As a freelancer, there are often gaps in my schedule as one gig ends a few weeks before another starts. There are also times of overlap where I am rehearsing a show during the day and running performances at night. The overlaps are fun – full of adrenaline and though a little exhausting there is something remarkable about them. The gaps are different, especially if they last longer than two weeks.
A two-week gap is a like a vacation. Providing you are decent with money you can get out of town or you can use the time to relax – sleep in, see friends, and catch up with other aspects of life. A break of more than two weeks can become exhausting in its own very draining way.
For the time being lets assume that we are all good enough with money to see that three month gap in our schedule and plan for it, making sure to have enough to pay the rent, utilities and buy groceries. So now you have a couple months off, you don’t NEED to work in order to make ends meet, but you don’t have enough money to go out and do things. For the first two weeks it still feels like vacation – sleeping in every day, luxuriating with a book, partying with friends. But then the parties end, your friends have to work, and you start to wonder how you are ever going to fill your days.
- Read. Read books. Read plays. Read blogs. Read things you wouldn’t have ever chosen to pick up before. Read all the things in your “maybe when I’m not so busy pile.”
- Volunteer. Time is something you have a lot of without restraints on it, so give it away. Find a company you like, a festival you support and give them your time. Some of these volunteer opportunities will come with free tickets to performances – make the most of them.
- Study. Take a class at the community centre, re-certify your first aid training, take some of the free MIT online classes, teach yourself a new language, cook your way through a cook book,.
- Write. Write a play. Write a novel. Write a poem. Write a blog. Write your autobiography. Write a list of all the awesome things that happen during your unemployment.
- Create. Paint. Bake. Draw. Sing. Photograph. Craft. Dance. Color. Imagine.
- Visit. Take time to see all the people you are too busy to see when you’re working. Eat a meal together.
- Work. Take a gig with a temp agency, get on a casual labour call list, create your own show, work at Starbucks. It’s not about the money (though that’s nice), but it’s about filling your days. Giving you a reason to get out of bed and your house on a regular basis.
I’ve been off for six weeks now. I have another eight weeks until I start prep on my next project. I’m trying hard to follow my own advice, but some of it isn’t working right now. I struggle to get out of bed in the morning (or afternoon) and there’s sometimes that little voice in my head that asks if I’m ever going to work again. The answer is of course. Of course I’m going to work again. I have contracts booked. But logic rarely applies to emotions and there’s something about a long gap that screams “YOU’RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH” or “NOBODY WANTS YOU.”
Today I’m taking my own advice. I’ve got two volunteer gigs (one this afternoon and one this evening) for arts organizations and the one tonight includes getting to see a show. I wrote this post. My paints are out on the living room table ready to make a gift. And tomorrow I’m going to read a play with some friends.
Ultimately having this much time to use at your own discretion is a gift, so use it – use it positively – and keep your mind active so that when you do go back to work your brain muscle isn’t totally out of shape.