There’s a legendary exchange between the inimitable Groucho Marx and a woman on his TV game show who had 19 children. Groucho is rumored to have asked the woman why she had so many children, to which she reportedly answered, “Because I love my husband.”
Legend has it that Marx raised his famous eyebrow and cracked, “Lady, I love my cigar, but occasionally I take it out of my mouth.”
That never happened (see Snopes) but it makes a great story and also serves to support the premise of this entry:
No matter how much you love what you do, there are times when you really need to (or should) take the cigar out of your mouth.
I narrate audiobooks. It’s more-or-less a full-time gig for me. The income doesn’t pay all the household bills (far from it) but it’s my only occupation and I work at it full-time. It’s not a hobby, nor do I squeeze narration into an already packed schedule (as do a great many amazing narrators).
As with any profession, there are a number of tasks related to audiobook narration that are “below the surface.” In addition to reading books aloud for 3-4 hours a day, there’s time spent prepping the script, making corrections, editing out extemporaneous noises, and engineering the audio files. That’s on the performance/production side.
When not producing, there are a raft of other activities necessary to keep the ball rolling. On any given day, you’ll find me (and nearly every other professional narrator) posting relevant announcements on Social Media, working with performance coaches, listening to other audiobooks, combing the internet for “hidden gem” books that aren’t yet available in audio, auditioning for new projects, watching a YouTube video to learn new technical skills, networking and building relationships with casting directors, and wondering if the casting director at XYZ remembers meeting you at the latest industry mixer.
My personal objective is to do something everyday that advances my career. It needn’t be a major step, just something that satisfies a handful of Key Performance Indicators.
Bringing back the Groucho Marx analogy:
I have the cigar in my mouth all the time and I can’t remember the last time I took it out.
Now, don’t hear what I’m not saying. I unabashedly LOVE what I do for a living. I haven’t felt this way about a job in years. Everything about this gig plays to my native genius. When you love what you do it’s not really work. BUT, I have lost the ability to TURN IT OFF and that’s not healthy.
Down time. Time off. Take-the-cigar-out time. These are necessary ingredients in a recipe for success and I find myself struggling with the need to disconnect. I know I need to, I don’t know how.
This is new for me. Among past professional colleagues I would venture to say I was probably the most skilled at unplugging. I recall one unfortunate situation where we’d just finished an intense series of meetings out of town and were on a plane back home when a fellow executive (who was new to the team) came to my seat and asked if I’d like to “review and compare notes.” With the grace and aplomb of a cantankerous mule, I grunted and replied, “$&#@ no, I’m off the clock until Monday.”
I need to develop that attitude again (with perhaps less brimstone).
The challenge is, I work for myself and my boss is a jerk.
What do YOU do to unplug? Help a guy out.