I have an ongoing balance between finding enough time to write, and then beating myself up when something else takes priority. It’s a constant balance that I’ve talked about before, which dominates most of my walking moments.
If you were to google online how long it takes to write a book (let alone write it), the answer is normally in the factor of years. Perhaps longer if you chose to traditionally publish. And even then, publishing one book does not mean you have a business – you only have the start of one. Potentially. If luck is on your side.
In the meanwhile, life waits for no dream. It requires bills to be paid, presents to be brought, and life to just go on. Car MOTs come around once a year and require £300 worth of work done. Someone’s birthday or wedding requires expense to go to. And even just buying a new book or something you want, that you’ve saved for.
All costs money. And money only comes with jobs.
How an aspiring writer gets by in the years before they start making an income from writing is like a dark art. Some hustle, some have multiple jobs, others have one time consuming job. Others find support from partners or funding bodies.
The fact of the world is that money is required to put food on the table and a roof over heads. It’s required to take care of the ones we love, and make our path in this world. It’s a necessity that cannot be avoided.
So how does this relate to writing?
There are times in life when your “earning me proper money” job takes all the energy from you. There are other times when that energy is depleted by family events or responsibilities, and others again when you have another activity you want to try and achieve too (exercise anyone?)
And you know what?
There is so much messaging in the writing wold that requires us to carve out 30 minutes each day to write. Or to get up earlier to write. Or to juggle three tasks and make time to write. There is some good in this advice, and to form any kind of habit you have to have dedication to it.
But sometimes, you have to stop.
And that’s perfectly okay.
Why it’s important to rest
If I were to do an exercise programme, the first thing they always say is to a) make sure you’re fit and healthy to do the chosen programme and b) stop if you get an injury.
Now, with writing, you might not sprain an ankle or pull your rib muscles trying to run the local Park Run 5k track, but the advice still holds true.
Being “Fit and Healthy”
What is defined as being “fit and healthy”?
I think the important part of this is that if your exercise goal was to climb a mountain, you’re going to need a certain level of fitness and health to do it. Maybe you have health constraints that stop you from doing it in the same time as someone else.
So you have to adjust your goal to the fitness you can do and the goal that you can achieve. The equivalent fitness goal for me, given my physical limitations (asthma), is to run a 5k. Not particularly fast, not in a certain time, but to keep running for 5k.
It’s the same with writing. If you’re going to set yourself a goal of writing a novel, then you damn well go for it. But take a note as to how fit and healthy you are to do that goal – and maybe you might find you need to give yourself some extra time to complete it. Maybe it takes you years not the 3 months you see your favourite author doing it.
Or perhaps, you’ve just run your marathon equivalent and you need time to recover. So you pick a shorter project, a short story maybe, that allows you to create within the bounds of how much energy you have to give to it.
And that takes me onto my second point.
It’s okay to rest and get better
Now, writing might not bring with it a physical injury (but make sure to stretch out those wrist’s people, RSI is Not Fun). However, writing does bring with it a level of engagement, focus and intensity which means that you have to allow yourself to recover.
Spent the last week writing until 1am and getting up at 6am to go to work? Listen to your body – do you need that lie in at the weekend? If so, maybe it’s a good idea to take it.
Eyes feeling sore from a day at the computer? Maybe it’s time to step back and do some planning on paper, or do another activity for a bit.
Headache from a hard day at work? Maybe tonight isn’t the time to try and smash out another 2000 words on your magnum opus.
Self-care is hard, and it’s especially hard when you have a dream you want to realise in as short a time as possible. But it’s as important as meeting word counts and ticking tasks off your to-do list -without self care, you can burn out your creative juices.
Writing Self Care
So what does writing self care look like? Well, for every individual it is different, but for me it normally involves one of the following:
- Not looking at any words at all – maybe playing games or watching a show on TV
- Not looking at any screens – so reading or just listening to some favourite music
- Not moving all day – normally this triggers my need to go and do some exercise or stretches.
- Not feeling inspired – then I need to do something different – make a cake or do some gardening.
Whatever your self care looks like, all that is important is that you do something for you. Take care of yourself – writing is hard. You deserve a break!
What does your writing self care look like? What do you do to stop creative burn out?
Featured Image Credit – Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
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