• Ben Pechey

Maintenance Structures


This year has been emotional for me. Experiencing more emotions than ever before. I'm not sure where this energy came from, but it is welcome here. It makes sense to me to bring that emotion to my corner of the internet and into the words I share with you. 


I recently read a fictional book editor saying that '[it]must demand some sort of deficiency to be a writer. There’s something missing in your life so you fill it with writing.' I, of course, disagree. Unsurprisingly, I don't think writing fills a void. Instead, writing helps me connect the dots in the tangle of emotions that fill my head. 





Writing is another form of therapy for me and is one of the ways that I maintain the delicate balance of my mental health. It is something that I call a maintenance structure. The things that I employ to help myself daily. 


They are similar to coping mechanisms but are not temporary or flawed. Instead, they bolster my self-worth and ensure that I am doing okay. Another one of these structures is a semi-flexible routine. As a freelancer, my life lacks the structures full-time employment can offer. I have no line manager, no time I'm expected to clock in by, and no advertised opening hours. 





When life gets bumpy, and living becomes tricky - the lack of routine makes it hard to find ways to cope and work effectively. I found that this year, and felt myself being pulled under the tide of emotion, self-critique, and anxiety. It was weeks and weeks of this. Until one week, I woke up and decided I had to take charge. 


I have become my own line manager. Implementing a workday structure, and time expectations, forcing myself back into a healthier work-life balance. No more endless mornings in bed. No more days not showering until 3 pm. No more hours spent in front of the computer not working, but refusing to rest. 





Implementing consistent times for waking up, showering, starting work and breaks has been such a small decision but has had a bigger impact than I ever imagined. I am not saying it is perfect - I am not a strict line manager at all. However, simply hitting small deadlines and timings has boosted my self-worth. Very similar to writing a to-do list once you have completed the tasks - so you always hit those tick boxes. 


I know what is happening. My mind wants to critique it. For now, it is working. A maintenance structure can act like a cast for a broken bone or scaffolding for a house needing repairs. Whilst I am feeling less than stable, this structure will hold me up until I am strong enough on my own. That is worth investing my time on. 


So if you know you could do with a little bit more support, and there are ways for you to do that for yourself, then employ that tactic - it will do you wonders! 


Shot by Ruth Pechey