I don’t talk much about my day job on this blog. This is partly due to a desire to compartmentalize Andrew Penn Romine, the budding author from Andy Romine, the visual effects & animation artist – two careers that have, in my mind, always been separate and distinct. Two creative paths with their own trajectories and goals. My work is very technical, but with a sort of artistry quite different from the writing I do. To talk about it here might be a distraction (or worse, bragging). And then there are the NDAs.
But it’s no great secret right now that the Visual Effects Industry is in turmoil. I’m facing a layoff myself, in fact. (I had a good run and several prospects are on the horizon. I’ll be fine). This is not a post about my job hunt or the deplorable state of the vfx biz, though it is a post about the uncertain situation I’m tumbling into. The uncertain situations that we all tumble into.
Somehow, in the midst of the bad news, I managed to write and submit a short story. I’m not really sure how. Maybe I needed the distraction. But since then, I’ve been listless, exhausted by events and pretty much unable to form a coherent thought beyond, “What’s playing on Netflix tonight?” or “Ooo, Plants vs Zombies is free this week?!”
I’ve discussed things you can do when you’re not writing, but this time it’s a little different for me. I’m not merely looking for a little recharge, but am facing an upheaval of routine and stability — and the loss of a great job that made it possible for me to not sweat the day to day and focus on my love of story telling. I realize I’ve been very lucky in this regard, and it’s given me the perspective that a day job can be an asset and not an obstacle to a writing career. Again, like all writing advice, your mileage may vary.
So, to my point.
Give yourself permission to take a break. This is hard for creatives to do isn’t it? Especially when you’re “breaking into” writing, or vfx or whatever, there’s that voice in your head that tells you that if you slow down even for a moment, you’ll fall behind and never catch up to the rest of the pack. It’s that same voice that tells you that X writer is five times the writer you’ll ever be, and Y writer will get all the book deals so they’ll be none left for you. Yeah, tell that voice to shut the fuck up.
I learned early on in my vfx career to embrace that period of joblessness between gigs. I don’t stop looking for work or close my mind off to opportunities. But I do step back, take a deep breath, and ask myself if it’s time to let myself off the hook a little. Do you?
This isn’t an approach that works for everyone. Some of you may even stay busy to keep your momentum going during the rough patches. I’m envious. I can only do that to a point before I slam into the giant wall of burnout. Which is where I am now.
So I spend some of my time doing those things I’ve talked about. Reading, writing, exercise. I find me again and give myself permission to adjust to the new situation, calibrate my expectations. Let opportunities slip that I know I don’t have the energy to pursue well. Spend more time with those friends and family I haven’t seen when I’m busy. Unhook the guilt machine. Watch the entire season of “House of Cards” while I rest.
How does taking a break work for you? How do you keep your momentum going through the rough patches? I’d love to discuss it with you below.
I”ll get back to work soon. Already I can feel the words pushing up like new teeth in sore gums.