This year, I’ve tried to offer more helpful posts than not-as-helpful-but-hopefully-still-entertaining-to-some-degree posts. This post will likely fall under Column B. And it’s much more personal than I usually am here. This is not stuff I usually share outside my immediate friends and family because I like my privacy and hate being judged.
But this blog is about my life as a writer, and these past few months have impacted my ability to rub two words together.
Therefore, I share.
If you’d like something helpful, here’s Flex your skills with 5-minute freewriting.
Over the past few months, I’ve been working through one of the worst bouts of depression I’ve had in years. I haven’t been well physically or emotionally, and my creative well ran dry. By the time August rolled around, my well was more barren than Mordor.
My level of self-care went from being proactively seeking new ways to nurture myself and those around me to “Yay, my socks match and I remembered to floss! Naptime.”
Fortunately, I had two big trips this month which have helped me normalize a bit. I’m a firm believer in author Jenny Lawson’s Furiously Happy movement. So even though I was low, I still seized these opportunities.
On Trip 1, I saw the Vancouver Olympic torch. Visited the Yukon. Took pictures off the back of a (slow) moving train. Petted 6-week-old Husky puppies. Fed some aggressive goats because it was either that or they were going to mug me. Was bitten by a miniature horse when I failed to assume the Open Palm position fast enough.
I visited a taxidermy museum. I went on a nature hike—which is sooooooooo not me—and saw black bears eating, sleeping and being beary (new word) about twenty feet away; they did not care about us.
I saw the Dawes Glacier, visited remote places I never thought I’d see and stood still in special moments, keenly aware of how small I am—and how okay it is to be so small.
It’s hard to feel important standing next to a 2-foot shrub that’s been surviving in the tundra since before the American Revolution. Kinda takes the pressure off being a successful human being.
You think you’re cold? Lady, please.
On Trip 2, I got lost in downtown Chicago in the middle of the night. According to Google, I can walk on water.
No, I was not on a bridge or boat. I was outside my hotel.
Ate my first Chicago hot dog. Went to the Field Museum and the Shedd Acquarium. Saw everything I could on the limited time I had.
Basically, I took these opportunities to take in as much as I could.
I also got a lot of ideas for blog posts, most of which I quickly forgot. Sorry ‘bout that.
I also took care of myself. Making sure I drank enough water. Eating when I was hungry as opposed to when the clock says I should. Setting aside time to be away from people. Basics that tend to get lost when I get lost.
Full disclosure, that level of self-awareness and self-care came between Trips 1 and 2 because I did not take care of myself on Trip 1 and got sick in time for Trip 2. As I spent 2 hours before my flight for Trip 2 puking in the airport bathroom because the medication was hard on my stomach and my sleep-deprived body was unhappy about it, I swore an oath to take better care of myself on all future trips. Wish me luck.
Self-care; it’s the new black.
As Jenny Lawson says, “There’s something about September that wants to eat you.” (Surviving September) Normally, I’m a proponent of “keep on writing; write write write; it’s what writers do” and so on. But if your well is running dry and you’re doing all you can just do exercise basic self-care, please know that it’s okay to put the proverbial (or literal) pencil down until you can pick it back up again.
For many people, writing helps when life seems to be trying to eat you. Other times, you need to put it on hold and tend to your creative well.
Depressed, burnt out, bored, jaded—whatever the reason, you can’t do quality writing if your creative well is dry.
I get annoyed when someone encourages me to get out and travel and see new things because it’s not like I can pack up anytime I want.
You get to visit New York because you’re sad? Lucky you. Now get away from me.
I was lucky in that these two trips were planned way in advance and the timing happened to work out. But you can still feed your brain and spirit with new stuff, even if it’s just a new TV show. There’s a lot to be said for hanging out in your pajamas and binge-watching Netflix.
Look at the clouds and find shapes. Take a moment to listen to morning birds chirp. Visit a new restaurant. Do something different, even if it’s just intentionally mismatching your socks.
It doesn’t have to be big to fill your well. Like the shrub taught me, small is okay.
It’s time to round out this post. It’s been personal. It’s been rambling. It’s been the first non-work-related writing I’ve done in over a month. My printer is broken, so I can’t print and proofread like I usually do; sorry for all the typos. I’ll spend the next few days after I click “Publish” catching as many as I can.
If you’ve read to the end, I appreciate it and am mentally hugging you in virtual friendship and solidarity. September is almost over. Bring on October and all of its horror-movie induced warm-fuzzy feelings.
Take care of yourself.