3 KEY STRATEGIES TO HELP WRITERS STAY SANE IN A BUSY, DEMANDING WORLDJun 30, 2023
One of the hardest things I’ve had to learn as a human being is what to do when I’m in over my head. I’m talking about those times in life when I feel so overwhelmed by all the various things vying for my time and attention that I can hardly function.
At times like these, I know I’m going to fail even before I get started because there’s simply no way for me to accomplish everything I need to do. Assuming that you have either experienced this phenomenon yourself in the past, or that you will experience it at some point in the future, I wanted to share a few practical “action steps” that may be helpful.
1. Recognize that you simply can’t do everything, and darn it, that’s okay!
This sounds so obvious, and yet, how many of us actually “admit” it when we’re drowning or in the weeds? Oh, sure, we’ll moan and gripe about it to our friends, but this isn’t the same thing as acceptance. Most of the time we’re just complaining without really intending to make a change.
The fact of the matter is we only have so much mental and emotional bandwidth at our disposal. We have no choice but to work within the parameters of whatever time and energy we’ve been given. Unfortunately, this means that some things just aren’t going to get done -- or, at least, they aren’t going to get done as often or as fast or as thoroughly as we would like.
For example, one of my goals at The Storyteller’s Mission was to write a weekly digest for writers. You know, a weekly email for my subscribers with lots of great writing advice and tips. Well, it didn’t take me long to realize that I was in WAY over my head. I had to recognize that the demands of The Storyteller's Digest exceeded the time I was able to allot to it each week. And so, I don't send a weekly digest anymore. But instead of beating myself up about it, I’ve altered my expectations. Maybe I can’t send a digest every WEEK, but by gum, I can send one every MONTH. Further, I can make sure that when I DO send one, that it’s actually good!
If I tried to deny my limitations and insisted on following through on a weekly digest, then I'd be sending out a crappy weekly digest! And NOBODY wants that. So, let us humbly accept the limits of our humanity and purpose in our hearts to do the very best we can with what we have. Then, instead of berating ourselves, we can celebrate the stuff that we DO manage to accomplish. And as for the rest of it, well, we’ll just have to turn it over to God and trust Him with the outcome.
2. Make some hard choices.
One of the most important things you can do for yourself and your mental health is to limit your total number of commitments. Since you can't possibly do everything, you have to start saying NO to certain things, or eliminating some things altogether.
Remember, if you over-commit yourself, you’re not going to be able to do any of it with excellence anyway. So, you’re not doing anyone any favors by saying yes to something that you simply won’t have time to do well. Instead, you need to take an honest inventory of all the things on your plate, and then start removing the things that eat away at your precious time and energy but offer very little value to you in return. Often, this is the hardest step for us because we are so driven by feelings of guilt that we often give up the wrong things!
3. Don’t give up the wrong things!
Unfortunately, when it’s time to make cuts, the first thing that many of us eliminate are the very things that give us life! We give up time with friends, self-care activities, or our favorite hobbies. We’ll even give up our creative projects. Why? My theory is that it’s because deep down, we feel guilty for doing the things we love. We feel guilty when we spend precious amounts of time and energy writing because we love to do it, and therefore, it feels self-indulgent.
Naturally, then, we feel like we're supposed to keep doing the things that we DON’T love to do, as if THOSE things embody that which is our duty to perform. But this is a lie from the pit of hell.
Here’s the thing: God gave you a desire to write for a reason. Presumably, He also gave you some talent. So, if you ignore these things in favor of doing the “dutiful” things, really, you’re just being disobedient to your calling.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There ARE some “dutiful” things we must do, like the laundry, so that we have clean underwear (or the kids do, at least). But there are plenty of other "duties" that we get guilted into doing that are not actually necessary and certainly aren't ours by assignment. I like to call them "service opportunities," and man, am I offered a lot of these each day! There are a lot of "good" things that we could do on a regular basis, but just because they're good doesn't mean they're good for us to do.
The most empowering thing you can learn to say is, "No." We don't have the ability to do it all, which means we have to limit ourselves. So, the next time someone asks you to do something, weigh it against the metric of your available time and energy, and if you simply don’t have anything extra to give, then say, “No.” And when you say it, go ahead and say it with relish, because you don’t have to feel guilty one bit!