I'm going to share with you the number one, most important thing a writer can do for their work-in-progress. It's simple really and very often over looked. That thing is self care. Simple and yet so hard, I know because it's fraught with guilt. Why spend the time in a hot bath or a nice walk when I could be writing, making cookies, sending out cards, blogging, making contacts...etc. Why? Because if you aren't taking care of yourself-daily- it will show up in your work, your craft and your sparkle.
I can't tell you the number of writer's I've seen come out of a deadline bent over like an old man, wearing wrist braces, popping pain pills for bad backs, blinking at sunlight like a mole, their hair a neglected mess, thinking-shower? what's a shower... Food? I mean come on who has time to do anything but eat peanut M&M's while I write... How did I gain 20 pounds when all I eat is the scraps off the kids plates because I was writing? (Sound familiar?) The sad truth is this kind of self abuse shows up in your work. Agents and editors will ask-where's the sparkle? You'll stare at your work so hard that you'll miss obvious things like missing letters in words. You might tell yourself that self abuse is part of the writing life--but that is a lie. It does not make the work better. It will not get you on a bestseller list. So-right here, right now, sit up straight, put you hands on your rib cage, take a deep breath in for three counts and let it out slow. Feel better, don't you? Got blood flowing to the brain- and a sparkle in your eye.
Now- I don't care if you have to make sticky notes and put them on your screen, here are some things you should do every day to improve your craft.
1. Don't sit more than an hour at a time. Get up, take a stroll around your office/home. Set a timer if you must.
2. Hydrate. I don't mean soda or coffee (Sorry, Diet Coke drinkers, coffee lovers.). Get a pitcher of nice cool water and keep it nearby. Add lemon, lime or cucumber slices. Drink at least 8 oz an hour.
3. Stretch. Small things like the stretch of the ribcage mentioned above. Put your arms over you head for a count of ten. Roll your shoulders. Flex you wrists. Point your toes and flex your feet.
4. Nutrition. For goodness sakes, I don't mean diet. Yikes who wants to add that stress to this time of year, but put the candy away and make apple slices, grapes, pears. Stop and eat a real meal-complete with sitting at the table, silverware, maybe even a napkin.
5. Take a vitamin, if you feel a cold/flu think zinc. I keep children's chewables in the desk drawer beside my keyboard. Chomping down on a cherry flavored rino once a day can be fun.
6. Connect with a friend at least once a day. An e-mail, a phone call or even a letter.
7. Get outside for at least ten minutes. Breath in the fresh air. Swing your arms. Take a walk or merely get out on your patio or deck and stomp your feet and take in the view.
8. Pat yourself on the back. Even if you've only written one word and you hate it. You wrote that word which is more than most people can say. Be proud of what you do. Put your critical editor in a box for at least five minutes a day and tell yourself three positive things.
9. Smile. It's the best kind of face lift.
10. Laugh-even if you have to fake it- it helps with blood flow and tightens the core muscles.
Take care of yourself and it will show in your work. (And I get the added benefit of having you in my life that much longer.) Cheers~