Letter Q&A: How Do You Fill Free Time When Your Fisherman is Gone?
Photo by Bri Dwyer taken on Chris’ lobster boat near Santa Cruz Island, CA.
I am going to be honest, I have started this email seven times, and I can’t get past the first few lines. I’m sure you, as a fellow writer, fully understand the irony of this. I just get so emotionally invested that it stops the words!!! AHHHH!!!
Starting at the beginning, hi, hello, how are you??? I’m a 22 y/o writer and editor for a small tech startup, born and raised in the PNW, and this is my first year as a POCF. My boyfriend left port yesterday for his fifth commercial salmon season. He’s fishing pollock immediately after and isn’t due home until early-mid November. Maybe it just hasn’t hit me yet, but I feel very at peace with our situation, largely due to all the research I did before he left ;). But actually, I think that reading your blog helped me prepare for all these feelings, and I am happy to report that I FEEL GREAT!!!
I assume your inbox is flooded this time of year with lots of people seeking relationship advice, so hopefully, this email is a welcome departure. I am actually writing with a few career questions! I don’t know anyone in my day-to-day life who is also a writer by trade, let alone any other POCF writers.
I have been working as a writer for about nine months now. Not in my degree field at all, but I love it and have been dabbling with more freelance projects recently. With my fisherman gone now, I have much more time for work projects. I guess my question is- how do you manage your work-life balance as a freelance employee? Specifically when your partner is gone fishing. Do you pick up more work-related projects? Fill up your newfound solo time with self-care? Try a ton of new recipes? Devote it all to your passion projects. I feel like I have so much time now and don’t know how to fill it!
I have never been one for succinct emails, but I’ll try to wrap it up here. I feel so blessed to have found your blog. Truly. I felt like I was looking at an older version of myself when I first stumbled upon your story, which was incredibly validating. That said, if you have any other unsolicited advice for your 22-year-old self trying to navigate this unpredictable season of life, consider this a solicitation!! Frankly, I’ll take any help I can get; I have no idea what’s going on. 😂
Thank you for building this community! It has already helped me so much. I look forward to, hopefully, hearing from you soon!
Writer In Love With A Fisherman
I’m excited to dive into two of my favorite topics – writing and loving a fisherman! First of all, I’m doing great. How are you?! It sounds like you have a wonderful life as a working writer and editor! Getting paid for our craft is a dream, isn’t it? Congrats on making it happen!
My heart goes out to you and Zach. I completely understand where you’re coming from, and it can suck. But not always. For writers like us, it’s kind of a dream that you seem to have discovered. I’m so glad the blog has helped you and cheers to your peace and greatness! 🙂
I LOVED your questions, so let me answer in order. Here we go:
How do you manage your work-life balance as a freelance employee?
It was a constant challenge until I learned to prioritize my time as I would in an office. But, since I’m not in an office, my days look slightly different from the norm. I work best in the mornings until about noon. So from about 6 am, 7 am till about noon, I’m writing, blogging, business projects, all the things. My brain shuts off mid-day, so instead of kicking myself for not being productive after lunch, I move on to other errands, household projects, or hobbies for the rest of the day. I’ve also learned the hard way about taking on too many writing projects simultaneously. I recently stepped back and resigned from two regular columns in California to focus on my blog and seafood writing. Delivering quality pieces is my goal, so I calculate how long it will take to have QT with each one. Also, I factor in enjoying life, so I’m careful not to fill my days just because I can.
Specifically when your partner is gone fishing. Do you pick up more work-related projects?
I keep my deadlines pretty consistent throughout the year, but I like to travel in the summertime. When Chris is in Alaska, I spend that time with family and visit my best friends in the Southeast. I have a loop each summer: Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, then back to North Carolina. (We’re on the East Coast in the spring/summer and in California for the spiny lobster season for the fall/winter.) Live music plays an essential part of the summer. (What’s better than dancing your butt off with good friends? Or even solo! It rules!)
Working remotely is the bonus freelance writing – have wifi, will travel! For example, some of my Instagram Reels are taken at different locations like my friends’ homes or Airbnbs. I can’t even count the random towns and cities where many of these blog posts have been written.
I’ve also booked Airbnbs here and there to block off time to write. Sometimes the writing muse needs a neutral space to get down to business.
Do you fill up your newfound solo time with self-care?
So important! For my sanity, I try to keep the same self-care routine for the on and off-seasons, though it can be hard when traveling. It starts with morning yoga for about an hour (I get up insanely early), sometimes a walk, then working until noon. I’ll sometimes do another walk after work if it’s not hot as hell outside in the South in the summertime. I’ll do the same in California in the winter if it’s not too cold. If I’m visiting a friend’s house, I wake up extra early to do yoga, maybe a walk, then work (at a coffee shop). Then, I’ll come back, and I’m ready to hang! A routine like this is the only way for me to feel grounded when I’m on the go. Plus, I love running my business, and it brings me joy! 😄
During spiny lobster season in California, Chris does single overnight trips, but his schedule can be all over the place due to weather and other unforeseen events. Plus, he leaves super early in the morning and gets home late, so he’s gone for about two days and one night at a time. That means he could be gone most of the week or home for most of it.
If I’m planning to work on a project, but he ends up staying home instead of fishing, I either rearrange my schedule (depending on the deadline and if it’s a nice day, honestly), or I tell Chris that I need to work for a certain amount of time, undisturbed. I’ll either go to a coffee shop or work from home.
Chris usually has a boat project or boat yard work to deal with anyway, so it works out. Also, he respects that I need alone time whether I have a deadline or not. This was established at the beginning of our relationship…while living on a 34′ sailboat. (Another story.)
I try to keep my routine the same even when his schedule is all over the place because, as I mentioned before, it keeps me grounded. There is so much volatility in the commercial fishing world, not to mention the freelance world, that minding my mental/intellectual/spiritual self is the only way for me to stay sane.
Do you try a ton of new recipes?
It’s hard to go all out just for me, so I like to cook when Chis is home for spiny lobster season. I guess I mainly make “tapas,” fresh seafood from local markets, and tinned fish on crusty french bread is a go-to. And I do love a hearty salad, heavy on the toppings. Plus all the bread and butter.
Do you devote all your time to passion projects?
Chris is leaving in 48 hours, and I’ll begin my road trip right after. I get sad about this time, and I’ll miss Chris when he’s gone, but to be honest, I love the alone time. (Writers need it, and women writers need it especially!)
Plus, there is something to be said for partners who grow as individuals and learn to reconnect with newfound wisdom. It makes for such strong friendship, deep respect, and lasting love.
I hope this has been helpful to you, WILWAF! It’s been a whirlwind for the past weeks, and sitting down to reply to you has truly been a highlight. Please stay in touch and reach out with any other questions. It’s something special to love a fisherman. And it’s even more special to observe this lifestyle as a writer. Take care!
If you liked this, you’d love to meet other partners of commercial fishermen here!
See more of Bri Dwyer’s photography at bridwyerimages.com.