Tag Archives | overwhelm

A Guide to the Care and Tending of Writers, Part Two

So, this week & last, we are on the topic of self care for writers.  I know, wahk (that's the sound of a Buddha_buddhism_religion_581602_hbuzzer). But this is an important subject for you to pay attention to, so that you don't burn out.  So listen up. But first, go read Part One. Because in that ditty, I wrote about how you can tell you're in overwhelm and need to take a break.

But, really?  You need to give yourself a break every day.  You're putting crazy energy out into the world as you write.  Be aware of that and cultivate some time to yourself to get some of that energy back.  And–if you are like me, at first you will have to force yourself to do this. If you're like me, you'll resist.  You'll sit at the computer, certain that the words will come at any minute, sure that the fog of indecision will lift.  But it won't.  

You need to take a freaking break already!

And the one thing I've learned over years of doing this is that if you do these things, create, gasp, a routine of them, your writing will flourish.  So here are some suggestions for incorporating self-care into your life:

1.  Stretch.  I'm working on getting up from the computer every 20 (okay, it is usually more like 40) minutes and doing a couple of simple stretches.  This makes an enormous difference in how I feel at the end of the day.

2.  Artist's Date.  Julia Cameron advocates this in her book, The Artist's Way.  It is something you do alone, and can be as simple as taking your journal to the coffee shop.  Or going to an art gallery. Whatever makes you happy and fills the well. I'm lousy at doing this.  Really lousy.  But when I do, it is mind expanding.

3. Color.  Like in a coloring book, the way you did as a kid.  I'm not kidding, it is really relaxing. There's a whole series of Mandala coloring books you can get if that makes you feel more adult.  Or scribble shapes on a pad of paper and color in the blanks.  Here is a really cool link I found where you can print separate pages out.

4.  Read.  As I've mentioned a time or two before, if you're a writer, you need to read.  Words in, words out.  If I'm putting a lot of words out on the page, I need to pull a lot of them in as well.  And, it is relaxing.

5. Walk.  Get thyself out of the house and into the fresh air.  Carry index cards or your phone to take notes on (I highly recommend Evernote) because you will get ideas that you will want to write down.

6.  Enjoy a hobby. Cook, bake, garden (come to my house and pull some weeds if you like). Knit, crochet, sew.  I used to think that doing creative projects other than writing pulled me away from my writing–but really, it just enhances it.

7.  Get a mani-pedi.  Or just a pedi. Guys, you too.  Hit a salon that has a massage chair and you'll have a relaxing time, while your feet get spiffed up, too.

8.  Get a massage.  I've had the enormous luxury of getting a chiropractic massage weekly (thank you, health insurance) this year.  This is because my body is a bit out of whack.  The massages are helping me physically, yes, but also mentally and emotionally.  Well worth it.

9.  Sit under a tree.  When my kids were little, upon occasion we would visit the nearby park and I would let them play while I sat a picnic table and wrote or simply pondered life's issues.  Getting out into nature is soothing in a way nothing else is.

10.  Get outta town.   Okay, so I am fortunate to live in Portland, Oregon, where the ocean is an hour in one direction and the mountains an hour in the other.  But do I avail myself of these delights?  Rarely.  Don't be like me.  Take a day trip.

11.  Meditate.  Or, keep it simple and not so scary and just pause and take some huge deep breaths every so often throughout the day.

12.  Do nothing.  Closely related to #11.  Just sit and do nothing.  Or stand and do nothing.  Or lie down and do nothing.  Wait, better skip that last one, because if you're like me you'll fall asleep. Which actually isn't a bad idea–napping is good, also.  Honestly, think about it–when is the last time you let yourself really do nothing?  I know, ages ago.  Me, too.

What else?  Well, what relaxes you?  What makes you happy?  Make a list–and then indulge yourself once in awhile.  Blame it on me if you must, but do it.  

Do you build time into your day or week for self care?  What's your favorite thing to do?

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A Guide to the Care and Tending of Writers, Part One

Let's talk about self care.  Yeah, I know, you'd rather be writing than fussing about some dumb old self care crap.  But here's the point: taking care of yourself will enable you to write more and better. Truly.

An example, taken from my own life: Boracay-beach-paradise-1561148-h

Yesterday, I completed two big projects.  Both are under wraps for the moment, and only one is related to writing, really, but it was an application that necessitated a bunch of thought and filling out.

Today, I'm in full-on fart around mode.  I have a list a mile long to complete–and I'm not doing any of it.  Instead, I'm cruising around the internet, looking at sites I've not checked in on in ages, reading stupid stories about celebrities, wasting time.  

And now, as the day begins to wane, I'm feeling a bit creaky and antsy and unsettled.  How much better it would have been if I'd just said, f$%# it, I took two huge steps yesterday, I'm going to read and knit all day.  In other words, indulge in things I truly enjoy.  Relax after the full-out effort I put in yesterday. In other words, practice self care. 

I don't know why it is so hard to force allow yourself to do this.  Because if you're like me, you'll resist.  You'll sit at the computer, certain that the words will come at any minute, sure that the fog of indecision will lift.  But it won't.  And my day today is a case in point.

(The truth of the matter is, I've had this blog post–which is going to be two parts, by the way–in the works for a couple of weeks.  And it is sheer coincidence synchronicity that my behavior today so aptly proved my own point.)

So, here's the deal: you need to take a freaking break already!

Spoken by the same woman who constantly exhorts you to write every day.  So let's go at this from a slightly different angle, with a handy-dandy list of Possible Signs You Are Burned Out and Need to Replenish:

1.  You have a hard time focusing.  You can't seem to concentrate on the words in front of your face, or you land or a website and wonder why you clicked on it. Then you click on another one and remember why you were on the first one and so you go back there, read for awhile, then head over to the second website.  While your writing file sits open and ignored.  Yeah, that.

2.  You can't connect with the story of your WIP (work in progress).  You remember vaguely that its about…a woman…who does something.  But you can't recall what in the hell it is she does, or the name of any of the other characters or why you wanted to write it in the first place.

3.  Your eyelids get heavy when you open your WIP file, and you don't feel like writing, you feel like sleeping.

4.  The People magazine website is suddenly the most interesting thing you've ever seen.  And you are compelled to read mindless puff articles about people you've never heard of before.

5.  A glass of wine is the thing that you need right now, at this moment, because it is five o'clock somewhere.  And once you take the first sip, it is all downhill from there…

The first three of this list are the most important to heed because they are the most insidious.  You won't ever realize you are doing them until you look back at the end of the day and see that you've accomplished nothing.  Nada.  But even worse, you likely won't identify the root cause of your behavior as needing self care.  No, you will beat yourself up and tell yourself what a lazy ass you are.

How do I know this? Because I do it all the time my friend told me about it.

So, start paying attention.  Take a break.  Figure out some ways that you can do self care that isn't goopy.  How, you ask?  That is the subject of part two of this post, coming right up whenever I can quit procrastinating.

What is your favorite way to waste time?

Photo by The Wandering Angel.

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A Wednesday List

Punkins

Punkins, ready for the big night

So, I've had this idea lately. 

What might that idea be, you ask?

I shall tell you.  It's that maybe, once in awhile, more often than a blue moon, maybe even weekly, I'm not sure yet, it likely depends on you all react, I shall write a post that is more personal in nature.  In case you hadn't noticed, I just about always find a way to relate my posts to writing. 

Like, always.

Mostly because it is my firm belief that when you are a writer, everything does relate back to writing. But, still.  There are other aspects of my life that might be fun to comment on once in awhile.  

Thus beginneth the idea of the Wednesday List, with today's post being the first one.  Consider it a glimpse into my world beyond writing. Are you ready? Here we go.

1.  I'm cooking a lot.  Ha, news flash!  To some of you, this might not seem like much, but I am a Lazy Ass Cook Extraordinaire.  As in, buying something to throw on the grill and a prepared salad at Whole Foods.  Or even better, convincing my husband we need to go out.  (This generally does not take much work.)  But in France, I appreciated sun eggs (that's what they called them) so fresh they didn't need to be refrigerated, and tomatoes that tasted like they used to, back in the dark ages.  And so I vowed to cook more when I returned, and I have.  Mostly soups and quick breads so far, but still. And I have purchased two pieces of cooking equipment–a gigantic crock pot and a Madeleine pan. Haven't actually baked any Madeleines yet, but I will.  Maybe this weekend.  I shall report.

2. A story about how knitting saved my writing.  I am a knitter from way back, like birth, even. And yet I don't have much to show for myself, because I, um, tend not to finish things.  It's the idea of the finished object I like, apparently, and the process.  I am trying to change this, but in the meantime, I was recently reminded of how beneficial a knitting project can be.  Because I am trying diligently to finish my projects, I had my most recent one, a sweater made from lovely heathery blue/purple yarn sitting out within easy reach.  Thinking I was procrastinating, I sat down to knit.  I was procrastinating because I was stuck in the writing of my novel, trying to figure out how to fit in a couple of new scenes.  I shall think, I told myself, in order to justify the procrastination.  And guess what?  It worked! Within minutes, I had it all set in my mind.  So then, of course, I didn't get much done on the sweater.  Julia Cameron advocates repetitive activity as a creativity booster in the Artist's Way but I hadn't experienced its benefits in quite some time.

3.  My crazy Tub Wad cats.  They are two tabby brothers we rescued from the Humane Society

TubWad

Lieutenant, the fattest Tub Wad, in his favorite position

several years ago and they are fat.  I mean fat. (See photo for proof.) I used to tell people they were just big-boned, and they are, but I have to admit that even factoring that in, they are fat. And they love to eat.  Their evening feeding time is 5 PM, and long about 2, they start complaining that they are hungry.  But the other day, they were both happily asleep on the couch at that hour and I couldn't figure out what was going on.  Then I remembered the strange noises coming from the room we grandiosely call the library (if you could see it now you would laugh because it is serving as a storage and junk room) where their food was stored in a gigantic plasticized bag.  (We have to buy special food from the vet for them.)  I had secured the top of the bag with a clip, but Captain and Lieutenant made quick work of that.  Turns out they were helping themselves to food at all hours of the day and night. I'm pretty sure it was Captain who figured it out.  He's the smart one.  I always say he's studying to be a human in his next incarnation because he's constantly observing, with his ears perked up so you know he's listening to every word.

4.  Halloween.  I love it.  And its this Friday.  Yay.  But I'm not even sure why I like it so much.  I don't eat the candy, preferring dark chocolate or something more dessert-ish.  And I loathe dressing up in costume.  I think it is the fall color that I like, and the feeling of the crisp air, and all that (though this year our color here in Portland is the worst I've seen in years).  I even like–wait for it–the time change, so that it gets dark early.  Blame it on my Danish heritage, but the dark days of late fall are my favorite time of year.  This year, as always, I'll make my famous chili with the secret ingredient that makes it the best chili you've ever eaten, and my family will come over and the grandbabies will go out trick or treating (maybe–they are still a bit young) and there will also be wine, and beer for the men.  And fat Tub Wad cats lying in the middle of everything.

5.  Overwhelm.  I've been in it since I returned from France.  And I realize I do not handle it well. When I'm overwhelmed, I procrastinate.  Since I'm having problems getting things done, why not make it worse by not doing anything?  Yeah, it works real well, let me tell you.  I'm starting to climb out of it, with only two manuscripts left to read this week (and don't get me wrong, I love reading my client's work) and some forward progress on the rewrite of my novel.  Part of the reason I get overwhelmed is that I have a busy social life, with obligations to family and friends.  Obligations, ha! It's pure pleasure and I know it.  But every once in awhile I have to call enough and quit saying yes to things.

Owlies6.  I got a tattoo.  You can see by the accompanying photo that is it the best thing ever.  Owls are the family symbol because my Mom collected them for years, long before they enjoyed their current moment.  My daughter got a huge, complicated tattoo on her upper arm featuring an owl, and my sister is getting one in December (she had to get an old tattoo removed first). My tattoo is in honor of my grandchildren, with the symbols of their astrological signs in the body of each owl.  And guess what?  It didn't hurt much at all.  I was lying on the table squeezing my eyes shut, telling the tattoo artist to be sure and warn me when he was going to start, certain I was going to flinch and ruin it all. And then when he began I said, "Is that all there is to it?"  Now I'm ready to get another one.

Okay, so a whole novel later, that's what's going on in my life at the moment.  What's up with you, writing or otherwise?  Please leave a comment!

 

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