List Edition: Part 2
Last week in List Edition: Part One I ran down the mandatory items on my professional survival list. But this week we look at the personal side of things. Surviving the freelance life is really challenging. You are living with continual uncertainty and a workflow that is inconsistent; sometimes light and often super heavy. I have created some rituals in my life that have helped keep me sane within the craziness. So here we go: one more week of list-y-ness.
I try and journal first thing in the morning. My approach to journaling is the concept dubbed Morning Pages by Julie Cameron. On those pages I empty out everything that is on my mind so I have a clearer mind going into the day. Sometimes I don’t journal for a few days. This is usually when I am trying to avoid something on my mind and it never serves me. I try and remember that fact and journal as consistently as possible. It is better to face what is going on in my own head than leave it there and have it distract me while I am trying to work.
When my schedule is under my control my journaling is followed immediately by yoga. I don’t go to a studio, I do an at home practice – Yoga With Adriene. I can choose the length of my practice and also what it is going to be focusing on. I try and really be present while I do this and have this as time for myself and my body. A way to unscrunch myself before sitting down at the midi keyboard. A moving meditation and another way to clear my head. I have now been doing yoga every day for almost a year and a half and I absolutely love it. It is just so helpful.
Yoga usually starts my day and walking is how I end it, before the sun goes down. I try and walk 2 miles every day. The more stressful the day, the harder the walk I try to do. On Friday I had a super hard day and on my walk I passed by one of those fantastic long sets of stairs that LA has a bunch of. I went up those stairs as quickly as I could handle. I could barely breathe when I made it to the top but it felt like that stressful energy that had been pushing me down all day lifted a little. Given the day I had I should have probably gone up and down a few more times…..
My dad says “Stress the body as much as you stress the mind” and he has a good point. When work gets crazy those walks become mandatory, saving my sanity while also keeping me healthy.
This is a new thing I have been trying out. The goal is to fast for 16 hours and eat for 8. I have been trying it for the last two weeks and I really like the impact it has made on my daily life. I eat from 12.30 to 8.30 p.m. and then I don’t eat the rest of the time, although I can drink water or tea and black coffee. It was a surprise for me how much I had eaten before and it is challenging to have my evening meal by 8.30. It was also a surprise that after I had settled into this routine I didn’t wake up starving. There are supposed to be a lot of health benefits so I am going to stick with it a while. Generally it has made me simply feel good and I think it is also helping me sleep better, so I am going to see how long I can keep it up.
I am trying to get better at listening to my body. When I need rest I try and listen and do it immediately. I want to live a sustainable life and I have personally experienced the downside of ignoring what your body is telling you and “pushing through the pain”.
I don’t know if you have noticed the scar I have over my left eye. A number of years ago I was in a really stressful period of my life, I was feeling woozy every now and then and I had a lot of work going on. Instead of slowing down I basically did the opposite. I made really bad choices. This lead to me fainting into the door of my studio, slicing my head open (almost my eye) and having to be rushed to hospital. It was stressful for me, my loved ones, and it was (of course) expensive! There seems to often be this glorification of working yourself to death. I don’t get it. Health issues are real. Diminishing returns are real. Listen to your body and rest when you can.
I try and get 7-8 hours of sleep every night. I set an alarm for the eight hour mark and usually my body wakes me up by about 7.5 hours. I have worked many different jobs where I had to get up at a certain time so, even though my life right now involves a lot of very hard work, I still feel incredibly privileged that almost every day I get to wake up when my body is ready to. That’s amazing and I use it as a gratitude marker.
I live and work in the same place so it is especially important that my home feels comfy. Even though I work here (and I have a specific work area where that happens) I try and make the rest of my home comfy, cosy and a place where I can rest and relax. In order for me personally to be able to feel at rest, I need that space to be clean, clutter free, and with visual evidence of those who love me. I have pictures of my loved ones around my space. I have lots of places where my cats can curl up and rest. I have never felt as home in a place as I do in my place now, and it is really helpful, especially on hard days.
Having a change of scenery I think it helpful wherever you live, but I have especially needed that living in LA. This town has a rhythm and energy to it that is absolutely relentless. I love it. I feel it and it keeps me going…..until it completely wears me down. And then I gotta get outta here!! In the last year I have made more of a priority to escape even if it is for 24 hours or a daytrip. That change is a breath of fresh air and I come back to my LA life energized.
Even if I can’t leave LA, I need to get to the ocean. Maybe for you it isn’t the ocean, it is the mountains or the forest. I am an Island girl, from Tasmania, and I need that connection with the water. When I am by the Pacific Ocean I feel close to my family, and I feel more in touch with myself. It’s everything. I can’t explain it but it is very real.
Do the Dishes
This is very important for me, especially on a Sunday night. Nothing like walking into a kitchen free of dirty dishes on a Monday morning to help me feel I am starting the week right. At this point you may think I am crazy, perhaps this is a step too far. A little OCD perhaps. But it is fascinating to me how little things like this have a significant impact on the psyche. When I am doing the dishes on Sunday night, I know why I am doing it and it helps me gear up for the new week. I’m thinking about the goals of the week, the to do list I have written. It is a ritual of preparation. Being prepared is never a bad thing.
Put Good Stuff In
This applies to 1. food and 2. media. I try and eat a veggie forward diet and keep the sugar intake low. A good diet is especially so key when work is crazy. But this also applies to what you watch and read. Especially in the era of Trump I do my best to stay informed so I’m ready to vote, but I have an extremely light news diet. I am required to create on demand and if I am constantly riled up and freaked out by the latest news report – which is designed specifically to create an emotional reaction – then I know I am not going to be at my best. What goes in comes out. So I am mindful of that with everything I physically and mentally/emotionally take in.
Spend Time With Friends
Dedicating time to be with your dear ones is so important. When you are freelance it can be too easy to go for long periods without scheduling quality time with friends. Friendships, like everything else, require maintenance. They shouldn’t be sacrificed on the alter of work. Spend time with your people.
Allow Free Time By Yourself
It is just as important to have alone time for yourself when you are not working. This will help with have a sustainable existence while dealing with stressful periods of work. Learning to be OK by yourself is a key aspect of the adult journey – not always easy! But so important.
One of the great things you can do in these times is take yourself out for an Artist Date – another Julie Cameron idea. You go a do something that makes your inner creative feels special. For me this includes seeing a movie by myself, or going and buying a new journal and a nice fancy pen. Or just chilling at a bookstore for an hour or so. Or sitting in a coffee shop or restaurant and reading a book.
I also always on the search for things to do that still feels creative but isn’t music. Writing this blog has been great for that. Also: cooking! So fun, a wonderful creative outlet (and it involves eating which I really enjoy doing). Sometimes rest doesn’t mean stopping, it just means doing something else that is refreshing, fun and is a break from the norm.
I love to read but it is too easy to let that habit slip. I am now trying to read before sleep every night. Google “why reading is important” to be hit with a million reasons. It is so good for you. But also I just love it. It was a huge part of my upbringing and I am so grateful for the ability to disappear into the written word. I find it another way to rest the mind while also engaging it.
I am so bad at this but working on getting better. It is amazing to me how I create music for a living but can go for long stints without getting out to a show – any kind of show. Pop, rock, jazz, orchestral. It is all so good. Every time I see live music I am inspired, encouraged and itching to create. It is also a great way to be a part of that important aspect of our community. Support our gigging musicians peers.
Conclusion: Life On Your Own Terms
In this edition of the blog I have mentioned stress and hard work a lot because May has been really heavy for me. As I am sitting here writing to you, I’m facing a very intense week ahead. When I have weeks like this, the lists I have shared with you the last two weeks become so important. I don’t want to fall apart when things get intense. I want to be even more solid. I know that if I follow these rituals I have put in place, I am more likely to achieve that.
This freelance life is a marathon, not a sprint, so I am constantly exploring ways to have a more sustainable and enjoyable existence. This is it for me. I want to be writing and producing music for media for the rest of my life. Now it is a matter of creating a working formula where each day can be great, even when work is heavy, even when there’s stress and the stakes feel high. Every day, every moment, is precious. I am dedicating my life to making the most of every second.