I've just come off a week of teaching creative writing to young people. It makes for a busy time and I usually feel pretty shattered by the end of it all - it's just the nature of the job. I told my SO I was going to take it easy over the weekend to let myself recharge and decompress. When I told him this morning that I was thinking I might start making a few lists about jobs I need to get done this month because I don't have so many gigs as I do in the following months, he just looked at me and said 'I thought you were taking the weekend off.'
Creative people don't have weekends like other people have weekends. Inspiration doesn't sign off on Saturday and Sunday and I don't go in to an office from Monday to Friday. Maybe it's actually my head that's my office and, as it happens, I am there all the time, 24/7. It is hard to switch off. I mean, look at me! I should be reading or bingeing something on Netflix but instead I am writing my blog. Especially cos it's a bit overdue.
So maybe this is a good opportunity to remind ourselves about self care.
1) If you write fulltime, days off don't have to happen only on Saturdays and Sundays.
2) I have to admit, because I don't want to miss any inspirational ideas I don't mind if I leave the inspiration switched on. Sometimes it goes into sleep mode but I never switch it off completely. I have found it's worth the constant low drain on my energy to leave it this way.
3) Sometimes a rest just means no socialising. Large events with many people give me a people hangover. I only need a break from interacting. If I refuse your social request, it's not you, it's my current inability to people - normal transmission will be restored shortly.
4) I think the biggest problem for me is the guilt I feel if I'm not doing anything writing related. Because I don't work 9-5, Monday to Friday, I don't have a regular reliable income. Hence the need to keep creating and networking and promoting so that I do make the most of any opportunities that are lurking. And they can be lurking anywhere, anytime. Folk with regular jobs don't necessarily feel guilty about downtime. They know how to kick back on weekends and holidays. I have no idea how this is done. I guess if nothing else, acknowledging this is the case can be helpful. And don't feel guilty if you have your 'break' on a weekday (see 1).
5) While I fully endorse getting fresh air and exercise I have discovered my brain does not switch off from writing during these activities either. They are important but do not represent a break from work. And you should still do them.
6) Weirdly, a writer's retreat is the most restful thing I can think of (oh dear, there is no hope for me).
So ultimately there are no great recommendations for self care here - but maybe just an acknowledgement of the challenge our chosen profession presents. We do not weekend like other workers weekend. And perhaps one of the best things you can do is let your loved ones know that this is the case. Remember too - it is not unproductive to rest. Your work will suffer if you never step away from it. You need full batteries and and well stocked brains for tip top functioning. However you define self care, make sure you do it regularly.