How are you feeling right now?
Stressed? Exhausted? Dreading the moment you have to stop reading this and go back to what you’re actually supposed to be doing?
You probably already know that all these feelings of urgency, guilt, and exhaustion are having a negative impact on how much — and how well — you can do creative things.
You can do better. And you can feel better, too. With some help. From someone who is STILL NOT GOOD AT THIS STUFF.
But I’m getting better. And I really do want to help you do the same.
Here are a few suggestions for what you can do to feel better — which will allow you to create more and better things from day to day.
Take a weekly designated rest day
I don’t care if you’re religious or not — there’s nothing wrong with a legitimate day of do-nothing-at-all-whatsoever. It’s not easy (I’ve been trying to make it happen for 6 months). But you’d be surprised how much one day of not using your brain can restore and recharge you for the days ahead. Fourth of July this year was my first full-day vacation since Christmas. I did not work — I watched Stranger Things, ate potato salad, and got really bored really fast. But I proceeded to have the most productive half-week I’ve had at my new job so far.
I took that one rest day, and it paid off. Imagine what you could accomplish if you did that once a week, every single week, forever.
Self-evaluate your mental well-being
Are you OK, mentally? Because stress, racing thoughts, burnout — it’s all affecting your ability to create to your full capacity. Or it will soon, if it hasn’t already. If you’re constantly having to take the night off because you’re “just not feeling it,” or you get overly emotional when you’re deep into a project, it might be time to take a step back. Take care of any stressors, frustrations, or feelings of overwhelm and doubt blocking your creative flow, and make sure to mentally check in with yourself often.
Now, if you’re having legitimate mental health concerns, don’t self-evaluate. Go see a professional. Get things under control and let someone help you manage those concerns so you can figure out how to fit actively creating stuff into your schedule. Creativity is an excellent outlet when it comes to these things — but it can also put unneeded stress on you emotionally.
Make your physical health a priority
Writing is not a job that requires large amounts of physical activity. Most of us don’t realize how much time we spend sitting until it starts to affect our ability to think and work. The brain and the body are connected. And since your brain is an absolute asset when it comes to writing, you have to take care of the thing that keeps it working right: your physical self.
Eat. Sleep. Manage your stress. Exercise. You do have time for all of these things — I promise. And believe it or not, the better you feel physically, the better you’ll feel mentally. And that can have huge benefits when it comes to your creativity and your ability to self-motivate.
Stop trying to please everybody
You can’t make everyone happy — and that’s not your fault. You’re not perfect, nor will you fit everyone’s [grossly specific] criteria. Your work is more than a row of checkboxes and deadlines.
Do the best you can. Deliver what you’re asked to deliver, be kind, be respectful, and when it’s appropriate, speak your mind. Writers aren’t at their best when they’re running back and forth trying to meet everyone’s demands on an ASAP basis. Don’t let your fear of being judged stand in the way of creating what makes you feel fulfilled and happy.
Create a daily hour of self-care time
I say an hour because I understand that might be all you have. If you have more, go for it, but start with an hour. Maybe you take an hour, maybe two, maybe less. The point is, taking time to let time fade away and just exist in the world is more important than you think. I’ve had this problem for years. I also know what it’s like to feel guilty when you try to relax. It actually gets easier the more regularly you do it. You don’t have to be “on” every waking hour of every day. In fact, you really shouldn’t be.
It really doesn’t matter what you do during this time. You could play a game, watch a movie, take a nap. But you’re not allowed to do any work, or errands, or chores. Put your to-do list out of sight and just let yourself breathe easy for a little while. You need this. It’s not a long time, but you’ll feel more than refreshed when it’s over.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.