I might have mentioned it once or write in my previous post, but it bares repeating. Writing is hard. And it’s not exactly a task that lends itself easily to the idea of self-care.
Writers are meant to struggle for their art, of course, and so the idea of taking care of ourselves is shoved into back of our minds by the insistent and wholly-consuming demands of our craft. We tend to think of time spent caring for ourselves as time we wasted not writing.
But getting those words out and onto the page shouldn’t come at the expense of our physical and mental health. Making time to care for yourself ensures that you can be productive, creative, and consistent with your writing.
With that in mind, here are a few ideas writer’s can use to add a little self-care to their routine. Hopefully, a few of theses can help.
Let Yourself Breathe
Writers are often held to this romantic ideal of devoting themselves to their craft at the expense of just about everything else. And I do mean everything.
There are plenty of stories about writers driven half-mad by the demands of their characters. Who lose themselves so completely in their work that they forget everything else: their friends, their jobs, and even their own wellbeing. Writers – myself most definitely included – have a way of throwing ourselves into our work emotionally, mentally, and even physically, and that doesn’t leave a lot of room for long soaks in the tub or sipping hot chocolate under a cozy blanket.
(But when I figure out a way to make that happen, I will beunstoppable.)
Am I saying you need to step away from that first draft and hop into the nearest bubble bath right this second? No, of course not. But shutting yourself off from the world and neglecting your health isn’t going to get that second draft finished any faster. That path only leads to burn out, frustration, and a boatload of self-doubt.
Step away from the words every once in a while and let your mind breathe. Read or write something, just for fun, or just take a shower and a good long nap! You won’t lose your creative spark, you won’t even lose your train of thought, I promise.
If anything, letting yourself breathe once in a while is going to make everything a lot clearer in the end.
Go Outside (And Exercise)
Working overtime, especially alone, will drain the energy out of you faster than watching a presentation on equity taxation. No matter how much you enjoy writing, spending hours typing away at your keyboard won’t result in the next Booker Prize winning novel. More than likely, you’ll end up dreading the whole task, avoiding it, and finally realizing you’ve come to hate something that once gave you joy.
There’s a simple way to avoid that, however: go outside.
You don’t have to go camping deep in the woods of Algonquin Park (although you definitely could), you don’t even have to leave your front step if you don’t want to. Just take five minute to move around, stretch your legs, maybe run down to the local café and get some coffee.
The point is to move your body and give your brain a chance to rest and reset. It might seem counterproductive to step away from your words, even just for a few minutes, but I promise you that even a little stroll around your living room will energize your brain and boost your creativity in ways that could surprise you.
A little break can go a very long way!
Create A Schedule
Sometimes the best way to keep the words going and the creativity flowing is to follow a detailed, regular schedule.
Believe it or not, creating a writing routine for yourself can actually help you to be more creative and less stressed in the long run. Waiting for inspiration to strike (it takes it’s sweet time) or missing a burst of creative energy (I like to wave as it passes by) will only end up with you feeling frustrated and ultimately failing to get any writing done at all.
When you create a daily schedule, and even a word goal for each session, you create a space where you can finally corner your creativity and seal off the exits so it can’t escape.
First figure out when you’re feeling most creative. Do you prefer to write in the morning? The evening? Over your lunch break? I find I do the most writing in the evening after dinner. When can you be the most productive?
Next, set a writing goal. It can be anything you want as long as it results in words on the page. Maybe you only have an hour for your lunch break, so you set a half hour for eating and the rest for writing in your notebook. Or you can set a word goal, instead! I aim to write at least 200 words each time I sit down to write, and I try to do that for an hour every day. It might not be a lot of words, but by the time the week is over I have over 1000 words that I might not have put to paper otherwise.
Ultimately, you’re the one who knows best. Figure out what works for you and stick to it every day. You’ll be surprised how much more writing you’ll get done when you set a routine in place, and how much less pressure you’ll put on yourself as a result.
Forgive Yourself When You Fall Short
Regardless of how hard you work, or how dedicated you are, sometimes you won’t be able to find the right words.
Every writer has had at least one day (or many) that ends with awkward sentences, patched up plot holes, and a lot of furious backspacing. And every writer has had days when, no matter how hard we push, the words just won’t come, and we’re left staring at a blank sheet of failure.
It’s hard for any writer not to get frustrated from time to time, particularly when we’ve been pushing so hard for so long to meet the impossible standards we set for ourselves. We are always our own worst critic and we are never satisfied with anything less than perfection.
Repeat after me: perfection is stupid.
It’s important to write and to keep improving, but it’s just as important to remember that, despite our best intentions, sometimes we’ll mess up.
I’ve skipped out on writing because I had too much on my plate that day and saw my progress falter as a result; I’ve stared at my computer screen for hours without pause, only to realize I’d forgotten to eat for the entire day and still barely made any progress.
It happens, and it happens to all of us. No writer is perfect, and no one has perfect writing days all the time. We all mess up, and that’s okay; it’s how we learn to become better writers. So remember to cut yourself some slack when things don’t work out perfectly.
Perfection is stale and stupid. Mistakes are how we grow.
Self-care may not write the Next Great American Novel for you, but it will help you to survive the journey. Whatever your brand of self care looks like, if it works for you then that is all that matters. Do whatever you need to do to keep yourself healthy, happy, and here.
The world will always need good stories – but it needs good, happy people to tell them even more.
Happy Writing everyone!