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Who most deserves your kindness?

Being kind to others is invaluable, the lifeblood of a caring community and a world we want to live in. But those of us who practice kindness are often too busy being kind to others to think of our own needs.

I have posted previously about how a simple act of kindness can make a huge difference in The best cuppa ever. Today I want to explore being kind to yourself.

What brought this on? I recently completed The Power of the Pen: Identities and Social Issues in Fiction and Nonfiction, a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course for those who haven’t come across the term yet) run by The International Writers’ Program (IWP) at the University of Iowa.

To allow myself to take the time out for this course during a period that was already heavily committed with family and work commitments required me to be kind to myself — acknowledging that I needed help to get back into novel-writing after a hiatus due to major life events and that it was okay to take the time out to participate. And it was fantastic — a perfect focus for my current work-in-progress and just what I needed to inspire and reinvigorate my writing (even if starting every assignment felt like drawing teeth).

As I browsed through the course instructors’ farewell discussion posts, one written by Monica Bergers stood out. This is the extract which triggered me to write today’s post, which Monica has kindly given me permission to share:

“Keeping your writing process sacred–be kind to your shitty drafts, be kind when you feel lazy. Honor your creative impulses just for the fact that they exist. Doing this will help build that thick skin we’ve been talking about when it comes to rejection. But let’s agree to this: we shall not reject ourselves or our writing. Ever. Make a pact that you will never abandon yourself, and you will be on your way to achieving that satisfying feeling of perseverance. It’s what all successful people have: steady persistence in a course of action, especially in the face of obstacle, setbacks, or disappointments. Writing is perseverance.”

Monica Bergers

There is a lot more in Monica’s wise words than just kindness to oneself, but for me it was the aha moment — the key to me to even reading that post on the day I submitted my final assignment and completed the course requirements.

(If you are interested, in late 2018 the IWP is now running a MOOC for  Stories of Place: Writing and the Natural World.)

What are the signs that you may need to be kinder to yourself?

  • How many of us set ridiculously high standards for ourselves, and waste an extraordinary amount of energy beating ourselves up for any and every perceived transgression, be it minor or major?
  • Or are so perfectionistic that we struggle to do anything at all for fear of failure? (Which is, of course, inevitable when we can’t tolerate the slightest hint of imperfection within ourselves.)
  • Or are reluctant to speak up for ourselves in a confronting situation?
  • Or can’t let go of something we wish we’d done better?
  • Or blame ourselves for circumstances beyond our control? Even if we are doing an admirable job of accepting and making the best of whatever has happened?

Do any of these sound familiar?

Okay, so lots of us have experienced one or more of these feelings. Mindfulness is a powerful technique which may help address some of these by allowing yourself to be aware of and non-judgmentally experience the moment. (I have written before about the synergies between mindfulness and creativity.)

But can we be truly mindful, non-judgementally accept how we feel without showing some kindness towards ourselves?

We do stuff up sometimes. We all make mistakes. Even if we are trying our best at the time. Or other times, we took our eye off the ball for a split second. Or we may have not seen the bigger picture. Or stick our heads in the sand because on some level we didn’t want to see or couldn’t cope. Yes, there’s a lot of clichés here because sometimes clichés describe the human experience well — and we’re all human.

Some mistakes have awful consequences. Some of them impact on others as well as ourselves. Some things we can make amends for. Sometimes we even end up being thankful for a mistake that took life in a different direction. But we can’t always rectify them.

Sometimes we feel paralysed. You can’t change that you didn’t act yesterday, but you can make it a priority to do things differently today.

Winter blossoms

So my challenge to you is to be consciously kind to yourself …

Not every now and again. Be kind to yourself every day. This is not about making excuses. This is about being honest and understanding yourself, and treating yourself with the same respect that you do when being kind to others.

Being kind to ourselves doesn’t come naturally to many of us. At best, it is a learnt skill.

  • Admit that you made a mistake, and examine why without berating yourself, and explore how you might act differently. Be kind to yourself to learn and grow.
  • Acknowledge what you are about to embark on might not turn out the way you hope. But pick up that pen or paintbrush or instrument or book that appointment and do it anyway. Take it one step at a time if need be. Revise your approach if needed. But be kind to yourself and allow yourself to risk producing crap, because who knows what you might achieve.
  • Put your needs first at times. You can still be kind to yourself and to others as well. Sometimes you have to look after yourself to be there for others. Be kind to yourself to nurture yourself and others.

So onwards in kindness and not just to others …

Do you find it difficult to be kind to yourself?

Have you been able to change that, and if so, what have you found works?

What have been the benefits of being kinder to yourself?

I would love you to share your experiences and ideas in the comments below.

I hope you find this post useful. Some of my other posts include:

With best wishes for your creative health and that of our community.

Jacquie

P.S. If you’d like to be sure to catch my next post, please sign up to follow by email (your email address will be kept private and will not be spammed). You can also follow me on Twitter (@JacquieGS)Facebook and Google+.

Disclaimer

© 2017 Jacquie Garton-Smith

 

When push comes to shove – juggling priorities in a time-poor world

I’ve had to make a conscious choice about my writing in recent months. Write? Yes, absolutely! But I’ve needed to prioritise which writing to focus my time on. The truth is I enjoy researching and writing blog posts. But in an already tightly scheduled life, every minute I spent preparing posts was time I was stealing from work on my novels.

work-life-creative balance

“We’re all busy!” I hear you cry. Indeed we are.

“You must post on a regular schedule,” many blogs proclaim. Indeed in an ideal world that is probably true.

“Blogging will make you a better writer …” Writing regularly will make you a better writer. Variety is good and blogging is but one great way to do this. Most importantly we must be writing.

“It doesn’t take long …” I have found that depends on the topic – some fly onto the page, others need a lot more thought.

I started blogging in 2013 and my fiction writing slowed down. Dramatically. Since I’ve taken a deliberate break from blogging, I re-found my momentum. I’ve been more focused and writing with greater clarity. I’ve finished the first draft of my second work-in-progress, completed a couple of rounds of editing on my first novel and gone back to do one on my second. This stage, although exciting, requires a major investment of time and emotional energy. As for most writers, juggling writing, family, work (I have three part-time jobs all of which I love), the usual chores and a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise can be challenging. What I have come to realise is it isn’t just about the time. It is also about the mental space to develop ideas and let them percolate; to process and, at times, stand back to gain perspective. To recharge the emotional energy bank. And to deal with the other challenges that life throws our way, especially if prone to be more of an intuitive type. Sometimes we just need to say “Enough!” I applaud you if you are doing it all and managing well and I thank those of you who have shared that you couldn’t. I came to the point that I had to accept my own limitations. As a GP, I’m constantly talking up work-life balance. Writing is a tricky one because it is as much a passion as an occupation. So maybe it’s more of a work-life-creative balance. If the need to prioritise strikes a chord, how might you do so?

  • What must you do? These are things that have to be given your attention (warning: do not let negotiable items slip in here). I put them at the top because I know they distract me if I don’t work out a plan to do them. Sometimes it’s best to do them asap to liberate yourself, otherwise scheduling time to do them later can free you to fit in regular time for other pursuits …
  • What do you most want to do? You may know immediately or you may have to reflect on this. There can be more than one but it can’t be everything … anything that isn’t a burning desire should go into the next category.
  • What’s negotiable? Being a fan of writing down what I need/want to get done to release them from my brain without fear of forgetting, I usually have a longish list. Sometimes something gets to promoted to one of the categories above, others slowly get ploughed through when I have a free minute, am too tired to write or need a short break from something else. They do get done but in my own time and not in competition with the more important items.
  • What you have achieved? Acknowledging what you have done is energising. Even crossing something off a list is satisfying, or even better, starting a new list because one has most items completed. Big achievements need even more celebration.
  • REVIEW your priorities regularly. You can shuffle them and sometimes they need adjustment to meet life’s demands.

Why am I writing a post now?  I’ve come to a natural hiatus, needing to take a step back for some distance before more editing and with ideas for my next novel gestating (yep you guessed it – in the form of a list of ideas!). Writing this popped up in my most-want-to-do category this week and here we are …

How about you? Have you had to prioritise your creativity?

What happened? What did you find useful?

With best wishes for your creative health and that of our community.

Jacquie

P.S. If you’d like to be sure to catch my next post, please sign up to follow by email. You can also follow me on  Twitter (@JacquieGS)Facebook and Google+ .

Disclaimer

© 2014 Jacquie Garton-Smith