Sunday, November 15, 2009

The most important thing when writing...

The days are shorter and darker. We are halfway through nano and the Holiday season officially starts in just 11 days. Are you feeling the pressure? I know I am.
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~


Heather said...

How true. those ties when you brain just locks up as well ae a great time to get outside. A short walk, blood puping around teh body and the synapses start firing again.

Meg said...

Awesome list! I already do a couple of them, but am guilty of sitting my butt in the chair for hours on end.

I may have to print out your list. Tis a good list. :D

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Heather-so true. I think the blood pools in the bum and the brain isn't so fresh. lol. My dog takes me for a walk once a day.

Hi Meg, Thanks! I get caught up in the work and end up sitting too long. So I set the timer on my oven. Since it's downstairs, I have to get up to turn it off. :)

Ann Victor said...

oh dear! I think you wrote this post just for me Nancy! I'm guilty of losing the real world when I'm on a writing roll and before I know it I've got cramp in my shoulder, the whole box of chocoloates in the fridge has disappeared (Who ate them? Me? Never!) and daylight has turned to dusk. I'm going to try to set my alarm to remind me to break regularly! :)

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Ann, it is so easy to do, isn't it? Thank goodness for my timer. Cheers!

Jessica said...

Excellent post! I completely agree. In fact, last night I was tempted to stay up and write, but it was ten o'clock, I'd already written for an hour and I knew I needed to sleep and take care of myself. This just confirms that. *patting myself on the back in the least arrogant way possible* LOL

Every writer needs to read this!

Linda Kage said...

Wonderful advice, even for non writers. Thanks for the tip.

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Jessica, thanks! You deserve the pat on the back. :)

Hi Linda, thanks for stopping by. Your book comes out soon-we need to set up a blog.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

I love these tips! I'm going to print them off and hang them in my workspace as a reminder.

Marilyn Brant said...

Perfect post for me to read this morning, Nancy (*hiding my coffee cup and pouring a glass of water* :-). I actually have a much-needed workout scheduled today, which I KNOW I'd skip if I weren't meeting someone there. As much as I need the writing time, an hour away exercising has to be a priority sometimes. I just wish I'd remember to do it more often :). Thanks for the great reminder!

Nancy J. Parra said...

Thanks Jane, Thanks Marilyn...

I bought a seat that is supposed to help with back pain. I think it works because it is so uncomfortable that you are forced to get up. lol. Cheers!

Heather Snow said...

What great advice! Having a young one at home, I rarely get a chance to sit at the keyboard for hours (but when I do, I'm guilty of not doing any of those things!)

I think this applies to both jobs in my life...mothers of young children tend to neglect the self care, too.

That means I'd better pay double attention! :)

Great post.

The romantic query letter and the happy-ever-after said...

I love your list so much I can hardly stand it. Thank you so very much for sharing. I'm following and will come by often.
All the very best,

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Heather, hi Simone,

Thanks so much for stopping by. It is so true that mothers with young children need to be extra thoughtful about self-care. We don't think so, but truthfully children count on you to be healthy and happy so that you can take good care of them. Cheers!

Kerry said...

I am printing this one to put above my desk. Great stuff. Of course I should have been implementing it already but it is easier to feel like a real writer if we suffer for our art... Time to get up, stretch and go and make a healthy meal.