How to Recharge In-Between Creative Projects

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Isaac Butler: More. Hello and welcome to Working Overtime, the advice focused hooch to regular old workings. TURNER I’m Isaac Butler.

Karen Hahn: And I’m Karen on.

Isaac Butler: Karen. How the hell have you been so good?

Karen Hahn: I always feel like I only remember that I should be making, like, some kind of metaphor or comparison about working overtime. Re Working, like, until we record. And then I’m like, I should have come up with something smarter, maybe because I feel like I always use just the default option, but right.

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Isaac Butler: I just come up with it’s like the first pairing that comes to my head is the one I write down usually, which this time was Turner and Hooch, which is, you know, a really up to date reference that I’m sure all the kids will get because, you know.

Karen Hahn: I mean, I get it.

Isaac Butler: So you. Well, there you go.

Karen Hahn: Anyway, what are we talking about today?

Isaac Butler: Today, I thought maybe we might talk about, like, recharging in between big projects and like what you do when you finish a big project. Because I feel like I’m still kind of in the middle of that. And, and correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe you are now done with at least the writing parts of your book. Like your book is finished. So you’ve just finished a big project, right?

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Karen Hahn: Yeah. If we just met on the street earlier today and it’d been like, Oh, you just finished a of project, I’d be like, I don’t know what you’re talking about, but luckily you have contextualized it. So yes, I have finished writing writing my book.

Isaac Butler: That’s amazing. And so let me just ask day of when you were done working on it, when you hit Send that final time, did you do anything to celebrate?

Karen Hahn: Honestly, not really, because it’s been such a protracted process to quote unquote finish this book. I actually finished like writing, writing the text that I had to turn in, I think a couple of months ago. But because there’s been rounds of proofing after that, which is like when everyone goes through the text and finds like final things that you want to fix, it hasn’t felt like it’s been done yet. And then I had to find somebody to write the foreword for the book, which was its own kind of insane process. But now the forward is in. It came in yesterday, so I’m done with that. But that is all to say. This process has stretched out so much that it doesn’t really feel like I’ve ever been done with it, and it almost doesn’t feel like I’m done with it now either. That said, my birthday fell right after I think I turned in like the final text that I had to write pre proofing, and then my partner and I went to Disneyland and then to Big Bear for a week, which was really nice. But again, it’s has not felt like it has stopped being a giant cloud above me.

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Isaac Butler: I also think that it’s a weird thing. It’s one of the things that I struggle with and that my wife is always trying to get me to do is to, like, recognize that you’ve accomplished something. I don’t know. Do you ever feel that because there’s so many deadlines, you know, that it’s just like even having or owning for a moment that it’s like, Yeah, I actually did something. Yeah, I actually accomplished it. Yeah, actually the book is done or whatever. It can be a challenge sometimes.

Karen Hahn: Yeah, I agree with that. But I would say, like, I like finding reasons to go out and like have a nice meal, so. Right. It’s easier for me to do that, but it doesn’t necessarily tie as neatly as we’ve sort of discussed with the feeling of like being done with something like you can put it on a deadline, for instance, like going out to dinner when you finish all your text or whatever. But again, like just because of the nature of the process, it can it takes a long time to actually let go of stuff.

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Isaac Butler: Right. And of course, if you reward yourself with Elden ring, then you’ll have like 200 hours before you are free to do anything else.

Karen Hahn: Yeah, video games are tough to work into. Like you have to really structure your time. Well, then it’s only Elden ring for the next, like, three months.

Isaac Butler: Yes, exactly, exactly. So, look, I’m not only interested in talking about going out to dinner or whatever or playing Elden ring, although we could talk about playing Elden Ring. I know we both spent a few months completely obsessed with that, but also actually about that moment in between projects where you’ve got to recuperate, recharge your creative muscles and how you do that. We’ll have more on that after this.

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Isaac Butler: Hey, listeners, we want to hear from you. If you have a creative triumph or a creative question, a guest you’d like to hear from, a kind of artist you’d like us to cover. Really? Anything you want us to talk about on this show, please drop us a line at working at Slate.com or give us a call and leave a voicemail at 3049339675. That’s 304933. W o. R k. All right. Back to the show. Okay. We are back. Karen, as mentioned previously, you’ve recently finished a big project. Do you have plans to regenerate, to recuperate, to re-engage those creative muscles?

Karen Hahn: I really want to. But the tough thing is that I think if this comes up on the show a lot. If you’re not in a position where you have cash to just burn, you kind of have to keep working. Like there’s not as much of a window to take a break. That said, I’ve been really lucky to be able to sort of ease back into things and take longer breaks throughout the day. And I also feel like the aforementioned trip that I took with my partner kind of served as my like vacation, even though I wasn’t totally done with the book yet, because that was definitely a week where I just wasn’t thinking about everything. It was like, What right am I going to go on next? Or like, what am I going to make in this cabinet, big bear? But it also helps that the stuff that I’m jumping into now is screenwriting rather than book writing. So it feels like I’m using a different set of muscles, or it feels exciting or creatively exciting in a different way.

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Isaac Butler: I do think that’s smart that it’s like one way that you can recharge is actually just jumping into a different form of creative work that’s using different creative muscles that requires different things from you. I think both you and I like to wear a lot of hats, and so that can be kind of easier for us to move between these different things.

Isaac Butler: You know, every time a show of mine that I directed would open, I would get this, like, weird postpartum depression. Like there would be a week or two. Because for directors, when the show opens, the job is done. Yeah, but when the show closes. And so there would just be like a week or two where I like, really couldn’t think straight or like whatever my creative time was that I sat, I just sit there and stare at the wall and video games, you know, you end up in that weird place that’s sort of both boring and depressing at the same time. And I get sort of angry at myself. And oh, I have noticed, though, that that is not limited to theatre people, that people in all sorts of creative fields feel that when they kind of get over that last hump or, you know, post-show depression feeling. And I was just wondering if that’s something that you experience really.

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Karen Hahn: For me, I feel like it’s less depression, more anxiety, which I don’t think I’m going to stop feeling it. Just speaking from my personal experience working on this book, I don’t think I’m going to stop feeling that until the book is actually out. And a few people have said nice things about it because until that point it’s like, Oh, it’s like, gosh, it’s just shit. It’s just, I’ve done a huge mistake, I’ve really messed up. But I really think until that point, I’m not going to feel like totally free or totally not worried about it.

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Isaac Butler: I’ll tell you, you know, that’s very common, too, from the moment I got the first pass proof pages, which for our listeners who don’t know before a book comes out for real, it comes out in this form called Galleys, which are sent to people in the industry and reviewers and stuff like that. And you can still make changes to the book at that point. In fact, the book is not fully fact checked or proof read at that point usually. And so from the moment I got the PDF with those pages to start making those final changes and everything until about a month after the book came out, maybe, I don’t know, like I was having panic attacks. I mean, not really panic attacks, but I was so anxious. I had trouble sleeping. Yeah, I, you know, my heart rate was elevated all the time. I like, you know, it was it’s a really, really hard time, so I definitely. It sucks. Yeah, it sucks. It sucks. It’s really weird. You’ve done this thing. All the choices are locked in. Yeah. And there’s no impartial person to tell you whether you know it works or not. So how are you dealing with it? Do you have any advice for other people on how to deal with it?

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Karen Hahn: Um, no. I mean, I really think like the only thing that you can do to get over it is like do something else. Like a this is sort of what we’ve already discussed in the episode, but it’s like take a vacation where you unplug and don’t think about this stuff at all or find something else that you can work on that is that you’re really excited about. That’ll occupy the brain space that you would be using to worry otherwise so that you’re not thinking about that past project. But it is really hard to let go of that feeling and sometimes you just have to wait for it to like blow over.

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Isaac Butler: Well, especially since, you know, I think in both of our cases, like the book was somewhat all consuming for the last few months of putting it together. I mean, you just slate and part of the free time to, you know, finish the book. I stopped freelancing for almost a year to finish the method, you know, so it was basically just the book and working and a little teaching. That was all I was doing, you know. And so it just it occupies such a space in your brain that then when it moves out, it’s like all your fears move in or something. But I mean, for me, one thing that I think often helps with this stuff is just like reminding yourself that you love culture. And that’s one of the reasons why you want to make art. You know, it’s like going to movies or plays, reading books, playing video games, watching TV, whatever, I mean, going to museums not. And for me, it’s like I have to remind myself, you’re not going to write about this. Like, don’t book a job to review this stuff. Just go out and enjoy it as a civilian again and remind yourself what it’s like to like experience art instead of wanting to write about it. You know what I mean?

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Karen Hahn: It is really refreshing to be able to turn off that part of your brain, even though it also is very hard to do that.

Isaac Butler: Yes, absolutely.

Isaac Butler: Well, we have a lot more to say about this. I know. So let’s take a quick break and then we’ll get right back to it. Karen. I feel like there’s a weird loop I get into. I don’t I don’t know if you do or not, but it’s like during these periods where I need to recharge and I’m not at my most productive or creative, I then start beating myself up for like, You’re wasting your time. You’ve only got one precious life. How are you going to have a nice shelf worth of books with your name on the spines if you’re not working every second? And I know on some cognitive level that’s that silly because you need those intermissions, you need those moments to rebuild so that you can then do another big project and really be at your best for it. But there’s a weird thing. It’s like the fact that I miss having a big project turns into being angry at myself that I don’t or something. I’m crazy right.

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Karen Hahn: Now. I honestly think you’re totally right because I think I get the same way. But I think the really big thing to remember is that it’s not totally up to you. Like working on a book without knowing that it’s going to get published is like just screaming into a void for at least a couple of years and then like writing a script for a movie or TV show in no way guarantees that it’s going to get made or even like read by anybody. You can really just only do your best in those instances. So you have to remember like the end result that you want, even that is not totally within your control. So the fact that you’re constantly working doesn’t even mean that you’re going to have the end goal that you want. So with that in mind, it’s good to take care of yourself first.

Isaac Butler: Totally.

Isaac Butler: You know, that’s funny, Karen, because I’m glad to hear you say that because I consider you much more well-adjusted than I am. The fact that you also have this anxiety is is of great comfort.

Karen Hahn: Yeah. I mean, we talk about this so much on the show, but again, I feel like if you don’t have security or like just total job security in which you would never worry about money in your life, it is impossible not to worry about this stuff, not just from like an ambition level where it’s like, I want to accomplish this stuff, but from a just life and financial level.

Isaac Butler: Right. I mean, I think the solution here, therefore, is for you and I to commit a series of high stakes crime. Yes, absolutely. And then we’ll have like an unlimited cash flow and then we won’t have to worry and we can just create whatever we want to create. What do you think about that?

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Karen Hahn: Yeah, we’ll get really into crypto.

Isaac Butler: Get really into crypto. Yes. I think that’s very healthy. I think. Yeah, crypto is a space where nothing to go but up.

Karen Hahn: Exactly. Nobody is stealing anything. Exactly. So it’s not a fake economy at all.

Isaac Butler: It’s not a fake economy at all. Exactly. I agree. You know, we talked before about, you know, one of the ways to creatively recharge is just to enjoy more of other people’s creativity. For me, it always has to involve leaving the house. It always has to be like going to a movie theater, going to a museum. There’s something about the physical act, probably because I work from home of leaving the home that makes it feel more recharging. But, you know, there’s another thing that I think we don’t talk about enough on the show, which is recharging or reinvesting in your personal relationships that aren’t work relationships, because I don’t know about you, but, you know, it’s not like I was hanging out with friends a lot during the last year of writing the book, in part because of the pandemic, but in part because I was just writing the book all the time. So do you, as you look to the months ahead or you’re like, this is a period where I’m going to sort of reinvest in those social relationships, spend more time with people, you know, or whatever.

Karen Hahn: Not so explicitly, but I definitely like will be aware of like what friends I haven’t seen for a longer amount of time and try to put out the feelers and be like, Hey, like, I haven’t seen you in a while. Like, we’d love to hang out again. Let’s do something soon. And part of that is just like a normal part of maintaining relationships with people, even outside of how that relates to your work.

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Isaac Butler: Totally.

Karen Hahn: But then that is also honestly like part of taking care of yourself, especially if you know that like part of what is going to make you feel better or feel more recharged is hanging out with someone and just doing something else for a little while. For instance, like I also feel like I have a good handle on how like introverted, extroverted I am, where it’s like I would like to hang out with people like one or two times a week, but hanging out with someone every night of the week is way, way, way too much for me. So it’s just taking care of yourself in that same way.

Isaac Butler: And do you have regular things? Like, I built some regular things during the pandemic because it’s like, you know, when I was living in my mother in law’s place in rural Virginia, not seeing not physically seeing another human being outside of my family. Right. I was like I like had a book club. Yeah. You know, we’re still we’re still go and we actually pre-existed the pandemic. But like I started over Zoom playing Monster of the Week with some friends just so that like, you know, just have like a, you know, like a little role playing game. Yeah. You know, I just had to build things to keep myself rooted in human beings beyond being all these dead people I was writing a book about.

Karen Hahn: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve it’s been tough to sort of get back into that after moving, like because the meetings that I had in New York were like my dog or probably like that was the main thing that was like sort of on the calendar all the time. That died because I moved and everyone else is still in New York.

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Isaac Butler: So you can’t do it over zoom. You can’t zoom in.

Karen Hahn: We could, but I think the scheduling is a little more complicated now that there’s a three hour time difference.

Isaac Butler: Oh, right, right, right, right, right. Also, we all know how much you cheat. And so you’d be like, yeah, I wrote I wrote the 2020 critical damage. Critical damage.

Karen Hahn: I’m the group healer. So I actually didn’t really do very much damage.

Isaac Butler: Oh, right. But well, that’s all the time we have for this week. If you enjoy what we do on working, please make sure to subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

Karen Hahn: Big thanks to our working overtime producer Kevin Bendis and our supervising producer Cameron Drewes. We’ll be back with the regular show on Sundays. And in another two weeks we’ll have a new episode of working overtime. Until then, get back to work or take a break.