How are you?
I’m a little off, have been for a while. Nothing disastrous. Kids are good, Rael’s good, dinner’s getting cooked, dog’s getting walked, and life is mellow and bubbling with near-future excitement.
And I’m wrestling with a nasty case of writer’s block.
It’s embarrassing (maddening, confusing) to be caught in a tide when there are so many wonderful things going on like the Parent Hacks book (which has just gone to the printer), the Edit Your Life podcast with Christine, a big-time kitchen remodel and holiday travel plans with my family & parents. There’s troubling stuff, too, but it’s stuff we all live with. For the most part, life is seriously great.
So what’s UP, Asha? I mean, c’mon. It’s hard to talk about this and even admit it to myself because it feels ungrateful somehow.
I don’t feel down often, but when I do, I usually start by ignoring it. When that doesn’t work, I try to talk myself out of it, and not nicely. Seriously, where does that inner critic come from, because no one in my life ever talked to me that way.
I don’t recommend these strategies.
And so here I still am. A writer who’s hasn’t been writing much beyond tweets, Facebook updates and Instagram posts. The podcasting is pure joy (pretty much anything I do with Christine is food for the soul), but even there I’m falling down on the details. I’ve had to acknowledge that this dip is not only real, it requires attention.
As much as I want to avert my gaze, I know the remedy isn’t distraction or plunging into a new productivity system: it’s surrender and self-care.
For me, self-care looks like this: eating good food, drinking more water, prioritizing the gym or at least a brisk walk. Checking in with my doctor, scheduling my dental cleaning, getting a haircut, calling my friends. Reading. Celebrating loved ones’ triumphs, sitting with them in their losses.
Plugging in and reaching out when my urge is to hide away.
It’s too easy to dismiss self-care as self-indulgent or even selfish. We forget ourselves as we rush through our days. We wave off the signals, insisting we’re fine.
It’s understandable. When the kids are little and sleep and free time feel like impossible dreams, there’s simply not enough energy to go around. No productivity system in the world changes that. So we shelve our needs for a time to prioritize our family’s needs, telling ourselves it’s only temporary.
But as the kids get older and pauses return to our lives — space to breathe and rest and dream — we forget to retrieve ourselves. But even if we do remember and say to ourselves hey! There’s room for me now, the “me” we retrieve is different than before. What used to soothe and renew may not work now. Self-care is a frustratingly moving target.
So why am I telling you this? To let you know I’m still here, and I care as much as I always have. And that I’m with you during the dips even as I share the high points. And that life can be good — great, even — while it’s hard and confusing.
And that I want to know how you are, really.
Austin Kleon says problems of output are problems of input. Lisa Congdon sees a dip as a normal and natural part of the creative process. For me, a dip usually signals transition, which is exactly what I’m in post-book. I’ve never been great with transition, but I do know this: gritting my teeth and pummeling my fists isn’t doing a thing.
I feel so much better just telling you this.