Making Time for Me – Adding Spoons to the Drawer

I always start with the best of intentions when it comes to my writing projects, but we know the road to hell is paved with those right?

The problem is, I take the wind from my own sails with all my self doubt, procrastination and anxiety. I’ve always been an anxious person since I was a child and life’s cruel twists and turns have seen to it that anxiety and self doubt have become permanent fixtures in my life.

So I set my sights on a number of projects and then with real life dipping, or often sledgehammering it’s way in, I become overwhelmed and nothing gets done.

A few years ago a good friend taught me about “Spoon Theory.” A theory created by Christine Miserandino who was suffering from an auto-immune disorder, but it can equally be applied to mental health, Basically we start our day with a certain number of spoons and if we aren’t in the right headspace, we could end up using our daily allotment of spoons by midday. This means borrowing from tomorrow, draining us even further and faster the next day.

Most of my “spoons” are not used on creativity sadly. Mine are used on worrying about everything from my health to that of my family, job insecurities, finances, world events. The same as everyone you might think? No, not even close. I tend to think everything is life threatening, catastrophic and we are all doomed and all doomed right now. Not all the time, but enough for it to have a huge impact on my creative flow by using up all my energy and leaving me emotionally drained.

I started to steady out quite well, but then COVID hit last March and once again life threw several curve balls at me, from my job to hospitalisation and deaths of loved ones, as well as contracting COVID quite badly myself. As you can imagine this set me back considerably.

Outwardly you would never see this of course. I come across as positive, confident and in control. The epitome of the duck on the water, calm on the surface and peddling like crazy underneath.

So I started to do a bit of research and it would appear that my pre-disposition for worry and thriving on the pressure of deadlines and doing things last minute, is a known pattern of stress addiction for want of a better word, that has been going on for some time.

It’s time to make changes. I’m not getting any younger as they say, and this way of existing is not just debilitating for me, but for my loved ones too who have to live with it first hand,

So the first thing I have started doing is simply not overwhelming my senses. I could be working on the computer, doing one thing on the iPad and checking notifications on my phone, while the TV is on. Not good!

The other thing I need to do is stop taking on other people’s problems. I have empath tendencies and spend more time and effort worrying and helping folks with either emotional issues, practical help and project work than they do on themselves. I’m there for those who need me, but no longer at a cost to myself every time,

Now I make use of the work/sleep/focus settings on my Apple products which means I am not interrupted and I get a great sense of peace of mind while I concentrate on a particular task or just chilling. I am learning to say no to requests and projects. I have done way too much for too many for free. Well not free, it has cost me in energy and putting my own projects on the back burner.

I am also going back to the things I love doing to unwind. Cooking, baking, jigsaws and reading, trying not to feel guilty for doing them – feeling instead that I should be writing or pushing myself on social media. It has also affected my big love of listening to music, so back to the AirPods and floating on riffs of Rory Gallagher, bouncing around ideas to Maiden, chilling with Hans Zimmer or re-energising with The Prodigy- wherever the mood takes me!

I’m hoping by making time for myself and indeed my family, I will have enough distractions without pressure to push the anxiety away. From this I hope to have more energy and focus to create the amount of writing and other projects I know I can, without being under intense deadlines and people hovering and taking advantage.

Writing was always escapism for me, but I let it become an additional stress trigger and that is unacceptable. I love writing, I am good at writing and it’s time to show it respect and appreciation by getting myself in the right headspace. I want my writing projects to energise me, thus adding spoons to my drawer. Time to get honing that steel!

To be honest, this hasn’t been a massive self awareness event for me. My very patient and observant partner Dominic has been nudging me in this direction and showing me where I’m wasting energy and worrying over things I can do nothing about. More importantly, you are never wasting time doing nothing. You are regrouping, re-energising and adding spoons to that drawer! So thank you Dominic and the evidence it is working will be more articles and projects from me!

Why Do I Write? The ‘Science’ of Writing

I was asked this week by a filmmaker friend, “what makes you write?”

The question came as he was thinking of writing something autobiographical, so I said simply:

You write because you have something to say or you have some knowledge or creativity to share.

There is no room for Ego between the lines you write

If you are writing solely to satisfy your ego or for exposure and fame you will fall at the first hurdle. The audience you want to reach need to understand why you have put pen to paper in order to buy into your work. They need to know why it matters to you if they read your words and what they will get out of it. It’s that kind of world now.

For me, it matters that my words are read as I want to share my knowledge, experience and passion in my areas of expertise. I write what I know and what I love. Your work needs to reflect that, from research to ideas. I put in the legwork so to speak – I visit, explore, photograph and study so many of the places and I write about. Those I can’t visit, I dig out old handwritten accounts and I talk to people, I learn and absorb the subject matter rather than just paying it lip service.

If the article or story makes someone interested in finding out more, gives them chills or desperate to visit a place, I have done my job. If it comes across like a school text book about me or a home movie of dull holiday pictures, I’m not sure even my mother would like it!

Don’t Recite, Re-ignite

There are those who look at a couple of websites, lift the words straight off of the page, throw in a couple of quote marks and call it an original work. It’s not plagiarism, but it is lazy. It is sampling a song and changing a few bars or copying a painting and changing the colour palette slightly. If you are going to do this, you are not respecting the original creator, your readership or most importantly, yourself.

No one is saying you shouldn’t use the resources at your disposal, just…be creative, be fresh, have your own spin. If it is a ghost story that’s been told a million times, dig deeper, be a storyteller yourself – make it relevant to you and make the words your own. You owe that much to your audience. Show passion, depth and that you understand the words you are writing. That’s how you get buy-in, by lighting a fire in the hearts and minds of your readers.

Winning over hearts and minds

Are your audience going to be moved? Will they be educated? Will they be uplifted? Shocked? Motivated? Any piece of writing should evoke emotion, leave an imprint. Remember, just because something is new to you, doesn’t mean it is new to the audience you are pitching to – fish know how to swim already so don’t market to the aquarium!

In the event those wily fish do decide to read your work, give it energy, embrace the fact it is new to you, use that passion to elevate information that’s been out there for sometime, while acknowledging the fact that there are those who have the knowledge already, you just view it differently. Who knows, you may get to show a few of those fish a new direction to swim!

Fiction is real

If your writing is creative and fictional, remember that to some of your readers it is real. Your characters, your locations, your created emotions should all have an impact and make your audience buy in and believe – convince them they are becoming a part of that world you created while they read. For that to happen you have to believe it first. Whether it is a script, a short story or a full on novel, you have to be in it with both feet and your whole heart.

So if you are going to write fiction, have a plan. Understand why it is you are creating this world, these characters and what you are trying to give your audience. You love vampires? Great, go for it. Yes it’s a topic that has been done to death, but so what? There is a large audience for it and you have passion for it and knowledge on the subject matter. What would you like to see? What do you think has been missing from all your reading and discussions on the subject? There’s your take, your spin. That is what will make you stand out.

Writing should be a pleasure

If you find yourself trying to write a piece of fiction or indeed anything because you think it is trendy and will sell or get you ‘likes’, go and lie down in a dark room until the urge passes. Even if you are writing for a living with social media or advertising, it should be a pleasure. You should want to share knowledge and expertise and enhance and evolve the reader experience.

Generally speaking, books don’t make much in the way of money unless you are J.K Rowling or Stephen King. At most levels, there is a very small profit to be made or a break even scenario. This is why it is so important you should be passionate about what you write. Your reward should be the education and enjoyment of your audience and anything after that is a bonus. If you are simply putting words to page for money, ego or attention, best you nip back into that dark room for another lie down.

The Science Bit

Newton’s Third Law says that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. For this to be true, the two forces need to be of the same type. So if your writing oozes with passion, knowledge and a wish to educate or entertain, that is what your audience will experience. That in turn will create the action of them wanting more and your reaction is to write again with even more energy.

Good luck!


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