All Work and No Play is No Fun and No Good

Take time to watch the sunsets. Photo courtesy of Dana Ross Martin WANA Commons

We live in a world that is rushing, rushing always rushing. Always busy, busy, busy. We feel as if every small segment of our lives should be scheduled. In America we glorify the workaholic. Many people even brag about how many years they have gone without a vacation, wearing their stress illnesses like a red badge of courage.

We live this lie that it is possible to have it all. We can work 100 hours a week, and be good parents, spouses, and stewards of our community and suffer no consequences with our health.

Recently I read CBS Steve Tobak’s blog about Marissa Mayer. Yahoo scooped up Mayer to inject new life into it’s lagging business. For those unfamiliar with Mayer, she is the hot-shot from Google. Her workaholism is legendary and various articles have cited how Mayer was known to work 90-130 hour weeks with as many as 60 meetings. And Mayer proudly proclaims that 130 hour weeks are doable if one is willing to shower strategically and sleep under one’s desk.

Ok. Yeah, I’m right on that.

I confess that I have a hard time not feeling lazy in the face of this. Granted, I look at Mayer logically and think, Is she out of her MIND? Yet, I admit that I have a hard time relaxing and I feel guilty if I am not doing something productive. The fact that my mother is Scandinavian does not help.

Scandinavian women are legendary for their ability to properly clean a sink.

A Brief History of Me

When I was little, my mother ran our home like a well-oiled machine. It was not uncommon for me to come home and see my mom on a ladder painting or wallpapering. She cross-stitched everything. She baked cookies for my school and made homemade lasagnas for the church. One year, she sewed dozens of dolls by hand to give to underprivileged kids in our community.

On Saturdays, my mom would play The Best of Dolly Parton as my brother and I wiped all the doors, cabinets and baseboards with wood oil. To this day I can’t hear the song, Jolene without feeling the need to dust something.

Then, in about the mid-80s my family was torn apart by a thief. We owned a small custom furniture shop. We made beautiful tables, desks, chairs out of fine hardwoods like cherry and African teak. The secretary and one of the craftsmen embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars, bankrupting my family. Of course there was a lot of blame. Everyone felt betrayed, humiliated and foolish they hadn’t caught this woman earlier. My parents began to fight and then a couple years later, divorce.

We lost our home and had to move, then move again and again and again. My mom was trying to make it through nursing school and I was put in charge of running much of the house, including the cooking, cleaning, laundry and helping little brother with his homework. I remember being eleven years old, still finding comfort as I mopped and sung along with Coat of Many Colors.

Those years were hard for all of us. We lived hand to mouth, crammed together in rental homes far too small for us. It seemed that if I kept busy, I could keep looking forward and not mourn what had passed. But now I feel like all that hard work, while good for me, created some bad habits and I need to relearn some vital lessons for a happy life.

Fun Should Be a Priority

I find it very difficult to just have fun for fun’s sake. I am really happy I have a job I love, and that I get to serve all of you because it is a great joy. Yet, I know I need to work on just having fun. Not having fun while I work (though I think we all need to learn that), but just playing.

Ever notice how little kids can sleep anywhere? And they sleep so deeply and are always rested? Yes, well it is probably from all that playing. Many of us would do well to learn to just play. Play is good for the spirit and recharges creativity, something all humans need but most especially writer-humans.

I know I am working on playing more.

Yes, I was actually INSIDE the bouncy house with The Spawn.

Value Rest

I feel as if I am always on the go. Even though I was gone almost all of July on the road, I just haven’t been able to bring myself to take time off. I panic that everything will get too out of control.

There is just too much to do!

Granted, I do have to multi-task if I have any hope of not looking like an episode of Hoarders. I have a toddler, and society frowns on you crate-training your kids.

Oh, don’t call CPS. It was Halloween and he climbed in there. We let him out…eventually.

Often, when I take a break from writing, I call my mom or a friend and talk while I fold laundry, do dishes, etc. Yet, lately, I find myself multi-tasking to the point of stupidity.

True story. I was talking to my mother, cleaning the kitchen and then I felt a tickle in my throat. Well, I didn’t have time to be sick, so I grabbed the Vitamin C (while talking and cleaning). I grabbed up some trash to throw away…and tossed the Vitamin C in the garbage…while keeping the trash. I can’t count the times I’ve ended up with keys in the freezer, cell phones in the cabinet, or ice cream in the pantry.

Yes, I know. Madness.

I think this country values the Marissa Mayers a bit too much. I don’t know if people who work 130 hour weeks are good heroes to have. So today, I am declaring a new hero. Johnny Pocket. He has no trouble playing and no trouble resting. Rest is good for all of us. It gives us time to refill and refresh. Johnny is always refreshed.

Why don’t you just take a nap?

Learn to Be Realistic

I know this urge to multi-task is coming from my own unrealistic expectations. I live each day believing that I am going to have a clean house that looks like a magazine and that isn’t real life.

Didn’t I just WASH these?

This thinking is grossly flawed. Just like women can’t expect to look like airbrushed 22 year-old poofy-lipped models with the body of a prepubescent boy, we can’t expect our homes to look like a print ad from Good Housekeeping.

Clean this dresser off AT LEAST once a week. Sigh.

One of the biggest challenges we all face is learning to play, to give ourselves grace, and to learn to be realistic. We don’t have to have perfect bodies and perfect homes and we don’t need to write 5,000 words a day to be real writers. The theme of my teaching is always we are not alone. We are all imperfect. We all struggle, even me. Every day is a new opportunity to start fresh and give it another go. We all judge ourselves too harshly and we all, likely, need to learn to lighten up.

SO I commend Marissa Mayer for her work ethic, but while she is rescuing Yahoo…I will be in the bounce house :D.

What about you? Are you too hard on yourself? Do you place unrealistic demands on yourself? Do you have a hard time resting and playing without feeling guilty? How do you make sure to get enough rest? What ways do you play? How did you overcome your perfectionism? Do you struggle with perfectionism? Do you think we value workaholics too much?

To prove it and show my love, for the month of August, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of August I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.


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  1. LOL! Your chest of drawers looks like mine! Great article, Kristen. Wish I could learn to sleep anywhere, again. 🙂

  2. I loved this article and I have to admit, my couch and dresser look just like yours. I, too, need to have more fun. I love fun. In fact, I think I’ll go play a game with my kid. Thanks! 🙂 Now get off the computer and go have some fun, too.

    • Courtney Crow Wyrtzen on August 10, 2012 at 12:25 pm
    • Reply

    I guess I need a break– this post made me cry! Thank you for telling us about your childhood~

    • annerallen on August 10, 2012 at 12:27 pm
    • Reply

    I so much relate to this, Kristen. I put my keys in the freezer this week too! I was frantically looking everywhere. Finally I realized I was thirsty and exhausted, so I decided to make myself a nice iced tea and sit down and calm myself. Found the keys near the ice bin, of course. I think I should plan a little fun this weekend, even if it isn’t on the schedule.

    Your family history is so sad–but it made you who you are, so that’s a good thing 🙂 Thanks for sharing it.

    Gorgeous sunset photo! (Like the kitty in the chair, too.)

  3. This is such a great post, Kristen! What really helped me gain perspective – aside from a mother who reminded us constantly that actors and models are just people who do their jobs in public – was when I worked for a man whose home was going to be photographed for Architectural Digest or one of those big magazines. It took DAYS, paid housekeepers in addition to the owners, and a short-term rental of a storage unit to get the house to the point where it was actually photographed. And on the day of the shoot, my boss and his wife hired all-day babysitters to babysit the kids in the office above the garage so there were no unexpectedly jelly smears. (Guess who did some unexpected babysitting?) That day, I really SAW that what we see in magazines is not real, and therefore not something to live up to. Now if only I can keep that in mind more often! 🙂

  4. Wow, once a week? My kitchen table could be an anthropological study! I found my kitchen counters yesterday and hope to meet them again real soon. Play? Yeah, I’ll get right on that and it will NOT be a computer game. I have started a pathetic garden in hopes of making that part of the house look pretty.
    Sleep anywhere I have conquered hands down. It’s getting into bed that’s the problem. And I don’t even have children. Okay, a bunch of dogs sort of qualifies

  5. You mention “I am working on playing more.” and “need to learn to play.” Like most of us, you are in your head vs. in your heart. “Drop down (head to heart) and drop out (take time out to do NOTHING)” Kids don’t “work” at playing or “learn” to play. I had to learn to work — AND PLAY — hard. It is not about working less (for those of us Mayers’ of the world), it is about playing MORE. Every 6 weeks, I take a mini-vacation for a half day, a full day or weekend (something I learned from Paul Orfalea who started Kinko’s) – it helps you to come back to your work FRESH and do what is important first, then the rest later. Also I schedule and commit (not just plan or daydream) 2-3 major travel trips a year – one of which is every fall to Paris. Here are others I led – coming work (I’m a writer) and play (travel which inspires me to write more):

  6. You mention “I am working on playing more.” and “need to learn to play.” Like most of us, this is more head-speak than heart-speak. I can relate as I also cerebral, even in describing my feelings. I’m reminded by my son that kids don’t “work” at playing or “learn” to play. I now work and play hard. Both. I had to learn this. It is not about working less (for those of us Mayers’ of the world), it is about playing MORE. Every 6 weeks, I take a mini-vacation (going to a museum, play, beach, spa, etc.) for a half day, a full day or weekend (something I learned from Paul Orfalea who started Kinko’s) – it helps you to come back to your work FRESH and do what is important first, then the rest later. Also I schedule and commit (not just plan or daydream) 2-3 major travel trips a year – one of which is every fall to Paris. Here are trips for writers — combining work and play:

  7. Kristen, I had to LOL about you dusting to Jolene. When my kids were young, I played the Nutcracker Suite every Saturday morning while we cleaned house. My son (now age 50) says he still can’t hear the Nutcracker without feeling an impulse to clean his room.
    I’m lucky in that I can sleep anytime, anywhere! I love to take naps. They are the greatest thing since sliced bread.
    One thing that my husband and I do is give each other toys. For Christmas last year I got a kazoo. I’ve given him many balsa airplanes, electric car sets, etc. Toys are great for big kids! We also play a lot of games–Yahtze, Uno, sports on the Wii. Play makes life worthwhile.

  8. Yes, yes, yes! This is exactly what I have been thinking about for myself. I’ve found that working from home (I’m a grad student working on my dissertation when I’m not trying to write novels) makes me feel like I should ALWAYS be working, because, y’know, I can. I can technically write, edit, and research at any time of the day or night, and because I’m not sitting in an office for 8 hours a day, I start to feel guilty that I’m not working HARD enough. And so I spend my days trying to force myself into some whirlwind of productivity, only to feel guilty at the end of each day.

    So I totally agree, we need to change our culture of workaholicism and make time for fun. My cat is my newest mascot in all things lazy and sleepy; he keeps me company while I work, and always reminds me when it’s naptime. 😀

  9. Wow, Kristen, as always your posts are timely. I actually played for half a day yesterday — dancing with my standard poodle (Seriously. We perform at theaters, libraries and schools.) Even though we have a show scheduled in October, I felt guilty afterwards for rehearsing and then strolling the boardwalk. Thank you for giving us permission to play!

  10. I always wonder about managers who can’t manage two weeks away. Good post.

  11. Argh. I’m doing too much playing right now. Need to go outside to get away from computer, and then consider what task to tackle first.

    On the other hand, ice cream in the pantry sounds incredibly amusing.

  12. Great post. What a childhood you survived — congrats! It takes tremendous stamina to just forge ahead after the blow your family took…

    This week I had a Wed. meeting from 12:30 to 2pm in NYC. I didn’t have the next meeting til 6:30. So, yes, I went to the movies. Cool dark on a hot humid day, scarfing popcorn and loving the French film shot in Provence. I could have whipped myself into work (nope) and I once would have. Not any more. The pleasure and respite of a break only spurs me to work better afterward, (like the hr. of Olympic synchro swimming I snuck into today’s sked.)

    I don’t have kids, so my time is less spoken for, but this trend to being BUSY is insane and life-shortening.

  13. I have a 4 year old who helps with household chores. But we take time to play at the neighborhood park, the local library, a trip to Target (her favorite store, lol), or sometimes just lazing around the house reading, building with Legos or baking. Great article. Thanks for sharing and for reminding me that there things that are more important in life than laundry, lol.

  14. A friend had this posted on Facebook: “Today’s National Lazy Day. Unfortunately, I’m too busy to celebrate it.”
    I can relate! And it’s no coincidence that she is also a writer! 🙂

  15. I took the day off from the day job planning on writing all day. Instead, I hit a word count, then drove to a walking path I’d been wanting to try (1mile bridge across the Mississippi.) Thanks for making me see my choice was just as important as spending the day in my chair.

  16. This post really resonates with me. I find that there’s a lot of pressure within the writing community to prove your productivity, with everyone posting their daily word counts on Twitter. When I have a free day, I feel like I’m obligated to use my time accumulating words instead of going out to play in the sun or meet a friend for coffee. Thanks for reminding us that play is important!

  17. Kristen~I’m so sorry for what happened to your family. It’s truly heartbreaking. I hope those thieves had to serve jail time. Dishonest people like this pair don’t realize (or probably don’t care) how their selfish actions affect others. Arrrrrrgh….. (that’s the latina pitbull in me)

    I have an 11-year-old granddaughter and can’t even imagine her taking on all of that responsibility that you took on as a kid. Those thieves are also guilty of robbing a little girl of her childhood.

    Thank you for reminding us to get out there and play. I just spent a week with my grandkids and I can’t remember laughing so hard in such a long time. Kids are the experts at play. And they can sure teach us a thing or two about how to kick off our grown-up shoes and have some real fun!

    And hooray for you for jumping into the boucey house!!! Keep playing!!! Housework will always be there. And trust me…. even when the kids grow up and move out of the house, the laundry and dishes still pile up. LOL!

  18. This is something I constantly struggle with. If I’m not working 12 hour days 7 days a week, I feel like a lazy failure slacker. I’ve paid for it health-wise, so I’m now taking one full day off a week, setting aside another afternoon to spend with my husband, and I’m getting into bed at a decent time. While I haven’t been at it long, it’s made such an unbelievable difference. I feel better, and I’m more productive.

  19. I’m so sad by the story of how your family was broken up by two horrible sociopaths, but I admire the way you and your mom carried on valiantly in the aftermath.

    You are absolutely right in that we all have these unrealistic expectations of ourselves. Unfortunately, I tend to hold myself to the standards of my Type A friends and work myself in a knot trying to do it all.

    Thanks for yet another meaningful article…and most of all, thanks for the great photo of your kiddo in the crate! It (and your caption) was my best laugh today. 🙂

  20. You are wise beyond your years realizing this now instead of later. I made the mistake of learning this lesson the hard way…depression, anxiety, feeling like I’d totally lost my mind. It’s a long story and I won’t bore everyone here, but in retrospect it was probably the only way I would have changed. I’m a driven person, crazy driven in my husbands words, and I had to hit that brick wall before I could see what destruction lay behind me.

    Like many of us, we push ourselves to the extremes and forget what it means to relax, play, enjoy the slice of life that has been bestowed upon us. Life is a gift that we take for granted, I’ve found it’s truly the simplest things in life that I get the most joy from now.

    My house is not perfect, it’s lived in. The dust bunnies that never dared appear in my home now run freely. The fairies that used to make everything crisp, clean and shiny have gone on strike. The gourmet cook that used to reside has disappeared.

    The best part of this transformation is that I am now a happier, calmer and a more loving person than I ever was before. I also managed to get eight novels out of it too…had never written before this “thing” happened, but am totally addicted to it now.

    Live, laugh and love, that’s my motto now.

  21. “Scandinavian women are legendary for their ability to properly clean a sink” *raises hand*

    Yes–I am a recovering Scandinavian woman.

    There came a point when I decided it was mental health or a spotless house. I chose the former. Life’s demands are a balancing act and they are managed, not solved. That old cliche about the journey being more important than the destination? Well it applies here too. If the destination is to have a house that looks like a magazine cover and a body the same–that would last what? half hour? Then we would have to continue to maintain it all. So you better enjoy the journey or you are going to be one unhappy puppy.

    Thanks for reminding us to choose sanity 🙂

    Recovering Scandinavian Christine

  22. I should play more, but that takes too much work. 😉

    1. Lanette~take out a box of crayons or markers and start coloring…. 🙂

  23. I wrote this poem on the exact same subject years ago.

    A Race Against Time

    Young boy on his way to school
    Silently raises his head.
    “Mother, can I climb the trees?”
    “No time, no time” she said.

    Young man and his lady friend
    Rise from their warm bed.
    “Let us walk amongst the trees.”
    “No time, no time” she said.

    Businessman on his way to a meeting
    Watches the sky turn red.
    “See the sunset over the trees.”
    “No time, no time” they said.

    Death walks in with scythe and hour glass
    Come to collect the dead.
    “Wait! Let us stand and look at the trees.”
    “No time, no time” he said.

    1. Ooooh! AWESOME poem! Thanks for sharing :D.

    2. WOW…. powerful words! Love this poem. Is it published somewhere? If not, it ought to be. Thanks for sharing!

    3. Super poem!

  24. That’s one thing I love about my younger dog – he’s constantly playing, and makes me play with him even when I’m at the computer writing or sitting on the couch watching tv. And he’s so uber-happy when I start playing with him that I can’t help but smile myself 🙂 GREAT stress relief!

  25. Thank you for the wake-up call! I feel justified! 🙂 Indeed, we all need to turn down the fire from under the bottomless pot of multi-tasking before WE boil over. Kristen, I took the liberty of laminating this post and have super-glued it to the fridge for all to take heed of. All work and not enough (or no) play is not good sense. But, I relate to having this constant “itch” to be doing, finishing, dusting, etc, especially when it is learned/become a necessity in the formative years. Still, it is never too late to try. “Gone Fishing!”

  26. I just recently had a similar conversation with a good friend at work. He’s a perfectionist, so you can imagine how stressed he gets. The first thing I do is have fun at work. It’s not all slap-stick and one liners, just a happy attitude and bit of humor interjected into the normal goings-on. This helps keep the stress levels moderated.

    At home, I play techno or similarly upbeat music to clean to. The kids love it. We dance and the house gets clean(ish) too. My playtime comes after the kids are in bed and the dishwasher loaded. I have a subscription to Marvel’s digital comics, so I often go read my favorite titles to relax. Of course chatting with friends can be a great stress reliever too and tons of fun. Just the other day I spent the day out with my girlfriends. We laughed so much and had the best time. Gotta do that a least a few times a month. It really helps.

  27. Oh dear God, YES I’m awful at just playing for play’s sake. And I have so many demands on my time trying to get everything in that the idea of leaving things UNDONE makes my eye twitch. My video games are exercise ones. I read while riding the exercise bike. I plot while I run. I do all of this so that the approximately 12 hours of the rest of the day I sit on my butt, it doesn’t spread like a glob of oatmeal or something equally gloppy and spreadworthy. Various people often try to get me to slow down and take a rest. “You don’t have to do everything.” Yes. Yes, I do. Because all the things I want to drop I CAN’T because they are JOB things and NO ONE ELSE will do them for me or do anything to help me. The only thing left to drop is the only thing I do purely for myself, the thing that means I still have a soul, so now I absofreakinglutely WILL NOT stop trying to write. I will not stop trying to produce every day. Getting to my eventual dream of not having to DO All The Things means years of Doing All The Things when I’d rather be sleeping. And I just cling to that someday future where I am no longer wasting 60 hours a week on two jobs that I hate.

    1. Wow, Kait~I literally had to stop and take a breath as I read your post. I mean that with all respect. We have a writer peep in our group who at any time is working 3 to 5 jobs (elem. teacher/college instructor; family therapist; family business, to name a few) and now she’s also taking care of her elderly & ill mother, and her young adult daughter was just recently diagnosed with MS, so my friend is helping out with the two small grandkids. She’s had an editor who has shown interest in her early reader series, but she hardly has time to breathe let alone finish the series. I worry about her…. and when I read your post, I felt compelled to encourage you to take a breath. And yes, write, write, write, but remember we write for children, so don’t forget to play, too… I once bought my friend some Playdough and other nostalgic toys to remind her to play. So make a playdate with your inner child and go get some Silly Putty and treat yourself to an ice cream with all of the forbidden toppings!

    2. I hear you, Kait. I feel out of control sometimes, too. When I started writing I was actually still full time in sales driving a 1000 miles+ a week so I know that feeling. But if I could take a Delorean back and slap younger Kristen, I would. Just a day of play and rest makes the productivity so much better. When we are tired and burned out we are less effective in our work, especially creative work. You will get there. Baby steps. Just small breaks here and there to remember to take in the world and enjoy it :D.

    • jodenton445 on August 10, 2012 at 2:57 pm
    • Reply

    Hi, Kristen. I can so relate with the keys in the freezer, and towels in the trash. I get so sidetracked sometimes, I completely lose my line of thought/action (people do look at me as if I’m an idiot after the third half-completed sentence!).
    Great post and even better advice. Thanks.

  28. I have a 90-plus year old friend, Rosie…(we met 26 years ago, in a Barbie Doll collector’s club), and she is the biggest kid I know. She starts off each day reading the comics. She has such a childlike/fun spirit….through the years, I’ve told her many times, “Rosie, when I grow up, I want to be just like you.” Rosie, who lives up to her name, has always found time to play! 🙂

  29. One of the most oppressive and dangerous places in any house is the kitchen sink. I remember reading somewhere that child services determined that a woman was not a good mother because they peeked in the kitchen window and saw dirty dishes in the sink. A true story – I just wish I could remember where I read it.

    I try and make a point of having at least one unwashed item on my kitchen counter, just to tick off the housecleaning police in case they come a’knocking on my door.

  30. There is so much wisdom in this post, Kristen. As I have suspected for some time, you are wise beyond your years. What a wonderful WANA world it would be if everyone re-read this post at least once a week for the rest of their lives.

    As you know, I am older, sixty to be exact (close to your mother’s age, if I remember correctly). The day that I stopped multitasking was the day that I discovered what it is to be alive. I do understand about all the demands–I had many in my life and still do–I was one of the best multitaskers ever but it exacts a price from everyone at some point. Make no mistake about that. The cost to me was my health but as I said, I gained life, ultimately. It just took most of my life to find it.

    One of the reasons I have been so excited about all that you are accomplishing with WANA is because you really are offering people another perspective on life: a life fulfilled is a life of community and love. Imagine that America. Well, I do because of younger people like you.

    Well done, Kristen.


  31. Kristen: I’m sorry to hear how your family broke up and how the aftermath affected your lives. Thank you for posting this and stressing the importance of taking time to enjoy Life whenever possible.

  32. Great post, Kristen! We all need to laugh and play more. I recently took a Laughter Yoga Leader Training course. The reason I took it was that I don’t laugh enough. My husband is Japanese and the Japanese are great workers. My husband can’t relax unless there is a reason to be doing whatever it is. Laughter Yoga (called yoga because yogic breathing is involved) was developed, by an Indian physician who became aware of the health and spiritual benefits of laughter and child-like playfulness. We all need to stop taking ourselves and our jobs so seriously and take time to laugh and play.

    • Tamara LeBlanc on August 10, 2012 at 8:06 pm
    • Reply

    Kristen, I’m so sorry that awful person stole from your family. That’s horrible.
    But I am a deep believer in karma, and I know that that secretary and craftsman will pay for their crimes in some way, shape, or form, that is, if they haven’t already.
    That being said, I also believe that everything, everything, happens for a reason. You may feel guilty for having some fun instead of being productive at times, but the theft you experienced as a young girl, and the subsequent hardship you lived through has made you the wonderful person you are today. And thank goodness for that, because the world would be pretty dark without Kristen Lamb and WANA in it 😉
    And, yep, in answer to your question, I’m pretty hard on myself. Not so much with my writing. Right now I’m in a good place with that, which is very good, because it took so long for me to feel confident about my talent. My issue comes with exercise and eating right. My executive husband lost his job about five months ago and I found out I’m a stress eater…grrr.
    I need to remedy this desire to eat like I’m going to the chair and get on track with my weight again. I need to remember to practice what I preach and realize that everything does happen for a reason, and that this little hiccup in our lives will pass, and we’ll be lucky to have learned something in the process.
    Thank you for sharing your story with us.
    Have a glorious, productive and FUN weekend,

  33. Hi Kristen, I loved your reminder for play. I’m so sorry about your childhood, but like someone else said, your childhood made you the person you are to day and the rest of us can be thankful for that. I do want to say, the picture with the Spawn in the dog crate reminded me of a news story I saw. I live in Iowa, but our TV stations are from Omaha NE. Somewhere in Nebraska, a woman and two other people who lived in her trailer were arrested for putting her children in a dog crate to sleep because they tended to sneak outside after everyone went to sleep. They were recently found not guilty and released. I guess the courts decided the dog crate wasn’t any worse than a pack and play or a play pen. The kids can’t get out of them either. I also saw an old Doris Day movie and she kept her youngest boy in a dog crate because he tended to end up in places he shouldn’t. So I think you’re safe.

  34. I love this post. And you know, I was a professional organizer for 7 years and that I was taught that it is very important to be neat. And these days, I teach. And I write. And I drive my kid around. And I am trying to feel okay about leaving the dishes in the sink before I go to bed. I’m getting better at it.


    I’ve never had a hard time leaving it all alone in exchange a day of fun with a friend.

    Love this: “I commend Marissa Mayer for her work ethic, but while she is rescuing Yahoo…I will be in the bounce house.” Love it. But do you believe it? Because I don’t know how you do all you do.

  35. When I saw the picture of your kid in the cage, I immediately thought of the movie “Please Don’t Eat The Daisies”…

    The stress that goes along with nearly every job will kill you if you let it. Unfortunately, I learned that the hard way.

  36. Great reminder. And in fact, I’ve been reading Quiet (a book about introversion) that suggests that having quiet recreational times facilitates our creativity in ways that multi-tasking never can.

    Now I’m itching to take a day off and hit the beach. Sand & sea, here I come!

    1. Woohoo, Julie! Hit up the beach! Save me some sand so I can bring a book and meet up!

  37. Ok, now I don’t feel so guilty for taking a vacation with my honey. It felt good to mostly de-connect for a bit and relax. And it recharged me. I am more excited to write again!

    Good for you for taking time in the bounce house! Too cute. And love the picture of crate-trained Spawn. LOL

    I also hear ya on the multi-tasking. Was talking to my mom on the phone, carrying in library books, and digging in my purse freaking out cause I couldn’t find my phone. Um, duh, Jess, you’re talking on it! *head desk* Also threw some earrings into the washing machine today; thank god they didn’t break!

  38. What I love most about your posts — or second most — are the comments, I actually read what all these astute caring people have to say. And every one makes me think, some make me act! But this post, I don’t even know what to say, yes I get some play time, a swim in the pool, a walk with the dog and boy, reading an awesome book before I go to bed. But I haven’t had a day off — off, off — for months.

    I feel like a big old tight ball of stress. With an eye that has been twitching for two weeks. Seriously.

    I think it’s time to re-imagine and re-evaluate my life/play style.

  39. My mom is a major type A (still, after two bouts with lymphoma and a stem cell transplant). She taught us to have fun (she taught my sister and I to Double Dutch jump rope), but work always came first. To this day, I feel guilty if I am playing or relaxing and the floors need to be swept or the dishwasher isn’t emptied. I’ve learned to fool myself by making a list of several things that are my “work” for the day. When they’re done, I get to play. I actually sat in the sun reading a book and napping for three hours today (I know -crazy laziness).

    Thanks for another honest post. I will be reblogging this.

  40. Another great post. I’m marking playtime on this weekends calendar…I’m going to spend the night with my nieces and nephews…we’re gonna stay up late,watch scary movies then start over again on Sunday. It’ll be back to work on Monday though..well not to my day job (it’s my day off) but back to writing.

  41. A timely reminder, Kristen. I’ve started multi-tasking to the point I can barely mono-task, and am now trying to unlearn that most addictive of habits and apply myself properly to tasks once more. And read. Just want to sit on the sofa and read.

    • emilykimelman on August 11, 2012 at 7:53 am
    • Reply

    See now this is exactly why I moved onto a boat and got rid of all my stuff. It’s easy to keep the place ship shape, you can’t help but have a lot of parties, and taking adventurous trips becomes a lifestyle rather than a goal. Oh, and the rocking of the boat makes it EASY to sleep. Being a boathemian can’t be beat 🙂

    1. Oh, Emily — boathemian! Sounds heavenly.

  42. Kristen,
    What a perfectly timed post for me personally. It is so difficult to stop working or feel like I have the personal freedom to do so. Last night I decided to just STOP and watch a movie but I felt guilty the entire time. I even woke up in the middle of the night worrying about the emails that I did not return and designs that I did not complete. It is so vital to remember it is ok to not get it all done plus more.

    Thank you. As always you remind me that it is ok. I do believe that if I would spend more time having fun outside of the office I would be far more creative when I got back to it.

    • nathaliehourihan on August 11, 2012 at 9:23 am
    • Reply

    Thanks for the post — while I struggle to clamp down on my need for continual busyness and also struggle with “I should really be having more fun”, I’ve tried to ban the words “I’m too busy” from my excuse list. At least the one I say out loud. Especially when it comes to explaining why I don’t have time to talk to or meet up with friends or family. WE ALWAYS CHOSE WHAT WE PRIORITIZE. Even if it doesn’t seem that way at the time. As for multi-tasking, the more stressed out I get the more I try to go slow and mono-task. But at the end of the day sometimes life just feels easier when we go into auto-busy. Stopping, slowing down, concentrating can be uncomfortable and often forces me to face up to things I’d rather not have to think about.

  43. I am very guilty of not having enough fun, especially when times are tough financially (like now) because my kids seem to think having fun = spending money. You’ve inspired me to set up a timetable though – something to make sure that fun is included in the agenda.

    Why do I need a timetable? Well, mostly because my partner possibly has Aspergers and my son definitely has it – they both hate not knowing what is going to happen at any particular moment…

    You are an inspiration so I’m giving you the “Sunshine Award” for inspiring me – I know it’s not a real award but it does allow me to show you how much I love your work!

  44. Great point. Got it and I’m taking a break. Seriously, I’ll be following you later. Good advice. Thanks.

  45. Excellent post. And I think we end up this way in part because from the age of five on (younger if you went to a pre-school) we’re told to focus on assigned tasks, usually in contravention to our passions and inclinations. Eighteen years later we’re staring at our master’s degree, without a clue how to be happy, but darned sure we need always to be busy. How can you HAVE fun when you lost sight, years ago, of what pleases you?

  46. Wonderful post, Kristen, and as always you’re absolutely right! We should think of having fun…btw, what a beautiful photo, that red sunset! I personally hat multi-tasking and in any case I’ve solved the problem of cleaning up: I don’t do it unless it’s absolutely necessary, ha ha! No guilt feeling either…Amazing how easy it is to get used to a messy house… if you’re having fun elsewhere!

    • Brianna Soloski on August 11, 2012 at 1:17 pm
    • Reply

    I totally have unrealistic expectations for myself. I work at least one of my jobs every day, even weekends. I don’t take breaks. I put pressure on myself to acheive great goals in every aspect of my life. I’m going on vacation next week – missing four days of work + a valuable weekend. It’s making me twitchy, but I know I need the break. I know that I need to go be with my friends and explore the world and do nothing.

    • repurposed redhead on August 11, 2012 at 2:11 pm
    • Reply

    Too true Kristen. I never developed the workaholic bug myself, but I’ve witnessed far too many who have. I know if I start cramming too many things in a day and let myself get over tired and over worked, eventually I’m going to get sick. It’s just my bodies way of forcing me to slow down. I try not to get to that sick point anymore, but sometimes it’s just inevitable. Thanks for the reminder! -Rene

  47. It’s uncanny that you chose now to write this article, because I had a minor meltdown about this very fact earlier in the week. I have a demanding day-job, health issues, a boyfriend, and a family, but I still beat myself up if my don’t manage to take care of those things PLUS writing, research, writing classes, and platform building. It’s good to know that I’ve been given permission to stop being so hard on myself. 🙂

  48. Oh, yes, those unrealistic expectations! I always think I can do more than I actually can. I have an almost 3-year-old, so I know the futility of trying to keep the house fully organized. I am tired ALL the time (have been for 3 years) because the only way to keep up is to stay up after she goes to bed. Hopefully her going to school in the fall, will give me more concentrated writing time so I can play more when she’s around. Toddlers may take up our time, but they are also great at teaching us how to play!

  49. Hi Kristen–although we grew up in different homes with different stories, I totally understand the workaholic sydrome. Unfortunately for me, I had to go through a very long year of cancer treatment before I gave myself permission to “play.” (Even through the multiple surgery’s, chemotherapy, and radiation–I worked full time–crazy??) Anyways, a few weeks back, someone unknowingly gave me a great compliment by saying, “It’s like all you want to do is go out and live life!” I love learning how to play again!

    • Gail Aldous on August 12, 2012 at 8:52 pm
    • Reply

    Hi Kristen-I’ve always taken time to play (play a game with my children, hike in the woods, dig in my garden, play with my cats), but lately I’ve been too busy volunteering for my older daughter’s production of The Wiz to realize why I’m so exhausted. You have reminded me why I am exhausted. I need to take time for me: to play, to wonder, to wander, to imagine, to rest, to read, to breathe in the flowers, to listen to the tree frogs at night, to just sit. When I do these simple things for myself, I’m rejuvenated. Thank you for reminding me and all of to play.

  50. Hi Kristen, It’s funny that you posted this article this week. My blog last Wed. was “He Let’s Me Lie Down.” . I’ll post your link on my blog page.

    Very good article. We miss out on so much when we work all the time.

  51. I love your message, Kristen. I’ve been going through a reassessment for my life the past couple of weeks. Before, I was trying to do it all and though some was good, some wasn’t. And then I’d beat myself up for not keeping up with writing deadlines. I’ve finally figured out my solution for my balance. I need to cut back on my part-time paid work, gear up a little more with my full-time parenting of my five boys (12-3yrs) during the hours that they are home (including that fun stuff) , fully immerse myself in writing about three days a week and the other stuff the other three days. (Sundays are my days to worship and be with family.) Now, if I can only put this into action. I’m hoping September will be a happier month than July was. 🙂

  52. Oh yes, I have a hard time playing. Everyone tries to get in a few nights where we all sit in the living room and watch an episode of a tv show together that is pre-taped. Even when we do this – knowing its only going to be an hour long at the most – I feel guilty about doing nothing. I have literally had to train myself NOT to bring research to do in my chair, or fold laundry, or brainstorm plot ideas for the current WIP.
    I think always working has gotten to a ridiculous extreme that is doing more harm than good at this point.
    Now, I use logic. (LOL!) I tell myself, if I don’t take time to relax, time off, time to have fun, time to do absolutely nothing productive – I’m not going to be of any use to anyone. It will have negative consequences. Taking time to do something other than work, is good, positive, healthy – productive after all. If I’m not relaxing or taking some time for myself, I’m not going to be happy at all. Its not selfish, its smart and common sense.
    If I can give myself a reason, knowing that I’m not just trying to get out of responsibilities, I’ll allow myself off the hook.

  53. I really appreciated this post, Kristin. I am new to your writing and look forward to reading more. I’ve had my own business for years and worked so many long hours, and loved it. But it cost something and in retrospect at times it cost too much (when I think of the way I often felt so divided, the kids needed me, clients needed me). I’ve found a better balance now, but still gravitate toward thinking play is a treat, rather than a necessity. That is changing however. My play looks a lot like work because it is still creative, but I did play all weekend long this past weekend and it was wonderful. I would like to continue playing today…but Monday, Monday (cue The Mamas and the Papas).

    Thank you for sharing your personal story and reaching out to us with uplifting, inspiring words!

  54. Your digest this week resonates with so many; I am no different. I come from a very Italian/Irish catholic family, where the expectation is to academically achieve, have a successful career and be financially independent (from ones significant other). So you can imagine my inner turmoil of following my passion as a writer, after 12 years in the field of social work; not to mention my $38,0000 debt to our government for my Master’s degree, for which my parents were oh so proud that I had obtained. Now that degree is collecting some dust while I figure out how to make writing my financial freedom. But if social work taught me anything, it was how to balance…everything. I learned a long time ago the affects stress has on a body internally. I also saw first hand how meditation, yoga, fitness, and faith can change or reverse almost anything bad; mentally or physically. As a social worker I had seen a lot of death, hardship, abuse and struggle, and I carried it home with me for 12 years. But it helped me to see the value of life, living it and appreciating the wonder that this world shows us on a daily basis. So Mrs. Meyer to you I say “I feel sorry for you; that you think that working 130 hours a week, and making whatever it is you make, is what it takes to be happy and successful. Your truly missing the bigger picture.” Happiness starts on the inside, not the outside.
    Thanks Kristen!
    “Digestion Suggestion,” “The Sedulus Writer”

  55. Reblogged this on smtraphagen and commented:
    Kristen’s blog this week is one to be read; as is her book “We are not alone.”

  56. I enjoyed reading more about you. And I LOLed at the kennel photo. I have one with all 3 of my kids inside. 😀

  57. Your post is a welcome validation of what I’ve been trying to do all summer; not get caught up in anybody’s hype of what I “should” do. I try to organize my day to the rhythms of my life, not someone else’s-do what I can do and have an attitude of “oh, well, that didn’t get done so I’ll try again tomorrow.” You can make yourself crazy trying to keep some hypothetical schedule. I have learned that dust can be my friend. If I’m looking for something, I know whether to check that pile or not by the layer or lack thereof of dust. Stay in a positive side mindset and it’s all good 🙂

  58. I’m so glad I’m not the only one with a dresser that looks like that!! I swear it gets cleaned regularly but somehow it always accumulates again, and fast. You are hitting the nail right on the head… been trying to be more “present” with the kids at home, after I’m done working for the day. The laundry and toilets will get done eventually. And I’d work at home but I’d probably play more than work… I don’t have the necessary personal discipline I need to stay on track (like I have at my 9-5 cubicle job, where someone is always stopping by to ask me how the projects are going). Thanks for the post.

  59. great post, kristen. i’m going to shut off my computer and go swimming right after i post this. it’s so easy to get caught up in all the things you “have” to do and forget about the fun things you want to do. remember, all work and no play make jack nicholson crazy. ;0

  60. OMG – my mom is NEVER still -she’s in her 70’s now and goes goes goes goes goes — she always was like that – I rarely rarely saw her when I was a kid, or see her when I visit down there where she lives in Texas, watch TV.

    Thus, yes, when we were kids, we were always scrubbing – at least I was, the only girl of five kids. I scrubbed, I washed, I cleaned – I hated it *laugh* kids would come to the door “can kathy come out and play?” “no, she’s cleaning” and such went many saturdays while all the other kids were having fun – lawd! Ever scrub an entire floor with a toothbrush — it sucks *laugh*

    But, I do have this very strong work ethic. I ain’t afraid of hard work. My house is pretty clean, too, though I’ve relaxed on that. Because I think in the back of my mind, I always expected my mom to suddenly appear at my door, though for most of my adult life she’s lived too far away to do so, look at my house and proclaim it nasty *laugh*

    However, I’ve also learned the value of play and sometimes just “unplugging” – yeah. . . .

  61. Hi all, I was so moved by all of your responses to Kristen’s post. I didn’t realize how many don’t have much time to play, so while goofing around (while I should be writing), I found this Disneyland Youtube vid and thought it might be a fun way to goof off between manuscript revisions and washing dishes and all of that other fun jazz. So, take a few guilt-free moments from your busy schedules and have some fun!

  62. Thanks for putting things in perspective. Many people wonder what the meaning of life is after they’ve “succeeded”. Better to enjoy the journey while you are at it. Great post!

  63. Reblogged this on By Amanda Leigh and commented:
    I’m a huge fan of Kristen Lamb and I believe she has some incredible information for all us writers. I would definitely suggest you guys check out this one, as it kind of relates to me right now.
    I’ve put my writing aside for a few weeks so I can give myself a break. It’s my “play time” right now and I need to not get so wrapped up in my inner struggle with my writing and just let loose.
    I’ve been putting so much pressure on myself these past few weeks that I hit a wall and my mind and words refused to connect. I need to breathe and just give my words some time.
    So I’ve been doing a lot of reading blogs and getting a better understanding of my craft and what I want out of things. I would suggest to all fellow writers to invest a good deal of time reading Kristen’s blog. It’s filled with such amazing information…
    She inspires me!

  64. Hooray for fun! <:-P

  65. Before my husband retired, we took a retirement seminar. The facilitator gave us a pack of crayons and a piece of paper, and asked us to draw a picture of what retirement would look like. Lots of folks drew pictures of golf courses and exotic vacations. The facilitator pointed out that statistics show that if you don’t do these things before you retire, chances are slim that you’ll do them after you retire. His advice was, make room for and start living your dreams before you retire!

    1. Margie~what a smart facilitator to have everyone draw their dreams for their retirement with crayons! A friend once told me that her parents would argue because her dad would NEVER take time away from his business. He was a few years from retirement when he was diagnosed with alzheimers. Instead of spending their retirement years traveling & playing golf with friends,as they had planned, their money was spent on the convelescent hospital for alzheimer patients. So, yes….live your dreams now.

    • lynnkelleyauthor on August 18, 2012 at 5:13 pm
    • Reply

    Yay, I finally have a chance to catch up with your posts. Learning CreateSpace has left my brain so fried that when I’ve had a little time to read blogs, I couldn’t handle reading one more thing. No FB, Twitter, or WANATribe comments either. So, as a brain vacation I spent some time checking out the photos on the new WANA Commons site (instead of Pinterest). There are so many gorgeous and interesting pics on there. That’s one way I’ve been able to ‘play’ but was too tired to move.

    I have those absent-minded moments all the time. I’ve ordered food at a drive-through, pulled up and paid for it, then drove off without my order! I went back for it, of course. I did the same thing at the gas station. That really made me feel stupid!

    Your upbringing explains your work ethic. Wow, your mom sure towed the line. I’m sorry your family endured those years of hardship due to those embezzlers. How devastating. My family never had much money and we moved around so much when I was younger. I attended three different third grades, but it’s easy to make new friends at that age. My family was very different than yours. We always played games as a family, especially card games. They started us out with Old Maid, and I remember even my grandparents playing with us. Then we graduated to Hearts and Spades. My dad is super competitive and I’m glad I never took it that seriously. If we played partners, I never wanted to be his partner because I didn’t count the trumph cards.

    We also used to go play baseball at the nearest elementary school as a family. There were 7 of us, so not enough for a team, but enough to bat and catch and have a mini game. My dad played two square with us when we were kids, too. I was the best in my class at four-square, thanks to him!

    His step father was super duper strict with him. He wasn’t allowed to go out for sports because he’s small in stature. I don’t think he was allowed much play time as a child at all once my grandmother remarried. I have to say that as a kid, my step-grandfather (who is my real grandfather as far as we’re concerned) wasn’t strict with us like he was with Dad. He enjoyed his grandkids immensely.

    But it goes to show how our upbringing affects us, doesn’t it?

    When I’m overworked or super stressed, my sanity demands a release through something creative or playful. So if I’m too exhausted to play with words and unable to sleep, I play around on iMovie or Photobucket trying their special effects on some of my photos or video clips. I never know what I’ll end up with. It’s a kick.

    I love to play Balderdash with my adult kids and their spouses. My folks’ used to play it, too, but now when we visit them, they’d rather play Hot Dice. That’s another fun game. But Balderdash is the best game for writers. I mean, c’mon, making up a definition for a word or a name (they’ve updated the game and offer variations of the original now) to fool the others into picking it as the real definition is a kick. It’s a fun way to exercise our creative side and have tons of laughs with whoever we’re playing with. I took it to my critique group once and we played a couple rounds. What a hoot!

    Oh, look what you got me started on, Kristen, playing! I’m going on and on. You’ve triggered so many great memories! The best playful times I have these days is with my grandbaby. He’ll be one next week. I never thought I’d have the stamina to care for him full time, but life has a way of taking turns we don’t expect. Lost our house and moved close to our daughter, hubby and Punkin. I had planned to care for him two days a week and write the other three. Well, now it’s full time and the little guy kicks my butt, but I’ve never enjoyed anything so much. I dance with him, throw the ball to him, make goofy faces and weird sounds to amuse him all day. I can be as weird as my heart desires and it’s the best stress reliever ever. A year ago I never could have pictured myself where I’m at.

    My writing suffers, but I’m getting some things done. Self-publishing a chapter book due out in October. I feel bad that I can’t keep up with my blogger friends, and only have a few moments here and there on FB and Twitter. But kids grow up so fast, so I’m enjoying each moment. We have a whole different perspective as grandparents. When my kids were young, I didn’t know how I’d ever manage to get them off to school every morning. I was always a ragged a$$ mother, as my dad would say (still managed to play games with our kids, though), but then one day – what the heck? They were all grown. The years had flashed by. It’s unreal, Kristen. When we’re so darn busy, the years fly by. Spawn will be off on his own in a blink, and you’ll look back and wish you’d done this with him or that.

    Well, we can’t do everything we’d like to as parents. It’s impossible, so do what’s most important and enjoy every precious minute. I say bounce-house moments rock! That was so much fun. And even though you can’t buy Slip’N’Slides anymore (unless you find one on eBay!) when Spawn gets older, you’ve got to make your own Slip’N’Slide and take turns with him, your hubby and anyone else who needs some fun. Those are the best of times! Thanks for such a fun post!

    And, uh, sorry this comment is so long, but fun s/b my middle name and you got me started!

  66. I so needed this post. Thank you for writing it. I’m struggling with balancing everything I want to do at the moment and it’s getting a little overwhelming to say the least. My problem is that everything I’m doing *is* fun. I love doing it! But that’s the clincher – even “fun” can be stressful, even if you don’t notice it at first. I’m an extreme multi-tasker and an extreme scheduler. It’s something I need to learn to let go of, at least for a few hours a day. Thanks for the reminder.

  67. Ah, we all have a story, don’t we. I find it so interesting how some people use the difficulties in their lives to justify asking for handouts and some of us use it to pull strength from.
    As for the multi-tasking and crazy making….I am guilty as charged…but learning to slow down and smell the roses.
    Nice reminder!

  1. […] All Work and No Play is No Fun and No Good « Kristen Lamb’s Blog. […]

  2. […] Multi-tasking takes a toll, says social-media expert (and multi-tasker) Kristen Lamb. […]

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  4. […] had a topic lined up. Between a motorcycle I’d ridden only twice all summer, and this post by Kristen Lamb, I knew I needed a “play” break, and I took a nice ride Saturday to do just that. And […]

  5. […] All Work and No Play is No Fun and No Good by Kristen Lamb at Kristen Lamb’s Blog […]

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