Looking back on 2013

Grenada Sunset

Once again, it’s been a busy year though not quite so hectic as previous ones, which has been very welcome. It’s been varied, challenging, exciting and downright joyful. I’ve just finished on my final freelance project of the year; a perfect opportunity for reflection.

I’ve spent more time in the studio actually composing vs other associated work than any other year, I think. It certainly feels like it; I’ve outsourced lots of administration and marketing to people who are much better than me at those particular jobs, such as bookkeeping and finding new leads for work.

One very noticeable change this year is that I’ve taken more responsibility for my health and ability to do the work without feeling that burnout was inevitable. I’m more careful with scheduling meetings and other work on site, and how productive this is, how much more prepared in advance for contingencies I can be along with finding time and activities to help recharge those creative batteries and recover from introverted energy expenditure!

Moreso than even the last few years, I’m getting more offers of work that I just can’t realistically take on, a wonderful position to be in, and one I don’t take for granted. I’m taking on work anywhere between 6 and 12 months in advance, and the periods inbetween these long term projects fill up more rapidly with the shorter term ones sooner and sooner. In order to give all these projects my very best work, get great word-of-mouth marketing and keep the offers coming in (and most importantly keep enjoying the work) I absolutely have to be vigilant about avoiding burnout. I don’t have a choice. It’s a luxury I just can’t afford anymore.

More than ever, I’m keeping a strict weekly work schedule – it’s become painfully obvious to me that working above a certain number of hours per day or beyond a certain evening hour leads to diminishing returns. I can force it and work longer, say, if feedback is slow to return, and deadlines are looming, needs must as the devil drives etc, but there is always payback: I find it harder to wind down in the evening, I can’t fall asleep ’til the wee small hours and I certainly don’t wake feeling refreshed, which has a massive impact on the day’s work. Or maybe it’s just my age is catching up with me…

I’m finding that this year more than ever a steady ashtanga practise, three or more times a week, has both an energising and calming effect when I need it. The ‘moving meditation’ aspects help me deal with stress and find perspective when the best laid plans sometimes go awry. The difficulty of the practise, whilst remaining calm and keeping a steady breathing pattern, has made me more resilient in uncomfortable situations – I’ve written quite a bit about this earlier in the year and would have to give at least some credit to this specific yoga practise.

Very recently, in the last few months, I’ve been trialling a low/antihistamine diet, which has had startling effects. I’ve numerous annoying but not life threatening allergy symptoms, have had them since I was small, and I’ve kind of gotten used to them. If you’re the sneezy, wheezy, itchy, bloated/headachey-after-certain-foods type, comatose after strenuous exercise… suddenly reducing these symptoms is an eye opener. I always thought I was pretty healthy (it’s a common side effect of a well planned, varied, compassionate vegan lifestyle, don’t you know) and that these niggling little allergic symptoms weren’t fixable, weren’t much of a big deal to warrant doing anything about. Turns out there’s plenty I can do through diet and lifestyle, and now I feel so much more energetic and creative when I stick to low- and anti-histamine foods (and hopefully now I won’t need to take the medical antihistamines so much in the summer, the side effects of which make me feel stupid, uncreative, hungry and thirsty all the time!).

Anyway, long story short, it seems I might be histamine intolerant, and to top it off, stress makes it worse. I’m allergic to stress. For reals. Yay.

It feels like all of these threads tie in to each other – a strict schedule, realistic organisation, forward planning, health, stress, relaxation and meditation, taking responsibility. All of these themes that have evolved during the year feed intrinsically and non-negotiably into enabling me to do my absolute best work for the client and the project whilst increasing the likelihood that I’m enjoying the process at the same time, which feeds back into making the work even better.

And which, let’s face it, is why we do this sort of work in the first place.

Image: Grenadian sunset, on our honeymoon in October.
2013 wasn’t all work, work, work, you know. 🙂