Self-Employed Sick Days

Believe it or not, there are the occasional nights where I don’t sleep like a saint. Seems probable that most of us have those evenings where the dreams don’t come and instead you’re glancing at the clock at witching-hour intervals wondering what act caused you to deserve this overnight hell.

Back when I worked the usual job, these surreal cascades through the grim dark were made more terrible by the threat of 8 A.M. meetings. By a commute and the prospect of morning traffic. At the idea of forced interaction with people who expected me to be useful in some capacity. So I faced those mornings with a battery of espresso – a false economy of energy that inevitably led to collapse, but usually after the main events of the day. Nobody cared if I fell to zombie-like pieces at 6 P.M.

However – I don’t have those meetings. Don’t have a commute. Don’t have a thousand emails to answer or calls to make. But I do have that curse for those of us in creative professions – advancing our careers generally requires exercising our minds in ways that aren’t quite so simple. Building a world from nothing, creating snappy dialogue, or even just deciding what project comes next often requires an elaborate dance between you and your muse. Doing that tango when you’re feeling like a droopy sloth is, to say the least, a daunting prospect.

Take the day off, you say?

Of course! Lounge and watch all the films. Attempt to ignore playful pestering of the feline creatures. Nap the hours away.

When you have an array of corporate-sanctioned sick days at your back, ghosting for a Thursday isn’t a big deal. You’ll still get paid, and various others will fill in for your essential duties (or, you know, you’ll still make some calls because you’re a rock star, but at least you’ll skip the commute).

When you’re all you’ve got, sick days become a matter of evaluation. A look at what the intended production was for that day, and what parts you can and can’t push back. If, for example, you have a book launch coming up, you might need to power through (see battery of espresso, above). If it’s primarily editing, or jotting down new words, maybe you adjust your goals for that day to be in line with the crappiness of life. If you’ve built up that backlist, or have things running smoothly that you can skip the daily touch, then by all means lounge and love it.

For me, at this point, days when I’m not feeling well are exercises in compromise – what’s necessary, and what can be bumped. There is no default “I’m not doing anything today” – because this car/train/metaphorical-vehicle-of-choice only moves when my foot is on the pedal.

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