Making A Commitment to Yourself

Over the last few weeks I’ve talked a lot about creating-and meeting-your writing goals. I’ve made it clear that 2011 is going to be a year of Discipline in my writing. But it’s important to remember that while writing is certainly a part of me and always will be, there are other aspects of life where I need to put in effort and set goals. Taking care of me is the most important factor here, and I must remember that taking care of me doesn’t just mean focusing on my writing.

So what else do I need to focus on to take care of me? Well, it’s a pretty basic list:

School

This one is the obvious one and, depending on your standpoint, it is the most important thing for me to focus on right now. By focusing on school I don’t mean that I need to pass, because I haven’t been failing. But I do need to make an effort to work harder. I am capable of high marks in most of my classes, but I’ve been doing just enough work to get by, and most of that at the last minute.

My commitment to school is a commitment that I will set aside an hour each week specifically for homework. I don’t get too much homework; most of my work can be done in class fairly quickly. But just because I can do half my class work in the last week doesn’t mean I should. That means most of my semester is easy and there’s one week that really, really sucks. I come out of the end of that week too drained to write. While I do end up having fun with my friends all weekend, I should be able to get at least some writing done every weekend.

Health

As a writer, it’s really, really easy to ignore the rules of good health. It’s not hard at all to forget to leave your house for days on end; it’s even easier to bypass the healthier meal in favour of the faster meal. Apparently less than 20% of Canadian adults get the weekly physical requirement of exercise, which is approximately two hours of moderate exercise a week. Some weeks I know I get a lot more than this-but other weeks I barely make it out my front door. And while I’m confident that I get two hours of exercise most weeks, I also know that I don’t walk in the recommended increments: 30 to 40 minutes five days a week.

Because I can’t cook and I don’t do the grocery shopping around here, I don’t have all that much control over what I eat. But I can make a commitment to walk for 15 minutes every day. It’s not quite what the doctor ordered, but it’s close enough. Besides, that’s about how long it takes to walk to the nearest 24 hour store and back. As part of my effort to quit smoking, this is a non-smoking walk. If I want a smoke, I have to wait until after I’m finished the walk.

Family

As somebody with a lot of friends who make up their own family-in fact, having been adopted into two families of friends-I don’t spend a lot of time with my birth family. I don’t necessarily need to see them all of the time, but it is important to make sure that they know I care, and that it’s a two way street when it comes to communicating with my family.

My commitment to my family is that I will make an effort to maintain regular contact with my close relatives.

Renewal

Perhaps this last one could be placed under health, but in that section I wanted to focus on the body, and here I focus on the mind. Living a busy life is often stressful. Having a lot of friends is great, but it means you’re three times as likely to get a call from somebody in tears or to have to help somebody deal with a bad situation. There are rewards for helping people, and it’s a good experience. The whole thing feels good all the way around. But it does take its toll on a person, especially a person who is also going to school and trying to write the next great Canadian novel. I need to learn to take more time for myself, and when I do have time to myself, I need to remember to actually renew myself. I can do this by meditating, free writing, connecting with nature, and listening to certain kinds of music, particularly African drums. Dancing around a bonfire is the most renewing thing I’ve ever done, but it’s not something you can just do.

My commitment to renewal is that I will spend ten minutes every day meditating or free writing. This will give me a little bit of extra calm every day, and you never know just how much that ten minutes will change your life. I’m probably going to do it before bed as a way of winding myself down from the day’s events, but lots of people would recommend such a thing in the morning.

Staying Committed to Yourself

Once you’ve made a commitment to yourself to take better care of yourself, you need to make sure that you stick with it. Calling it a commitment rather than a goal is part of that: if it’s a commitment, it’s your responsibility; if it’s a goal, it’s just something you’re trying to do. Write your commitment down and put it somewhere that you’ll see it all the time. Reward yourself when you accomplish something. Since the goal here is to take care of yourself, junk food shouldn’t be your reward; stickers work well for small rewards, and if you manage to keep your commitment for six months, plan on taking yourself out to have some fun.

It’s important to be committed not just to your writing but to yourself as well. You are a writer, but you are not made up entirely of words. You need to take care of yourself and pursue your other interests in order to write the best that you can write, and it all starts with making a commitment to yourself.

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About Dianna Gunn

I am a freelance writer by day and a fantasy author by night. My first YA fantasy novella, Keeper of the Dawn, is available now through The Book Smugglers Publishing.

Posted on February 4, 2011, in Writing, Writing: The Process and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Great article Dianna – you’ve made some solid/excellent points on commitment. I’ve been struggling with staying in exercise mode every morning to help me reach a weight loss goal, but I believe making a commitment – as you’ve suggested – to exercise at least thirty minutes EVERY morning, is exactly what my brain needs to click into place. Tweak perception with ‘commitment’, and perhaps my goal will come easier without anxiety. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Kay Dee,

    I’m not a subscriber to complete optimism, but I know that how you think about something does influence how it happens. With commitment versus goals, the best example is my grandmother: she always fulfills her commitments of working and babysitting, but she hasn’t hit her goals of weight loss or quitting smoking. I think that when it’s called a ‘commitment’, it feels and becomes more important to us. I think there’s also a stronger guilt when it’s a commitment-I mean, everybody breaks their new years’ resolutions, right?

    I hope this has helped you, and good luck with your exercise routine. That would be a bit much for me but it’s a great goal.

    Thanks for reading,
    ~Dianna

  3. I’ve been using the word ‘commitment’ a lot lately too. For me, it’s about choosing to do the things that serve me. Setting goals, especially ones with deadlines, just makes me feel pressured which often leads to paralysis. I’d rather commit to myself, open to new ways of being, and use discipline to maintain the promises I make to myself. Thanks for another great post!

    • FN, (Can I call you that?)

      It’s interesting, because if you think about it, most of the goals people set for themselves really are about commitment.

      Right now I am using commitment as a means of helping me reach my goals. I have a goal to finish, rewrite, and submit Moonshadow’s Guardian. I am making a commitment to writing which will allow me to do this. But I am beginning to consider using the word ‘commitment’ in place of the word ‘goal’ for all of my aspirations.

      Thanks for reading,
      ~Dianna

  4. Greetings:

    Loving your goal posts. (that was a straight line, wasn’t trying for funny.).

    Today, I buried a colleague. He died far, far too young and thus, I have had health on my mind for the past week – moreso than usual. Self-care is *so* important and cannot be done by anyone else but self. All the help may be at hand but in the end it is a choice to do or do not. I wish with all my heart that everyone is filled with the power to choose wise and well.

    The other thought I had is this. In the work-a-day world of manufacturing, high-risk professions etc – “health and safety” is of paramount importance. Entire departments exist to help workers stay safe and recover from injuries. Processes, equipment, regulations shift to address changing needs and knowlege.

    But what of the solitary artist?

    An artist has only his or her body as their “instrument” of art. And – as a result of the artistic pursuit – the body is subject to stresses that works against the longevity of that artist. Think of a dancer. He or she dances and by dancing, they both create art and spend their talent. At some point, that dancer will likley no longer be able to dance. The “old” dancers, however, have taken care of themselves. They know the warm-up is longer, the jumps are lower … but their “age” has given them artistic wisdom of expression.

    Same holds true – I think – for other artists. Many are subject to repetitive strain issues, eye strain, compromised postures and other hazards. The writer is vulnerable to repetitive strain, eye strain, posture issues … and as a solitary artist without a Health and Safety department … it is up to the writer to take care of their instrument.

    At work, I have had an ergonomic assessement done so my keyboard, screen and chair are all at the “right” heights. I had been wrong on all three. Also – I am regularly told to stretch, to get up out of my chair every hour or so. These two things I struggle with. Why? Because I find them silly, an interruption and so infinitessimally “small” a thing to do that it’s easy for me to ignore it. Yet I know – because I spend all of April and all of November – literally – at a keyboard, that I log long days bashing away at keys. I know those little interruptions are critical to my longevity as a writer …

    My compromise is running. It is my exercise. It is my time to stretch and “take a break”. Oddly, I do a lot of writing when I run because I have given myself the gift of think time. So it’s not all bad.

    So … here’s me and my little soap box speech to jump up and down and cheer for all the artists who take care of their instrument. May they be fit to play for as long as there is sunshine and joy.

    Cheers
    RP

    • RP,

      It’s always sad when somebody goes before their time. I lost my dad when I was really young, and he wasn’t exactly an old man either-34 years old. I don’t really want to live to be an old woman; but I do want to live well until the end.

      Personally I’m not so great at self-care. I’m rather lazy about self care; I don’t wash my face twice a day, I don’t shower every day, I don’t always eat properly, and I barely exercise for exercise’s sake. While quite a few weeks I will get the minimum of exercise in walking from place to place, the goal is to make it so that I hit that amount every week.

      Thanks for your input,
      ~Dianna

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