Our Coming Sabbatical

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Our Coming Sabbatical

I am a huge fan of good design, and also a great fan of pithy expression. So it probably makes sense that Stefan Sagmeister would be a hero of mine. He has a firm in New York that has designed packaging for many things you’ve likely seen but not known came from his team, and he is also a creator of winningly temporary public art installations. For a few years now, he’s been orchestrating a series of strange and stunning artworks that deliver aphoristic bits of wisdom (such as “Assuming is stifling,” or “Helping other people helps me,” or “Complaining is silly; either act or forget”), many of which have been collected in a truly gorgeous Abrams book entitled Things I Have Learned In My Life So Far. Want to give it a gander? Click on the video above. Abrams, who have never forgotten the impact of beautiful book production, show us just how beautiful a book can be—it’s a series of pamphlets in a die-cut cardboard sleeve.

But that’s not the reason for this post. No, I’m writing because of the video I’ve linked to below, which is a talk Sagmeister gave via the free-lectures-by-awesome-people website TED (which I believe Martha Brockenbrough pointed me to way back when). A deeply reflective man, Sagmeister often takes time out of the hustle of life to consider who he is and what he is doing, so as to be certain he is focusing on where the worth of his life may be. In his TED talk, he explains why he requires his team to take a year-long break every seven years. It’s not about vacation, it’s about rekindling one’s love of the work, and about seeing in a fresh way again.

And that explains, in part, why the four of us here at Upstart Crow will be taking a sabbatical of sorts beginning 12 December and extending through 15 January 2010. I will be pulling down our submissions pages and putting up “Not so fast!” notes all over the website. Anyone who sends us a note will get back a brusque but friendly note explaining that we’re closed for the duration. (We will likely continue posting to this blog, but much more infrequently. Just when we can’t stop ourselves.)

Partly, yes, we are taking time away because of the holidays. And partly, yes, we will be taking time to clear our desks and catch up on all the work that has not gotten done before now. (For me personally, that means editing three novels, finally clearing through all of my submissions, redesigning our rights guide and putting it up on our site, and drafting a novel of my own.) We will still be doing work for our clients, of course, but much of that work is finite.

The rest of the time, we’ll be reflecting on where we are and where we are going, looking at the industry and what’s happening, reading current books, thinking about where, exactly, we want to be in twelve months—both professionally and personally. It’s been a tremendous eighteen weeks since we launched, and we want to be certain we’re doing this right and not falling into habit and thoughtlessness. So we’re going to take some time to think about things, to gather kindling for the fires that will keep us warm in the coming year.

And then, once 15 January 2010 has rolled around on the calendar, we’ll raise the shades and open the gates and be at our desks, reinvigorated for the work to come.

  1. Well, you enjoy your sabatical! I, for one, am taking one, too. No writing. No revisions. Just reading and relaxing.

    So, you have fun!

    Frankie

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  2. Good luck on your own novel!

    ~Leni

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  3. This is sort of a genius move. And you know what? I’m going to copy. I finished my last official deadline for the month yesterday. I haven’t had more than a few days off of work in almost ten years.

    It’s sort of terrifying, actually, to think of not leaping out of bed and setting my brain to task. I guess that means I really need to do it.

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  4. Have fun, and good luck clearing away the work and with your novel. :)

    Question: If we’ve already submitted a query and haven’t heard back yet, is that part of the desk clearing, or would we need to resubmit when you’re open for submissions again?

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  5. Sensing I was in the midst of an *introspective fit* my ole’ Momma used to say…

    “Son, many a slip twixt cup and lip!”

    (And she never made left turns in a automobile all the years I knew her).

    Haste yee back ;-)

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  6. And by that time my masterpiece will almost be ready to go. ;)

    Good luck! Enjoy your break.

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  7. *grin*

    Sorry, didn’t mean to panic you. I just wanted to make sure I understood correctly. :)

    Thank you both for the time frame, and for all of your hard work. *goes back to chewing her nails* ;)

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  8. A sabbatical is a brilliant idea and a wonderful thing. I hope you’ll fill your time away from the day-to-day with more than just clearing leftover work. I hope you will find the time to engage in what will recharge and rejuvenate.

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  9. Michael,
    Good luck to you and your team on your sabbatical. Sounds like you have a full agenda. I’ve tried a couple of times to take a sabbatical and it didn’t work out (other work crowded in), but now that I’m no longer freelancing, that might be more of an option.

    A huge thank you for the two videos. I hadn’t heard of Stefan Sagmeister and now I’m eager to get the book. I enjoyed both videos…the one about sabbaticals really reminds me how easily it is to get on automatic pilot. I think it’s good to stop and think and rest and regroup sometimes. The end/beginning of a year is a perfect time.

    Cheers!
    kellye

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  10. Thanks. Great, great artist and visionary. My kind of love all around and upside down. B

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  11. Happy sabbatical – and best of luck w/ your novel. See you in 2010 :)

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  12. TED’s are amazing.

    Enjoy the time off. I’ll think of you as I’m hiking the bridge over Sydney harbor–and chewing my nails like Danyelle.

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  13. Good for you! Enjoy your time off! :)

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  14. Great idea. And thanks for being so transparent!

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  15. Enjoy your time off and good luck in your writing. Sometimes it’s good to slow down and reflect. I hope you’ll be open to submissions again after the first of the year.

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  16. Hope you all have a nice holiday…just er, go easy on gathering that kindling for your marshmallow fire (she says nervously, thinking about all those submissions to be cleared out… ;)

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  17. It sounds like your sabbatical will be chock full of work. Have a joyful month.

    I, on the other hand, need to return from my own sabbatical and start writing again.

    Hmmm. We’ll see what happens in the next few weeks when a new puppy joins my house of 3 kids, a dog and a guinea pig. I’m sure the (choice) words will be flowing with ease!

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  18. Thank you, Michael (and the rest of you Upstart Crows), for taking the time out of your holidays to catch up on submissions. I knew there was a reason I hadn’t given up on you yet:)

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  19. I hope you all enjoy your break! Happy Holidays!

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  20. I’m with Rose. ;)

    Enjoy your break and your holidays!

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  21. Happy holidays, everyone. Congrats on a great start to your agency, Michael, and have a relaxing and productive break. I look forward to more Upstart Crowisms in the new year.

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  22. Thanks so much for posting Sagmeister’s talk. The logo work for the Casa de Musica is brilliant. LOVE how they took a color palette from each event’s image. I agree sabbaticals are rejuvenating. Dave + I took one (a long backpacking trip) in 1998-99, and found after 7 months that we were not just full of ideas and energy for work again, we needed the purposefulness of work again.

    Hope you all have energizing, idea-nurturing sabbaticals.

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  23. Enjoy, reflect, rejuvenate! And _thanks_ for that video and pointing us to the TEDS.

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  24. Sometimes it’s hard to step out of all the chaos of life to recalibrate, but it’s so important for overall health and happiness.
    Happy Holidays to everyone!!
    :-)

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  25. Hope your sabbatical is stress-free and that you get much accomplished.

    Happy Holidays to all, and to all a good write!

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  26. Wow, I’m so impressed! I agree with those who said it’s hard to take the time away from the chaos, etc. And I’m amazed, awed and glad to hear an agency is taking the time to re-evaluate and rejuvenate!
    -Applauds-

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  27. . . . right there with you—a clear desk is a clear mind. Feliz Navidad and blessings for a glorious New Year!

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  28. I think it’s a stellar idea! Make way for the new year and great things to come.

    Happy Holidays to everyone at Upstart. May they be filled with good cheer, good friends, and memories to last a lifetime.

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  29. In my father’s home country of the Dominican Republic, they take siestas every day for about 2 hours to eat lunch with family and friends and take naps, especially on very hot days. I think that is a good practice, too, and wish we could do that in the U.S.!

    I look forward to your response to my query as well and best of luck with the draft of your novel.

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  30. During your hiatus, check out Are Too Many eBooks Bad for You? – mediabistro.com: Galley Cat. The link can be found on the 12/23/09 Publishers Weekly site.

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  31. This post is a lovely reminder of the need to keep planting those moments in our lives. I’m thinking back to a year I took off from teaching. That year I turned 40, lost my dad, got pregnant, gave birth, and got my first book contract. May 2010 open up new paths and surprise us all.

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  32. Were you able to reach your goal and respond to everyone by year’s end?
    I sent a query before your winter sabbatical but never got a response. Should I assume that is a no?

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