On Wednesday morning, I opened up my MacBook and, without hesitation, deleted my copywriting business’ website and social media presences. Immediately, I felt a sensation of sheer relief. However, I feel like this revelation should come with a hefty disclaimer.
2020 has been a wake-up call. I started the year doing a precarious balancing act of… a lot. My working ‘week’ looked like:
- A regular 9-5 job as a Digital Copywriter three times a week
- Freelance copy-editing for three clients twice a week
- Blogging, mostly as a hobby with considered sponsored content here and there.
Whilst arguably I’m good at managing my time, blocking out hours for each task I add to my plate, it was starting to chew away at me. Why was I working around the clock to earn money that truly is of varying value? Was it worth it to be over-exerting myself countless hours every day to try and prove myself to a faceless entity? I’d already started to question lots around the concept of productivity back in January, but then COVID-19 hit and sent all of our worlds into disarray.
Toxic productivity can be described as ‘an unhealthy compulsion to work’ or an ‘obsession with radical self-improvement above all else’, according to expert nurse Emma Selby, clinical lead at Results Wellness Lifestyle. And without knowing it, I totally fell into the trap and even pushed it to my audiences. I began to fall back into my old ways of letting a ‘career’ and labels define who I was, rather than proudly being a human first and foremost. In many ways I think this comes from as far back as school, when we were asked constantly about which job we wanted after we’d left. It became a compulsion. I was thirsty to become the fashion writer I proclaimed I’d be and that my school bullies taunted me for. Some years later, I’d nab that job and move around laterally in the industry, unhappy despite having reached my goal.
I decided to ‘go freelance’ when I made a snap decision to come home from Hong Kong and it is still the best decision I ever made. I set my own hours – 10am to 4pm, four days a week – I had the time and mental capacity to work out what I wanted to get from my work (copywriting and editing for fashion and lifestyle brands). Somehow the toxic mantra that I had to look like I was working a certain way or earning a stable salary took over. Whether that be from friends, family or old colleagues, the pressure was undeniable. What I was doing was ‘weird’, ‘lazy’, ‘a cop out’. In other words: I wasn’t enough.
C’mon, you all knew this was coming.
When COVID-19 hit, companies were hit with loss of revenue, people were furloughed and knock-on effects were felt everywhere. Thankfully, my in-house job needed me more than ever. But my freelance work dwindled and eventually, has come to a complete stop. My clients in Hong Kong had closed and all leads in the UK abruptly stopped too, as we all scrabbled to stay afloat in these treacherous waters. And, as a small business owner myself, I understood. I know all too well what it’s like to keep all of the plates spinning and need to claw back every penny just before it spills out of your bag.
In the closing month of 2020 – *sighs with relief* – my working week looks much different:
- A regular 9-5 job as a Digital Copywriter four times a week
- Running our handcrafted goods store two days, five evenings a week
- Blogging, as a hobby with considered sponsored content here and there.
And, do you know what?
I’m really happy. The humdrum sometimes mundanity of a 9-5 is the stability I need right now. Our Etsy store makes my soul sing and we have big hopes for it over the next two years. Daisybutter will always have my heart, a cosy space for us to gather whenever we get a moment. We’re all only human.
I feel a tingly sort of excitement thinking about what could be next for me now that I’ve tentatively stepped a foot on top of toxic productivity. It’s not always about the output or even the process. It’s about simmering things down to, yes sometimes unsteady, balance.