Writing can be hard. And when you have a non-writing job that pays your bills, finding the time and energy to sit down and get words down can be challenging.
I get it. I’m right there with you. I mean, I’ve been thinking about writing this post on self-care for writers for at least a year. It happens.
It’s easy to forget that day jobs or relationships, even when they’re going well, can drain our mental capacity and leave little for writing. It can be hard to justify doing non-writing activities in your free-time because you should be writing.
You’ll even find plenty of well-intentioned advice telling you to “write every day!” and people whose publicly-shouted word counts feel unattainable to you. (And maybe make you feel a little inadequate too.) Or maybe you struggle with depression or anxiety or something else that affects your mental health and you find it difficult to do more than exist.
Hugs or high fives or nods across the room to all of you. I see you. I hear you. Your journey is valid. Let me repeat: Your journey, whatever path you walk, is valid.
So, I want to leave you with tips to take care of yourself. They may or may not apply to you; take anything that sounds like it might work for you. Try ’em out. And hit me up in the comments with what you do to take care of yourself.
1. Remember that you matter
Yes, really. Social media can give you a false sense of reality. It can make you feel lost in everyone else’s lives. You might feel like you’re struggling and no one else is, or that you’re encountering a problem that is unique to you.
Few people are open and vulnerable about their struggles, but you can bet that they’re experiencing them, too. And while you experience challenges that are unique to you, that doesn’t invalidate your experience. You matter. You are worthy.
For help with this, I suggest finding social media accounts or websites that fill you up and promote (self) positivity. Here are some of my favorite Instagram accounts to follow:
2. Take time for self-maintenance
A lot of what I wrote about last year in my post about everyday self-care for writers falls under what I now call “self-maintenance.” It’s basic tasks, like eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep.
And sometimes it’s those adulting duties, like grocery shopping (so you can eat right), or making a doctor’s appointment you’ve been putting off, or dealing with your transportation woes.
It’s not glamorous self-care. You may not find it on all those pins and blog posts with ideas for self-care. But it’s essential to taking care of yourself. You need to maintain you. If you’re not taking steps to be as healthy as you can be, if you’ve got undone tasks taking up space in your brain, your writing (and everything else) will suffer.
I’ll be right there with you, dragging myself out of a nice, warm bed because I forgot to stretch before I crawled under the covers. And while I may grumble to myself the whole time, future Amanda is always better off because of it. Same with walking.
What do you need to do to maintain yourself?
3. Do what you can when you can
You can’t do it all. And while the universe at large and your inner self-talk can sell you a different belief, you have to honor your needs. I talk a lot about “filling my bucket,” which is really just my way of referencing the activities that keep me happy, engaged, and sane. And it’s not always writing.
In fact, I’m inching up on a year since I’ve steadily written, but that’s another post for another time.
Your free-time will be filled with more than writing. In addition to self-maintenance, you might have obligations to family, friends, or pets. Seriously. Even time you want to spend with family, friends, or pets can (and should) take up your time.
Getting down on yourself for not writing when you’re spending time with others doesn’t help anyone, and in many cases, can reduce everyone’s enjoyment. Be open and be present. When you finally get to writing, you’ll probably be more eager and excited to return to it.
Sometimes, you spend time out in the world experiencing. (See “filling your bucket” above.) Not only is this important for your mental health, but being out in the world can actually enrich your writing. You can people watch and observe and listen. And then there are all the hobbies we have besides writing.
It’s all valid, even when it takes you away from writing. When your body and brain are telling you that you’re tired or that you need to focus on your mental health or you are just plain needed elsewhere, honor that. Do what you can when you can. That’s all you ask of yourself.
4. Forgive (and love) yourself
Negative self-talk can sink you. And you may not even notice it happening. It’s when we compare our progress to someone else’s, it’s when we feel like we’ve failed when we had to make dinner and walk the dog instead of write. It’s watching everyone participate in NaNoWriMo, and feeling deficient because, for whatever reason, we can’t.
Listen, we all make mistakes or don’t do what we’ve promised ourselves (or others) that we’d do. Something in life will pop up, require your focus, and writing will have to wait. The best way to move forward is to forgive yourself and accept the situation.
The thing is, writing and working full-time is like having more than one job. And it can be draining. And while society still seems to be in love with the idea of constant “busy-ness,” there is so much value in taking time to stop, breathe, and be present in the moment.
Learn to recognize when your self-talk turns negative and practice turning it positive. You’ll be happier for it. (And your writing will probably be better, too.)
Writers with day jobs, how do you practice self-care?