively) ever know when to let go? I think it's all tied to worry. I'm sure I worry, on some level, that if I am not constantly available to my clients they'll find a path of less resistance and come across someone who can be available 120% of the time. I am certain on some level just below the surface of rational thought that if I buy something like an expensive lens or a computer all work will cease and all cash will stop flowing in some balancing action of nature that's meant to punish my hubris in buying these things in the first place. 

I worry that if I don't write a blog a day that my readership will slowly fall off and the community I've worked to build will relocate to a livelier location on the web. Someplace where they can be guaranteed constant action and adventure. I'll lose whatever audience I've earned and become isolated and bounded by physical geography. 

The thought has crossed my mind that if I don't learn how to disengage at times when it's appropriate I may never be able to enjoy doing nothing. I'll be unable to sit quietly and meditate and push out all the restless activity of my mind in a quiet quest to find some balance and harmony. 

In so many ways photography becomes an analogy for my life. When the jobs are flowing I see myself as successful. When the jobs stop I have failed. When I buy new gear I am bolstered and a bit more invincible. When I don't buy new gear and don't "keep up" I feel like I am diminished and vulnerable. When clients call I feel appreciated and valued. When the phone doesn't ring and the e-mail is empty I feel abandoned and sidelined. 

This can't be a good way to look at life. There have to be moments of recharge and rest. It's good to step away and come back with new energy. I took a step forward today. After lunch I put away all the cameras and turned of the studio phone and the cell phone. I put the computer to sleep. I took a nap. I hung out with no agenda on the couch. I made it through the afternoon without doing one traditionally "constructive" or "productive" activity. Nothing that moves anyone's ball forward and nothing that will "move needles" or "create new synergies."  The postman came by late in the day with various notices, letters and bills. One was a bill for the new computer. I went out into the studio, wrote a check and then left and locked the door. I headed back to the couch where I am planning to do something I so rarely do......I am going to "waste time" and watch something mindless on TV. 

Being busy and productive can be highly overrated. 

The big strobe box hardwired to a Panasonic GH4.


HBernstein said...

Your personality is in line with your success. To succeed in business, a person better be busy.

Not everyone can be that way, but finding a creative path and sticking to it takes real persistance.

Anonymous said...

Many Americans seem to have either OCD or OCPD. Many also suffer from Protestant Work Ethic.

What make you endlessly fascinating, to me, is all your quirks. If someone says to you "get a life" please don't pay any attention to them :-)

Anonymous said...

As honest a post as I have ever read.

Larry Cordeiro said...

The only way for you to "take time off even from time off" will be to make "time off" an actual project. Now that's your next assignment. How about a "road trip" with minimal gear, say one camera body, and one or two lenses.

Larry C.

Mike Rosiak said...

Quoting the very wise Kurt Vonnegut, "I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different."

Now, if only I can convince myself of that.

KeithM said...

I suspect your succinctly written thoughts will strike a chord with many of your readers Kirk. Certainly did with me! Great post. And regards to 'studio dog' who I'm sure would be a good role model for avoiding "done" tasks.

Mike Rosiak said...

I just want to say that, I think you are brave to be doing what you do. Yes, your mood may rise and fall with the work and billable backlog, but you have been successful in not only generating an income, but in also taking care of your self, your family, and your health. Your self-awareness informs your writing, and it's the insights you provide into the business, the life, the environment that bring me to your blog every day. Sure, stories about the hardware stuff is fun, but there already is a lot of that available. (But don't stop!) I would sorely miss it if you no longer wrote in such an honest and self-reflective way about all of your goings-on.

Michael Matthews said...

Or you could get to work on Book 2.

maxx said...

Every word of this astute observation is so true. I feel the same!

Anonymous said...

To help you enjoy downtime--marijuana. No more than one joint, no more than once a week.
Jerry Kircus

Yoram Nevo said...

"I like that too," said Christopher Robin, "but what I
like doing best is Nothing."
"How do you do Nothing?" asked Pooh, after he had
wondered for a long time.
"Well, it's when people call out at you just as you're
going off to do it 'What are you going to do, Christopher
Robin?' and you say 'Oh, nothing,' and then you go and do it."
"Oh, I see," said Pooh.
"This is a nothing sort of thing that we're doing now."
"Oh, I see," said Pooh again.
"It means just going along, listening to all the things
you can't hear, and not bothering."
"Oh!" said Pooh.