Episode 28: Five Steps to Sustaining Your Writing Through Crisis

Ep: 28

How do you sustain a writing practice in times of crisis? Whether the crisis is a global one like a pandemic, or a personal one like an illness, taking these 5 steps will help you sustain a writing practice.

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We are in an unprecedented time right now, dealing with a global pandemic. You may be on lockdown, teaching from home, trying to supervise or teach your kids, caring for relatives, or practicing social distancing. We Puerto Rican professors are no strangers to crisis situations. From Hurricane Maria in 2017, to student strikes, to the recent earthquakes, we have been through situations that have paralyzed our nation and left us stuck trying to work at home with children while dealing with shortages and uncertainty.

 

These 5 steps for sustaining a writing practice during a crisis come from personal experience living through these mass disruptions of normal life. Let me say that the first week or two are the hardest. You will find a rhythm for your days, and once you do, things will get a little easier. Here are 5 steps to take to sustain your writing practice and keep your sanity in trying times.

 

Step 1: Get Back to Tiger Time Basics

Start your tiger time from scratch. 

  • Find out which hours during your day are your most focused and energetic. 
  • Pick one to two hours during this time one or two times per week to focus on your writing. 
  • Remember that if it is not your scheduled tiger time, you should not be writing, so it is ok to let go of the guilt! One hour of focused time produces much better results than lots of unfocused time.

(Not sure what tiger time is or how to find yours? Be sure to go back and listen to Episode 2, where I lay out how to find and implement your tiger time.)

Step 2: Shift Your Mindset

When you are in a crisis situation, it is not business as usual, so don’t expect your academic life to operate as usual! There is no way you can expect the level of productivity that you may have originally planned for. You may be in survival mode for a few months, so you need to adjust your goals and expectations accordingly. Set the bar low, for your writing practice and all your other responsibilities.

“You cannot expect yourself to use the same techniques for getting your writing done now that you did before your work situation has changed because of the global pandemic.”

Shift what you see as reasonable, and be willing to look at your responsibilities on a different scale. 

Step 3: Work Four Hours Per Day

When you work 8 hours a day on campus, you are not actually producing work for all of those hours, right? Some of the time is spent getting around on campus, having lunch, etc. So it is totally unnecessary (and unwise) to try to set your day up the same way at home. Use the 4 power hours method instead. 

  • Structure your time to fit your current schedule needs. You likely won’t get 4 hours in a row, especially if you have kids at home. 
  • Set the kids up with something to occupy them for a couple of chunks at a time (Frozen 2, anyone?)
  • Make a list of the main areas you need to work in, and block chunks of time for each. For example: maybe you spend an hour on writing, 2 hours on student support and teaching, 1 on meetings and email, etc.
  • Consider stacking content prep time for asynchronous classes at the beginning of the week so you have more time for writing as the week goes on. 
  • Power through: concentrate hard on what you’re doing for hour-long chunks, then take a break.

We have been conditioned in academia to think that overwork is the ‘norm’, but it is not normal or necessary, especially during times like these. Don’t put pressure on yourself to work more hours just because you “should”. 

Step 4: Corral Online Activities

This may be the perfect time to re-draw some boundaries, for yourself and others.

  • Reset expectations for email turnaround time, and corral email checking into a set block of time. 
  • Put boundaries around synchronous meeting times. In our current situation, people may be asking for live, online meeting times. Be sure to limit the times you are available, and let people know what those times are.
  • Just because a lot is happening online right now, do not be pressured to be available 24/7. You decide your available times.

“If you’re going to get through a time of crisis, you must have boundaries around what you’re doing.”

Step 5: Ramp Up Self-Care

Having endured several major crises during my academic life, I have learned the vital importance of rest. Rest that rejuvenates and restores you will prevent a major breakdown, and keep you going in uncertain times. It will also enable you to continue to create. In order to increase your capacity for creation (writing, creating course materials, etc.) you must increase your capacity to restore yourself. This is not a luxury in times like these, it is a necessity. Here are some suggestions:

  • Take care of your physical health. Get some kind of exercise every day. A walk outside, playing with your kids, even chores or yard work. Do something to move your body.
  • Limit social media and screen time. Especially now that you may be spending more time online for classes, be purposeful about time away from screens. Read a book (on paper!). Listen to an audiobook or podcast. Be intentional about getting away from screens.
  • Take the time to shower, get dressed, and take care of yourself everyday. It makes a big difference in how you feel!
  • Be diligent about taking time for yourself and doing whatever it is that makes you feel restored.

“Be gentle on yourself, and realistic about what you can do in this crisis.”

 

For more advice on how to keep your writing practice going, join us in our free Facebook group I Should Be Writing!

We’ve got lots of exciting, free workshops and content coming your way very soon. My Summer Writing Planning Webinar is coming back by popular demand, and the 5 Day Summer Writing Challenge starts on April 27!

Grab my free 10 Ways to Make Time to Write  guide, and you’ll have the chance to join my email list to stay up to date on all upcoming trainings, workshops, and challenges.

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