Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Questions about Writing?

A note from Twila:

Do you have a writing-related question you'd like to see addressed in a future blog post? Now's the opportunity to let us know as we consider upcoming topics for 2016.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Writing-related Questions

A note from Twila (Cec's assistant):

The year is coming to an end and we're thinking about topics for future blog posts.

Do you have writing-related questions that you'd like us to address in the days ahead?

Friday, December 18, 2015

Self-care for Writers (Part 11 of 11)

Here are my final thoughts on self-care.

Don’t stay engaged. Back off. You don’t need to answer your cell phone every time people call, or drop everything to text. Let them wait. When individuals have become too pushy and demanding, I start putting time between responses. My cell phone showed the name of the caller, and I made them wait at least an hour for my callback. “I was busy with something when you called . . .” I’d say, and it was true.

Then I started lengthening the response—several hours, then a full day. Except for the most demanding (and least appreciative), they caught on quickly. One woman didn’t get a response from her email from me for 10 days.

“What’s wrong she asked?” on the sixth day. When I did respond on day 10, I said, “I have a lot going on these days.” Detaching from those dispensable relationships is a form of self-rescue.

Reassess your values. It may not be easy, but you can learn to distinguish between the essential and the nonimportant. Not only will you do better as you care for yourself, but you’ll conserve time, energy, and stay more centered.

Pace yourself. You can teach yourself moderation. Is it fun to give yourself so unstintingly all day and feel totally wasted by 6:00 p.m.? Think of the word balance. You’ll probably never do it perfectly, but you can learn to hold back when necessary so you can enjoy the rest of your day.

I like myself 
so I’m committed to taking care of myself.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Self-care for Writers (Part 10 of 11)

Here are a handful of miscellaneous suggestions.

Don’t over-nurture individuals. Many of us tend to feel responsible for others when they need to be able to handle their own issues.

One day I thought that if I solve their problems, I cheat them out of the challenge to do so and to grow from the experience.

Here’s another maxim of mine: My role is not to solve others’ problems; my role is to be with them while they solve their own problems. And being with them doesn’t mean giving them huge amounts of time and energy. Rather, we let them know we care and then disengage so they can figure out their own answers.

Set boundaries. That’s one of the most difficult things I had to do. I was a helper and wanted to encourage others. Instead, they sucked me into their private morasses.

Learn to say no. I tried every possible say to give the one-word answer but it didn’t work for me. I felt I had to explain, and that was a mistake. When I said, “I can’t because. . . “ they responded by telling me why I was wrong. Finally, in desperation, I came up with a single sentence that has worked for me every time: “My rubber band just won’t stretch that far.”

Friday, December 11, 2015

Self-care for Writers (Part 9 of 11)

Avoid burnout. I use that term to refer to a condition in which we lack motivation and feel inefficient and exhausted. If we push ourselves we tend to become frustrated and even cynical. (“Who cares? Do I make any difference?”)

What’s called occupational burnout strikes those in what we call the human service professions such as social workers, teachers, police officers, nurses, and professional writers. This comes about because of the high-stress they go through. And for most writers I know, it means that in their scramble to make enough money to survive, they lose their enthusiasm. They become careless, disengaged, and indifferent about their work.

Lack of self-care is one of the strong ingredients for feeling used up and asking yourself why you’re in this crazy profession. In my more than 30 years of full-time writing, I’ve hit burnout twice and I wondered if I’d ever write again. I recognized three significant facts:

1. Too much work;

2. Too few results;

3. Too little self-care.

I was not only emotionally disengaged, but both times I did the only sensible thing I could: I stepped away from my work. The first time I didn’t write anything for two months and about a month the second time. I read for many hours, exercised more, and accomplished tasks I’d been putting off.

Good self-care practices 
keep me free from burnout.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Self-care for Writers (Part 8 of 11)

Maintain Structure. This hasn’t been a problem for me because I’m highly self-disciplined—but sometimes I was too self-disciplined to enjoy my free time.

Being able to work at home doesn’t mean working without a schedule. It means being able to create your daily timetable.

For many of us (and that includes me) at the end of the workday I jot down the things I want to accomplish the next day. As I complete each task I draw a line through it.

When I first started doing that I was a full-time student in two graduate schools (yes, crazy I admit), so I had to be careful about my time. Each Saturday afternoon, I projected how to use every hour for the next week. It worked fairly well for me.

Later, I didn’t need the strict to-do program and listed only the items I wanted to accomplish. One writer friend never completes her daily calendar—she overschedules. I tried to be careful about that and each day I gave myself about 30 minutes when I didn’t have to do anything. Generally, that took care of the unexpected events.

Occasionally, even now, I don’t accomplish everything I jotted down. So here’s one of my maxims: Today I have time to do everything I need to do today. That prevents feelings of guilt from popping up, especially when somebody calls me on the phone and ties up an hour or more.

Today I have time to do everything
I need to do today.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Self-care for Writers (Part 7 of 11)

One writer friend rarely gets invited to dinner because he doesn’t want to talk about anything but writing. Nothing is wrong with the topic—except that’s the extent of his interests.

Because you’re a writer doesn’t mean you have to know everything, but the best writers are curious people. They want to increase their knowledge. They ask questions. They extend themselves—even if it takes effort to reach out.

Here are a few ideas to enhance your own self-caring and avoid too much isolation.

* Join professional groups. Writers clubs are a good place to start, but expand that to civic groups or public service organizations. Take along your business cards (and because you’re a professional writer, you always carry them). Pass them out and express interest in networking or connecting.

* Join nonprofessional groups. By that, I mean an exercise group at your church, square-dance or ballroom dance classes. Mix with people who have other interests.

* Make online friends. Establish good relationships with people in your field and those who live in other parts of the country or overseas.

* Eat lunch out at least once a week. Most of my out-of-the-house meals are with nonwriters. I meet with people whom I like but who have interests and occupations outside of publishing.

In short, don’t do everything alone. Developing or renewing relationships not only brings new insights, but also works as a powerful, natural medication against depression.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Self-care for Writers (Part 6 of 11)

Avoid too much isolation. For those of us who write full time or spend hours each day at our craft, being alone too much may be harmful.

Many of us get so caught up in our writing that we ignore distractions such as interacting with others. I’m a natural extrovert and it took me a long time to enjoy being alone and writing for long periods. The more recent challenge for me has been to turn off my computer and reengage with the world outside my office. I’m emotionally healthier for making that adjustment.

One of the big factors in mixing with people is hearing their opinions and learning from them. Sitting at my desk, I don’t get feedback and at times I feel lonely.

In my next blog entry, I’ll suggest ways to avoid too much isolation.