Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Self Care for Writers

It's been a long busy summer filled with the demands of family and friends. Today the local school children go off to school. College starts this week. It is time to take a good hard look at ourselves and our personal goals.
Most writers (men and women) are highly sensitive to their environments. It's how we "come up with those ideas." We see things in different ways and open ourselves to experiences. In other words, many writers have very few personal boundaries. We see it. We absorb it. We let it get in our face. We let it take over our lives. (Whatever it is that currently fascinates us.) We get caught up in story or article or marketing or puzzle or plot and completely forget about the fact that we are in there somewhere.
Writers in sandwich generations find themselves caring for both children and parents. They find themselves writing at 2 am because that's the only free time they have. Sleep is not as important as deadline. Food is not as important as deadline-or worse, we write with a bowl of chips or candies beside us, talking with our hands but chewing with our mouths. We forgo exercise in order to get in one more page or plot point.
If you don't work outside the home office, then you may forgo haircuts, and shopping for anything but necessities-unless you are shopping for kids or parents. Because you are not even aware of yourself as a person. It's a great trick for story telling without author intrusion, but it is not a great way to live.
If you are not healthy, your stories suffer. I'm talking about mental health and physical health. Stop for a moment and step away from the big fat pile of stress in your life. View it as an uninvolved observer. Amazing isn't it?
Fall is a good time to look in the mirror and smile at the person you see there. Think about them as your best friend and the most important person in your life. Because -guess what-they are. All those people who depend on you -children, parents, editors, agents, readers-are shortchanged if you don't find the time to take care of yourself. Trust me, no one else is going to do it for you.
Make a plan to help yourself out. Think of a ten minute walk as important as picking the kids up from school-as important as revising that last page another time. If you get a rejection-stop telling yourself you're a loser who will never make it. Stop being embarrassed that you are somehow inferior. Neither of these things is true and you certainly wouldn't tell a friend that. Instead celebrate the fact that someone read your work. That you did the work and got it out there. Know that you will learn. You can't help but learn. Take breaks from writing if you need to. Take care of your health in small ways- switch from coffee and soda to ice or hot water with lemon. Make a rule that there is no food near your computer. Save that as celebration for finishing a page. Get up, walk away from your desk before you eat. My office is upstairs. All the food is downstairs. So I have to do at least two sets of stairs-down then up to eat anything. It pulls me out of the book, makes me aware of what I'm doing, and I like to think the exercise somehow takes a handful of calories off whatever I eat. Not into eating? (Well, some people aren't. I don't know them, but I hear that writers can forget to eat.) Set a timer in another room for 60 minutes. Yes, it pulls you out of your work, but it also means you have to get up and walk over and turn it off. It sets a limit which allows you to see what you can do in 60 minutes as well as making you move and stretch. A simple stretch can bring a new and brilliant thought into your head.
Now is the time, before Fall deadlines and queries and holidays, to notice the person in the mirror and take small steps to make them the most important person in your life. Your writing will be better for it. Hey, go out and buy yourself flowers-yes, even you guys. They will sit on your desk and remind you that you are more than what you do. Cheers~


Clarissa Draper said...

My husband went and bought us Wii fit. I didn't know that I would like it but I really do. And, it's got me off my butt and doing exercise. I guess that, and my daily cup of coffee is for me.

Clarissa Draper from Listen To The Voices

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Clarissa,

Thanks so much for stopping by. I think I want a wii. I hear it is good for exercise and movie downloads. :)


Marilyn Brant said...

Nancy, I could hug you for posting was EXACTLY the reminder I needed to read (now that it's after midnight, on a night I really need to get some sleep rather than spend more time working or catching up online ;-).

Thank you. xo

Linda Kage said...

Oh, I got a Wii Fit Plus for Christmas! It's wonderful. My husband and I have competitions over who can jump further in the ski jump. When I do the jogging event, I sit Lydia in her bouncer chair to watch and she gets into it, kicking her legs like crazy whenever I start jogging. So adorable.

And speaking of kids. I find more and more things in common between books and babies. I keep thinking, I need to take care of myself better so I can take care of her, which sounds so much like what you said here!

And both really do demand a lot of our attention. After getting Lydia to sleep at 2:30 one night, I still couldn't go to bed until after three because a new story kept me awake, brewing in my head.

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Marilyn,

Please do take care of yourself. I know you are on deadline and sometimes we forget ourselves most then. Cheers~

Hi Linda,

I'm seriously thinking I will have to ask Santa for a wii fit for Christmas. Sounds like a lot of fun. Hug your sweet baby for me!

Judy Croome said...

Too true!! And when I'm eating properly and exercising I write better 'cause I have more energy: I can do all of life's duties *and* enjoy guilt free writing time!

Its back to gym for me on Monday - spring is creeping in so it'll be easier to get up early.

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Judy,

Yay for your spring. Fall is coming in here, too. I love those two seasons. Thanks for stopping by~