I managed to write my desired 7,000 words yesterday. It took until 2am, but I did it. I really hope I get more done this afternoon instead of needing to be up super late to finish. I’ve got work tomorrow morning and I’d like to get at least 6 hours of sleep before that. Even though I got 7 hours of sleep after finishing, I’m still super exhausted and worn out. This goes beyond my poor, murdered sleep schedule. I’ve hit a point where I’m putting out more creative energy and material than I’m taking in, thanks to the combination of my writing marathons and my illness, so I can feel myself being drained. I’m hoping that, after one more day of pushing, I’ll be able to settle back down for a quite 1,666 words a day for the last four days of the month and actually start reading and playing games I love again. The tank is nearly empty and I need to fill it back up again.
This sort of feeling has always been worrisome to me because I have a very similar one when I’m having a bad bout of depression. The only real difference is that this creative deflation feeling is centered in my chest and spine. It makes me feel like I’m propping up my head using sticks and strings tied to the ceiling. My depression feels a lot more like my entire self has been deflated and all I am is a rubbery suit of myself that can only flop around from one thing to the next. The reason it worries me so much, despite the clear distinction between the two feelings, is that my depressive episodes always start with a smaller deflation. The rubbery suit gets punctured somewhere and the air starts to leak out from there first, before all the old holes open up and I just quickly fall to the ground like an empty balloon.
The same is true of emotional exhaustion. That leaves me feeling empty and deflated in a different part of my chest and my head. The only kind that doesn’t is physical exhaustion because I’m usually too tired to feel anything at that point. If I do feel anything, it’s the burn of my muscles, an overwhelming desire to sleep, or the stretched and tight feeling of muscles that have been worked out regularly. That’s one of the reasons I have a tendency to stay up late or choose to not sleep as much when I’m feeling a depressive episode coming on. If I’m physically exhausted, I’ve got no room to feel deflated and I’ll just crash when I go to bed instead of staring at my ceiling with little to think about other than how deflated I’m feeling.
One of my friends advised me to take care of myself when I told her how much I’ve been writing and how much social energy I had to spend yesterday. I, of course, commented that I had too much writing to do and that I’d have time to rest next weekend, once NaNoWriMo was over. I went on to say that, if I spent enough time writing, eventually that would become a form of self-care itself. Of course, I then joked that it was a lot like Stockholm Syndrome, which was met with an appropriate amount of skepticism. The more I think about it, though, the more I wonder if I was really joking or just trying to find a way to embrace an exhausting activity that routinely leaves me feeling drained in a way I associate with one of the most negative aspects of my life. It certainly is appealing. If I could find a way to feel good about the creative drain feeling, maybe I could find a way to make myself hate my depression less.
I haven’t really decided, yet. I’m a little too busy to spend my time thinking about it right now, so I think its going to get stuck with the rest of my self-care in the “on or after Friday” bucket. Only 13,700 more words to go.
Selflessness can be very important in a protagonist. It can be something for them to learn, a value them exemplify, or perhaps a flaw that they need to dial-back a bit. The place it most commonly enters into our lives is when we are confronted with a situation in which we stand to lose much by taking any kind of action at all. Perhaps it is a no-win situation and the only way to minimize the loss is by turning away from it entirely. At the same time, a lot of these situations are also more complex than just the result to those directly involved. What does your action or inaction mean for other people down the line? By acting now, and accepting the losses involved, could you maybe cause some good further down the line? Write a scene for your character where they need to evaluate a situation beyond its immediate outcome in order to find the best solution, regardless of whether it is good or bad for them, and then their process of deciding what to do with that situation.
Today’s inspiration is not the media that inspired today’s writing prompt, despite the fact that I want to share it everywhere and with everyone. It is one of a series of backer comics from a Kickstarter campaign and, while the artist made the first comic publicly available recently, it took three or more years from its original share date for that to happen. This comic was only sent out this year, so it’ll be a while before he posts it online. Instead, read the Dresden Files. Harry Dresden may not be the knight in shining armor and bastion of selflessness that I wanted to share, but he’s constantly putting his life on the line to help protect people around him, even when it’s not his fault that the city he loves is in danger. He’s a good example of it means to act toward the greater good even when its going to cost you personally. Most of the time, anyway.
As much as I personally struggle with striking a balance, it is important to remember that you can’t create endlessly. Every so often, you need to stop. You need to rest. You need to recover. You can often push yourself far enough that you’ve left what you thought were your limitations far behind, but there’s always a price and you’d better be mindful of what it might be. Eventually, you will need to stop whether you want to or not. If you struggle with feeling in control, it is almost always better that you choose to stop than be forced to stop. Take the time to care for yourself, and not just in a bubble-baths, tasty food, and new books kind of way. Self-care is more complicated than that. Self-care is making the best decisions for yourself when looking at your life beyond today and tomorrow. Sometimes, self-care means pushing yourself to work out every day. Sometimes self-care means pushing yourself to write every day until it becomes a habit. You need to figure out what your self-care needs are, though. I can’t tell you what you need most. All I can do is let you know that there’s an important line to be drawn between writing every day (my self-care) and writing so much every day that I’m left feeling exhausted (causing me to need more self-care). Don’t think of it as a treat to make yourself feel better, think of it as a balance you must find in your life between all the things you know you need to do and all the things you want to do. As long as you don’t neglect an imbalance for too long, you’ll be fine.