Emerging from sabbatical

Hi, I’m Amanda Lewis, and you might remember me from such places as the internet.

I’ve spent the past four months on sabbatical from my day job as a book editor and all-around creative fixer. Now I’m emerging and slow-blinking like the raccoon I spotted sneaking out of a storm pipe, while I was walking around the small island where I live in the Pacific Northwest.

I used my sabbatical to revise my first book, a travel memoir about searching for the largest trees in my home province of British Columbia. Yes, it *is* possible to write around a day job, but quite tricky when your day job is spent writing and revising. I’m happy that my book is on track, and today my editor declared it “breezy and fun”! That comment alone put the wind in my sails.

There’s plenty out there about the benefits of taking a sabbatical to recharge or accomplish a project. So here are three lessons I learned from my time away, which you can apply to your own creative life in small or big ways, no sabbatical required.

1/ Set a schedule (but don’t be tied to it).
Day one, I sat down in front of a schedule I’d carefully written up on a little chalkboard. It involved starting at 5:30 am and ending at 5 pm. That…didn’t work. I realized my sabbatical needed to involve plenty of downtime. So I erased the schedule and worked max 4 hours a day. Bingo.

2/ Find your creative crew.
I learned on my first day, working alone at my desk, that I don’t like working alone. Welp. Writing can be lonely business. So I found plenty of opportunities to socialize with non-writers and strategize (or commiserate) with fellow creatives. Make like A Tribe Called Quest, Beastie Boys, or the Bloomsbury Group and find your creative crew.

3/ Vary your tasks.
Writing day in and day out gets old fast. I spent some days writing, some revising, others researching or interviewing. I also made sure I exercised and meditated each day. I took a long walk in the forest or on the beach each afternoon, and thought through what I’d worked on that morning. No surprise, that’s where I did my best work.

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