Over the last few weeks I’ve talked a lot about creating-and meeting-your writing goals. I’ve made it clear that 2011 is going to be a year of Discipline in my writing. But it’s important to remember that while writing is certainly a part of me and always will be, there are other aspects of life where I need to put in effort and set goals. Taking care of me is the most important factor here, and I must remember that taking care of me doesn’t just mean focusing on my writing.
So what else do I need to focus on to take care of me? Well, it’s a pretty basic list:
This one is the obvious one and, depending on your standpoint, it is the most important thing for me to focus on right now. By focusing on school I don’t mean that I need to pass, because I haven’t been failing. But I do need to make an effort to work harder. I am capable of high marks in most of my classes, but I’ve been doing just enough work to get by, and most of that at the last minute.
My commitment to school is a commitment that I will set aside an hour each week specifically for homework. I don’t get too much homework; most of my work can be done in class fairly quickly. But just because I can do half my class work in the last week doesn’t mean I should. That means most of my semester is easy and there’s one week that really, really sucks. I come out of the end of that week too drained to write. While I do end up having fun with my friends all weekend, I should be able to get at least some writing done every weekend.
As a writer, it’s really, really easy to ignore the rules of good health. It’s not hard at all to forget to leave your house for days on end; it’s even easier to bypass the healthier meal in favour of the faster meal. Apparently less than 20% of Canadian adults get the weekly physical requirement of exercise, which is approximately two hours of moderate exercise a week. Some weeks I know I get a lot more than this-but other weeks I barely make it out my front door. And while I’m confident that I get two hours of exercise most weeks, I also know that I don’t walk in the recommended increments: 30 to 40 minutes five days a week.
Because I can’t cook and I don’t do the grocery shopping around here, I don’t have all that much control over what I eat. But I can make a commitment to walk for 15 minutes every day. It’s not quite what the doctor ordered, but it’s close enough. Besides, that’s about how long it takes to walk to the nearest 24 hour store and back. As part of my effort to quit smoking, this is a non-smoking walk. If I want a smoke, I have to wait until after I’m finished the walk.
As somebody with a lot of friends who make up their own family-in fact, having been adopted into two families of friends-I don’t spend a lot of time with my birth family. I don’t necessarily need to see them all of the time, but it is important to make sure that they know I care, and that it’s a two way street when it comes to communicating with my family.
My commitment to my family is that I will make an effort to maintain regular contact with my close relatives.
Perhaps this last one could be placed under health, but in that section I wanted to focus on the body, and here I focus on the mind. Living a busy life is often stressful. Having a lot of friends is great, but it means you’re three times as likely to get a call from somebody in tears or to have to help somebody deal with a bad situation. There are rewards for helping people, and it’s a good experience. The whole thing feels good all the way around. But it does take its toll on a person, especially a person who is also going to school and trying to write the next great Canadian novel. I need to learn to take more time for myself, and when I do have time to myself, I need to remember to actually renew myself. I can do this by meditating, free writing, connecting with nature, and listening to certain kinds of music, particularly African drums. Dancing around a bonfire is the most renewing thing I’ve ever done, but it’s not something you can just do.
My commitment to renewal is that I will spend ten minutes every day meditating or free writing. This will give me a little bit of extra calm every day, and you never know just how much that ten minutes will change your life. I’m probably going to do it before bed as a way of winding myself down from the day’s events, but lots of people would recommend such a thing in the morning.
Staying Committed to Yourself
Once you’ve made a commitment to yourself to take better care of yourself, you need to make sure that you stick with it. Calling it a commitment rather than a goal is part of that: if it’s a commitment, it’s your responsibility; if it’s a goal, it’s just something you’re trying to do. Write your commitment down and put it somewhere that you’ll see it all the time. Reward yourself when you accomplish something. Since the goal here is to take care of yourself, junk food shouldn’t be your reward; stickers work well for small rewards, and if you manage to keep your commitment for six months, plan on taking yourself out to have some fun.
It’s important to be committed not just to your writing but to yourself as well. You are a writer, but you are not made up entirely of words. You need to take care of yourself and pursue your other interests in order to write the best that you can write, and it all starts with making a commitment to yourself.