If there’s one thing I’ve found, after all these years of being a freelance genealogist and editorial type, it’s that sometimes it can be monumentally difficult to switch off.
For example, this afternoon I was in the travel agent’s in town, and while waiting for the lovely man to do his thing (yes, I really do want to pay for three pieces of luggage) I ended up looking at brochures. But not any old brochures – brochures for cruise companies I’ve worked with. It crossed my mind to ask for a few for my bookshelves. But I resisted. Why would I want the brochures when I have all the information on my shelves already? And those bookshelves are groaning as it is!
It was the editorial equivalent of finding treasure … oooh shinies!
Switching off is hard to do, especially if your specialism is all around you.
Now it wouldn’t be so bad if my subject was civil engineering (cue memories of working in the library and cataloguing the civil engineering books at they came through my section), but when it’s heritage, history and the ferry/cruise business, it’s all around you.
Obviously I don’t only work on these subjects, but a typical summer’s day, when I’m not working, can go something like this:
Nip out for some shopping at our local Lidl (they do the best cinnamon rolls for breakfast). It overlooks the harbour and the ferry is just leaving – I think of all the other ferries that have tootled over to Orkney from the mainland. I also marvel at the things I’ve learned about their maintenance and the vessel’s history. I then mentally slap myself for being a nerd.
I come home and check social media, then end up popping over to Ebay to look at old photo albums. I kid myself that it’s ‘for research purposes only’ and CPD, as historical clues abound within the half-rotten, foxed pages of a Victorian photo album.
I check Facebook and notice that it’s cruise season and a big old ship is docking at Scrabster, along with a few hundred tourists eager to soak up the north Highland atmosphere. I immediately wonder which cruise ship it is – if I’ve written about it, or the company, I might be tempted to go and have a look; if I know nothing of the ship, I might be tempted to go and have a look. Again, I’ve hit nerd territory.
Deciding I really need to relax I’ll pop on Netflix or Amazon Prime, and if I’m alone in the house I’ll often put my feet up with a cuppa and watch a historical documentary or a ghost hunters/forensic programme. I’ve been interested, and knowledgeable, in the supernatural for as long as I’ve walked this earth, and over the last few years I’ve taken any forensic courses I could find. But I’ve never edited a book on them yet, so I’m in safe territory. As soon as I hit the historical stuff though my brain kicks in – either triggering memories of old work, work I’m doing or work I hope to do in the future.
And there’s the odd moment, such as when my daughter and I were watching Reign (which I really must get back into). As we looked at the gorgeous frocks, laughing at how they were quite fantastical (although very pretty), and how some things really didn’t fit in with the time period, she noticed a zip. ‘Erm … they didn’t have zips back in the times of Mary Queen of Scots did they?’ ‘Nope’ *chuckle* (she’s not a historian for nothing).
After watching some quality programmes I might watch Bargain Hunt (or another antiques programme) then decide enough is enough and read for a little while. Stopping mid sentence when I spot an error or a misused word. *and breathe, nobody’s perfect and I’m trying to relax*
I’ll pop onto Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn to see what’s happening in the world, check my emails (again), and watch a YouTube video on marketing that’s pinged into my Messenger box.
Finally, if I’m having a really good day I’ll pop onto Newspapers.com, or Ancestry, or FindMyPast and do a little research on a side project I’m writing. I say ‘writing’ but I haven’t got that far yet as I keep researching and reading up on the era. I need to just stop the damn research already and get on with it!
Now, I’m sure this is the same for all freelances, but I never realised quite how much my job would take over my existence. I envy those who can switch off and perhaps sit on a beach with a novel without reading the landscape around them and wondering what the earthworks on that hill over there were, or looking at a building and seeing its history unfold before their eyes.
I love history, both on land and sea, but being able to switch off is a gift. One that I haven’t been given yet.
If any of you have tips and tricks (apart from blindfolds, locking yourself away for a while, or visiting a sensory deprivation tank) be sure to let me know.