Oh, hello there! Remember me? I’m Anna. I used to have a blog—this one right here that you’re reading, in fact! I also used to have time to do things like tile bathrooms, vacuum, go outdoors, shower, cook, think, and sleep.
I’ve written plenty here about what I do for a living, and I think I’ve made it pretty clear that I like working in-house for a publishing company. I love it, in fact. I’ve been at my job for nearly 14 years now, and I have no desire say goodbye to my 9–5 job (which is really more like 9:30–6:30, but you know what I mean). There are times, though, when I like to design something that’s not a book cover. And sometimes I also think it might be nice to have a little extra cash. More than both of those things, though, I really like to help people and make stuff look nice.
So I started taking on some freelance design work. Which turned into lots of freelance design work. Which then became lots and lots of freelance design work. Before I knew it, I was working about 100 hours a week between my full-time job and my “night shift.” My freelance hours started to outnumber my full-time hours, leaving me with the equivalent of about 2½ full-time jobs.
And that’s not alright.
If you follow me on Twitter, then you are probably well aware of ever-increasing stress levels and ever-decreasing sleeping hours, since that’s all I really talk about anymore. I’m busy, I’m tired, I’m drinking coffee, I’m still awake, I’m busy, I’m going to have another coffee…and holy mackerel, I’m so tired. Ad nauseum.
After this weekend, I’m taking a break from doing freelance work for a while. I’m not sure how long, but I need to stop, step back, and think about what I really want to be getting out of the work that I’m electing to do in my free time. I’ve learned some lessons over the past few months:
1. It is okay to say no. I know that seems obvious, and I’m sure we all think we know already, but it’s hard for me to say no to people. I think this is especially true of those of use who truly LOVE what do for a living, either because we tend to see our work as an extension of our everyday lives, or because we honestly just like to make someone happy by saying YES. Also—and I know my fellow designers with sympathize—sometimes you don’t want to say no to a project because you worry that it will wind up in the hands of someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing, and then there will just be one more piece of bad design in the world. Yes, that is a completely self-important attitude loaded to the brim with ridiculousness, but it’s the truth.
2. Money doesn’t really motivate me. Yes, it’s great to not have to struggle to make ends meet and to be able to buy nice things every now and then, but really—I don’t care much about money. I never think about potential income in relation to the work that I do. Book publishing is a notoriously low-paying field of design, and I’m okay with that. I always have been, because I love books and I love designing the packages that contain them. The same goes for the non-book freelance work that I do. I really have to care about the project (and the person or people behind it) in order with it to be worth my time. After all, if it’s not about the money, the reason take on a job has to be a little more meaningful than “because it’s there.”
3. I am always going to be one person, and there are always going to be 24 hours in a day. Again, I know that’s obvious, but I’ve had some moments of delirium lately in which I am fully convinced that if I could only clone myself or hit my head on the bathroom sink and invent a flux capacitor, then maybe I’d be able to get my work done. This is crazy-talk. No one should elect to live their life this way just because they don’t know how to say no (see item #1).
4. There’s more to life than coffee, you know (but not much more). I make no secret about my love of coffee, but that love should really be based more on enjoying the taste, the aroma, and the ritual of the brewing process—not on a desperate need to consume as much as possible in order to avoid drooling on my keyboard at 3AM. I mean…really now.
5. I am totally in the right field of work. I love being a designer. I love taking on challenges that require me to think about structure, organization, space and hierarchy. I love making grids. I love doing font research. I love showing something I’ve done to a client and having them get excited (and sometimes even cry—you know who you are!) about seeing their words or product or music wrapped up and presented in a way that perfectly represents exactly who they are and what they do. I love finishing a project and feeling like it looks like me, too. I like making stuff look good. I love that putting two colors together can make someone feel happy. I like pretty things that work well.
I’m really looking forward to getting normal amounts of sleep, though, and having time to just be a human every now and then.