Not 9-5 by Theresa Derwin
I’m not Dolly Parton (though I share some of her assets) yet I can still see the allure of working 9 ~ 5. But sometimes, it just isn’t possible.
I spent a good hour the other night chatting online to a fellow writer. As the chat progressed I discovered he has had a long term health condition since age nine, just as he discovered I’ve been ill for ten years and lost my job in 2011 because of the very utilitarian nature of the job. To cut a long story short, I suffer primarily from Fibromyalgia which manifests as exhaustion (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) and muscular pain and spasms. The day job didn’t offer the right level of reasonable adjustments at that time to help me to stay in work. But things have changed since this. I adapted, made changes to my life style, discovered spoons (more on that later) and started submitting stories. Pretty soon I was getting acceptances and working in a way that felt write for me. And I’m not alone in this.
It’s not an unusual story. If I had a penny for every artist, writer or other creative with a health problem I’d be rich!
Which brings me to my next point. I had a form to fill in for official reasons recently. A form in which I would declare my weekly hours, rate of pay and employer.
Employer: Self/No one
Rate of pay: LMAO
Weekly hours: As many as I can manage between 4 – 8 per week, normally as vampires rise and other good little day folk go to bed.
So, why am I writing this?
Because ‘one size’ does not fit all.
What I’ve found in my time since becoming self employed is that there are a lot of folk like me. Creatives who work on the cusp of dawn, because they can only work when their strength allows them to. This is where spoon theory comes in, along with pacing and adaptations to my ‘workspace’ I.e. The sofa.
I’ll start with adaptions.
I learnt the hard way about three years ago, that with my condition I can’t sit at a standard desk and work 9 – 5.
I sleep odd hours, have restless nights and find it difficult using a laptop, because of the physical position and actually lifting it up. But there are ways and means.
I use an iPad. I’ve downloaded Word (basic version) and Evernote to my iPad to work on. I start a story or a blog/book review on Evernote. When the first draft is ready, I’ll email it to myself, copy it from my inbox using my finger and then insert to a brand new Word document saved to my ‘Cloud’. I have loads of fantastic friends in the community who support me, so I’ll generally forward that document to beta readers for proof Reading or editing.
When it come back, that’s when I worry about managing Tge edits, which I have to do on the laptop.
Occasionally a friend will tweak the edits for me. There are also other pieces of software such as Dragon Dictate that can help. Of course, I reckon I’d have problems teaching it to understand Brummie.
Then we get to the crux of the matter; spoons and pacing.
I’ve already mentioned my terrible sleeping patterns. This often means I’m awake between three and six am, which is when I write. At least, working for myself, I don’t have to ‘clock in’. But if I get excited an overdo it, I know about it the next day, I can tell you! So I pace myself using spoon theory.
Imagine you’re fit and well, work a day job and have six ‘spoons’ to last all day. One spoon is getting ready for work and travelling home. Three spoons are the 9 – 5 activities and it costs another spoon travelling home then cooking dinner for the family. You only have one spoon left to use that evening on household tasks, hobbies or family time.
Now, imagine you have a long term health condition or disability. Imagine further, that getting up and out of bed costs a spoon, because it takes more of your limited energy. Getting showered and dressed takes another spoon. That’s two spoons gone, four left, and you haven’t even started thinking about eating or travelling, let alone working. You get the idea, so far. What it means in real terms, is you most likely have to work weird hours and part time hours.
Next, you decide to go to a convention. It’s necessary for your creative work. Besides, you meet friends there, and it’s bloody good fun.
So, you have to get ready and travel. Three spoons are gone. Let’s say you’re staying over, so minimal spoons needed to get back to your hotel. That leaves you three spoons for the entire convention. That’s why you’ll often see me spending mornings attending panels listening but sitting, or taking actual part on a panel later in the day, when my energy levels have increased and I’ve ‘gathered’ more spoons.
And if you don’t see me at breakfast the next morning? It’s probably because I can’t get out of bed. The aftermath of a weekend con normally takes me four days to recover from. And I know I’m not the only one.
So, the odds are if there are writers or artists like me out there, they’ll never make a true living. But what they’ll get is so much more important;
Creative free will
A voice ‘out there’
The chance to try a job without the 9 – 5 mentality and prejudice
I’m proud of the £15.83 I’ve earned this year.
My talents netted that value.
And you know what? If I keep fighting, if I keep plugging away. One day, it might be more.
Thought it’s not about the money.
It’s about pride,
Pride for a job well done.
So, if you see a blog or a post from an author or an artist, remember this; they are sharing their soul with you this day.
Remember to share yours back.