Writing and self-care
What’s this episode about?
Be kind to the writers in your life
This podcast starts in the wonderful month of September. This whole month in United States is National ‘Be kind to Writers and Editors’ Month. It’s a wonderful time to appreciate all writers and editors in our lives, give them some love and support for their hard work, not forgetting the one that is closest to you – your own writer self. There is no better time to take note of where you are in your creative journey and see if you’re taking good care of yourself.
Who am I?
My name is Lainey and I have been writing on a daily basis for the last 8 years. I have encountered pretty much every mental health issue one can encounter while creating – anxiety, rejection, writer’s block, impostor syndrome, stress, fatigue, burnout. You name it. And I overcame some while I’m still struggling to keep some at bay.
Good mental health is a journey. Somewhere along the way, feeling isolated and unhappy, but somehow still craving to write, I realized there was no one around me who could erase my issues and make things better. I had to take care of myself. And so my journey began. I wanted to have a routine that worked for me because I felt awesome when I was productive. I became almost addicted to that rush of endorphins that came after completing something and feeling a sense of achievement over it. And with that also came self-compassion when things weren’t going so great. I knew it was just a bump in the road. It was easier to process.
The Pen Garden for me was the logical continuation of that train of thought. Seeing some of my writing friends struggle with all the things I mentioned before, I wanted to share my little nuggets of knowledge and empower writers to take control of their writing routines. I wanted to help YOU. Not simply follow a guide but really make you own up to your particular situation and create something that works for you.
What is self-care?
What constitutes self-care and what doesn’t? Psychologist Raphailia Michael puts it really well in her Psych Central blog: ‘Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Although it’s a simple concept in theory, it’s something we very often overlook. Good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced anxiety. It’s also key to a good relationship with oneself and others.’ I’m going to extend this to writers and say that consistent good self-care will definitely improve the relationship you have with your creativity.
Self-care is not a selfish act, it comes from a place of knowing you need to take care of yourself to be able to reach your creative goals and maintain a happy life. Self-care also isn’t an action that brings you temporary relief but then causes guilt or any detriment at a later date – for example obsessive purchases or spending massive amounts of time binge watching or binge gaming is not good for you if it makes you feel unproductive and guilty. Drugs, alcohol and gambling are also not self-care – addictive behaviors like these are best recognized and treated by a licensed professional.
One example – mindfulness
Mindfulness can be traced back more than two millennia to early Buddhism, where the practice was thought to be an important path towards reducing suffering and achieving enlightenment. More recently, the same techniques, but updated for the modern life, have been used in clinical psychology for therapy. Nowadays mindfulness is defined by scholars as a state of ‘awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment to moment’.
So basically, if we strip all the scientific language, it’s all about acknowledging what is happening to you in this moment, on the outside and inside, and accepting it as part of your experience without guilt, blame or even looking for solutions. It’s noticing things and saying, ‘that’s happening right now, that’s okay’. It’s a good basis for self-compassion.
Take journalists, for example, who are prone to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and immense stress in their jobs – research has shown that mindfulness ‘offers a useful technique to help journalists survive their assignments and industry upheaval with their mental health intact.’ Which means they get to live better lives and write words that don’t cause them pain.
Studies also argue it is essential for academic writers who find their research emotionally demanding to engage in self-care to avoid researcher fatigue and negative impact on participants, themselves, and their research and to aid in knowledge creation.
Where do you even start?
Psychologist and author Ellen Bard urges all writers to ask themselves one simple question: What do you need right now?
And this is how self-care starts – by tuning in to your needs and finding a way to address them in a meaningful way.
Ellen also says writers are actually one step ahead of everyone else: ‘Many writers have rich inner lives, which is a great start for thinking about self-care. The better you know yourself, the easier it is to work out what your self-care might look like. Because one of the challenges and blessings of the area is that there is no ‘prescribed’ self-care, it’s entirely personal to you.’
In her blog post on thecreativepenn.com, she proposes a simple matrix writers can draw to start thinking about this. She urges everyone to consider ‘What people, places, physical things, and activities nourish you, in an emotional, physical and mental sense?’ and then write those down. If you have some time after this podcast I suggest you go check it out because it is a great starting point.
sO, TO SUMMARIZE…
There is definite benefit to taking the time to think about and practice self-care. If mindfulness doesn’t sound like your thing, that’s fine. I’m going to explore many different ideas in this podcast and some will definitely resonate with you. Others might inspire you to do your own research or might just brighten up your day a little.
The fact that you’ve already listened to this whole thing means you’ve done a bit of self-care today. Some of my topics will include how to tailor your writing routine to your personal situation, pep talks to bring your spirits back up when things are hard and inspiration from other writers who seem to be doing well for themselves on the productivity front. I hope you’ll stick around so I can make my little positive contribution to your writing life self-care every week.
Next week, I’m diving straight into season two – Your personality, where I will dig deep into what are the best approaches to a writing routine for different people. Come join me by subscribing to the show on your favorite podcasting platform.
If you want to be up to date on Pen Garden news, subscribe to the show and sign up to my newsletter. I promise no spam, only cups of writing joy.
If you want to continue the conversation, you can poke me on The Pen Garden Facebook page or tweet me @laineydelaroque. Thanks very much for listening everyone. Hope you have an awesome week and speak to you soon.
- What Self-Care Is – and What It Isn’t (blog)
- Building journalists’ resilience through mindfulness strategies (journal article)
- Researcher Self-Care in Emotionally Demanding Research: A Proposed Conceptual Framework (journal article)
- Look After Yourself: Self Care For Writers (blog)