Fallow periods

flickr credit: Shaun Nystrand

In November, I’ll be starting some new projects. It’s the first serious work I’ve done since closing Hide&Seek in January. As a parent of 2 children, I’ve definitely been busy, and have kept working on a bunch of small consultancy projects, but for the most part I’ve been the privileged position of doing nothing at all.

It felt pretty terrifying, stepping from a busy world with a great team and a secure identity into one where I didn’t have those things.  At times I’ve found the lack of routine and confidence hard to manage. I definitely haven’t done enough of the little sorting-out jobs I planned to do… What I have gained is restoration and reflection, and a chance to really think about what kind of work I want to do, and how I want to do it.

When running Hide&Seek I was thinking about all of that stuff all the time, but I was also worrying about salaries, cashflow, clients, project deadlines and all the rest. Cynicism and a distancing from my values were starting to creep in. We considered projects from sources that we knew we didn’t want to work with, but if they paid well…

It also seemed that a lot of the issues we faced as a company were related to the very optimistic way I had started us off in 2006. I think there’s a kind of intellectual scaffolding that gets put around an organisation right at its outset. In Hide&Seek’s case, some of that was lucky/smart (there’s an obvious case for games as culture, there’s an interesting space between physical and digital) and some was rookie/dumb (I should start this company up by myself, we should be client-funded, I can do a bit of everything, we can be cultural entrepreneurs, somehow transmuting art projects into valuable equity).  You can fix *some* of that stuff as you go along but you can’t fix it all.

I think that a fallow period is very useful for a kind of long-range digging over the tricky relationship between the things you want to manifest in the world and the things that world wants from you. I feel like I’m in a place now where I still don’t know exactly what’s next, but I have a much more solid grasp of the interface between me and my working life.  

If you’re able to carve out a chunk of time, I highly recommend it. I would recommend having some kind of external support for it though. Find a coach, or a friend, or a fellow professional in a similar boat, and plan regular meet-ups. It’s very easy to lose sight of the positives when you’re not immersed in the sector you work in, and professional FOMO is a  powerful and pernicious kind of FOMO. Don’t have a ProFOMO affair. Seek help instead :)

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