How To Not Always Be Working: A Toolkit for Creativity and Radical Self-Care
By Marlee Grace
William Morrow Gift; $16.99; available Tuesday, October 23
Marlee Grace has created a quiet revolution with How To Not Always Be Working, a guide that is part workbook and part advice manual filled with practical advice to help you curb your social media obsessions and build boundaries between your work, your job, and your life.
This ventures into the space where phone meets life, helping readers to define their work – what they do out of sense of purpose; their job – what they do to make money; and their breaks – what they do to recharge, and to feel connected to themselves and the people who matter to them.
Grace is an improviser and writer living on the rural coast of California. She works with improvisation as a method for navigating being alive and making work through dancing, quilting, writing, and bringing together the voices of artists through her podcast and artist hosting project CENTER.
In her workshops on healing and creative process, Grace helps people acknowledge their blocks and address them by setting distinct parameters that change their behavior. Now, she brings her methods and ideas to the wider world, offering all of us concrete ways to break free from our devices and focus on what’s really important, our own “aliveness.”
Grace addresses complex issues such as what to do if your work and your job are connected, provides insights to help you figure out how much is too much, and offers suggestions for making the best use of your time.
This is essential for everyone who feels overwhelmed and anxious about our hyper-connected world, whether you’re a corporate lawyer, a student, a sales person, or a yoga instructor.
There are practical suggestions and thoughtful musings that prompt you to look inward at your own behavior, including how you burn yourself out and why you’re doing it.
“Work is not bad,” Grace writes. “Always working is not a bad thing is that’s your intention.
“I have this voice in my head who loves to tell me I’m not doing a good enough job, or that working all the time is a terrible idea. I named the voice Roger. This helped me identify this voice and separate it out, so I could sort of address it, like, ‘Hey, Roger, thanks so much for stopping by today and giving your input, but I am actually all set.’
“I also just love working! It not only lets me shut down Roger, but it makes me feel great. I love to get things done, and I love to work, and I love to work next to other people who are working, and I love when my friends are deeply dedicated to their art making practices and small businesses.
“And when you love something, it can be extremely hard to tell if you’re working. For example, gardening is absolutely not working to me. But if I share it on the internet, I am getting into some tricky territory. (Oh, look, a tiny moment where I am gardening, or I picked some kale – most likely kale that I didn’t plant, but I picked it and I showed everyone – so now is it part of my work?)
“If you are a professional gardener and you are so into gardening and you are growing vegetables and selling them at the farmers’ market, then gardening very well might be on your work list. Maybe you make zero dollars gardening but it feels like work to you. (Wait, actually, if I really did garden it would feel like work, so that’s probably why I don’t do it.)
“See what I mean? Do you see what I’m getting at? There is no real answer, it’s all work. It’s also not work. Work is subjective. I do, however, know that when the things on my work list became the only things I was doing, it hurt my spirit, my partnership, my friendships, and my business. Always working proved to be completely unsustainable for my mental health and also for those around me. So I set out on this mission to correct this and am happy to report that by bringing in just the awareness, just a willingness to be aware, much growth has happened. You honestly don’t even have to practice awareness, you just have to simply be willing to be aware. Through this, my relationship with working has begun its healing process.”
How To Not Always Be Working is a creative manifesto for living better, and it shows you how to create a sacred safe space in your life. Despite the demands that are put on us at work, we can dramatically change our lives and situations just by setting boundaries, combined with the gentleness that when we break our own self discipline, we can talk sweetly to ourselves and just keep trying.
This has a little something for every reader, from business anecdotes about fulfilling orders to more personal stories about Marlee’s recovery from divorce and addiction.
This book, a jacketed, craft paper flexibound volume, has plenty of wisdom and resilience, with discussions on ritual and routine that can create effective and positive creative life change.