Monday 9 November 2020

Why Self-Care Matters As A Writer - The Creative Process



With it now being the second week of November and NaNoWriMo is now upon us, I wanted to talk today about why self-care matters, especially now because we're all working towards some massive goal that long term wise, isn't usually sustainable nor what the majority of participants are doing every month. Personally I am aiming for 24 chapters, and knowing that I will, most likely, hit that target at some point during the month of 50K words.

Let's talk a little about 2020, and why it's been a pretty tough year, I know people are sick of hearing that, but it's honestly the truth. We have the wildfires in Australia and the US, we have the global pandemic and the mess up of how certain governments are handling it, and we're, some of us anyway, still in lockdown. Here in the UK, the area that I live in is not yet in lockdown, but as someone who's extremely vulnerable to the virus, I'm planning to spend the next few months as we ride out the second wave, inside and only leaving for emergencies or things that can't be avoided, like Mepo and my port flush.

This wasn't a chance for me to whine at you, but to simply say that when you take NaNo AND 2020 and bundle them up together, it's no surprise that a lot of writers are gonna need some time to relax and recharged their creative well. And that's why I'm writing this piece because too many times you'll hear about writing every day during NaNo, about hitting that 1,667 words that you need to finish on time, and while it's a challenge and I might just not be taking it in the spirits it's intended, I did feel like I needed to make a post that talked about self-care and why it is so so very important to engage in some as both a creative person and a human.

I'm not going to give you ideas for self-care, everyone is different and as someone who wheels more than they walk, my version of what works for me won't necessarily be something most people are wanting or able to do. So no tips on the activity itself, but the reasons why you need to take a moment to breath and just allow some time for yourself to recharge.

It took me a long time to get to the point [pause while Miss Tortellini chases her tail on my shoulder, it's cute!] Anyway, it took me a long time to get to the point where I understood self-care. It wasn't that I'm an idiot or that I didn't think I should, it was more than a lot of what people said about self-care was just the activities they engaged in and my first thought was: well I can't do that, so maybe it's not for me. So I'm telling you this so you know, it is for you! You find a way to recharge because all humans need a break and there's no shame in taking that break. Whatever that activity might be, it allows your brain to shut off from creating and recharge and no matter who you hard, you need that!


I've talking about burnout recently (piece found here) and I'll be honest, last NaNo I went full hog and ended up writing 32 chapters and over 80K words, and I was really proud of myself, but then I got to December 1st and I knew I was on the path to burn out if I tried to do my usual (at the time) 24 chapters in a month. So I cut back, and have stayed, bar once in May and of course this November, at 20 chapters. I don't think I'll go back to 24 regularly because I find it easier to take time off, I spend less time anxious and worked up, and my chapters come to me with less stress, so why do that to myself?

If you don't take time off, you will burn yourself out. You don't have to do less like I do, but you do need to take those breaks so that you can be sure that you're gonna stay creative and get through your work at the speed you want.

And finally, #3 IT'S ACTUALLY FUN
Like I said above, it took my a long time to get to the point where I understood self-care. I thought it was doing certain activities as described by various people I didn't know. None of them were ones I either wanted to do, or could do, and so it felt like I wasn't ever going to get to the point where I was happy doing it. But when I had that lightbulb moment that I could do things that I chose for self-care, I found it to be a lot of fun. Like going for a wheel to the park (obviously not through COVID times) or playing a game on my phone, or chatting with a friend, or reading a book and all of that, these were things I enjoyed and would happily do.

So if you don't find it fun, maybe you haven't found the right activity for you, just keep trying new things, and allow yourself the room to breathe, relax and enjoy yourself!

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