Even Writers Need Self-Care

knitted sweater dress Yvonne HertzbergerMost Indie writers cannot pay their bills by writing alone. We need additional sources of income to make ends meet. There are a lucky few for whom this is not necessary, but I think you may still find that you recognize yourself here.

I remember the days when we believed women could do it all. We could have careers, families, homes, even extra-curricular activities and volunteering. We carried them all off with aplomb and efficiency. We called these women Supermoms. When dads began to take share some of those activities, we all became Superparents. We believed in it. Until it didn’t work.

There were costs. Relationships suffered. Children suffered. Health, both mental and physical, suffered. Productivity and quality of work suffered. “Experts” came to the conclusion that “Life Balance” is essential. Most of us understand what that means and know it to be true. Many employers haven’t accepted that message yet, but that discussion is for another time and place.

We writers delude ourselves into believing life balance is for “other normal people”. We don’t need it. We decline invitations from friends. We put off that essential exercise until tomorrow, which never comes. We hide from family behind our keyboards. We miss the party, that baseball game, our favourite TV show.

We try to do it all. Babysit? Sure. Work the weekend? OK, sigh. Read that book? Maybe next week. Walk in the sunshine? There will be other sunny days.

We put off sleep to finish that chapter, complete that scene. We don’t need sleep. After all, that’s when things are quiet. We reside in the pressure cooker of self-imposed deadlines. Every free, waking moment is spent wooing pen or keyboard. And coffee, endless coffee – if we haven’t succumbed to something nastier.

But we, too, pay the costs: the same ones everyone else does. We face burnout, health issues, depression and loss of productivity. That was brought to my attention in a nasty way recently when that proverbial straw fell on my back. It almost broke me.

I made a decision – no, two decisions. I remembered how much I used to enjoy knitting. I even made my own patterns for sweaters. So I bought some yarn, designed a dress for myself and knit it – in less than a month. Oh joy! Then I picked up that super-long book a friend had loaned to me two years ago. It’s almost finished now. You know what I’ll be doing when I finish writing this article.

And guess what? My relationships are less stressed. I know myself again. I even like myself again. And, what’s more, I have regained my lost confidence and enthusiasm for my current work-in-progress. I believe the quality of my writing has improved as well, and it flows more easily. It will be my best work yet.

Is my house as pristine as I’d like? Nope. Do I cook as many meals and bake as much as before? No. Are my other obligations suffering? Not really. Have I learned my lesson? Haha. Only time will tell.

So, next time you find yourself stealing a guilty glance out that sunny window, smile and take a break. Take that dog for a walk, not just a quick trot around the block to do what’s necessary, but a long wander through the park. Watch him sniff every pebble and snuffle every blade of grass. You’ll both be smiling. Accept that unexpected invitation to dinner with friends. Attend that pageant your kid is performing in. Read that book. Do whatever refreshes you, lifts your outlook, fills up that empty cup.

Not only will you feel better, you will be a better writer, likely even more productive. I almost guarantee it.

What was that Nike slogan? “Just Do It”?

Try it. You’ll be glad you did.

Author: Yvonne Hertzberger

Yvonne Hertzberger is a native of the Netherlands who immigrated to Canada in 1950. She is an alumna of The University of Waterloo, with degrees in psychology and Sociology. Her Fantasy trilogy, ‘Earth’s Pendulum’ has been well received. Learn more about Yvonne at her blog and her Amazon author page.

11 thoughts on “Even Writers Need Self-Care”

  1. Thank you Yvonne. Fantastic advice. Sometimes it’s best for all concerned to just step away from the keyboard and do something else for a while. Writing brings its own special kinds of stresses.

  2. Sage advice, Yvonne. Now that I’m older, I don’t feel like I have that many “tomorrows” left. Health issues have caused me to cut back on writing, and my priorities have changed. I recognize my limitations. Was this difficult for me? Yes, but I was basically forced into it. Now, there’s less pressure, less stress, and more time for enjoying family, friends, and other activities.

    Thank you for writing this post–for reminding us that life is for living.

    Wishing you happiness,

  3. We always have to ask ourselves whether that all-pervasive activity that is taking up our time is an excuse to avoid other things. Thus is the hermit writer created; it’s easier to sit and write our own environment than to interact with the real world 🙂

  4. I made a truce with housework long ago, but the rest…? Thank you for the reminder that balance is /necessary/. I’ve been neglecting the garden, and myself, lately and that must stop. 🙂

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