When you’re a writer, it’s easy to be inundated with advice. Most of it is well-meant, and much of it works for many people. Some of it, though, can come with a somewhat… demeaning edge.
You aren’t really a writer if you don’t write every day.
That’s probably the one I’ve struggled with the most.
But… that’s ridiculous. Because that’s like saying a doctor isn’t a doctor unless he sees patients every day. Yeah, right.
The struggle with creative balance, for me, is three-fold. The first challenge is that I’m an introvert. Very, very much an introvert. I need alone time on a daily basis (preferably hours at a time) to be able to quiet my mind and focus on something. Many days… I don’t get that. When I’m mentally and/or emotionally exhausted from dealing with whatever life has thrown at me that day, it’s very difficult to write. (Contrary to popular opinion, when family drama happens, it’s often impossible to ignore or prioritize. When you have elderly grandparents who won’t admit they need help, matters are often time sensitive and have to be dealt with in the moment. It’s frustrating, but it is what it is.)
The second challenge is… well, just all the things that need to be done. I’ve been struggling with some health issues the past couple of years, and extreme fatigue is a daily challenge quite often. The fatigue is often accompanied by a bit of dizziness and a fair amount of brain fog, and that makes sitting up at a computer, let alone writing, difficult. And because my energy and physical stamina is often limited… it means there are other things that have to take priority over writing.
The third challenge is that, on the days when I feel good and have enough energy to accomplish whatever I would like… I have poor time management skills.
In an attempt to combat that this year, along with my lack of physical energy, I’m taking baby steps with everything.
The great thing is that if I can make just one or two baby steps, I usually find that I can keep going for a while longer. It’s often the first step that’s the hardest.
So what would these baby steps look like?
For me, being an all-or-nothing type of person, they have to still be productive. No matter how little time I’ve spent on something, I have to be able to step away and see that progress was made. (I have a really hard time maintaining a clean house because of this – why should I clean when it already looks clean?)
For a writing project, then, I will usually start with a time limit. Because getting started is the hardest part. And once I’ve started writing, I can usually keep going for quite a while longer, and then I can keep giving myself little goals along the way. Things like finish this paragraph. Write another paragraph. Finish this scene. Start the next chapter.
And those days when you just can’t meet your goals?
Meet at least one goal. Right now, I’m just trying (and mostly failing) to do something creative every day. But I’ve been more productive with creative projects this year than I have for months, and while it’s nowhere near as productive as many other people, it’s more than I was accomplishing before.
Be satisfied with more. Even if it isn’t where you want to be forever, more is better than nothing.
Creativity is like a muscle – you don’t start off with the heavy lifting. You have to condition yourself and build stamina before you can churn things out. And maybe, as you work that muscle, you’ll discover that it isn’t built to just churn things out, and that’s okay. Work with your abilities, and learn to recognize when you can push harder, and when you actually need a break.
And creative breaks are okay, even necessary. Don’t berate yourself for taking time off when you need it.