Monday 15 January 2018

Spoonie Writer: How Much Is Too Much?


In my last Spoonie Writer piece (found here) I greeted everyone with the new year and listed my goals writing wise for 2018. Since then I've realised that I've never really talked about pacing yourself when it comes to both goals and the work load. Oh I've talked about saying no (found here) and I'm talked in other pieces about juggling the workload itself (here, here, and here). But if you're, like me, a spoonie who's also a writer, then you have to be thinking: when do I say enough is enough and realise I can't do that much? It's one thing to be realistic, but completely another to know when it's time to pull back and rethink matters.

As I've talked about before many many times, I'm a very organised person, and in being that organised I'm able to get things on track. I'm also someone who couldn't work a normal 9 to 5 job because there are days, like the remainder of 2017 after Christmas, when I'm just not well enough to get much or anything done. I've been chronically ill for over a decade now, coming up to almost two and one thing I have learned is that I have completely different limits than someone who's not chronically ill. I've also learned that I expect a lot from myself and that sometimes I go too far Sometimes I set the bar a little too high and then struggle to achieve my goals.

I'm not talking about not managing it, I'm talking about not being able to manage it. As in, even with all the time in the world, it's just not going to happen. It's taken me a long time to be okay with the limits my physical and mental health place on me, my writing career and the time I spend doing other things. I know it's a grieving process and I know that it effects everyone differently. For me, it was about both letting go of my childhood dreams, and making new ones, and also adjusting to being on a downward spiral health wise. Oh I don't mean that I don't have good days and bad, I very much do, but in the grand scheme of things, I'm not likely to ever get completely better. Not with any of my conditions, they are lifelong and chronic. That's just how it works.

So where do you draw the line? Where do you, as someone who wants to write and wants to be published and wants to proudly bear the title: author. How do you know when you're pushing yourself to unreachable limits? I'm a big believer in not setting yourself up to fail, but I'm also someone who likes to push the boundaries just a little. Either to check they're still there and solid, and also to see if I can find a way around them. I've been doing that my whole life and I don't plan to stop now. So the answer, for me at least, is not to lower my expectations completely, but to manage them along with my conditions. A good friend once told me that it takes a long as it takes. I wrote about it once, (found here) and it's something that has stuck with me throughout my writing path.

I'm not going to advocate for you to push yourself to breaking point and then spend days, if not weeks, sick and flaring. That's not what I'm saying. But I am going to say that as you adjust to life as a spoonie, as someone who's chronically ill, if there is an adjustment period that is, you need to learn what you can and can't do. There's a lot of talk of pacing in my circle of doctors and such, and there is merit with that. If you know what your body can handle, then you can adjust and work with it rather than against it. That said, if you're like me, you're going to want to push those boundaries every so often just to check. There's nothing wrong with that, you just need to be prepared for them to smack you in the face and send you to flare central.

You are the only one who knows your body the best. You'll hear from doctors and friends, relatives and other medical personnel. You'll get advice from them and sometimes from strangers, well-meaning or otherwise. But at the end of it all, you are the only one who knows how you're feeling and therefore you're the best judge of what you can and can't manage. When setting goals, when deciding to write or not, just remember to listen to your body and listen to those warning signs and work with them. It's so much easier for me to be as productive as I am now that I listen to what my body is saying, and I plot out the time I can spend writing. Generally I work half days. My doctor is happy with that and feels that it's better for me to do that small half day than push through a full day and then spend four of them recovering.

So to answer the question: How much is too much? Only you know the answer. I know for myself, but I'm me and you're you. Work with your limits and if you wanna check the boundary every so often, there's nothing wrong with that.

Let me know in the comments below how you can tell when you've pushed too far and how you cope with it? I'd love to hear from you all!

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