When we were school-age, many of us recognized the need to blow off classes and responsibilities once in a while to play hooky. The exhilaration of “getting away with something” can recharge our burned-out batteries just as much as the trip to the shopping mall or whatever we did with our goof-off time.
But as adults, we often feel guilty for falling behind on our to-do lists. We know we’re only cheating ourselves and that our list will only grow while we’re elsewhere. Guilt is not a helpful emotion when we’re already feeling stressed.
That’s too bad. We need goof-off time when we’re adults just as much as we did when we were younger (if not more so). Every once in a while we need to play hooky from our responsibilities and allow ourselves to recharge.
(Side note: I checked to make sure “hooky” wasn’t a vulgar term in non-U.S. locations, but if you’re not familiar with the term, it means to skip school or classes. *smile*)
The Dangers of Pushing Ourselves Too Hard
We often hear the advice that we must make time for writing. This is true. If we wait for the perfect opportunity, for our to-do list to go down to zero, for the muse to strike, etc., we’ll never write anything.
Life is all about choices, and we have to make choices based on our goals. We won’t live long enough to do everything we want to do, so we have to make sacrifices and cut out some items from our “want to do” list to make room for those we deem a higher priority.
But as some of my readers pointed out in the comments of one of my posts last week, it’s easy to become so passionate about something that we veer into obsession. Or it’s easy to feel like we have to sacrifice everything in pursuit of our highest priority.
We Must Find Balance
Neither of those are healthy paths. We don’t want to sacrifice so much that we lose our sense of balance.
We won’t get everything we want no matter how much we obsess or sacrifice. We can’t become a Nobel-Peace-Prize-winning, Oscar-winning, top-spy-with-more-gadgets-than-007, Olympic-gold-medalist, billionaire-benevolent-dictator, parent-of-brilliant-and-generous-children, bestselling author, all in this one life—even if we spend every minute working toward that goal. *smile*
So we narrow our focus to our top priorities, but that brings the danger of obsession. There’s such a thing as sacrificing too much. What if we focus all our time and energy on a single project and fail anyway?
Even if we succeeded, we’d be hard pressed to say it was worth losing our friends, family, job, and sanity. And it’d be impossible to say losing all that was worth it if we had only a failure to show for our sacrifices.
We should sacrifice only things we’re okay with losing. Some things we can live without (especially for a limited time), like that new TV show everyone’s talking about, etc. But I wouldn’t recommend long-term sacrifices of things we can’t live without.
We must find a healthy balance of realistic goals we can reach with a doable level of sacrifice and the permission to play hooky occasionally too. A life without goof-off time is no life at all.
All Work and No Play Makes for a Burned-Out Writer
As I’ve mentioned before, while we do have to make sacrifices for our writing, that doesn’t mean we should sacrifice all the time. Sometimes we have to know when “living life” is the most important thing on our to-do list.
Sacrificing everything or sacrificing every spare moment leads to burnout and other issues. That’s not sacrifice—that’s setting a time bomb.
There’s a reason the cures for burnout include activities we’d label as “goofing off.” Watching TV or playing games or the like can be used to replenish our creativity after burnout occurs, but those same activities can be used to prevent burnout.
That’s what goof-off time is all all about. Despite what it looks like, we do have a goal for that time: Avoid burning out. *smile*
We Must Give Ourselves Permission to Seek Balance
That truth means we have a reason to give ourselves permission to play hooky from our responsibilities occasionally. Yes, the to-do list will still be there tomorrow (and will likely get bigger in our absence), but most things can wait until tomorrow. And no, we shouldn’t feel guilty about choosing to avoid burnout.
As with many things, balance lies in the middle ground of moderation. Any extreme can be unhealthy. In this case, we’re seeking the balance between procrastination and obsession. Just as it’s bad to procrastinate and not accomplish anything, it’s bad to obsess to the point of losing sight of our life.
Only we (and sometimes our close friends and family) can see which direction we’re leaning toward on any specific day. Some days we might need a kick in the pants to avoid procrastination. Other days we might need a pep talk that we’re pushing ourselves too hard.
So when we see advice directing us one way or another, we have to learn to ignore it if the suggestions would push us off balance. We can learn our “nearing burnout” signals. Do we have more trouble sleeping? Are we crankier? Are we stress-eating?
When we see those signs in our life, that can give us a heads up that it’s time for a hooky day. Take a day and go to a park or indulge in a nap. Sloth out on the couch to do a marathon-viewing of TV shows or movies. Immerse ourselves in a video game world. Or even take ourselves out for ice cream. *grin*
By intercepting our burnout early, we might be able to get back on track in an afternoon or a day, rather than dealing with several days or weeks of severe burnout. Think of all the guilt we’re preventing by stopping our burnout slide before it gets to the point of not accomplishing anything for weeks.
Really, when we look at it that way, playing hooky occasionally is downright logical. Our teen-aged self was logical? Who knew? *smile*
Did you play hooky as a teenager? Do you ever play hooky now? If not, why not? What would you like to do for a day if you could talk yourself out of any guilt? Do you agree that playing hooky occasionally is good for us?