It’s recently come to my attention that there’s one thing all my characters could use more of: self-care. Sure, it’s hard to squeeze in self-care when your’re fleeing from werewolves, hunting down warlocks, and trying to save your family from a war, but still...self-care is important, right?
Maybe my characters don’t get enough self-care because I don’t always make my own self-care a priority. It’s easy to dismiss self-care as a selfishness, but here’s what can happen when you don’t take care of yourself:
- You burn out.
- Things you normally enjoy (like reading) can feel like a chore.
- Your performance at work goes down.
- Your relationships weaken.
- And in extreme cases, not taking care of yourself can lead to depression and physical illnesses.
Novelist A.S. Byatt said, "Much as I love my husband and children, I love them only because I am the person who makes things. I am who I am is the person who has the project of making a thing. And because that person does that all the time, that person is able to love all those other people.”
Taking care of yourself not only helps you, it feeds your creativity and it strengthens your relationship with yourself and with others.
If you're not taking care of yourself, you are not going to have the energy to take care of anyone else. (<<< tweet that)
How to Make Self-Care a Priority
RESPECT YOUR NATURAL TIMING
Are you an early bird or a night owl? Do you drag your feet in the afternoon then get a second surge of energy at 4pm? Do you create your best content right after you shower at 6am? When do you work best? What time of day and what days of the week do you create your best content?
Once you know when the best time to work is, create a schedule. When I first wake up, I don't love mornings. I want to say in bed. But getting up early is worth it. Why? Because I work best in the morning. I'm able to get more done before noon than I can accomplish in the afternoon and evening together. When I taught during the day, I woke up an hour early because I knew if I didn't write fiction in the A.M., it wasn't going to get it done that day. Now that I'm working for myself, I keep my mornings clear of appointments, client calls, and even personal time because mornings are my best chance at getting work done.
How can you respect your natural timing?
- Change you sleep schedule. Either go to bed/wake up early or later than you currently do.
- Switch your day job around. Is there a chance you can work the 7 to 4 shift instead of the 8 to 5? Or can you work part days in the office and work from home the rest of the day? Can you come into work later if you cut your lunch break in half? Can work ten-hour days four days a week?
- Say "No" to scheduling appointments during your prime work time. This goes for lunch dates and early morning coffee catch up with friends too! If you work better in the morning, schedule your appointments for the afternoon. If you're a night owl and don't go to bed until 4am, when would be the best time to meet up with friends?
- Don't beat yourself for being "lazy" at non-prime work times. I definitely slow done in the afternoon, so I usually give myself an hour long lunch, and often, when lunch break is over, I'll end up painting or crocheting for another hour before I hit my second wave between 2:30 and 3pm. And usually, the tasks I end up doing in the late afternoon aren't content heavy. You'd most likely find me on social media, cleaning out my inbox, creating images, or outlining projects during this time.
CREATE A SPACE OF YOUR OWN
You don't have to have your own bedroom, office, or studio, but having a space of your own can help remind you what you're working on is important. It's this little bit of love that says, "I matter and my work matters."
My husband and I live in a one-bedroom apartment, so there is no room that is entirely mine, but I have my desk. It faces a wall where I've hung up art that inspires me. To the right is my bookcase, where all my favorite books + resources stare back at me. Beyond the bookcase is our living room window, so I get plenty of natural light (which I love!). I sit in a comfy chair, and I have all the pens and post-it notes a girl could want at my fingertips. My bullet journal and business planner are always within reach, and I've even managed to keep a bamboo plant alive (it sits on top of the bookcase).
Your own space doesn't have to be stationary. A writer friend of mine keeps her office in a box. Whether she ends up working at the kitchen table, the floor, the bed, or the library, her mobile office is ready to provide her with all the tools she needs to make any space feel like her own.
HOW DO YOU CREATE YOUR OWN SPACE?
- What do you need? What materials/supplies do you need on hand? (Computer, wifi, notebook, planner, dictionary...)
- What elements inspire you? (music, silence, natural light, fresh air, pictures, art, all the post-its you can imagine...)
- Make it comfortable. (Comfortable chair/couch/bed, have water on hand, maybe some snacks...)
- If you had to describe your ideal workspace, what would it look like?
- How much of that description can you make into a reality right now?
GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO BE HUMAN
- Sometimes a story isn't ready to be written.
- Sometimes you need more experience.
- Sometimes you need to learn a new technique.
- Some days, you're sick.
- Some days are simply bad days.
- Maybe you need to work through your fear of publishing before you're ready to start blogging.
- Maybe you want more time to build a newsletter list before you start focusing on creating products to sell.
You're not a robot. You can't control everything. And you can't do All. The. Things. You can show up every day and try your best, but sometimes, the timing isn't going to be right or you're going to have to stop to hunt for a piece of the puzzle before you can complete the picture. And that's okay. Part of self-care is accepting your limitations. You don't have to accept that they will be part of you forever—by all means, please challenge yourself and grow, girl!—but you do have to love who you are and what you can do at this moment.
There are some things that for whatever reason are out of our reach right now, but self-care says, "My twentieth novel will be better than my first novel (duh!), but I'm never going to get to novel twenty if I don't write novel one."
No, my characters aren’t getting much self-care time in their stories, but their fictional, they’ll deal. You and me—we’re not fictional. We need to accept we’re human. Accept we make (and will continue to make) mistakes. But we can’t let that stop us from creating. We must: Create regardless and Move forward anyway.
bonus: 25 self-care ideas
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