I’m so thrilled to have my friend April Yamasaki here today. April’s new book is entitled Four Gifts: Seeking Self-Care for Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength.* I invited April here today to help us, as writers, know how to take good care of ourselves AND also avoid using self-care as an excuse that keeps us from the page. Enjoy her wisdom, and be sure to pre-order her book,* which comes out September 4th.
Where I live in British Columbia, we’re in a state of emergency due to wildfires that continue to rage in this hot, dry summer. The fires aren’t anywhere near where we live, but they’ve turned the sky grey, and weather forecasters have added a new category to their reporting—not sunny or cloudy, but “smoke” has been the forecast for days.
That’s meant I’ve been staying indoors more than usual–to avoid breathing in the polluted air, which in my town was rated today as the equivalent of smoking 8.3 cigarettes. With such good reason to stay inside, I should have had plenty of time to write this article. In fact, I’ve been trying to write this piece for days. But instead of zeroing in on self-care for writers as I intended–as I promised—it seems I did everything else on my to-do list and then some.
A Pro at Procrastination
One day I used my writing time to draft a proposal for a new project. The next day and the next day, I kept reading and revising my proposal until I finally sent it off. Another day and days I worked on an author interview, an article for my own website, a guest post for a community blog. I finished reading two books. One day I even used my writing time to take in a movie with my husband who had a rare afternoon off.
Some of that I considered justifiable procrastination, for while I procrastinated on this article, I made good use of the time and completed some other projects that were due. The books I read were part of my self-care. And the movie, well that was self-care and couple-care as we’ve both been immersed in our separate projects and needed to take a break. At least that’s what I told myself.
As you can tell, when it comes to procrastination and finding ways to justify it, I’m a real pro.
The Perks of Procrastination
When procrastination means substituting one project for another, I find it a helpful strategy to get more done. Instead of spinning my wheels when I get stuck on a piece of writing, I can switch to something else and come back later. Working on something else in between allows me to be productive in one area even while I’m stuck in another. A change of pace gives me fresh perspective, fresh energy.
Procrastination can also make room for healthy self-care. As writers, sometimes we do need to set aside our work to read poetry for sheer pleasure, to abandon our search for just the right word in favor of laughing with a toddler or listening to good music or watching the sunset. At times we might even need that movie. Recreation can truly be re-creation, as rest nurtures our creativity and care for ourselves.
The Limits of Procrastination
But even I can’t justify procrastination forever. Reading a good book can be good self-care, but regularly stealing from my writing time to read day after day tells me I’m avoiding something. Trading my writing time for a movie with my husband can be a special treat once in a while, but doing it too often to the point of missing deadlines sounds more like self-sabotage than self-care.
For me, it’s a matter of degree, of finding that sweet spot between procrastination as avoidance, procrastination as self-care, and procrastination as just another way of getting things done. I can’t say I always find that sweet spot, but I’m working on it.
What about you? How do you navigate between procrastination, avoidance, and self-care? I finally finished this article. How are you doing?
April Yamasaki is the author of Four Gifts: Seeking Self-Care for Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength (Herald Press, 2018) which officially launches into the world on September 4. This is her fifteenth book as an author or contributor. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.