Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Self-care for Creatives, the Hows and Whys

Posted by: Shawna Reppert

My friends would find it ironic that I am writing a blog about self-care; I’m not terribly good at it. Mostly because I don’t practice it enough. I’ve recently come through a rough patch that ended up extending a couple of years, mostly because I tried to bully myself through it instead of doing what I needed to do to take care of myself and get better. During that time, I saw my productivity in writing and promoting my work diminish further and further while my life became more and more chaotic. Finally, I figured out that self-care was essential to getting myself to a place where I could be functional, not a luxury to indulge in after I did everything right to my own standards.

I hesitate to talk about self-care. For too many people it brings to mind ladies who lunch and hot-house one-percenters in overpriced spas. But really, it’s about finding those few moments of contentment that allow you to remember who you really are. For those of us with dead-end day jobs in the corporate world, this can be a struggle. The more your employer can convince you of your own worthlessness, the less likely you are to ask for a raise, demand your legally-mandated rights, refuse to accept verbal and emotional abuse, or, gods forbid, start looking for a job some place that will treat you like a genuine human being. (Good luck with that, by the way.) Self-care is a highly individual matter. It doesn’t need to cost much, or, indeed, anything. A long, hot soak in a scented bath, a walk in the forest, fifteen minutes sitting on a park bench watching the wind ripple the water across a pond. To paraphrase Big Brother and the Holding Company, You know you got it when it makes you feel good.

The writing community and fandom both are filled with creative people. Creative people are statistically more susceptible to anxiety and depression. Creative people also tend to be very, very hard on themselves. This is not a great combination. If you are nodding as you read this, then you are probably one of us. Let me tell you right now—getting out of bed is hard some days. You’re not weak because you struggle. You’re strong because you carry on anyway. If it helps you to watch kitten videos on YouTube or listen to your favorite actor read Shakespeare for fifteen minutes to fortify yourself before you can make it as far as the kitchen, it’s nobody’s business but your own.

Behavior modification experts will tell you that it’s far more effective to reward the wanted behavior than to punish the unwanted behavior. This is true whether you are trying to train your dog not to jump up on guests as they come through the door or training yourself to keep your butt in the chair and your hands on the keyboard. If you punish yourself with harsh self-talk for not staying focused for the whole two hours (or however long your writing session is), your subconscious is going to believe what you tell it. (Gods, you’re lazy. You’ll never finish the novel at this rate. If you were a real writer, you’d want to write all day. Sound familiar?) Worse, the part of your mind charged with self-protection will decide that writing is bad for you (because you feel horrible when you’re done, because of all that brow-beating) and start to create avoidance techniques to keep you off that chair and away from the keyboard.

On the other hand, if you reward yourself with a bite of chocolate, a shot of good whiskey, or simply an internal pat on the back, your subconscious will start wanting to write because it feels good to write. Training your inner writer can take as much patience as training a puppy. So what if you didn’t make your two-hour goal. You did a solid hour of focused writing, fifteen minutes more than you did yesterday and twice what you did per day a week ago. Good dog—er, writer. And if you backslide? It happens. Take a deep breath, have a long, hot bath or a walk, and forgive yourself. Start fresh tomorrow.

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1 comment:

  1. Wise words. Thanks Shawna for reminding us to care for ourselves.


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