Tag Archives: working

The Work-Life-Art-Sleep Balance

lilacs for decoration

People (and companies) talk a lot about a good work-life balance but that phrase has started to annoy me. Sometimes I wish that was all I was striving for, but the life of an artist is not that simple.

First of all, let’s face it. The forty-hour work week is dead, at least for salaried workers in professional service industries. No matter how hard you work while you’re at the office, the to-do list is never done, and most companies expect salaried employees to put in late days and weekends when necessary. Some companies and some industries are less prone to fifty and sixty-hour weeks, but that has become the norm for many, in a lot of different industries.

Second of all, life is a lot of things. The life in the work-life balance is supposed to be time with your family, time with your friends, and time to relax, but no one ever talks about the time it takes to call the insurance company about the claim they just denied, or the time it takes to do your taxes, keep your house clean and cook dinner. And these days, the administrative side of life is more frustrating, and more time-consuming, than it has ever been.

That’s why sometimes I wish it were as simple as a striking a good work-life balance but for artists, we are driven by some inexplicable creative engine and we struggle for more than a work-life balance. We struggle to achieve a work-life-art-sleep balance and frequently the sleep part of the equation gets seriously short changed.

You know your art has a hold of you when it hurts in some way not to do it. Maybe a bad mood creeps up on you when you neglect your art. Maybe you end up distracted by the artistic thoughts which you don’t have time to realize. Or maybe you just hate life when it doesn’t include whatever kind of art drives you. I have stopped trying to explain why I am simply happier when I am making progress on a writing project, but I do believe artists everywhere know what I’m talking about. I have also stopped wondering where anyone’s well of art flows from, but I am constantly trying to balance my art with the rest of life, work included.

At this point in my life, here is what I’ve learned about my own work-life-art-sleep balance.

  • I would rather make less money and spend more wisely if it means I have more time to write.
  • Sleeping less is okay but there are limits and you have to pay attention to how well your brain is functioning.
  • It’s impossible to strike the work-life-art-sleep balance if you don’t make time for your friends and family.
  • The early morning is your friend if you use it wisely and actually get up when you alarm goes off.
  • If you are going to burn the candle at both ends, real food will improve your stamina and bolster your immune system.
  • Taking the time to prepare real food and eat it with your friends and family is as nourishing as the food itself.
  • The nine-to-five (or more accurately now, nine-to-six) workday is the death knell of efficiency but it cannot always be avoided.
  • Productivity begets productivity if and only if one’s categories of productivity are varied and well-rounded.
  • Whether it’s mail, laundry, or dirty dishes, you’re better off not letting anything in your life pile up, even if that means you get a little less sleep that day.
  • For me, making time to write is not optional.
  • Art includes more than just the creative part so you have to make friends with all the rest of the business and logistics that go into being a working artist.
  • The more you do, the more you get done.
  • Everything in life takes longer than you thought it would.

Unless you decide some day to give up your art entirely, the struggle to find your own work-life-art-sleep balance will never end. And unless you strike it rich, the best you can hope for is some sort of zen acceptance of this constant battle. Along the way, you can make choices in life which will tip the balance one way or another, forever or only for a time, but that’s a pendulum you have to keep tapping every now and then if you’re going to maintain your happy place and keep a roof over your head.

If you’re like me, I wish you the best of luck finding your own work-life-art-sleep balance. And let’s maybe start calling it the life-art-work-sleep balance because that’s really how we all feel. If you’re not an artist, then I encourage you to call it the life-work balance instead, because shouldn’t we all be working to live instead of living to work?

More about Wanda Shapiro • Novels by Wanda Shapiro

From Web 2.0 to Web WTF

<really long rant>

This post is for all my friends and colleagues who work in digital. We used to call it the IT industry, but now we just call it digital, and if this industry wouldn’t mind, I would like to ask it to slow the fuck down. I never thought I would miss the Web 2.0 days, but in all honesty, I would do anything to turn back technological time. I wish cell phones were just cell phones again and I wish no one ever invented the cloud.

Now, we build websites and apps. We design software user interfaces and digital marketing campaigns. We create content for more social media networks than I can keep up with, and we have to make sure everything we do works on a bazillion different permutations of operating systems, browsers, devices and screen sizes, not to mention all the audiences, personas and strategies. There are no less than ten competing varieties of every kind of platform and technology, and vendors are popping up every day selling all kinds of different services which are all supposed to provide some kind of marketing miracle for all the poor shmucks who make a living sell things or helping people sell things.

And I am one of those poor shmucks.

Now, we have to figure out how to design and build all sorts of digital things so they work on all sorts of devices and, in the agency world, we have to do that with clients of all kinds breathing down our necks.

I remember when the VP of Creative Services came back from the Internet Retailer Conference one year and said, “If I hear the phrase ‘Web 2.0’ one more time, I’m going to kill someone.” But as a project manager, the Web 2.0 days made me giddy. Finally, finally, we could create in code, almost anything a designer could imagine. We could create rounded corners using CSS and if the designer got too crazy we could always call the flash guys. Finally, I didn’t have to explain to designers (and clients) why we couldn’t do things because coding technology had finally caught up with Photoshop. And this progress was happening in parallel with the platform-ization of the digital landscape. And platforms were great, platforms got installed and customized instead of built from scratch. And if you didn’t get too crazy with the design, you could leverage the platform and limit most of the heavy lifting to CSS. And CSS, we never really thanked that technology thoroughly because we were getting caught up in all the other progress.

But at this point, I really do just want to turn back time. Because how the hell are we all supposed to keep up? I used to joke that this wasn’t rocket science, but I’m tired of keeping up and responsive website design didn’t turn out to be the godsend it seemed like it was going to be. I remember being in the let’s-let-flash-die camp, but now, I can hardly remember why. Oh, right, it was the smart phone. That’s why we needed flash to die. Because those two technologies couldn’t play nice together, or at least that’s what I remember after so much technological water under the bridge.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what point in time I would like to turn us back to, but it was somewhere around the advent of the smart phone. But those early days of the smart phone weren’t too bad. All of a sudden we had all these new projects. Suddenly, companies didn’t need one website, they needed two websites. And no one expected the mobile website to be nearly as cool as the regular website, so it wasn’t so hard. No one minded, the use of really janky “wrapper” technology and those were the glory days of web services and custom API development. Yes, we had problems with data synching and the mobile websites we were cranking out were kind of clunky. But everyone felt so cool with their new smart phones it took them a minute to get hyper-entitled about usability and page load times. Things were starting to get complicated, but at least back then we could easily justify separate, additional budgets for the development and maintenance of mobile properties. And really, the expectations were relatively low, both on the client side and on the user side.

But now, everyone wants everything. They want the website and the iOS app and the android app and they want the strategy for the website and the app. And they want the social media campaign and the search engine optimization, and they want the social media campaign to work miracles while the paid media campaign has a zero dollar budget. They want viral video and cartwheeling menu buttons which all work seamlessly across any device you can think of. They want data of all kinds and they want everything to be integrated with backend systems even if those backend systems are dangerously out of date because the parts of the website no one can see never get any of the budgetary love. Everyone wants to lower their overall cost of ownership, but no one wants to face the pink elephant in the room which is a digital ecosystem which was been taped together over the years by a revolving string of marketing and technology resources who were all just doing the best they could with what they had that month all while racing to keep up.

If you’re lucky, you work at a company which survives by nibbling on one or two relatively isolated slices of the digital marketing budget pie. If you’re kind of lucky, you work client-side where you have to worry about the totality of the digital landscape, but only for one brand. But if you’re not lucky, you work at an agency, that does everything.

Regardless of how lucky you may or may not be, my job and the jobs of my friends and colleagues are appreciably harder than they were eight years ago and the budgets are tighter than ever due to the continued slicing of the marketing budget pies. But there comes a point when marketing professionals must admit that a pie sliced into too many pieces is no longer edible.

And really, people want everything. People want websites that are the most awesome things ever no matter what they are trying to sell. The website needs to work miracles and drive engagement like no one has ever seen. The website needs to look perfect even on the marketing director’s nephew’s android phone when he turns it sideways at dinner to show her something. The website needs to be easy to update and the website needs to look as awesome on your iphone as it does at on your work computer. Never mind that your work computer is running IE8 on Windows XP because the giant corporation you work for hasn’t updated, or can’t update, their software due to some other old technology dependency. Oh, and that website which is all responsive and shit which really does look so awesome on your iphone, the same one that needs to work on your work computer with IE8, it also has to be ADA compliant so a blind person can use it on their ipad, in portrait mode. Oh, and that website, it also has to fit the design sensibility of someone’s boss, whose design sensibilities are stuck in the Web 2.0 days. And worse, the design of that website is going to be performed by committee, and we all know that is never good.

And of course, everyone wants everything yesterday and it’s not just users who want everything. Industry professionals who are well aware of the exponentially complicated nature of what we do, are genuinely surprised when a website built two years ago for less than market value doesn’t work on a first generation kindle fire in portrait mode.


Later today, I will reapply my happy face and I will not let progress get the best of me. But sometimes, I really do wish I could turn back the digital clock to the good old Web 2.0 days.

</really long rant>

More about Wanda  •  Shapiro Novels by Wanda Shapiro

No Kids Does Not Equal No Life



I read a recent article in Fortune by Katharine Zaleski, a former executive turned working mom who felt the need to apologize to all the mothers she ever worked with. With her honesty, Zaleski brought light to an issue to which all working moms can relate but her article got me thinking about the flip side. Unlike Zaleski, I’ve never been judgmental of working mothers, but as a woman who has chosen not to have kids, I feel like I pay a different kind of price in the workplace.

I’ve been really lucky when it comes to the companies I’ve worked for and most of them have gone out of their way for parents – men and women – who need to adjust schedules or take time off. Rightly, companies treat family time as sacred and no one complains if someone, mother or father, needs to leave at a certain time, or arrive at a certain time, or come in late on Thursday’s because that’s the morning he or she volunteers in the classroom. Personally, I go out of my way for people with kids so they can do whatever they need to do as parents.

But, why is a person’s personal time more sacred if they have kids? What if I would like to eat dinner at the same time every night? Or what if I’m working on a book on the side and would like to keep to an evening writing schedule? Or what if I really love to do something and I like to go home and do it after I’ve put in my eight hours? Why aren’t any of those things sacred?

No, I don’t have kids. But I do have a life and parts of it are really important to me. I shouldn’t have to make excuses for wanting to go home at the end of the day or not wanting to work on the weekend. No one should, whether you have kids or not. Though I agree companies should go out of their way for working parents, no one’s work-life balance should be more sacred than anyone else’s.

Ironically, the publication of this posts was delayed by one of those perfect storm weeks at work which made me drop everything and buckle down in a way that would be very difficult to do if I did have kids. But, I must say, this post was not inspired by this last week with three deadlines and too much work to do. This is an issue that I notice every now and then in subtle ways which does annoy me but which does not leave me begrudging working parents like Katharine Zaleski.

Unlike some people, I have not forgone child rearing so I can work more hours and make more money. I have forgone child rearing because there are things I love to do and those things are not necessarily the things that pay the bills.


More about Wanda Shapiro • Novels by Wanda Shapiro

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Riding This Platform To Freedom


People redesign websites for all sorts of reasons, but for me, this redesign is all about freedom. My last website was great, and a lot of talented professionals pitched in to make it awesome. but that was four and a half years ago and I have come a long way since then. Technology has also come a long way since then and now, I’m setting out on my own.

With this new site I will be free to write about more topics and I am no longer dependent upon my friends with website development skills. And you will be free to read my posts across a wide range of devices because the WordPress theme I installed is fully responsive.

It was a little intimidating and I had a to google a few things but I was able to:

  • set up my own hosting;
  • install WordPress;
  • update my domain service;
  • select and install a premium WordPress theme; and
  • customize it all to fit my requirements.

It has been an empowering experience and thanks to my husband, who threw down a challenge I couldn’t resist, I did it all in one long weekend. As of this post I still have a little work to do but I’m confident I will be done by the end of this Labor Day weekend.