by K. Maze
Dear Writer Friends, it’s November. The time of holidays, deadlines and NaNoWriMo.
We have lives full of responsibilities, but we are also builders of amazing mind worlds, and if we don’t take care of ourselves, our stories suffer and so do we! How can we enter the season of celebration without wearing ourselves down to a nub?
This is my debut post at Writers in the Storm and I'm focusing on gratitude. To help you show your thankfulness for the gifts you have as writer, and to offer some advice on how to take care of those gifts.
Take a minute to check in with your overall wellness.
Writers get upper back cricks and lower back spasms. We have underused legs from forcing ourselves to sit in the chair and write. We deny ourselves the pleasures of spending time outdoors and write long after the rest of the household has gone to sleep, because most of us have another job to accomplish as well. What is the price? How do our bodies react?
Behold, the Wellness Wheel.
The wellness wheel can keep us from spinning wildly out of control. “Wellness is an active process of becoming aware of and making choices a healthy and fulfilling life. Wellness is more than being free from illness, it is a dynamic process of change and growth,” according to researchers at UC Davis.
This goes beyond the yearly doctor’s visit to not just live, but to thrive. Writers create life-giving prose. Can you imagine the energy we can enjoy when we take care of ourselves?
A Breakdown of Wellness Domains
Where you stand in each domain can vary. If you are up on your word count and rocking the NaNoWriMo, you may be neglecting walking your pet, biking, or jogging. Perhaps you are having a hard time meeting your deadlines because you are enjoying too many evenings in with friends or bingeing Netflix dramas.
Try one of these assessments based on your personality.
FOR THOSE WHO LOVE ADULT COLORING BOOKS:
This tool is useful for anyone trying to keep their life in balance. Simply read the statements and color the wheel wedge to represent how you manifest this area of well-being. Examine your color-coded assessment and answer the reflection questions to take steps to a more satisfying life.
FOR THOSE WHO LOVE SUDOKU:
This inventory developed by Princeton University can help one figure out their wellness numerically. Identify how often the statements are true about you. Add up the totals for each section and notice any discrepancies. These may be places to iterate your lifestyle.
FOR THOSE WHO WANT JUST THE FACTS, MAAM:
This article lists ways to identify wellness action you take in your life. Take a moment to reflect on which areas you could adjust your well-being.
Keeping your monster in check.
It benefits no one if the writer-in-residence is cranky or 'hangry.' I have a routine that includes checking my energy levels to determine which activity I want to do most. A little self-examination can be a cathartic culling of activities that do not suit you.
I’ve included my own routine to show a few ways I push myself. This is not a rigid set of mandates since I found that depletes my energy. Figure out what works for you.
My Wellness Wheel Balancing Act
#1 - Physical Exercise
I leave myself wiggle room for the ups and downs that drive us to write in the first place! Having choices allows me to adjust to my mood and fatigue level, and to accomplish the work or maintain my most important relationships. I force myself to do half an hour of yoga in the morning and also at night. I will skip the night yoga if I walk the dog for that amount of time instead.
Unexpected health benefits:
- My level of headaches decreased to almost zero.
- My energy to run after injuries increased.
To keep myself motivated and to include my people, I signed the whole family up for a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving.
#2 - Eat Well
I credit my daughter's immune disease for making large changes to our family eating patterns. We try to eat clean and gluten free to accommodate her dietary needs. The older two daughters have gone vegetarian as well.
Fresh veggies, big box store meals in the freezer and healthy grab-n-go snacks help everyone stay on target with nutritious food within our budget.
#3 - Sleep
Wearing a health tracker has changed my views on sleep. Regular rest has helped my energy level and stamina - both in exercise and writing! Using a sleep mask and earplugs also made a difference in the quality of my sleep. I rarely stay up past 11 and always get up during the same 1-hour window. I allow myself to hit snooze on 'tired' days and I feel like I'm sleeping in. It works for me.
#4 - Professional reading and learning.
Writers have to exercise their brains. Even when I'm not taking classes, I have nonfiction and genre books around my nightstand. I tend to read before I go to sleep (and avoid thrillers) so I can get tired after reading a few pages. It keeps me abreast of what is new and interesting in my field and my mind mulls it over as I fall asleep. Win win.
#5 - Hobbies/ activities
I am a writer and spend time with writers and bloggers, which I find refreshing and fun. But my non-writer tribes keep me balanced as well.
One completely nonsense activity I relish is my neighborhood book club that opted *gasp* for movie versions instead. My 'Cinema Sisters' take turns hosting a cheap, low prep, movie night at each other’s house. We bring snacks and beverages to watch Hallmark movies or old throwbacks. One lady held hers docked on her husband's fishing boat where we watched the original "Overboard." Spending time with friends keeps the rest of the stressful things in perspective.
To sum up...
My journey to wellness requires regular maintenance and micro adjustments. Keeping tabs on myself allows me to be my optimal self in all the important areas of my life: spouse, parent, friend, and writer.
Check in with your wellness wheel this November and remember to take time to refine the best character of all - your own.
What has improved your writing life? Comment below to share your tips. Or, just share your favorite beverage and give Kris a warm welcome!
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K. Maze first clutched a crayon to record how the bird escaped the wired cage in Kindergarten and has been spinning tales ever since. Writing speculative stories stems from her reading classics by O Henry, Shirley Jackson, and Ray Bradbury. She's fascinated with strong female characters who tackle unbeatable odds. When Kris is not immersed in stories, she is outdoors hiking with her family and pets or pondering the wisdom of Bob Ross. You can follow her on her website: kmazeauthor.com.