Are you a Workaholic?

Hello, I’m Jen, and I’m a workaholic.

Hello, Jen.

Do you work late into the evening and on weekends? Do you find yourself worried about your job even when you’re not at work? Do you check your BlackBerry or iPhone constantly for incoming email? Do you flinch every time your phone rings and answer it right away? Do you find yourself texting or writing emails under the table when you’re out to dinner? Does your self-esteem hinge on the next promotion or raise? Or on praise from your boss? On the flip side, does any sort of criticism at work or perceived failure send you into a depressive tailspin? Do you have a closer relationship with your boss than your significant other?

If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, then you may be a workaholic.

Chances are that either you or someone you love fits the bill.

I know from experience—I used to be a workaholic, too. And I worked in an industry that has no respect for personal boundaries. I’m talking about Hollywood, of course.

I began my career as an assistant (yes, that old story). I worked for a major A-list director and a studio head, before I became an executive myself. I answered phones and read emails and booked travel and ran errands and went through break-ups, divorces, buying houses, selling houses, weddings, the births of children, and much more with my bosses. I knew the most intimate details of their lives—and memorized their eccentricities.

However, with the economy going sour, this is happening more and more, across all industries and pay grades. This article appeared in the Huffington Post this week—Rehab Surges in Bad Economy with Executives who Won’t Stop Working. The comments (over fifty and counting) are also worth reading. This article is exactly what my debut novel is about.

When you find yourself so immersed in the details of somebody else’s life, it feels almost like a marriage. Except with an unequal balance of power. It’s an unhealthy relationship that is destined for divorce. The terms may either be amicable (you will remain friends, though the separation will be painful/you are moving onto greener pastures) or otherwise (you find yourself fired, possibly without notice or severance, sending you into massive depression and financial distress, and you fear that you will never be able to date again).

I’ve parted with bosses both amicably and otherwise. I’ve been fired (from my first job), left on my own terms for a better position after hitting a glass ceiling, and been laid off when the economy collapsed and credit froze and independent film ground to a screeching halt.

But who in Hollywood hasn’t?

Everybody in this town is always rising and falling, shifting around and slipping into different positions. It’s anything but stable. It’s constantly changing. It does keep you on your toes.

I’ve taken a step back from the industry to focus on myself for a change. It’s the best thing that I’ve ever done for myself. I highly recommend it. I admire people like Christine “Kee Kee” Buckley who did just this and blogs about it on Seeking Shama.

And I wrote my debut novel on this very topic. It was a cathartic experience to explore the relationship between a woman and her job, and how she is able to go on a journey (to rehab and back again), and in the process find both love and balance in her life. The novel is currently on submission to publishers (via my fabulous agent Deborah Schneider), and I hope that it finds a great home. I know there is an audience out there who would love this book and also find it cathartic and therapeutic and relatable, and most of all, hopeful.

There is life after workalcoholism.

I promise. Just repeat after me:

Hello, I’m _______, and I’m a workaholic.


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29 Responses to Are you a Workaholic?

  1. “But who in Hollywood hasn’t?”

    Really, you can just take that “in Hollywood” right out and just say, “But who hasn’t?” The same story can, of course, be found in biotech, software, fashion, etc. So many other industries. Its’ a great topic with such broad appeal. I do hope you find a publisher soon and that I can get my hands on a copy of the book. Good luck!

    • Jennifer Brody

      You are so RIGHT about taking out the Hollywood part. Thanks for the well wishes for the book—it means so much. xx

  2. What a relevant book. These days you’re either a workaholic or you’re unemployed. Good luck!

  3. Michael Berick

    Just taking a break from checking my email to say the book idea sounds quite interesting and very timely.

  4. Ah, as you know…I’m still in the recovery process. This book needs a home because there are so many of us out here who need to read it!

    • Jennifer Brody

      I hope you are right! I feel like there is a huge audience that would love this book and benefit from it. It’s structured into 12 sections all based on the 12 Steps, making it feel a bit therapeutic (but still tons of fun to read). Thanks for all of the support—and for your courage to blog about your journey. xx

  5. Great topic for a novel – can’t wait to read it. I used to try and take a full day off on the weekends, but found it too disruptive to my work schedule, so I just decided to embrace it. I do take Friday nights off to just veg out and watch bad TV. And I walk every day and kayak in the summer, stuff like that. But since watching movies and TV IS my work, I’m pretty much always working. I’ll write about it one way or another.

    • Jennifer Brody

      I know how that is when entertainment IS your job. Then, even things like watching TV or going to a movie or even flipping through ‘Us Weekly’ start to feel like work. I’m still in PTSD from Hollywood. When I see movies, I know far too much about them. But slowly recovering…

      Thanks for starting the Blogger group. I LOVE it.


  6. I’m workaholicy about writing, but that is — for me — such a combo of work and pleasure. Fingers crossed for a fabulous contract for you!

  7. Oh oh. I’m going to walk the dog and get away from my desk. Great piece :)

    • Jennifer Brody

      Great idea—dogs are great because they make you take breaks. I find that after working, getting up and going for a walk is the best therapy. And I stumble upon so many great ideas when I’m walking (or in the bathtub). xx

  8. Nicole Pajer

    It’s tough to find the balance sometimes with being a freelancer. With my phone and computer in front of me nearly all day, I have to fight off the urge that I should always be doing something work wise. While I work more hours now than I did when in a corporate setting, I’m much happier. I just have to have daily pep talks with myself and remember that it’s impossible to walk away at the end of the day with everything 100% done. I just prioritize, do what is the most important for the day, attempt to make realistic To Do lists and then call it a night. I’m getting better and better at this as the days go forward. :-)

    • Jennifer Brody

      I hear you it about how hard it is to step away, especially with writing. There is a feeling that you should always be working. I try to set a schedule where I work during the day, but then step away in the evening and disconnect. I actually find that this improves the quality of my work overall.

      Thanks so much for your input!!! xx

  9. Lisa

    So true! I got fired from my first two “hollywood” assistant jobs after years of hard work. Just started my third where I am expected to stay late or at least take my computer home to work. Instead of going back to wisconsin I just deal…why? I look forward to your book congrats!

    • Jennifer Brody

      Thanks for sharing your story! I SO relate to it. And it does never end. You are expected to read scripts and work nights and weekends. I have a feeling you would love the book. Hope you stick it out in LA! xx

  10. Hope your book is published soon and workaholics grant themselves the leisure to read it.

  11. I think work (the right work) can become a spiritual practice. Last year I learned that as hard as I had been working at my businesses, I wasn’t working hard enough (at least not on the right tasks). I also realized (while assisting my daughters in their start-up bakery cafe) that every ambitious person, whatever their industry, needs to consciously realize they are in “start-up phase” until they achieve their goals and enter (and I’m only referring to people with elevated career or business goals – not people with jobs who are essential slaves to a wage whether hourly or salary). Many people I know who work 12-17 hours at their business, often six or seven days a week, are making progress toward their heart and Soul’s desires. Other people I’ve observed are stuck in a job, relationship or other rut (or dealing with serious life issues such as illness or addiction or the like), and are not making progress toward ambitious, elevated goals. If a woman isn’t a Queen bee, or working hard and making progress toward achieving that, she ends up a worker bee. It is worth it to me, in the short term (even if that’s several years), to work harder than other people to achieve my dreams and goals. Being freelance, I can unplug as I like, stop booking projects or consulting, read all day, meditate, or do yoga, and I often do, but I’m more interested lately in pursuing work and writing (and sometimes art journaling) as spiritual practice. PS. Your book sounds relevant – like something that readers could really connect with and enjoy reading. All the best with your publishing dreams and goals.

    • Jennifer Brody

      I LOVED this part of your post:

      “Being freelance, I can unplug as I like, stop booking projects or consulting, read all day, meditate, or do yoga, and I often do, but I’m more interested lately in pursuing work and writing (and sometimes art journaling) as spiritual practice.”

      I totally relate and feel the same way. :-)

      Thanks so much for sharing your experience!!! xx

  12. I look forward to reading your book!! (And very soon, I hope!) As someone who is staring at the calendar and seeing the last 14 days of a real job and a steady paycheck, I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s terrifying, but walking away from ridiculous expectations of myself and rebooting with realistic and healthy ones is the right thing.

    At least I hope it is.

    Please send ramen. And tequila…

    • Jennifer Brody

      Thanks Rebecca!

      So glad you are going through your own personal ‘work rehab.’ I did the same thing for myself, and I am so much HAPPIER. Yes, it can be anxiety-inducing, too. But I used to feel so beholden to all fo the men I worked for (always, it was men, but it was Hollywood). It’s so liberating to be working for myself for a change. I’m also packaging a script that I wrote and talking to a director this morning, but it’s MY project and I am in control of it.

      What a difference!

      And the “Please send ramen. And tequila…” made me laugh. And I will, just let me know when it comes to that. xx

  13. I can completely relate to this post, for I, too, am a workaholic. Now, I may not be a workaholic in the same way as most, since I’m a freelancer (though my parents might refer to me as mostly unemployed). But the truth is, unless you spend every day (8am to 2am) working at your business, or craft, you wouldn’t understand. Reading your post, however, makes me wonder if I need to enter workaholic’s rehab. Yikes! For now, I’ll just keep writing, until they pry my fingers away from the keyboard.

    Thanks for sharing and I look forward to your novel!

  14. Jennifer Brody

    Thanks for this! I actually think that being a freelancer/working for yourself can be even tougher because there’s no end to the work day. And yes, when you’re building a new career you have to hustle like crazy. However, I’ve found that having a specific schedule—I work in the morning and then afternoon—but then I have a cut off time where I put the laptop away, and then focus on making dinner and spending time with my husband and dog. I actually find that I’m more productive that way—and balanced.


  15. Tracey Shrier

    What a great idea!! I can’t wait to pick it up and start reading about what how I should be recovering! Being a freelancer, its extremely difficult to step away from the computer or phone for fear of missing a gig or an important email about a current job.

    In recent months, I’ve lost a relationship, a great work relationship and had to move back in with my parents (temporarily) to try to get back on track with myself. This book will be a great addition to help me with that!

  16. Jen

    Yay for your recovery!!! So glad you are working to get back on track with yourself. As I mentioned, freelancing/working for yourself often makes it harder to draw the line and have a healthy work/life balance. I am somewhat of an iPhone junkie, always checking it for new messages. I need to learn to turn it off more and just step away from the Twitter. Ha.

    Thanks so much for sharing your story!

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