The Off-Balancing Act: The Power of Baby Steps

off-balancing act, creative balance, healthy boundaries, fictional ferrets, rabid rainbow ferret society, writing, writers, advice for writers

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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.

What struggles have you been having with finding creative balance in your life? What baby steps might you take with your creative balance to bring it back in line?

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4 thoughts on “The Off-Balancing Act: The Power of Baby Steps

  1. I’ve suffered bit of burnout recently and am struggling to get going again. Not writing is much less stressful, when dealing with all those other aspects of life some of which you mentioned, and the nagging compulsion to write fades a bit every day…

    • Burnout is hard. I’ve been there (just really starting to come out of it, actually), and there is a lot of time when NOT writing is the less stressful route. And in cases like that, my advice is to just make sure you’re giving yourself creative fuel (reading books you enjoy, watching movies, etc) so that when you can be creative again, you’re ready. Plus, doing things you enjoy will help you feel better about the other things in the meantime.

  2. Burnout is the worst thing. It is still an obstacle with me at the moment s well. Just surviving a day of having to be around crowds of people and little escape when they insist on crowding close enough to touch is beyond exhaustion for me. As much as I want to be outgoing (which I can be under the right conditions) I desire alone time which comes maybe once every few months when I can relax in my mom’s apartment while doing laundry when she’s at work and Colin at school. Just me and the cats is enough to calm my mind but it is rarely enough to give that burst of energy to write. Retreating to my room doesn’t help much due to other reasons. So, the best that I can do is enjoy those trips to the store by myself, or getting Colin to and from school for the quiet and aloneness. The rest are medical problems I fear are due to my diabetes getting out of control. Thankfully, proper doctor care is starting now that I finally have insurance. We’ll see what she has to say next week. Until then, it is try to keep the blood sugar down and stress levels low to avoid any further exhaustion.

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