Workaholics Anonymous: When An Addiction to Workahol Becomes a Problem

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I don’t know whether it’s defeatist or healthy that I just assume that I will never hold another conventional job. For the eighteen years or so I was with The A.V Club and then The Dissolve I couldn’t imagine not being part of an organization. Now I can’t see myself ever being part of an organization on that level again. 

So it is doubtful that I will ever find myself interviewing for a job again. But if I did, and they were to ask me what my biggest flaws are I would be tempted to go the expected route and say that, gosh darn it, I’m just too much of a perfectionist. But even a cursory look at the site (or even this piece) reveals that to be a fiction. Christ, if I waited until something was perfect before I posted it, I would probably post three pieces a month on this site, not three pieces a day. 

At the risk of once again positing a positive as a negative for the sake of looking good, I would, however, say that one of my biggest flaws (beyond a regrettable and persistent tendency to procrastinate in a very self-defeating way) is being a workaholic. 

In many ways, being a workaholic is a wonderful thing. I know how lucky I am to not only like my job but to love it to the point where, for the most part, I would much rather work than do anything else. For a lot of writers, the physical act of writing is a painful, arduous, joyless process. It’s never been that for me. For me, writing is like breathing. I do it reflexively. If I go too long without writing, and writing a fair amount, then I literally get itchy and distracted and cannot wait to get back to my keyboard. My precious, precious keyboard. 

 Thankfully I have a mostly appropriate ambition for power, money and prestige. 

Thankfully I have a mostly appropriate ambition for power, money and prestige. 

I like to think that the pleasure and joy I take in writing comes through in my work. Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place turned out not be a painfully ironic name because it’s a place for me to work, and write, and communicate with the world, and those things all make me happy. Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place would not exist if the idea of writing and editing and posting all of the content of an entire pop-culture website by myself did not seem like an incredibly appealing, if challenging and exhausting proposition. 

 I could get so much more accomplished if I only had eight arms 

I could get so much more accomplished if I only had eight arms 

The downside to being a workaholic is that I can never really shut the work part of my brain off. As much as I strive to be present for my family and my wife and son, there’s always some part of my brain that is ferociously focussed on the next day’s articles, and the day after that, and the week after that and so on. And that is not fair to my wife. She never worries about women despite my rampant infidelities, but she gets frustrated sometimes at having to compete with work. 

I would love to be able to shut off my work brain. I’ve been able to do that in the past. At The Dissolve I got in at eight, left at five, and left work at work. But the responsibilities of Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place stretch off into infinity. When my wife asks me if I’m done working, my OCD response is to blurt out, “I’ve found a stopping point. I’m never done working.” 

The idea that I can never be done working is both exciting and scary. One of the nice things about books is that you conclusively finish them. I put Kanye & Trump to bed a while ago, for example, and while it’s not “selling” it feels good to put that in the “completed” pile. I can never really turn off my brain now, however, because the things that give me pleasure—watching movies, listening to music and podcasts, reading books, going to Insane Clown Posse events—are also what I do for a living. And the process of writing also gives me a lot of joy. 

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This is still a new site, and a growing site, and a site that perpetually feels like it’s in a bit of a vulnerable place, and that if I don’t constantly tend to it, and grow it, and nurture it, then it could devolve and I wouldn’t want that to happen. So while in many ways it’s great to be a workaholic and love what you do, I wish I could find a better life/work balance. Because my family gives me so much joy and so much pleasure and meaning and satisfaction, and I don't want them to feel like they're in an eternal, difficult battle for my attention with my writing. 

I’m in the enviable position of liking my work entirely too much. That’s a good problem to have, but it’s a problem all the same. 

Support Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place and my endless, endless toil over at https://www.patreon.com/nathanrabinshappyplace