You know this post is super cereal* because I’m using a serious serif font instead of a nice fun script.
This is one of those ‘do as I say, not what I do’, moments. I am completely, and utterly, hopeless at looking after myself. I’m a workaholic, I push myself too hard, I’ve burnt out a number of times, had a minor breakdown last spring because I kept pushing way too hard. I don’t eat enough, and generally, I suck at this whole self-care thing. I hate resting, I hate being unproductive, and I really need to learn to just stop and chill sometimes.
So this is me being open, and honest, in the hope that it’ll help you.
On Monday I announced that I was going to try and take part in a 14 day writing challenge where I’d write 80k words, in 14 days. I acknowledged that I knew this week was going to be stressful. I went into it having had 4 nights of awful nightmares, the really graphic type that haunt you all day and leave you completely exhausted.
A while ago I wrote a post about how to be a prolific writer, you should read it, it’s good stuff. In that post I highlighted the importance of self care. I pointed out just how important that is if you want to be a prolific writer. I should listen to myself, I have some fantastic advice.
You see, I had to put my writing challenge on a pause, because I was coming really, really, close to burning out. I’ve been pushing myself so hard this year. I’m determined to be a full-time author this time next year. I have three books sitting with my editor right now, they’ll be released in summer. I want to get three more out in autumn. That’s a lot of pressure on top of my freelance work, doing two countries taxes, the usual yearly bills that all come in at this time of year, medical stuff, and so on and so forth.
On Monday I did some writing sprints, but due to the nightmares, and not eating properly I couldn’t hit the ideal word count. What’s that? I publicly admitted to working with daily word counts to stressing me out, and yet there I was, aiming for a daily word count on day one…? Tuesday I didn’t eat properly, again. I hadn’t gotten a good night’s sleep. Again. I did however managed to push hard enough to get just shy of 6,000 words. Fantastic right?
So let’s look at how my mistakes, can help you.
First things first, understand yourself. This is so important. Look at your flaws, your strengths, and your goals. For me, I’m awful about not eating enough. I have an eating disorder, I keep it under pretty good control, but it’s an issue. If you don’t eat properly you’ll be grumpier, unfocused, and lack energy. That is not conducive to writing anything at all, let alone being prolific.
Perhaps you’re bad about putting things off until the last seconds, then find a way to stop that. Maybe giving yourself a set hour to write in, and do nothing else ever in that slot, would help you.
Don’t forget to look at your strengths. Use them, embrace them, be proud of them. For me, I write quickly. When I look after myself I can write 1600 words in 20 minutes. Maybe your strength is the ability to shut the world out and write no matter where you are.
Look at those, and apply them to your goals. If you can shut the world out and write anywhere, then give yourself time at work, on your commute, to write. 10 minutes here and there very quickly adds up to something wonderful.
Next. Learn from my mistakes.
If you start to feel as though writing is stressful, and unpleasant, look at why. Do you need to step back and take a break? Is there an issue with the story? Do you need to tweak your outline or figure out something in your character’s past?
Do not push through. Take a step back, figure out the problem, and resolve it.
Take regular breaks. It’s ok to binge watch a show on Netflix. Tv is story telling too, you can learn a lot about story structure, character development, popular tropes etc from tv. The same applies to movies. Don’t forget to get out and experience the world! You need to keep refilling your creative well, don’t feel guilty about it, you’re helping your writing.
There’s so much pressure to be bigger, better, to write more, to write faster. We can’t do that if we’re exhausted and uninspired. Taking a day or three off will benefit us in the long run. I was supposed to publish four full novels last year. I published one thanks to pushing too hard and burning out. Learn from me, don’t make my mistakes.
If you need to talk, if you’re getting stressed, I’m happy to listen. I have cat pictures and pygmy goat videos too 😛 You’re awesome, and sometimes, you need to chill out and take a break from torturing those poor characters. Your readers will thank you in the long run. Promise 🙂