Writing and self-care

What’s this episode about?

Be kind to the writers in your life

This podcast starts in the wonderful month of September. This whole month in United States is National ‘Be kind to Writers and Editors’ Month. It’s a wonderful time to appreciate all writers and editors in our lives, give them some love and support for their hard work, not forgetting the one that is closest to you – your own writer self. There is no better time to take note of where you are in your creative journey and see if you’re taking good care of yourself.

Who am I?

My name is Lainey and I have been writing on a daily basis for the last 8 years. I have encountered pretty much every mental health issue one can encounter while creating – anxiety, rejection, writer’s block, impostor syndrome, stress, fatigue, burnout. You name it. And I overcame some while I’m still struggling to keep some at bay.

Good mental health is a journey. Somewhere along the way, feeling isolated and unhappy, but somehow still craving to write, I realized there was no one around me who could erase my issues and make things better. I had to take care of myself. And so my journey began. I wanted to have a routine that worked for me because I felt awesome when I was productive. I became almost addicted to that rush of endorphins that came after completing something and feeling a sense of achievement over it. And with that also came self-compassion when things weren’t going so great. I knew it was just a bump in the road. It was easier to process.

The Pen Garden for me was the logical continuation of that train of thought. Seeing some of my writing friends struggle with all the things I mentioned before, I wanted to share my little nuggets of knowledge and empower writers to take control of their writing routines. I wanted to help YOU. Not simply follow a guide but really make you own up to your particular situation and create something that works for you.

What is self-care?

What constitutes self-care and what doesn’t? Psychologist Raphailia Michael puts it really well in her Psych Central blog: ‘Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Although it’s a simple concept in theory, it’s something we very often overlook. Good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced anxiety. It’s also key to a good relationship with oneself and others.’ I’m going to extend this to writers and say that consistent good self-care will definitely improve the relationship you have with your creativity.

Self-care is not a selfish act, it comes from a place of knowing you need to take care of yourself to be able to reach your creative goals and maintain a happy life. Self-care also isn’t an action that brings you temporary relief but then causes guilt or any detriment at a later date – for example obsessive purchases or spending massive amounts of time binge watching or binge gaming is not good for you if it makes you feel unproductive and guilty. Drugs, alcohol and gambling are also not self-care – addictive behaviors like these are best recognized and treated by a licensed professional.

One example – mindfulness

Mindfulness can be traced back more than two millennia to early Buddhism, where the practice was thought to be an important path towards reducing suffering and achieving enlightenment. More recently, the same techniques, but updated for the modern life, have been used in clinical psychology for therapy. Nowadays mindfulness is defined by scholars as a state of ‘awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment to moment’.

So basically, if we strip all the scientific language, it’s all about acknowledging what is happening to you in this moment, on the outside and inside, and accepting it as part of your experience without guilt, blame or even looking for solutions. It’s noticing things and saying, ‘that’s happening right now, that’s okay’. It’s a good basis for self-compassion.

Take journalists, for example, who are prone to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and immense stress in their jobs – research has shown that mindfulness ‘offers a useful technique to help journalists survive their assignments and industry upheaval with their mental health intact.’ Which means they get to live better lives and write words that don’t cause them pain.

Studies also argue it is essential for academic writers who find their research emotionally demanding to engage in self-care to avoid researcher fatigue and negative impact on participants, themselves, and their research and to aid in knowledge creation.

Where do you even start?

Psychologist and author Ellen Bard urges all writers to ask themselves one simple question: What do you need right now?

And this is how self-care starts – by tuning in to your needs and finding a way to address them in a meaningful way.

Ellen also says writers are actually one step ahead of everyone else: ‘Many writers have rich inner lives, which is a great start for thinking about self-care. The better you know yourself, the easier it is to work out what your self-care might look like. Because one of the challenges and blessings of the area is that there is no ‘prescribed’ self-care, it’s entirely personal to you.’

In her blog post on thecreativepenn.com, she proposes a simple matrix writers can draw to start thinking about this. She urges everyone to consider ‘What people, places, physical things, and activities nourish you, in an emotional, physical and mental sense?’ and then write those down. If you have some time after this podcast I suggest you go check it out because it is a great starting point.

sO, TO SUMMARIZE…

There is definite benefit to taking the time to think about and practice self-care. If mindfulness doesn’t sound like your thing, that’s fine. I’m going to explore many different ideas in this podcast and some will definitely resonate with you. Others might inspire you to do your own research or might just brighten up your day a little.

The fact that you’ve already listened to this whole thing means you’ve done a bit of self-care today. Some of my topics will include how to tailor your writing routine to your personal situation, pep talks to bring your spirits back up when things are hard and inspiration from other writers who seem to be doing well for themselves on the productivity front. I hope you’ll stick around so I can make my little positive contribution to your writing life self-care every week.

Next week, I’m diving straight into season two – Your personality, where I will dig deep into what are the best approaches to a writing routine for different people. Come join me by subscribing to the show on your favorite podcasting platform.

If you want to be up to date on Pen Garden news, subscribe to the show and sign up to my newsletter. I promise no spam, only cups of writing joy.

If you want to continue the conversation, you can poke me on The Pen Garden Facebook page or tweet me @laineydelaroque. Thanks very much for listening everyone. Hope you have an awesome week and speak to you soon.

Sources

 

Burnout in writers

What’s this episode about?

Welcome to the first season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to episode 4 in full above and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways.

I’m a writer just like you and as I’ve said before, I have been writing actively for the past 8 years. Burnout is not an unfamiliar to me, I have experienced the symptoms and have managed to keep it at bay for the most part. So I will be using science and my personal experience to educate you to do the same. For this episode I will focus on the definition of burnout, why writers are so susceptible to it and I will outline a few things you could do to recognize it before it’s too late.

This episode aims to be informative but not negative. I’m giving you this information because knowledge is power and especially with mental health issues the first step to prevention and improvement is recognizing the issue for what it is and admitting it can happen to all of us. 

Definition of burnout

First things first, if you Google burnout and reach for the third definition of the word, it stands to mean physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress. Simply speaking, it is what happens after you are under continuous pressures you struggle to cope with and you don’t or can’t recognize the symptoms. Then they mount up and you reach a point you can’t go on anymore. It is a worst-case scenario.

In 2017, an online survey asked more than a 1000 adults whether they had experienced certain burnout symptoms: 90% said they felt they were achieving less than they should and 85% said they felt run down and drained of physical or emotional energy. A state like that is not conducive neither to creativity nor to productivity.

Before I go into the details, I want to preface this that symptoms of burnout are common and burnout itself is something people recover from and continue to lead successful lives. If you experience burnout as a result of difficulties with your writing practice, whether self-inflicted or external, don’t view this as a reason to quit something that once brought you joy and fulfillment. It will have that impact again, as long as you nurture that self-compassion that we talked about in previous episodes.

The three aspects of burnout

According to research, burnout has three distinct aspects: Emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and reduction of personal achievement.

In writers of all kinds, emotional exhaustion can manifest as continued writer’s block and the acute feeling that you can no longer create, that you are empty and have nothing left to give as a writer. This is a key component of burnout and if you feel this way often and writing exercises and support from others seem of no help, chances are you’re on your way to burning out. Focusing on your mental health through self-care and counseling support may help you rest up and replenish your creative well, dodging a full-blown burnout.

The second aspect of burnout is depersonalization – this is when you lose sensitivity to your writing environment. This may present as isolation, for example refusing to go to your regular writing group or not wanting to engage with writer friends; or may come as rejection of all things writing – from reading books, or studying or even disliking writing-related social media posts. It may just be apathy towards the achievements of others in the same field as you or displaying a lack of interest in feedback and critique. It would feel like nothing matters. This kind of numbness towards something you know in your mind you’re supposed to be passionate about is also a symptom of incoming burnout. As with emotional exhaustion, acknowledge, rest, get help. Rekindle your passion.

The third and final aspect of burnout is reduction of personal achievement, which in writers can manifest as hatred towards everything that you write or playing down your achievements when others mention them. It is a decline in self-esteem and a sense of guilt that won’t go away whatever relative successes you accomplish. It is a feeling of not being effective and as such is very detrimental to the creative mind.

If you experience all three of these, chances are you have burned out. Don’t panic. Don’t suffer alone through it, it’s a real condition and part of your creative experience. Acknowledge it and seek help. It is the worst-case scenario of these symptoms but it’s not end of the line. It’s treatable. You can definitely get better. Seek help from a qualified counseling professional and rest up.

Burnout does happen to writers

Data shows us burnout is very common for people in certain high-stress jobs like physicians, nurses, social workers, teachers and attorneys. You would think that because most professional writers are somewhat flexible, they wouldn’t really experience burnout. Well, that’s clearly not the case, otherwise where am I even going with this, right?

The good thing about all this is writers have easier access to tools that can help prevent burnout and can more flexibly incorporate them in their writing routine, creating an overall mindful practice. So while it is not as prevalent in writers, burnout is very real and very damaging to the creative mind. If you can stop it in its tracks, why won’t you?

That’s why I created this podcast – a lot of writing advice involves rigorous practices, it focuses on productivity in a way that may work great for some people, while for others it will cause disproportionate amounts of stress and guilt. I will give you an example – one of the most common productivity advice for aspiring fiction writers is to write every day. And by all means it’s good advice. But it’s not for everyone because not everyone can write every day, even if they want to. Maybe they have children or care for a vulnerable adult, maybe their day job doesn’t allow them enough mental rest to nurture creativity. Maybe they have pre-existing conditions that mean one day is good and one day is bad. These things are out of your control and if you strive to write every day and then fail, you’re on the slippery slope towards felling guilty, inadequate and unproductive.

I believe you should tailor your routine to your situation so you can sidestep all those nasty feelings and just embrace your own creative process, whatever that might look like. Productivity is relative and only you can be the one to set realistic, achievable goals to ensure your writing practice is sustainable.

Where does burnout come from?

So how can a writer get to those three symptoms of burnout we talked about earlier – emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and reduction of personal achievement?

Writers are often juggling other things, not just writing. It could be a day job to supplement writing income, or teaching and studying if you’re in academia. Even full-time authors have to juggle marketing, finance and business management for their own small companies. So the causes of stress and then of burnout are not going to come as a surprise.

Lack of key resources for example is very detrimental. You could argue writing requires very few resources and that is true, but the important resource for writing is time. Time to plot and plan and research, and time to sit down and write.

Writing is also a creative endeavor which if suppressed too long will drive you insane. I don’t have fancy research to back up this one claim but I’m speaking from personal experience. Frustration when things don’t work out is another cause of burnout. No one was born skillful and good writing takes time. Getting to a point where you’re proud and happy of your creative output can be a long and tedious road.

Similarly, when you struggle to find your priorities in your writing career, you may feel overwhelmed. Things might start happening out of order, leading to tension and self-imposed guilt. Perceived risks to your financial future or your mental health might lead to crippling fear, leaving you unable to put a single word on the page.

People around you might be less supportive than you’d hoped for or your work might be getting feedback you hadn’t anticipated.

sO, TO SUMMARIZE…

I’m not telling you all this to panic you. I’m passionate about self-care for mental health and about writing. I try to bring them together in my own life as much as I can and through this podcast I want to give you the power to do the same by educating you about what burnout is and what causes it. In further episodes. I’m going to break down the causes one by one and suggest actions and inspiration on how to tackle them in your own situation. I want to empower you to create words you love by feeling productive and accomplished. I hope you’ll stick around as I give it my best shot.

Next week, I’m diving straight into season two – Your personality, where I will dig deep into what are the best approaches to a writing routine for the different MBTI types. Come join me by subscribing to the show on your favorite podcasting platform.

If you want to be up to date on Pen Garden news, subscribe to the show and sign up to my newsletter. I promise no spam, only cups of writing joy.

If you want to continue the conversation, you can poke me on The Pen Garden Facebook page or tweet me @laineydelaroque. Thanks very much for listening everyone. Hope you have an awesome week and speak to you soon.

Sources

 

Your social bubble and writing productivity

What’s this episode about?

Welcome to the first season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to episode 3 in full above and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways.

Following the previous two topics, it is only fair that we look at what outside factors can affect how you build your writing routine. Like it or not, you and I are part of society and if we want said society to engage with our writing, we have to keep within its bounds. That includes accepting that writing might never be straightforward and that there will always be interruptions from within our social bubble.

Work-hobby-life balance

When my dad wants some alone time, he always says he wants to move to live on the Moon. And some days, when I just want to sit down and write, I share this desire. As I’m torn between friends asking me to go out, my family ringing me and social media pinging on my phone like there’s no tomorrow, I dream of a quiet desk set up on the warmer side of the Moon.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my friends and family, I love my co-workers from my day job and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. As a note, I have a love-hate relationship with social media so I’m leaving it out of this trade agreement.

Anyway, I’m pretty disciplined and good at keeping up my writing routine, yet I still get distracted from time to time. And this is normal. It would be good if writers could travel to another planet when they needed to hermit and do some writing, but the truth it, as everything in life, this a balancing job.

I bet you’ve heard about work-life balance but I’m going to extend the term and say writers need a good work-hobby-life balance, because for some of us writing is a hobby, and for others it’s their job. In any case, there’s also other job aspects to think about, as well as life things like family matters and maintaining meaningful relationships.

Work-life balance is on you

People in contemporary societies are constantly faced with challenges associated with conflicts between work and life roles. Studies found that work–life issues impact everyone regardless of individual demographics, social economic status, or family structure. Not only that, but also stress from work–life imbalance affects general well-being and leads to poorer performance in all areas.

This might come as no surprise but whether you are employed in a job unrelated to writing, one that relies on writing or are self-employed, work-life balance falls on you as an individual. It is the same for balancing writing and your surroundings. No one will help you not because they don’t want to but because it is only you that really know what a successful balance would look like. And this is the part where I urge you to think about what challenges you face in your daily writing practice and whether or not you have found a productive way of dealing with them.

For example, one of the unsuccessful routines I was building involved me sitting down to write in the evenings, after work. It also said that if you’re committed to your craft, you would be able to confidently decline outings with friends and family. This didn’t work partly because of my personality and partly because it did not fit my surroundings.

For one, as a hardcore introvert, telling my friends I wouldn’t see them and estranging my family would have led to me being completely isolated – and while writing is great and is the passion of my life, what is the point if I have no one to share it with or if loneliness is bringing about writer’s block?

And second, my day job requires a lot of focus and talking to people. I like it and I’m not complaining but at the end of the work day my brain is more often than not melted and not fit for any creative work. So what did I do? I stopped forcing myself to follow this rigorous routine of night-time writing. I would write nights if inspiration struck, but usually it was non-working days and weekends when I did the bulk of my writing.

I’m sure if you think back, you could find such examples in your own writing practice. Maybe you even have some now, active and waiting to be changed. Take some quiet time one day to think about where writing fits in with your social bubble and you may be surprised by the ideas of improvement that flow after.

Social media as a distraction

Let’s talk about social media. For many social media is just part of the package – you need to connect with your audience or maybe you even do your writing FOR social media. So I know, here’s no escaping it and there’s no ignoring it – but that doesn’t mean it has to be something that distracts you so much you can’t sit down properly to write.

If this is you, don’t worry, you’re not alone. If like most of us you use a computer, it’s really easy to get side-tracked by notification pop-ups and noises and to get constantly pulled away from your focused writing time to check Facebook or Twitter or Instagram.

This aspect of your social bubble is the easiest to control – while you can’t put a pause on a family member or a colleague, you can definitely plug off from social media. This doesn’t have to be drastic, it can involve putting your phone on silent and blocking notifications for a while or can go all the way to suspending your social media accounts while you do what you need to do writing-wise.

British author Zadie Smith has dedicated space in her Acknowledgments to thank apps which disconnect her computer from the internet in more than one book. One of her golden rules of writing is “Work on a computer that is disconnected from the internet” precisely because distractions of all kinds are just a click away. Our PCs are amazing in their multipurpose but are also overloaded with information. Just something to think about.

Writing as self-care

In episode 1 of this season, we talked about self-care for writers and how it starts with knowing yourself. But what is the use of knowing what you want and need if you don’t get the chance to do it? What if there are obstacles that prevent you to practice good self-care?

A writer doesn’t write in a vacuum and in the current digital landscape, there is constant need to juggle distractions online and offline. For that reason, it is important how you present your writing to yourself and the people around you. No matter if it’s a hobby, your professional job, or you have to do it as part of your work, it’s an activity that requires sustained focus for long periods of time and for it to work without stressing you out, other people should respect its place in your life. This is especially true now in the reality of lockdown and working from home, where the lines between home and hobby and work are so blurred they’re basically non-existent.

One way you could tackle this with friends and family is to tell them that writing is part of your self-care; a time when you get to do what you love and recharge, helping you be a better partner, parent or friend. In a work environment, if colleagues or writer friends are too demanding, let them know that writing is a priority and you need some focused time to work on it. Hopefully you have surrounded yourself with people who will understand but if not, let their interruptions wash over you – or find a different space where you can actually escape for an hour or two.

sO, TO SUMMARIZE…

Many of us would like, just like my father to take a quick trip for some alone writing time on the moon whenever we feel the itch to write. But we can’t, and that’s ok. There is some work involved into thinking about your personal situation and accepting it might never be exactly as you want it to be but overall, the people close to you are your favorite people so it’s worth making the effort for your wellbeing and for theirs too. Further in time, I’ll dedicate a whole season to the different aspects of your social bubble and how you can tailor your routine to satisfy everyone while still finding time and energy to write.

What are some things in your social bubble that distract you from writing the most? What are your struggles when it comes to navigating writing and your family and friends? Let me know, I would love to start a conversation around this.

Next week, I’m diving straight into season two – Your personality, where I will dig deep into what are the best approaches to a writing routine for the different MBTI types. Come join me by subscribing to the show on your favorite podcasting platform.

If you want to be up to date on Pen Garden news, subscribe to the show and sign up to my newsletter. I promise no spam, only cups of writing joy.

If you want to continue the conversation, you can poke me on The Pen Garden Facebook page or tweet me @laineydelaroque. Thanks very much for listening everyone. Hope you have an awesome week and speak to you soon.

Sources

 

Your personality and writing productivity

What’s this episode about?

Welcome to the first season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to episode 2 in full above and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways.

In this episode I talk a little bit about how to determine your personality type and how that can help you shape your writing routine. Understanding what drives you and what your strengths and limitations are will help you focus your efforts and create a routine that is a perfect fit, with you and your needs at its core.

Your personality

As we found out the benefits of self-care and that it’s important to tailor it to your own life, let’s talk about personality. Your personality is only one part of your creative self – there’s also your environment and experiences that have shaped who you are as a person and a writer. Your decision-making will also be influenced by your writing goals so take everything I say with a grain of salt. People with the same personality can lead massively different lives so the information in this podcast is to inform personal growth and give you the tools to embark on a self-awareness journey, nothing more. Don’t feel like a personality type is a box you need to fit in, take it as a signpost to your best self.

You might be familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or this name might mean nothing to you – to bring everyone on the same page, I will briefly explain what it is and why I have chosen it as the personality type indicator I will be urging you to get acquainted with after you finish listening. For short I will be calling it MBTI from this point on.

Psychological type theory and MBTI

The theory of psychological type was introduced in the 1920s by Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who founded analytical psychology. His work inspired many scholars to develop their own frameworks of personality types, wishing to expand the field and add more detail to his initial findings. The essence of the theory is that seemingly random variation in human behavior is actually quite orderly and consistent due to basic differences in the ways individuals prefer to use their perception and judgment.

The MBTI tool was then developed in the 1940s by a mother-daughter duo, Isabel Briggs Myers and Katharine Briggs, who aimed to make the insights of type theory more widely accessible. Since then, research into this has continued, making the Indicator a robust tool.

Finding your personality type

What does the tool actually measure and why is it so helpful for building self-awareness? The book MBTI® Manual: A Guide to the Development and Use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® explains that your personality type is formed when you decide on your preference for each of the following four categories: Favorite world, Information, Decisions and Structure.

Here’s a short excerpt of the Manual providing a bit more background on each of these categories:

Favorite world: Do you prefer to focus on the outer world or on your own inner world? This is called Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I).

Information: Do you prefer to focus on the basic information you take in or do you prefer to interpret and add meaning? This is called Sensing (S) or Intuition (N).

Decisions: When making decisions, do you prefer to first look at logic and consistency or first look at the people and special circumstances? This is called Thinking (T) or Feeling (F).

Structure: In dealing with the outside world, do you prefer to get things decided or do you prefer to stay open to new information and options? This is called Judging (J) or Perceiving (P).

When you decide on each of those four, your personality type will be expressed as a code with four letters and you will be able to delve into the results to find out what makes you tick and how to play to your strengths.

Here you might be wondering how to decide accurately where you fall on the spectrum of these four categories. And that’s a good question, particularly because by today, millions of people worldwide have taken the Indicator each year since its first publication in 1962.

Thanks to the internet, the MBTI is something anyone with access to a computer can take and does not require you to go to a professional. There are many websites which offer to provide you with your type after asking a varying number of questions with varying degree of accuracy in the interpretation of your answers.

I would recommend www.16personalities.com. This is not sponsored but I have chosen it because it’s fast and easy and its blended approach to the theory introduces a fifth category which can bring more detail into the specifics of each of the 16 types.

All that said, if you wanted to take the personality test and have the results explained by a trained practitioner, you can. Links to information about that are down in the Sources section.

My MBTI type

Before you set off and do the test yourself, or take another more detailed look at your already known type, I want to tell you a bit about my type. I’m an INFJ, labeled on www.16personalities.com as ‘The Advocate’. I have also seen it as ‘The Idealist’. Breaking down the letters, it means I’m Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling and Judging.

All of these traits definitely affect how I have constructed my writing routine. As an introvert, I am at my best when I’m focusing on my work alone, I prefer writing in quiet places by myself, like at home or in libraries. I don’t deal too well with writing in socially-heavy spaces like coffee shops and guided writing retreats.

I’m intuitive, which means I enjoy creative writing more than copywriting. I wish I had taken this test before I decided to study journalism many years ago not realizing writing was not all the same.

As a Feeling type, I get really captivated by what I write so I make sure not to write too close to my bedtime – otherwise I stare at the ceiling, my story still writing itself in my brain while I can’t switch off.

My last trait is Judging, which means I like to decide on things and follow through. This is why my routine is meticulously planned and executed, with even breaks and rewards planned in. It gives my writing structure which quiets my emotional side and lets me just sit down and write. It works.

I share the same type as Martin Luther King and Mother Teresa. Not sure how 16personalities figured those out but that’s a lot of pressure to live up to with my tiny podcast. All types have celebrity examples so if you look up your type there, you can find some famous people inspiration.

sO, TO SUMMARIZE…

Finding your personality type is not only a bit of fun but can also help you know yourself better and inspire new ideas when it comes to forming or refreshing your writing routine. The website I recommend you check out is www.16personalities.com but any other resource will do, provided it gives you a result that you feel is accurate and helpful. I would love to hear what type you are and how it informs your daily life, if at all.

Next week, I’m diving straight into season two – Your personality, where I will dig deep into what are the best approaches to a writing routine for the different MBTI types. Come join me by subscribing to the show on your favorite podcasting platform.

If you want to be up to date on Pen Garden news, subscribe to the show and sign up to my newsletter. I promise no spam, only cups of writing joy.

If you want to continue the conversation, you can poke me on The Pen Garden Facebook page or tweet me @laineydelaroque. Thanks very much for listening everyone. Hope you have an awesome week and speak to you soon.

Sources

 

Writing routines are great

What’s this episode about?

Welcome to the first season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the final episode 5 in full above and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways.

Routine is a word which sparks both joy and dread depending on your outlook on life. If you love having a structured day and ticking off things on your to-do list makes you feel happy and productive, then you’re already converted. Welcome to your tribe of routine lovers.

If on the other hand, you think having a routine does not fit your lifestyle because you’re spontaneous and don’t want to live by rules set by others, fair enough, but please stay till the end – maybe I’ll change your mind, particularly because I will be talking about YOU making YOUR own personal routine. For YOU, by YOU, to benefit YOUR writing process.

What is a routine?

By definition it is ‘a sequence of actions regularly followed’. Routines are super common and I bet you have many, possibly even without realizing it. Your morning coffee is a routine, reading before bed is a routine. And forming behaviors like that is normal.

Once you have done something in your daily life which has yielded positive results, it’s only in our nature for it to become an automatic response the next time you’re faced with the same problem. By following routines humans preserve physical and mental energy which can then be redistributed to other things which require more attention, like effectively dealing with new issues we encounter to which we have no established responses.

Routines add meaning to life

A study from 2018 examined if there is any correlation between routines and people’s meaning in life and found that “Living a life characterized by routines was found to be associated with higher Meaning in life. Life is not only made meaningful through extraordinary experiences but also in its daily living.”

And that, in my opinion, transcends just daily routines like maintaining good oral hygiene or connecting with your family every day over dinner. There is a definite correlation between creative work like writing and building a habit that makes you feel productive and fulfilled, leading to a more satisfactory writing practice and overall life.

Easy, quick, enjoyable

If routines are sets of behaviors that make things easy, why is it not always easy to establish and follow a routine? The basis is that routines should not require conscious effort or much thought beyond when being set.

There are many strategies to form a routine but typically, presented with a choice, people usually pick the option that is the easiest, quickest, and most enjoyable. The problem with that is, writing is hard work. While it is often enjoyable for writers, it is rarely easy and it is most certainly not quick. Watching a TV series or reading a book satisfies more of those three requirements.

When you tackle establishing a writing routine, you should consider these limitations to the human psyche. Your final routine should be something sustainable that is easy for you to regularly do, utilizes your time as effectively as possible and brings you the most joy. Or if that’s not always possible on all accounts, at least doesn’t introduce additional stress to your life. Remember, a writing routine is supposed to make your creative life easier, not add any negativity to your practice. If you’re thinking back now and think this doesn’t resonate with you, then you need to take an honest look at what you have established so far and make changes as needed.

Where does burnout come from?

And here some of you might think, I already have a routine that works for me or I’ve tried having a routine and I’m just not that kind of person. Both are fair responses but let me enact the power of science once again – research has shown that because “routines are characterized by simple repetitions, they might at times lead to a state of boredom. […] Boredom [itself] has been defined as “a restless, irritable feeling that the subject’s current activity or situation holds no appeal”.

So if a routine has stopped working for you, maybe it’s time to make some adjustments. Or even if your routine is still healthy and fulfilling, it’s worth taking a look if you can improve it to avoid going down the path of eventually facing boredom.

There is lots of inspiration around you and within you. You can continue listening to this podcast, for example, which will consistently broaden your thinking about how you can reinvent your creative practice to be more fulfilling and effective. There’s your writing friends to steal ideas from and writing gurus all over the internet.

Recently, as I was researching podcast content, I found another really interesting podcast which interviews authors specifically to get to the bottom of their creative process. It has a wide range of people who have already imparted their wisdom and is going strong. It’s called Writer’s Routine. The link is here so you can go and check it out after if you want to get some inspiration and some positivity from there too.

sO, TO SUMMARIZE…

Having a writing routine is beneficial, because it is essentially building in shortcuts into your practice, freeing up mental space for more creative work. What your ideal routine would look like will depend on your personality, your goals, your experiences and your surroundings. We’ve already covered how you can get insight into your personality and how your social bubble can affect your writing practice. If you haven’t checked out those episodes, please go do that. You’ll enjoy them, I promise.

Next week, I’m diving straight into season two – Your personality, where I will dig deep into what are the best approaches to a writing routine for the different MBTI types. Come join me by subscribing to the show on your favorite podcasting platform.

If you want to be up to date on Pen Garden news, subscribe to the show and sign up to my newsletter. I promise no spam, only cups of writing joy.

If you want to continue the conversation, you can poke me on The Pen Garden Facebook page or tweet me @laineydelaroque. Thanks very much for listening everyone. Hope you have an awesome week and speak to you soon.

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Season 1 of The Pen Garden is here!

What’s this episode about?

Welcome to the first season of The Pen Garden Podcast. It’s titled Beginnings because we all start from somewhere. Listen to the overview above to find out what I’ve included in the first season and then jump straight into it.

This season of the Pen Garden aims to inspire you to begin the process of creating a routine which works for you and your personal situation. The next five episodes will educate you and encourage you to think about what aspects of your personality and surroundings give you the opportunity to be productive in your writing practice, as well as why it might have been hard to maintain a sustainable writing routine before.

Uncover your baseline

Binge the first season to learn what I consider the basic knowledge required to start building a writing routine which is perfect for you.

In the next five episodes, you will learn about:

  • self-care and why it is good for you and how to make a start with it if you haven’t already;
  • different personality types and why insight into this can inform your writing routine;
  • your social bubble and how that affects the way you set up your writing routine;
  • burnout and its main symptoms and how to them and address them by building a routine that fits your lifestyle perfectly;
  • routines and why you should be excited about crafting one that works for you and your creative process.

Listen and join the conversation

The episodes have been created to be listened in the numbered order but if you feel strongly about one topic or another, feel free to jump straight to that episode. I release this full season to give everyone a chance to get a good foundation of knowledge about building a routine.

If you want to be up to date on Pen Garden news, subscribe to the show and sign up to my newsletter. I promise no spam, only cups of writing joy. If you want to continue the conversation, you can poke me on The Pen Garden Facebook page or tweet me @laineydelaroque.

Season 2 is just around the corner

Season 2 begins next week, on 8th September 2020. I hope you stick around for it because I have lots of inspiring things to share and I can’t wait to hear what you think. A new episode will be coming each week on Tuesday.