Writers Self-Care

I'm not good at staying healthy and taking care of my body. I don't have a regular exercise routine, I don't pre-plan my meals or stick to a diet, and depending on my work schedule I either get too little sleep, or too much. 

What possessed me to open up Yoga With Adrienne on YouTube on my days off this week, I have no idea.

But you know what? It felt good. I loved being able to stretch out, get a work out in, and focus my mind to prepare for the day. 

Years back, I had gotten into the habit of doing yoga almost everyday, but then I randomly skipped a day and it all went downhill from there. Once you break a habit it's hard to get it back. I learned that the hard way the last few months when I took December off from writing my novel. Getting back into the habit of sitting down and writing has been difficult to say the least. 

A few days ago, I was talking with one of my critique partners and she was saying how essential her daily writing sessions have been for her life, and hated the idea of having to give them up for other things through the day. For most of us writers, getting in our daily writing time is hard because it's such an isolated thing. Particularly if you aren't getting paid for it. It seems selfish and guilt sets in.

On the Writing Excuses Podcast, Brandon Sanderson continually encourages writers to not feel this way, because our writing is an essential part of who we are and how we take care of ourselves. He says that when someone has a daily run or a weekly basketball league they go to, no one ever is like "Well, you're never going to be a professional basketball player or Olympic athlete so why bother?" We should have the same attitude towards our writing. Even if it doesn't pay you anything, that doesn't mean it's not important. 

It's just like me trying to fit yoga into my schedule. I could see the difference in my day after having that time to clear my head and take care of myself. 

A lot of times, I feel like people tend to look down and make fun of the self care trends. At least in the circles I run in. It's seen as excuses to go shopping, take a bubble bath, or binge watch something on Netflix. 

I'm not saying that those things aren't part of self care. They totally can be! But that's not all it is. Sometimes, you simply need to recharge and do something for yourself in order to help others and be more productive. Writing, reading, working on a creative project, and yes - sometimes binge watching something on Netflix - and taking care of your mind and spirit are just as an important part of self-care as physical exercise and diet are. 

But, sometimes we creative types need to take a break from those things too. 

Camp NaNoWriMo is starting up in April, and people all over the world will get to work on various writing projects. I've heard stories of writers not sleeping and forgetting to eat because they're so engrossed in what they're working on. Some writers will lie on the floor and mope because they can't figure out what to do next and think they're failures. 

But, there are moments when we use these activities as an excuse to not do other important things. That's not good either. 

A blog friend of mine, Brittany, wrote about "Adulting as Self-Care" the other day and how she might not like grocery shopping, but she likes the stability of knowing she and her family have food and are provided for. 

Sometimes you have to do some things you don't like in order to take care of yourself. We have to work a job we aren't in love with all of the time in order to get a paycheck. We have to sit down and pay our bills on time. We need to eat. We need to sleep. If what you're working on is stressing you out too much, focus on something else for a bit. You need stability and food on the table too.

I had the privilege of going to a night with Lin-Manuel Miranda at a theatre a year or two ago. (Yes, I was in the room where it happened. Sorry - couldn't resist!) He did a Q&A with the audience and someone asked "How do you respond when you want to pursue the arts and people tell you to get a real job?"

His response?

"That's good advice."

Yeah, I was slightly surprised too. But, his explaination made sense. 

He said that you should always do what you love, but you also need to pay your bills. You need to have health insurance. You need groceries. You need to take care of your family. Even if he didn't have the success he does now, he'd still be writing musicals because it's what he loves. But, he also would be working as a music substitute teacher to be sure that he and his family were taken care of.

Or there are the times when we focus too much on it. As important as making your creative projects a regular habit is, sometimes you need a break from your self-care.

There are a lot of moments when I get so engrossed in writing, that is stresses me out, and I see other parts of my life suffer because of it. I don't spend time with people I care about because I just have to get this chapter done, or I'll eat junk food all of the time because it's easier to eat at the keyboard, and I'll cut back on the hours I sleep because I need more time in the day to get my word count in for the day. 

Those aren't always good things either. 

starving artist.jpg

Or no matter what it is you do in life, it doesn't have to be just writing or being creative. If you aren't taking care of yourself, how can you do anything else well? It's all balancing act. 

Just some random thoughts I've been having on the subject lately. How do you balance self-care and also being sure you're productive? Also, I highly recommend a blog a friend of mine started called Help Mama Mediate. While it is for mom's and mediation (I'm not one, and I don't meditate really) she still discusses a lot with self-care and has some awesome tips and advice for being sure you take time out for yourself. 

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