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  • Writer's pictureStefanie Barnfather

How To Stay Sharp

Since the dawn of modern creation -- five years ago -- a debate has raged about the best mental, physical, emotional and spiritual state artists must be in to produce great work.

First of all, step back from that nasty word: "great". ART IS SUBJECTIVE (I will repeat this until I die) so the definition of "great" can be as slippery as an eel. Or a bottle of bubbles. Or a water slide. See? Just like art, these similes hit different because ART IS SUBJECTIVE. So, if you can't produce "great" work, you get to produce "work you think is great" -- a crucial distinction. That's why it's important to find the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual state that best supports your writing. When your whole self is supported you can create work that makes you happy. If you're happy, your target audience will be happy. If your target audience is happy, you'll be happy. When you're happy, you'll keep creating work that makes you happy -- and the cycle continues until you make your first billion (tee hee hee).

Humans need to be maintained like machines. If you keep your car running in tip-top condition it won't fail you in the middle of a horrendous rainstorm on treacherous mountain roads when you're travelling at high speeds in bumper-to-bumper traffic. If you keep your mind, body, heart and soul in tip-top condition, they will sustain you during those moments of writer's block, doubt and fear -- or when you're being harangued by headline harpies. Here's how you can stay sharp in order to produce the work you think is great.



  • Water -- drink water

  • Take your vitamins -- naturally-sourced are better, if you can get them (fruits and veggies)

  • Dense carbohydrates (sweet potatoes, high-fibre breads, whole grains)

  • Daily exercise -- ten to twenty minutes of gentle calisthenics can make a world of difference

  • A consistent routine -- check out this blog for information about why routines are game-changers

"The body loves routine... the body loves consistency." Theresa Hearn Haynes


  • Water, water, drink water -- why have I repeated this three times? Here's why!

  • Listen to your favourite music -- it soothes the savage beast (I made that up, feel free to quote me, no, don't, I'm poorly paraphrasing William Congreve)

  • Talk it out with sympathetic friends or family -- or a trained therapist

  • Non-judgment -- and start with self-love

Everyone -- EVEN THE PEOPLE YOU DISLIKE OR DISAGREE WITH* -- possesses something of merit. Know your value. Know what makes you wonderfully special. It's there. Please take the time to find it.

  • Feel To Deal -- if you pretend you don't have emotions, or pretend you don't have a range of emotions (including the scary ones), there's a high likelihood those emotions are going to show up whether you want them to or not.**


  • Smoke or consume LEGAL weed/cannabis/pot/edibles/ganja/reefer/grass (muahahahaha)

  • Contribute to a supportive community -- preferably one that likes you

  • Practice self-acceptance (sensing a theme here, friends?)

  • Remember why you started writing in the first place -- REMEMBER WHY YOU LOVE ART

  • Believe in something larger than yourself -- a divine purpose, a higher power, your communal connection, a personal calling to strive for an ideal

Hope these are helpful! Let me know if I've missed any tips for cultivating a whole self that stays sharp.

Please keep in mind that this long list of suggestions might be impossible to integrate into your writer's life. Pick and choose what you like, then discard the rest. Or discard them all, then tell me what you do that helps you write your favourite stories.

*I'm not someone who believes in the concept of "bad people vs good people". The percentage of humans who engage in behaviours that cause extreme harm (death, debilitation, dehumanization) is actually very small. Check this out. Also, systems, environments, time and self-harm significantly impact a person's "pleasantness" -- because of this, I choose to believe that the overwhelming majority of people have merits that can contribute to a robust, compassionate, collectively-reflective society. How we, as individuals and communities, choose to assign worth to those merits is up to those same individuals and communities to evaluate and, occasionally, challenge. Okay. I'm done soap-boxing. Thank you for straying down this differently-cobbled path.

**I'm not qualified to expand on the psychology of this, regardless of my personal experience with repression and denial, so please check out this article for the scientific scoop.

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