Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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July 31, 2020

5 Steps to Better Writer Self-Care

by Kris Maze

Writing is hard work and it can take a toll on our well-being unless we advocate for better self-care. My recent experience of neglecting my healthy routine to focus on deadlines ended with ice packs and an avoidable headache. So, my writing peeps, here is a reminder to take care of yourselves. Be kind to you!

We create worlds out of nothing and breathe life into characters that didn’t exist before, but writers can forget to propagate this magic into their own lives. Stories take time and a tremendous cognitive load that our acquaintances may not fully understand. Emotional health is important for all people, but especially for creative, sensitive writer types.

Take some time to check in on yourself - you won’t regret it. *applies menthol to lower back*

My assumption is that, if you read articles in Writers in the Storm, you understand the importance of writing communities and their value in keeping your writer's perspective fresh. This rich tapestry of friends and resources is essential to a thriving writing life. Find those relationships that both bolster and push you further in your career.

Today I'm sharing five (5) practices for Writer Self Care that have made a difference for me personally. My hope is for you to add your own suggestions in the comments below.

I urge you to be gentle on yourself and tend to your most important creative tool: your well-being!

1. Create a positive mantra.

Get crafty and focus your intention with a few sentences to describe your desired outcomes.

  • Include words that describe yourself as the successful author life you strive for.
  • Describe what work you do and how it brings you and others joy.
  • Be specific, name what you want your work and life to be like and be extravagant.

Say it aloud. Write it with a fancy marker and feel it flow from your pen. Put it in a journal or a bathroom mirror where you can see it daily where it can draw you back into your writing flow. Come back to your mantra before writing and built it into your routine for added encouragement at any stage of your writing career. You deserve to rewire your thinking to be your optimal Writer Self. You may find your goals are not that far out of reach.

Looking for inspiration? Don’t have the energy to form your own saying? Here is a Goodreads list full of positivity.

2. Avoid getting overwhelmed.

Take bigger tasks and break down your work into smaller goal chunks. I add these to a checklist where I can mark off one or two goals I accomplish each day. Here is a blog post on time management tools to stay on track with writing projects. The article provides descriptions of technology used by many writers with pros and cons for each.

3. Celebrate Small Successes.

Find the little ways to make daily progress in your writing and reward yourself. Perhaps buy yourself a treat to celebrate - a special coffee mug that feels just right in your palms or soft slippers that feel so inviting they summon you from your bedside. Another writer treat might be a notebook with a funny saying or paper you can’t resist.

Your reward doesn’t have to be something purchased. The gift of time to read your favorite book or enjoy a phone call to a friend is rewarding. Are you a writer who gets up early to write in the wee hours? One way to appreciate your work is to enjoy the sunrise. Take a picture and send it to me! I am addicted to sunrise (and sunset pictures) and can feature them in a future post on my website.

4. Feed Your Creativity.

Find podcasts on writing or online shows that provide an audio version of writer advice. One that I often listen to while walking my dog is from DIY MFA where they have author interviews and craft lessons available. Pressing play while walking lets my brain relax and washes my mind with writing ideas. Your mind will begin to chew on these ideas and add substance to your writer’s life.

Feed your mind with author news, craft building ideas, and other author methods that you can glean from. Some will inform your work and improve your own life.

5. Take care of your body.

Find a physical activity and build it into your daily routine. Here is my Writers in the Storm post on writer stretches to help prevent injury from repetitive actions. Don’t deny yourself a few neck rolls or a quick stroll around the living room.

Listen to your body and it will help you write more!

Writers under intense deadlines need stretch breaks, but rest periods away from writing are beneficial also. Longer periods of exercise are opportunities to resolve plot issues and character development. A few of my writer peeps claim that training for Ironman Triathlons or taking extending bike rides improves their writing. Brain science studies also show that physical activity boosts mental health.

Many writers also use their physical hobbies for inspiration in their writing. Many went outdoors to recharge their creativity.

How are you finding energy for your projects? Do you have a writer's well-being tip to share? Add to the comments below and share with our Writers in the Storm community.

* * * * * *

About Kris

Kris Maze writes empowering, twisty stories and also teaches Spanish. After years of reading classic literature, mysteries, and legal thrillers, she sought to publish her own books. Her first Science Fiction novella, IMPACT, published through Aurelia Leo, is now available in PRINT COPIES!

Kris Maze is fascinated with strong characters like her protagonist Nala Nightingale, a teen journalist who reluctantly works with a crazed scientist Edison to survive an incoming asteroid implosion. For more information on her book, look here.

Check out her newly revised website and say hi!  While you are there sign up for her newsletter for updates on blog tours and media takeovers during the next couple months. There will be free resources for Writer Wellness Resources available during the month of August.  Sign up at her website here!

46 comments on “5 Steps to Better Writer Self-Care”

  1. I am fortunate to live close to the Kruger National Park and I find a trip into the bush, even for a couple of hours, goes a long way to re-charging my batteries.

    1. Greetings Glenda, from the opposite corner of the world! It would be amazing to unwind in a South African park and to get perspective, but for now I'm content in the Pacific Northwest. I bet you have plenty of inspiration from walking there. Do you include this setting in any of your writing?

  2. Given my lung issues, I've now been in lockdown for 4.5 months, and counting. More time at home has meant more time to work. I was taking daily walks, which helped a lot, but my neck aches had become bad enough that I was nauseous. Two months ago today I started yoga and that has aided me in multiple ways. It has all but eliminated the neck aches and any I get now are my own fault for not getting up from my desk often enough. Too, they're minor and brief. After a lot of decades of living I had the flexibility of iron. Yoga is reversing that. Perhaps the biggest benefit, though is mental. It's softening my isolation moods (I live alone), which in turn aids my focus writing. I can't recommend its multiple benefits enough.

    1. Hi Chrisina, I'm soooo happy you are finding success with yoga. I too have struggled with the boon of time to write, but the lack of exercise options that lead to back issues. Stretching. Strengthening. It's amazing how even after skipping the mat for a few weeks, trying again helps right away. Do you do your own routines or follow someone? I'm always curious what other yogis are good to follow!

      1. I follow Yoga with Adriene on YouTube, plus she has her own website. For most of these two months I've been learning beginner poses, adding one new pose each day. Thus, I'd go through those I knew and then watch a video. It's amazing how the time I expected to spend turns out to be much longer. Time has a way of disappearing when I'm relaxed.

        The last couple of weeks I've watched a few complete sequences. When meditation and physical growth combine is when I'm at my happiest. I love holding poses and going deeper. I'm increasingly gaining strength for holding Downward Dog, Plank, and others. I'm also thrilled that I can do Tree Pose, High Lunge, and others.

        Today is my two-month anniversary. How long have you been practicing yoga?

        1. She is a great yoga instructor to follow. Her personality and sequence of poses seems just right for me too as I can pick a session based on time. I agree that time flies and the benefits of feeling good after yoga are the best.

          I started yoga a couple decades ago when I was a beginning teacher and had an overwhelming moment of deadlines, due dates and expectations (sounds like writing, too!) At that time it meant pushing in the tape my roommate had sitting on top of the clunky TV/VHS combo. No yoga mat or other accessories. I was probably still in work clothes! I found over time that yoga kept me in my best form for teaching which easily translates to the writing life.

          Thanks for asking.

    2. Yoga saves me as well, especially after long hours at the desk. I have an exercise bike at home and exercise bands that also help loosen the joints and improve blood flow. And, walking my dogs regularly lets me work out plot knots. We have a park close by where the flora and fauna change with the time of day. Sometimes I meet a neighbor for a friendly chat. most often, I'm alone with my thoughts that seem to sort themselves out in the fresh air. working in the garden helps, except in July and August, when the heat is merciless.

      1. All so true, Michelle. Walking is excellent for sorting problems, and none more so than those that are writing related. Scenes play and replay in my head until they're right. Possibilities come and go. Alternatives I hadn't considered within my four walls present themselves. Nature is a salve and inspiration. I don't have a doggy, but there are those I regularly greet on the walking path. Do take care in that heat and beneath that sun.

  3. Maintaining equilibrium when you're in total lockdown since March in your retirement community, and, due to chronic illness, can only afford one short dip in the therapy pool and one easy trike ride on the greenway every week, is hard.

    The flip side is being able to write every day: when this is past, I can have either written or not, but only the former will make me happy. It's a powerful incentive to focus, block the internet, and attack the WIP.

    The work is coming along nicely - even though I still have to tear myself away from the (daily bad) news. I do the best I can - and ban unproductive guilt. Before finishing my mainstream trilogy, I will have to KEEP a quarter of a million words of the est. one to two million I write. I'm at almost exactly the halfway point. In another chapter, I will have as many words before me as behind, and I'm actually getting a bit faster.

    Never thought I'd be here, but here I am!

    1. Hi ALicia,
      Congratulations on getting in the words - that's an accomplishment for sure and it must feel great to close in on that goal! It sounds like you have limited options also for getting exercise. Even doing an overhead stretch at my seat helps or taking a lap around the living room can change up the momentum for my body and avoid the repetitive aches from hunching over my keyboard.
      Best of luck on finishing your Trilogy!

        1. Any movement forward is progress worth noting. Enjoy the journey and keep writing!

  4. Boy howdy did I ever need this today! Thank you KMAZE! <3 It is so easy to get bogged down in the grind and forget that if you're not OK, nothing else will be either. Put your own O2 mask on first!

    1. Exactly, Ericka! I too get bogged. So much to do and so little time. It's a great problem to have in many ways, but it still gets stressful.

      1. And with the basic day-to-day stuff of living being sooooo much more complicated now on top of just regular work issues....sheesh. I have been in a bad mood for a week straight. There's just so much to contend with. It's good to remind yourself that you're doing the best you can. Lower your expectations, BREATHE.

        1. Yes, it's easy to be hard on ourselves, but we don't need to be our hardest critic too! Especially when there are so many plates to juggle.

          Even with COVID, I'm prompted to take a camping R and R just to force myself to quit for a little while. It is hard since I am more comfortable when I am creating. So, taking a break with the option to write - for fun. 🙂

          (Side note - I realized that I used a Sheesh - and I rarely see that anywhere, and it's in your comment to Jenny! I'll call it a cosmic channeling of good vibes your way!)

    2. Hi there, Ericka!
      I definitely saw the connection to putting on masks to take care of ourselves first (but tip-toed around that since I know too many people who are cranky about that right now. sheesh.)

      Glad you could use the little boost today - writers need this reminder perhaps even more since we are constantly working with our minds. Take care and enjoy the weekend!

  5. Something that has saved me this pandemic is virtual workouts with a great instructor. Frankly, he kicks our butts, but his workout is also scalable, which I like.

    So, besides keeping me from getting too fluffy during this stay-at-home phase, I am much more full of Zen than I would have been. Plus, he encourages the kids to work out with you if they're home, which is fun for them, and places physical well-being on their priority list.

    The first session is free and he has a $100 unlimited sessions thing going right now with classes 5 days a week. http://www.pelayofitness.com

    1. Jenny,
      This is sounds like a great solution to not hitting the gym! Are these live classes?
      And... he includes the kids? Score on that gym class requirement (and calmer kids!)
      Thanks for this resource. Checking it out!

      1. These are absolutely live classes! We love them. He's M-T-W-Th-Sat, and will schedule individual sessions as well. He even has me boxing.

        1. I may have to get the sweat on! I'll see if I can twist a few arms and get others in the house involved, too! I'll have to look into this class more. Gratz Lots.

  6. I am finding meditation to be very helpful during lockdown. I've discovered that I miss it when I skip doing it. Working out also helps keep the brain less full of cobwebs.

    Having a writer's support group helps a lot, too. That has been a lifeline back to sanity for me on more than one occasion.

    1. Yes! Finding time to quiet the mind is so important. As is talking to other writers who get this crazy life. I am so glad we have this blog! 🙂 For me, if I don't get out into nature at least 3x a week, I am a very unhappy person. I walk until my mind is empty. Sometimes that takes 20 minutes, sometimes it takes an hour. But it is so helpful!

      1. I've never thought of walking until my mind is empty. I don't know why - it's a grand idea. My garden does that for me because those little plants NEED my focus. Pests and white fly are real problems. lolol

        1. Focus for sure, but watering and pruning back the crusty stuff seem to slow down the other parts that need a break for me.

          Gardening is my August theme of sorts - so be warned, there are a lot of plant puns on the horizon if you follow me on any of the social media things!

        2. I find that anything that forces your presence to avoid mishap can do this--for example, cutting up all the veggies for a salad--don't want to lose a finger? Pay attention! All your worries are forced to the back of your mind. This is part of the magic that allows us to get our best ideas in the shower. Whatever switches focus, can give your brain just enough leeway for creative, sometimes subconscious, problem-solving.

    2. Hi Ellen,
      As I have been interrupted no less than 20 times in the last 10 minutes, meditation is probably a very needed part of my routine, but also the hardest to stick to. Do you use an app or do you have a set method you use?

  7. Ha! Sheesh is my favorite non-swear swearword, along with RATS! (I am trying to clean up my mouth. God help me.) Good vibes right back atcha! 😀

    1. RATS is a perfectly acceptable non-swear word. Somehow Jack-nuts is thrown around our household at times. (and I cannot take credit for this nonsense gem.)

  8. I love this list!

    I do yoga, say affirmations, and keep sugar consumption to a minimum. If I skip even one of those things, my productivity tanks.

    1. Thanks, Amy! I've been mulling these ideas over for some time and have created a few checklists that I can use to track my productivity.

      I say track productivity with hesitation, because it isn't in a machine-like crank out the words type way, but out of encouragement for what I do complete. Checklists tend to boost my writing morale when I Feel like I'm spinning my wheels and I see how many writing tasks I do complete.

      It is also helpful to hand to the person asking what I actually do!
      If this is of interest, check my website for a freebie of checklists over the weekend. I'd love to share it with you and get your input!

  9. I have to admit that when it comes to self care, I'm not too good at it. I tend to put everyone else first and squeeze the "me time" into the occasional gap. One thing I like to do when I get the chance is to go wander in the local antique malls. They're a great source of inspiration for me. Nearly everything within their wall has a history. I get inspired looking through both the familiar and the more obscure objects I find. I wonder about the places they've been and the hands that touched them. It's a great mental exercise that rejuvenates me and gets my creative juices flowing again.

    1. Wow, Bob, that is a great description of how items translate their history. This shut down must make it hard to do that? We have a few stores like that open right now though. Are you able to visit them?

      Don't you also work at a music history museum? Where are your music characters in your stories?

      1. It was tough for a while, but the antique mall is open now. You just have to be masked and keep you distance.

        Yes, I do volunteer at the world's largest global musical instrument museum located right here in Phoenix. Unfortunately, it's still closed due to Covid and I miss it terribly. I do like to include music in my stories whenever possible. My short story "Treble in Paradise: A Tale of Sax and Violins" is very music focused. I actually used that story as a character study and wrote about the results in my first ever WITS post!

  10. "Cheese and crackers!" can come through in the clutch, too. LOL! (I'll let you guess what deity it's the sub for.)

    1. Hi Denise,
      It's okay to hit reset, too. I am now refreshed and pushing myself to get into a writing groove myself. Today I pushed through a word count that wasn't quite where I wanted it to be, but I added to my manuscript. I may try again this afternoon to fill in the gap. Writing is progress regardless of how many words. Hoping your August is going better!

    1. I too, am a fan of both of these. They almost don't feel like procrastination. I surprise myself with plot solutions when I take the time to take a break. Thanks for sharing this.

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