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Happy New Year! That's star made of sprinklers I'm lighting with a blow torch. Just take my word for it.

Happy New Year! That’s a star made of sprinklers I’m lighting with a blow torch. Just take my word for it.

It’s 2014! Yes, I just noticed. My new year cycle is slightly different than most. As my birthday is just eight days into January, the week between December 31 and January 9 feels like bleary, suspended time. Days go by, yes. Work gets done if it must. But not until the final day of the holiday season trifecta of Christmas-New Year’s Eve-birthday do I feel mentally “in” the new year. I used to feel guilty about this, but I don’t anymore. It’s my cycle. It’s how I work. It really doesn’t matter that the world moves forward in time without me for one week.

Embracing my own work cycle, whether it’s my early January lag or my preference to write stories one time of day and do busy work another, has been a challenge. We live in a world that wants rewards people for sticking to regularly scheduled programming: waking up early, being industrious throughout the weekdays, and pivoting to focus on personal time on weekends and whatever days the post office is closed. Those who work better by waking up later, or start their day by pleasure reading, knowing they’ll be working well into the evening are taught to do these things quietly, with guilt. Because that’s the not right cycle.

But just as working 9-5, Monday through Friday doesn’t guarantee success, neither does departing from that pattern damn one to failure. In fact, I find I do better work when I let my work cycle regulate itself than when trying to meet the expectations of others.

My family, embracing our own cycle on Jan 2.

My family, embracing our own cycle on Jan 2.

On a larger scale, I think the same is true with the cycles our careers. As a society of workers, we’re a bit obsessive about finding the “key to success” in our chosen fields. There are entire industries built around how to become a writer, how to become a professional musician, how to succeed as an entrepreneur. And while listening to others’ success stories may allow us to glean some knowledge about the path that will work best, doing so ad nauseam gets us nowhere. We become professional studiers of a career rather than building our own.

The truth is that no one’s career path is the same, just as no one’s work cycle is identical. Spending a lifetime reading up on others’ successful career paths and work habits only prevents us from writing our own.

But I’d better stop rambling and get back to work. I’m like, a whole week behind.

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