The Big Sleep

All my adult life I’ve been bad at taking a break. That’s a break to rest, not a break to do alternative work. I’m pretty good at displacement: I’m writing this very blog at the time when I should be checking everything is ready to open my doors for the last day of my Open Studio. I realise that I sound immensely smug, but I’d like to suggest that soldiering on is weakness on my part, not strength, and that a relentless attention to work is nothing to be proud about.

Self employment as a creative is tough. In a world where there is no holiday pay, pension or sick pay, it is very easy to feel that most waking time should be spent either creating new work, doing paid work or seeking work. It’s easy to agree to taking on too much in case people suddenly decide to stop buying, learning or commissioning. Then there’s the personal need to move forward, experiment and develop which drives all artists (we are only as good as our last project after all). Add in the pressure of competition. I’m sure we’ve all had the ‘I stayed up all night to finish my project’ ‘All night? You were lucky! I worked 72 hours straight for mine’ conversation. Finally there is the subtle niggle of ‘what do artists do all day?’ (thanks for that snappy title BBC4) from those who just can’t see that putting ink on paper is really proper work.

Frankly I’m not sure you even have time to read this blog.

Recently I have been so busy that I’ve scared myself a little: mistakes creep in, things get missed, items lost and my goodwill and enthusiasm seeps sadly away. It’s not fair on my students, my clients and most of all my family. Nobody wants to work with a scatterbrain, even if the scattering is more to do with tiredness than charming creative eccentricity. The morning I found myself applying deodorant to my toothbrush I decided enough was enough and started booking in rest days among the work days. I’ve also decided that if I really can’t stop, I will have a power nap. Not sure where the power comes in, but the cat and I are working on it together during busy periods. I don’t feel guilty: I’m being professional and, believe me, the alternative isn’t big and it isn’t clever…

Author: Laura

Laura Boswell is a printmaker working exclusively with linocut and traditional Japanese woodblock printing. She has a degree in Art History/Visual Art from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth and has been elected to the Royal Society of Painter Printmakers.

2 thoughts on “The Big Sleep”

  1. Nail on head again Laura. I’m certainly guilty of this and this year has been terrible for it. Throwing myself back into practice, finishing my current postgrad and doing my job which consists of a never ending recruitment cycle! I love everything I do and have loved and lived it this year to the point where I got a bout of shingles which has taken the wind out of my slightly ragged sails! Time out required, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

  2. Years ago, when Brian and I were perhaps a little younger than you are now, our bank manager, exasperated by our inability to control our overdraft, lost his temper and told Brian to go out and get a proper job. Like you, Brian was self employed, no holidays, no pension, no sick pay. When times were good, he earned a lot – so we spent it.

    The bank manager’s remarks fell on deaf ears. We were outraged and took no notice. He was soon gone and his replacement was tolerant. He knew we worked all day and every day and that we were tired. He also recognised that we were happy. We still are.

    Coddle yourself when you are able. Buy a new sofa to go with your bad back – and use it. Remember that lying on a bed or on a sofa with a cat sitting on your chest may be good for the cat but it’s not good for Bad Backs.

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