Most days I start the computer after breakfast – usually by 7.30 am, and kick off the working day by writing a blog post. It serves as a warm up for my brain, and for my hands, and guarantees that I do at least some writing every day. However, for the next week or so, the posts have all been set up in advance. There’s some new poetry and some short stories in the offing. I shall mostly be offline.
I’ve been planning this for ages, and getting everything set up so that I can have some time off. I haven’t had a whole week off in nearly 6 years. It’s one of the problems with being self-employed. To have time off, I need to have earned enough to be able to afford not to work for a week. If I want to go away, I need to have earned enough to be able to afford to go away, on top of the cost of a week not working. Like most self-employed people, my earnings are erratic, which makes saying no to work when there is any feel hazardous at best.
I’ve learned, the hard way, just how essential time off is. I’ve had long stretches of 7 day weeks – not necessarily seven long days, but it’s surprising how much odds it makes. Two half days off are not the same as one whole day. Two days back to back are not the same as afternoons off scattered through a week. Without decent chunks of time off it’s difficult to slow down, get out of work mode and clear the head for a bit. Without some head clearing it’s difficult to find new energy and ideas. This is not an issue solely for creative people. I worry about the way in which people in poverty are ending up with multiple part time jobs to make ends meet, and not getting any down time. Now might be a good moment to mention the crisis in mental health that we’ve collectively worked ourselves into.
‘Hard working families’ is a political refrain I particularly detest. Now that Christmas is upon us, though, the hard working families are expected to dutifully down tools and spend money they can’t really afford on things they don’t really need. Much that has been bought for this weekend will shortly be heading to landfill. Food waste, extra rubbish, useless gifts. But it’s all good for the economy! And if you consider the work preparing for the ‘holidays’ as unpaid work, there’s a lot of work going on right now. We are to aspire to being good little producers and consumers and the only way to keep an economy endlessly growing is to keep us all buying far more than we actually need.
I’m trying to be less hard working. It’s a big part of my agenda right now. Shorter working days and shorter working weeks, and holidays should not be considered luxuries for the fortunate few, but the key to a better standard of living for all of us. This also means paying people what they’re worth, and paying people enough to live on so that they can afford to stop and draw breath once in a while.
I shall be spending next week doing very little to help GDP. Lie ins, reading, a bit of gardening at a community allotment, a walk or two, time with friends… I hope whatever you’re doing between here and the end of the calendar year, you have a fantastic time of it.