I know that ‘Friendly March’ doesn’t have the same alliterative fun as ‘Friendly February’ but I want you to be kind to yourself every month so it still works.
At the end of last month, I invited you to consider a series of questions to take a gentle look at how and when and what you wrote in February.
On this last Friday in March, I invite you to revisit those same questions* and to add an extra dose of self-kindness.
Before you get started on the questions, take a little time to think about how to speak gently to yourself about your writing.
No Self-Judgement, Please
We all kind of have a knack for being hard on ourselves, don’t we?
When it comes to our writer-friends, we’ll give them all kinds of slack. We will remind them of their accomplishments. We won’t let them speak harshly about themselves. We’ll show them the limitations on their time and energy that kept them from writing when they meant to.
When it comes to ourselves though? Eeeeeeep. We are HARSH.
When we talk to ourselves, we decide that our writing didn’t get done because we’re lazy. Or maybe because we’re not good enough to do it. We brush off the fact that we spent all month helping our kids with learning at home. Or we ignore the fact that our allergies were bad, or that our basement flooded.
We think that being harsh with ourselves is “just being realistic.”
Actually, constantly being hard on ourselves is just as unrealistic as pretending that everything we do is perfect.
We need to find some middle ground that lets us be aware of the limitations on our time and energy while making the most of the writing opportunities we do have.
Self-Compassion Is Realistic, Too
Being compassionate and kind to ourselves is the best way to ground ourselves and be realistic about our plans.
Self-compassion allows us to look at the facts in our lives – our available time and energy – and choose our activities wisely.
Self-kindness lets us examine all of the factors when things go wrong. We can acknowledge flaws in our planning or in our approach. And we can see how external factors affected our ability to proceed with our plans. We don’t have to dive into self-blame when we notice things we could have done differently.
Recognizing that other aspects of our lives can negatively or positively affect our ability to follow through on our writing plans is not ‘letting ourselves off the hook.’
Seeing ourselves as human beings doing the best that we can while managing competing priorities is truly the most realistic way for us look at our lives.
Plan With Kindness
So, as you have a look at those check-in questions and as you think about the month ahead, make sure to be kind to yourself throughout the process.
In this case, it means being realistic about the time you can spend on your writing and about your expectations.
(And remember that writing time is not just time spent typing. You also need research, planning, and thinking time!)
It’s okay to be hopeful about gaining more time but plan as if your time will be limited. That way, any extra time will be a bonus.
Set your goals based on what your ordinary self can do on an ordinary day. If you plan based on that one day when you quadrupled your word count because everything was perfect, you’ll end up feeling disappointed.
And disappointment can lead to discouragement which can lead to being hard on yourself…you know how this goes!
Whenever possible, make your plans and goals process-related rather than based on a specific result. Planning to spend 10 minutes writing is far more reachable than aiming for a specific word count. After all, on a challenging day, words might come slowly but 10 minutes will always move at the same speed. (It might *feel* different on different days but 10 minutes is 10 minutes.)
It’s always more fun to celebrate a victory, big or small, than it is to have to accept a defeat. If you make self-compassion a factor in your planning process, you’ll be more realistic and you’ll have lots of victories to celebrate.
*Regular reminder that many people have been struggling with their writing and their creativity over the long months of dealing with the anxiety and changes relating to the pandemic. If you feel this is the case for you, please chose to lower your expectations/change your goals rather than being hard on yourself about not meeting them.