by Sarah (Sally) Hamer
Writers are notorious for spending a lot of time alone, sitting too long in front of a computer, not socializing, and just not taking care of their health. These habits often get even worse during November because of NaNoWriMo. Are you one of those folks? Why? There are ways to make self-care much easier.
Self-care seems to be a buzz-word lately—when you search for that word, you get six billion hits. I don’t see this as a negative, because I believe that each of us has our own definition of exactly what self-care means. I also believe that most people think it’s only physical. It’s true, the physical side of caring for ourselves is extremely important. But it’s not the only thing we need to address when finding a pathway to be a happy, healthy, productive, and successful writer.
Here are some tips!
It really is the easiest. But a big problem is that every one of us is different. What do YOU need to do to keep your body in tip-top shape?
Eating is also important. Heavy foods make me sleepy so, when I’m on a deadline, I try to stick with salads and soup. But you may need the carbs bread or pasta contains to jump-start your brain. Whatever works best for you is what you should do, as long as you feed your body. I also believe you should plan time for a walk or some fun.
I know it can be hard when you are already trying to carve time out of your day to write, but doing something physical often helps my brain to work through whatever snag I’ve come up against. So, throwing a load of clothes into the washer or starting supper helps that amazing plot idea to step up and find its way to the front of my brain where I can write it down.
And, last but not least, a good night’s sleep is an amazing way to upgrade your brain. A nap isn’t bad either.
Writing can be lonely and exhausting. So, instead of hours by yourself, create opportunities to get away from that darned computer.
Give your brain time to refresh with something else. I think of my brain as just another muscle and I try to exercise it in different ways and with other people as much as I can. There are hundreds of writing groups out there, with thousands and thousands of writers, many of whom would like a friend to talk to.
I teach both at a local university and online and I often see students “pair off” in a writing relationship. There are dozens of other ways, I’m sure, and I suggest you find one if possible.
This does NOT mean you have to critique for someone else, if that isn’t your goal. But just having someone else who also has voices in their head is wonderful. Remember, those voices are probably just the characters arguing—and only a writer can understand that voices don’t mean you’re crazy!—but having someone to laugh about it with and pulling yourself out of the process for a little while can help a story to solve itself.
Creative people are infamous for allowing their art to suck their soul away. Having a good relationship with yourself makes all the difference. How does that work? By being kind to you. Some people set unreachable goals and then beat themselves up. Some are afraid, whether of success or failure, and don’t ever finish a book. Some don’t ever believe they are good enough to succeed. Deep inward searches can help to uncover things that might be stopping you from achieving your goal. I suggest journaling—just a form of writing!—and digging into the things that hold you back. No one ever has to read what you write in a journal, and it is an amazing tool.
Another thing that can suck our soul away is letting others tell us, sometimes in ugly ways, who we are or how we write.
Today’s world of anonymous internet allows people to harm without real consequences and that by itself sucks. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between constructive criticism and just downright meanness, but there is definitely one there. Ignore the hate. Listen to suggestions—after all, we can all improve our craft—but write your own story. Remember why you write in the first place. Honor your creativeness and allow life to inspire you.
A good, solid balance between writing and your physical, mental, and spiritual health can not only save you from fatigue, writer’s block, and broken relationships, it allows your creativity to flow.
What are some things you like to do for self-care? Is there something effective you do that didn't make my list? And for the NaNo crowd, does your self-care change during NaNoWriMo? Please share down in the comments section!
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Sarah (Sally) Hamer, B.S., MLA, is a lover of books, a teacher of writers, and a believer in a good story. She’s passionate about helping people tell their own stories and has won awards at both local and national levels, including two Golden Heart finals. A teacher of memoir, beginning and advanced creative fiction writing, and screenwriting at Louisiana State University in Shreveport for over twenty years, she also teaches online for Margie Lawson at www.margielawson.com. Sally is a free-lance editor and book coach, with many of her students and clients becoming successful, award-winning authors.
Her current project is a Self-Care for Writers Symposium with numerous other writers coming up in March 2024. For more information, email her at email@example.com or visit the website www.mindpotential.org.
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