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Do You Always Assume You Must Strive to Earn a Restful Hiatus?

What have been your best reads in 2021? What are your plans for the holidays and the New Year? Do you ever take complete breaks from social media?
Each time I finished a school exam, my parents and teachers chorused: you’ve earned your break. They taught me, by their example and encouragement, that working without pause deserved praise. That the goal was to be better, work harder, and never, ever take a break. Our family never went on a vacation.
We were all striving to ‘better ourselves.’ For a variety of reasons, my goal growing up was to escape the town I’d grown up in. Extremes of weather, lack of opportunities in the fields I was interested in, and a non-conducive home atmosphere: all of it contributed to that burning, unstoppable desire to leave and never return.
I succeeded. Haven’t returned. Today I live so far away from that town that despite all the modern conveyances, it might take me a day to get there should I wish to. I don’t. I also don’t think the ethos I carried from there is serving me all that well anymore. It’s one thing to have a good work ethic–quite another to turn into a workaholic. I think I’ve turned into one.
In the last few years, I’ve worked non-stop, even on supposed vacations. Back in 2019, when YOU BENEATH YOUR SKIN made its debut, I needed to push the book as hard as I could. Then I had to hunt for an agent, because I lost mine. Once I landed the agent, it was all about working to get a deal. After the deal, endless edits. After the edits, the next book. More edits. All of it while juggling impossible situations at home that have taken their physical and psychological toll.
Keeping up the meager promo efforts for THE BLUE BAR has been an effort because my brain is in a creative spin, working on yet another novel, while I edit the sequel.
I sat myself down today, and had a little chat. With myself. And though it may not lead to dramatic changes, I’m now aware that rest isn’t something you need to earn. It’s what your body and mind need to survive. Like food, or sleep.
The creative self works best in fallow periods, and since creativity is the soul of my profession, I need to give it its due. I don’t know if I’ll succeed but I plan to be intentional in my breaks from now on. Switch off whenever I can, and try and carve out a day or two when I can disappear entirely.
What about you? When was the last complete rest you took from your responsibilities? Do you think rest and breaks need to be earned?
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Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her next literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and was published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • Marialena says:

    I pushed myself hard in college and burned out way too early. Later, I tried posting on my old blog three times a week to see if consistency would get me more traffic. It didn’t, and I burned out again. Still trying to sort myself out, honestly. I would say “I wish society didn’t reward burn out”, but society hasn’t given me anything for my burnout but a nervous breakdown (lol?)

  • Natasha says:

    My dear D

    Praying this comment goes through.
    Back on blogosphere after a longish hiatus.

    I do take restful breaks without feeling guilty and telling myself I have to earn it.
    I took a 6 day break and travelled to the woods and unplugged from tech. It was the most gratifying couple of days and I realise when I take time away to do these things, I come back recharged and motivated to do justice to all that I need to.

    Wishing you loads of luck for Blue Bar. It looks glorious.


  • Not that I was ever a workaholic but it did take a while to realise that relaxing and enjoying slower, more leisurely pursuits is not equal to laziness or slacking. Unfortunately I think it’s one of those things a lot of people don’t realise until well after retirement. For some it’s the pursuit of money, feeling productive, or to leave a legacy, but really, at the end of the day working hard and burning yourself out throughout your life is all for nought. Life is to be enjoyed in the here and now, and stress-free wherever and whenever possible.

  • Mick Canning says:

    It’s not a popular opinion these days, but no. I think you should take a break if and when you want to, as long as it is practical. I’m not a fan of the ‘work ethic’ – I don’t think there’s something virtuous or moral about having to work long and hard, especially if you can survive comfortably without doing so.,

  • Kaye Spencer says:

    Until I retired a few years ago, I worked, worked, worked and didn’t allow myself much leisure time. It was lazy to not be doing something constructive. About the only time I didn’t feel like a slacker was before bedtime, when I did set aside time to read. That was my down time that I earned. As I got used to retirement and having more time on my hands, I realized I no longer needed to earn anything to enjoy life the best way I could.

  • Pam Lazos says:

    This problem plagues me as well, Damyanti. I think any downtime is actually laziness and so I take very little but really it just amounts to burnout over time so I’m trying to dial all that back a bit. Baby steps are progress. Take care of yourself because no one else is really thinking about it. ;0)

  • Shilpa Gupte says:

    I take breaks mostly over the weekends. Those are not complete breaks, as in no work, just loll around all day. But, there are days when I leave the laptop alone and watch a movie or two, or go, visit mom. If, after working non-stop from Monday to Friday/Saturday, I don’t laze on a Sunday, I will go crazy.
    We need to put self-care on the top of our priority lists. Sadly, not all have the luxury to do so. 🙁
    Take a break whenever you can, D, and enjoy it.

  • For optimum health and long life one needs to take time away from our modern stressful lifestyles that seem to demand constant motion. The fact is the human body was made to take periods of rest away from whatever is engaging our minds so our minds are sharper to deal with what has to be done more effectively. Holidays away from city life are necessary to recharge our batteries. when living in Singapore my retreat was to Batam Island a short ferry ride away where the pace of life was easy and I could return to the swirl of business on Monday feeling ready to handle pressures of administration.

  • Terveen Gill says:

    It’s always great to know oneself better. Self-care is essential. Wish you many creative days ahead and peace of mind. 🙂

  • ccyager says:

    Glad you are taking care of yourself. We have a saying here, “All work and no play makes you a very boring person.” Not to mention burned out. I had two big breaks in the last year. The first was forced after abdominal surgery and lasted 6 weeks. The second was a 5-day break that involved a trip to northern Minnesota with a friend. I only thought about what was in front of my eyes and nothing else for 4 days. It was sublime.

  • In Sweden where I grew up and worked for several years everyone get at least five weeks of vacation from the first year you are working. The thinking is that if you don’t take breaks and relax you can’t be fully productive the rest of year and it isn’t healthy either. Here in the US vacations aren’t viewed the same way. You can reward yourself in various ways for a work well done but I think breaks should be taken for other reasons.

  • Glad you figured it out before you burned out. Yes, I have been around long enough that I have learned how to relax and enjoy life. Could I have written more books in the past ten years and done better to promote the ones I did write? Sure. But I already have a job. I don’t need another.

  • My self care responsibilities are way, way down on my to-do list. Which is sad and bad. Thank you for the reminder.

  • Anita Kushwaha says:

    Congratulations on your new release, Damyanti! Added to my GR and looking forward to reading. Please let me me know if you’d be interested in dropping by the blog for a fun author chat! 🙂

  • I heartily agree, but I’ll add a caveat: If you enjoy work, non-stop isn’t such a bad thing. Quick story: I had an American ex-pat friend teaching English in France. She reprimanded me for working 50 hours a week as a teacher (she only worked 25). “But,” I explained, “I love my work.” She had never considered that.

    Hugs to you, Damyanti. Your hard work is giving lots of us hours of relaxed enjoyment!

  • This is indeed a great lesson to learn, giving ourselves permission to rest regularly! Recognizing it as a need on par with eating and sleeping is a wonderful lesson for all of us living in the grind culture!

  • Hi Damyanti, although I’m doing something different, I can relate to the working without a break thing. My parents always took me on vacations though. I’m grateful for that. Recently, we took a break and went to Pondicherry. Just mom, dad and me. It was awesome. I came back a new person. 🙂 But now, I can see myself putting so much pressure on myself to do everything. It’s all me. I need to slow down, too.

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