Building balance to beat burnout

Last year I had a job I couldn’t quit. When I left the States, my plan was to leave the job as well, but I couldn’t resist leaving the door open (the job was online so I could work from anywhere). When I got a job in Wellington, I intended to leave the other job, but I told myself that making extra money was always good and it wasn’t like I was doing much in my evenings anyway. Essentially, I had two full-time jobs for most of my year in New Zealand. When I moved to Australia, I finally sent that “Sorry, I won’t be able to do the job any longer” email… but I still left the door open for a return.

It’s not because I love the job or even the pay; it’s because I feel like if I’m not constantly working, I’m doing something wrong. Right now, I’m “funemployed” as I look for work here in Australia, but I’m keeping busy in addition to job-hunting. I ran 50km last week, I’m doing yoga every day, I’m updating my blog more regularly than I ever have, I’m reading, I’m doing most of the grocery shopping and laundry and almost all of the cooking. I’m hardly just sitting on my bum watching Say Yes to the Dress reruns (I mean, that’s what I’m doing right at this moment, but in general).

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Creatives for Creatives: my favourite podcasts about the art & business of creative work

I’ve written before about how much I love listening to podcasts during pretty much every waking moment. Walking to work? Podcasts. Freelancing? Podcasts. Out for a run? Podcasts. On a long drive? Yep, podcasts. Most of the time I listen to podcasts for entertainment, whether they’re fiction or true crime or, my favourite genre, folklore and paranormal. However, there are also plenty of great podcasts out there that can educate, inform, and best of all, help you with your creative work.

Obviously, podcasting is a creative medium in itself, but it’s also increasingly becoming a way for creative business owners to share their secrets, talk to other creatives, and discuss the process of creative work. Whether you’re a blogger, a wedding photographer, an artist, or just keen on learning about how you can enhance your creative process or maybe even turn it into a side-gig or a career, here are some of my favourite listens for getting the creative juices flowing.

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Jobs for now: secrets to scoring a great temp assignment

I’ve always thought of myself as a career-minded person, so for me, the one big downside to long-term travel and moving around a lot is not getting the chance to search for my dream role. Although I wouldn’t trade my travels for the world, living in four countries in the last four years (soon to be five countries in the last five years as Steve and I are planning to move to Australia after our New Zealand visas finish) means that I’ve done a lot of job-hopping. When you’re not staying in a place long-term, companies are hesitant to hire you for a position that offers career growth, and even if they were willing, it feels a bit pointless when you know you’re going to be moving on soon enough anyway.

Now of course, even if you’re not building your career, you still have to work (unless your parents give you a $1000 per month allowance and pay your rent, I guess). On working holiday visas, many choose to do seasonal jobs like fruit picking, while many others go for hospitality and tourism roles. For myself, I go for temp work.

I started doing temp work before I really started moving around. The summer between college and grad school I didn’t want to go back to a previous summer job like lifeguarding, but I also didn’t want to sit around all summer (nor would my parents have let me). My mom suggested I apply at a local temp agency and hopefully get a few days of data entry or call centre work. I didn’t really know what a temp agency was at the time, but off I went to fill out the paperwork, take the Microsoft Word and Excel (yuck) tests, and have a quick meeting with one of the recruiters. The very next day I got a call with an offer to be their office receptionist for three months until I moved to Ireland for school.

It turned out to be the perfect way to get a short-term role without too much hassle, so when I returned to the United States after my master’s and moved out to Seattle with no job lined up, I immediately started applying to temp agencies again. Sure enough, I was quickly offered a temporary role as a copywriter at an e-commerce site. After a few months as a temp, I was offered a full-time job and continued on at the company until I moved to Vancouver.

Because I’d had these positive experiences with temp agencies in the past, of course when I moved to Wellington and started looking for a job here, registering with recruiters was my first step. Within two weeks, I had been offered a four-week assignment (that ended up being four months… a fairly common occurrence for temp roles). I’m now on my second temp role here in Wellington, and when I move to Australia in November, I will definitely be registering with temp agencies there.

While there are definitely downsides to temping—limited job security, usually no health insurance—the flexibility and convenience can make it a perfect option for short-term and transitional periods. Here are some tips for getting a temp role and making the most out of your temping experience:

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Tracking Every Dollar I Spent in February

One of my favourite things to read online is Refinery29’s Money Diaries. This ongoing series features a different subject each time, recounting a week’s worth of expenses in their city of residence. A week in London on a 50k salary; a week in NYC on a 12k salary; a week in Dallas on a 200k salary, and so on. From the good (detailed budgeting from people with similar jobs and incomes as me!), the bad (the people who’s parents/partners/gift cards pay for everything so they don’t “count” those expenses), and the lol (that writer who spent 70 quid on cocaine and then got her credit card declined at a takeaway), it’s always interesting to get a glimpse behind the curtain of someone’s financial life.

When I moved to New Zealand, I sadly had to mostly give up on using my favourite budget tracker, Mint. While I can still log in to keep an eye on my American accounts, my New Zealand bank is not supported on their interface and so I can’t connect it for all-in-one account-monitoring convenience. The exchange rate also makes the budgeting feature fairly useless. However, as tempting as it is to use this as an excuse to let my expenses be a free-for-all, I decided to track my spending the old fashioned way and see where things were at.

So for the month of February, I made a list in my bujo of every single dollar I spent. Whether it was several hundred dollars for rent or a single dollar to contribute to the work lotto pool, I accounted for all my spending. Now, unlike R29’s Money Diaries, this isn’t an anonymous post, so I’m not going to share every single detail of where my money went, but here’s a look into the cost of living in Wellington, NZ (all numbers in NZD unless otherwise noted).

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Being a Writer When You’re a Writer

“Being a writer” has a low bar to entry. It’s not like “being an engineer”—you don’t have to work as a writer or be trained as a writer or ever publish a word of your writing. You just have to write. Being a writer as a career obviously takes a little more effort. I am a writer by nature and by trade—for the last two years I’ve spent somewhere between two and ten hours a day, five days a week, writing. It’s not what people would consider “glamorous” writing, creating product copy for ecommerce websites; it’s not being a novelist or a features writer or any of my “dream” writing jobs, but it’s nice to be able to say that I pay my bills as a writer.

Plenty of writers have no interest or ability to write as a profession, and simply write in their free time as a hobby. Sometimes I envy that. Too often, after a full day of writing for work the last thing I want to do in my free time is open up Scrivener and start on my own projects. Even on weekends when I haven’t been writing all day, I feel as though I want a day off from this thing that I supposedly love and feel endlessly passionate about. This is where I admit that I haven’t finished so much as a short story in nearly a year. Heck, I’ve barely even started so much as a short story in that time. And you, dear readers, have seen how infrequently I manage to even update this blog.

Sometimes the self-doubt creeps in and I think that perhaps I’m not a writer. Maybe I’m a non-writer who just happens to write for a living. I know this is the kind of self-doubt that nearly every writer struggles with; twitter is full of jokes from amateur and professional writers about the trials and tribulations of putting words on the page.

The recipe is simple: to be a writer, you must write. You must write when you’re tired, or sad, or after you’ve written all day for work. You must especially write when you feel like every word that spews out is pure shit. Thriller writer Harlan Coben said, “You can alway fix bad pages. You can’t fix no pages.”

Stephen King said that he writes 2000 words each and every day. I know from several years’ experience participating in NaNoWriMo, where the daily average goal is 1667, words that writing 2000 words can take an hour or twelve, depending on the day. Obviously, that’s not feasible for everyone, whether they write for their job or not. But what I must learn to better remind myself is that ending a day having written a single word on a personal project leaves me with one more word than I started with, and sometimes that’s enough.

I won’t be participating in NaNo* this year—for most of November I’ll be visiting Ireland and toward the end Steve and I will be moving across the world to New Zealand where I’ll almost certainly be too preoccupied searching for housing and a job. I can’t commit to writing 2000 words a day, or maybe even 200. But I’m a writer, and so I must write.

* For the uninitiated: November is National Novel Writing Month, where thousands around the world attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Published novels that began as NaNo projects include The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, and Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.