I’m about a week late in the commentary on the New York Times piece, The Busy Trap. Because I’ve been busy. Unapologetically so. Often in ways that makes me happy. Sometimes not so much.

Walking the balance beam between print and online work, I can describe two very different types of busy. I’m working hard to meld the two into something that tilts more towards the print model I know and love. It can be ridiculously busy but with more white space on the page. More room to scribble notes and thoughts and step away to let ideas develop. The web lacks that white space. There’s always another link to click, site to bookmark, info to tweet, post or pin. Not much room for stepping away.

I probably wouldn’t have written more on the subject (I have in the past) except I saw this piece written about in various places and it stuck in my head.

I thought about it as I was busy trying to deal with computer issues (cue frustration) that had developed into full-blown problems (cue panic attack). I spent hour upon hour getting chummy with Apple Care for a two and a half days. I survived. (Even if If Emily Posted didn’t make it Friday.)

The author had some great points to make although I don’t really like the idea of judging one type of busy as more valid than another. I don’t necessarily agree that “Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.”

By nature I am a do-er – it’s genetic. I feel fulfilled when I fill my days with everything from deadlines to volunteer work. Feeling fulfilled is not a “hedge against emptiness.”

Right now, I consider free time a luxury I don’t have a ton of. Having to defend one’s busyness is a guilt trip that no one needs.

The question of what defines “busy” is difficult in an era when we’re expected to deliver at a pace that makes it difficult to disconnect. Unplugging is a luxury when you need to pay the bills. A luxury when work is unquestionably inconsistent and the supply far outweighs the demand in so many fields, not just creative ones.

It was drilled into my head early on that creatives are expendable. Faster, cheaper, better – while unrealistic – is often the expectation. So, you do the best you can. I had a good handle on this when my work was offline. Writing, editing and photo involved the web, but it didn’t move at the same pace.

I didn’t grow up with parents who worked nine to five, so I’ve never known better. Maybe I had a lousy model. Hollywood is notorious for long hours. Busy means you’re working. Not busy means you’re unemployed. A documentary called Who Needs Sleep? examining working hours in various industries was sparked by a Hollywood tragedy fifteen years ago. An assistant cameraman on the film Pleasantville died after falling asleep behind the wheel after a 19-hour workday. (The filmmakers also created the non-profit 12on/12off.)

Fifteen years ago, we were living in a dial-up world. We still used film in our cameras. Things moved at a different pace.

Social media has redefined “busy.”

For one piece like The Busy Trap, I read a dozen articles and posts by people working in social media trying to figure out the mystery as to how they can do it all.

I don’t know if it’s possible.

Kind of like the early days of Hollywood, there’s a lot of making it up as one goes in the blogosphere. A blogger is often writer, editor, photographer/stylist and publicist all in one. For those trying to make a living at it, blogging can be a full-time job times five, with some better equipped to handle the juggle than others. Those who are hugely successful at it have often delegated many of these tasks, or at the least, have help. Regardless, the hours are long.

I’ve been writing online far longer than I’ve blogged, and this site is a facet of what I do. It adds to my busyness. And I’m not going to feel guilty about that. Not at all.


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2 thoughts on “The Busy Guilt Trap

  1. Janae Wise @ Bring-Joy

    One solution I’ve found: I sleep less!

    I have 4 kids & a bustling household, I blog, cook, clean, the list goes on & on. I think the biggest thing is having the skill to discern what’s of value & what’s not. What’s worth my time, what is not. That’s the hard part, because it’s not always clear. One of our greatest skills if we want to work in this field of online print, is the ability to filter.

    Thanks for a thoughtful post, I always enjoy reading what you have to say.

    1. alexandra Post author

      I do think that you are hitting it right on target when you talk about filtering. I do my best to eliminate the distractions, but sometimes it’s hard to differentiate what is work-related and what is sucking my time. It’s a work in progress, no doubt. It’s a post for another day (already in the works) that this pace has helped me to cut a lot of the superfluous and savor more of the moment.


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