Creative Self-Care: Balancing Your Own Writing with Support for Your Students

By Megan Clark

AWP 2019 Blog Posts

 As a graduate student at GSU, a creative writer, and an English instructor, finding balance between these roles is difficult to say the least. This stress-inducing situation is why I decided to attend this panel focused on what they termed “creative self-care.” The panelists first asked us to think about all the “buckets” in our lives: the personal, professional, creative commitments we have. The metaphor becomes that we can’t keep all these buckets full at the same time. It’s impossible; we’ll wear ourselves out by doing so, thus being ineffective writers and teachers.

To be better able to serve our students in their own creative work, we must, as one panelist said, “put our oxygen mask on first.” Then everyone shared strategies for making sure “our oxygen mask” was on, that we are taking care of ourselves before helping others. For example, one panelist creates transitions in her day between teaching and writing. She focuses on finding those moments to be in nature or a place in the home where she can write in an inspired space. This way she’s more open and receptive to the next task.

Also, another strategy shared involved writing in 45-minute blocks of time and then taking 15 minutes off. Those 15 minutes are a time to treat yourself for the hard work. Rinse and repeat. This panelist stressed not tying your writing to a certain time of day. So, at any time, she’ll see the opportunity to write within any unoccupied 45 minutes. This helps train yourself to write at any time of day. This strategy also works for teaching tasks, like grading, or miscellaneous tasks like checking email. This way you can be done with it and move on with the day! This helps ensure that the “teaching” bucket doesn’t get fuller and fuller while the “writing” bucket gets depleted.