A Guide to the Care and Tending of Writers, Part Two
So, this week & last, we are on the topic of self care for writers. I know, wahk (that's the sound of a buzzer). But this is an important subject for you to pay attention to, so that you don't burn out. So listen up. But first, go read Part One. Because in that ditty, I wrote about how you can tell you're in overwhelm and need to take a break.
But, really? You need to give yourself a break every day. You're putting crazy energy out into the world as you write. Be aware of that and cultivate some time to yourself to get some of that energy back. And–if you are like me, at first you will have to force yourself to do this. If you're like me, you'll resist. You'll sit at the computer, certain that the words will come at any minute, sure that the fog of indecision will lift. But it won't.
You need to take a freaking break already!
And the one thing I've learned over years of doing this is that if you do these things, create, gasp, a routine of them, your writing will flourish. So here are some suggestions for incorporating self-care into your life:
1. Stretch. I'm working on getting up from the computer every 20 (okay, it is usually more like 40) minutes and doing a couple of simple stretches. This makes an enormous difference in how I feel at the end of the day.
2. Artist's Date. Julia Cameron advocates this in her book, The Artist's Way. It is something you do alone, and can be as simple as taking your journal to the coffee shop. Or going to an art gallery. Whatever makes you happy and fills the well. I'm lousy at doing this. Really lousy. But when I do, it is mind expanding.
3. Color. Like in a coloring book, the way you did as a kid. I'm not kidding, it is really relaxing. There's a whole series of Mandala coloring books you can get if that makes you feel more adult. Or scribble shapes on a pad of paper and color in the blanks. Here is a really cool link I found where you can print separate pages out.
4. Read. As I've mentioned a time or two before, if you're a writer, you need to read. Words in, words out. If I'm putting a lot of words out on the page, I need to pull a lot of them in as well. And, it is relaxing.
5. Walk. Get thyself out of the house and into the fresh air. Carry index cards or your phone to take notes on (I highly recommend Evernote) because you will get ideas that you will want to write down.
6. Enjoy a hobby. Cook, bake, garden (come to my house and pull some weeds if you like). Knit, crochet, sew. I used to think that doing creative projects other than writing pulled me away from my writing–but really, it just enhances it.
7. Get a mani-pedi. Or just a pedi. Guys, you too. Hit a salon that has a massage chair and you'll have a relaxing time, while your feet get spiffed up, too.
8. Get a massage. I've had the enormous luxury of getting a chiropractic massage weekly (thank you, health insurance) this year. This is because my body is a bit out of whack. The massages are helping me physically, yes, but also mentally and emotionally. Well worth it.
9. Sit under a tree. When my kids were little, upon occasion we would visit the nearby park and I would let them play while I sat a picnic table and wrote or simply pondered life's issues. Getting out into nature is soothing in a way nothing else is.
10. Get outta town. Okay, so I am fortunate to live in Portland, Oregon, where the ocean is an hour in one direction and the mountains an hour in the other. But do I avail myself of these delights? Rarely. Don't be like me. Take a day trip.
11. Meditate. Or, keep it simple and not so scary and just pause and take some huge deep breaths every so often throughout the day.
12. Do nothing. Closely related to #11. Just sit and do nothing. Or stand and do nothing. Or lie down and do nothing. Wait, better skip that last one, because if you're like me you'll fall asleep. Which actually isn't a bad idea–napping is good, also. Honestly, think about it–when is the last time you let yourself really do nothing? I know, ages ago. Me, too.
What else? Well, what relaxes you? What makes you happy? Make a list–and then indulge yourself once in awhile. Blame it on me if you must, but do it.
Do you build time into your day or week for self care? What's your favorite thing to do?