Writing as Self-Care

The reason I haven’t written much lately is also the catalyst for my thoughts today. In early July, an immediate family member suffered a bad break (well, three breaks…pretty nasty stuff) to the leg. As the one with the most flexible work schedule, I stepped into a role I haven’t attempted before: live-in caregiving.

I hold ZERO resentment. I’m thankful I get the chance to give back a fraction of the love and care I’ve been shown by this person. But I will say, it has pretty much shot my writing schedule to hell.

The first few weeks, there were a lot of round-the-clock hours spent in ERs, hospitals, and surgery waiting rooms, a lot of hours spent cooking, doing laundry, timing distribution of meds, fetching ice, positioning pillows, refilling cups, calling doctors, and bathroom trips. When you’re in survival mode, you don’t have the brain space, capacity, or the time to write.

A couple of days into this new reality, I realized this would be a problem. I have trouble writing when I may be interrupted. I need to have control over my environment in order to engage. I also have this thing where if I go too long without writing, I begin losing my humanity, the will to go on, etc. I need to write to survive.

I don’t tend to acknowledge or verbalize my needs until they’ve been so neglected I’m angry, and then I pick a fight. I especially try not to “need” things if there’s someone else in the situation who has what I classify as a more “important need.” But after coming back from the Novel-in-Progress Bookcamp in May (read about my experience here), I’ve been trying to take writing more seriously like I would a regular job. Those around me don’t necessarily view it this way, as job usually means income, and I have none to speak of. I have to defend my writing time, and, in this situation as a caregiver, I knew I also had to defend my personal well-being so I could do a good job of caregiving.

I talked this out with my family, who, of course, were very understanding. I got out of the house on a Sunday and wrote for three hours. Even though I wrote in a public place, going somewhere where I wouldn’t be asked to do something, even something small, was crucial; I knew I could concentrate.

As soon as you find a way to balance, the world shifts around you…

Now, as the routine of caregiving has become easier, and my family member’s overall health and mobility has improved, I’m working on getting up early to write before the day begins. This is totally foreign to me. I’m certainly not a night owl, but I’m definitely whatever the antithesis of a morning person is. I’m setting the alarm a little earlier every day, hoping to eventually get between two and three hours of writing in before tackling other daily responsibilities. I’ll definitely keep you updated on how this goes…..

Anyhow. Point being:

If you are a writer*, make sure you get time and space to write. Whether you actually put any good words together depends on you, too, but you won’t even get close to bad words unless you get to the desk, the notebook, the laptop, put on your headphones, shut the door. Tea is optional but recommended.

You get me? Take time. Make space. Write like your life depends on it.

It probably does.

*one who writes to survive

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Allison Wall

I'm a writer writing about my writing life. There's a lot of writing. And writing about writing. You get the idea.

One thought on “Writing as Self-Care”

  1. Excellent advice. As someone who has had to give a lot of care to sick family members, I know it can be hard to remember you have needs.

    Anyway, I’m eager to hear how the new writing practice goes! Also, glad to hear your family member’s health is improving.

    Liked by 1 person

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