I Work Full-Time (But Don’t Get Paid For All Of It)

A friend asked me this morning what I planned to do with the rest of today. “I’ll be working from home,” was my reply. Immediately she asked how I had managed to arrange that in my line of work (counselling).

“No,” I clarified, “Today is my other job. The one for which I do not get paid.”

This was an indication of how I have shifted in my thinking about the unpaid work I do.

Every Friday I get a day off from counselling work. Every Friday is therefore sacred. It is my time of the week dedicated to writing and music. Every Friday I aim to publish a blog and then spend time either furthering my book or working on the next music project.

So, even though I work part-time, I actually work full-time. I just do not get paid for my Friday work.

Even though I work part-time, I actually work full-time.

When I was a new writer, I struggled with this. I would eagerly await my day off, my creative day. But when it arrived, I would find myself instead doing housework and then collapsing, too tired for any of the creative work I had been waiting to do.

It took only a small amount of self-reflection to get to the heart of the problem.

My problem was I did not perceive writing to be “real work”. All other work was real work. Housework was real work. Going shopping and cooking dinner was real work. Attending appointments was real work.

But apparently writing did not make the cut.

I began to realise this says something about what society values. Society values homemakers, especially women, who do chores. Society values those who have appointments. Society values busyness.

Society values busyness.

Society does not value writing. Not like it values busyness.

I had to accept this reality, as a writer. I had to accept my own truth that my writing mattered, that it was important work, that it deserved to take priority in my day. I had to tell myself there was no point setting aside writing time if I did not do any actual writing.

It deserved to take priority in my day.

I also had to point out to myself it was useless to spend all my energy on housework first, because by the time I sat down to write, I was exhausted. No, if I was to get into the writing zone, I would have to do it first thing in the morning and ignore the housework altogether.

Not easy for a perfectionist. But possible.

Nowadays I am more adept at prioritising my writing. I am better at telling the housework it will have to sit there and wait for me. I am persuaded that writing is important and valuable, to the point where I now view my Friday day-off as a work day.

So when people ask me what hours I work, I tell them I work full-time – I just don’t get paid for all of it.

Do you have a routine around your writing or creative work? How do you prioritise those things which matter to you but which society may not deem important? Share your story – let’s have a countercultural conversation.

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