Writing Self-Care Routine
In any creative career (or hobby, or passion) it's important to take time to recharge. Writers are expected to come up with clever, insightful, entertaining, challenging, flawlessly-executed, ORIGINAL work on a regular basis, so there's a lot of give give give when you're an artist -- and not nearly as much "get", especially when you're starting out.
It's important to find ways that work for you to reclaim your energy so you can continue to be the crafty genius your ego says you are. If you don't step back, assess your work, then do what you need to do to get up and go, you'll burn out -- and do you really want to be that person who writes one great novel when you have a universe of stories to tell?
Here are my favourite ways of recharging when my brilliance battery is low.
When Your Social Meter is Spent
Not every artist is an extrovert. In fact, most writers are introverted, which means socializing can be draining. Though many of us fall into the greyish middle of ambiversion, every creative can get tapped out when the schmoozing and boozing becomes too much. But, in a people-driven industry, connecting with people is important. If you don't hang with your audience, how will you write stories that resonate with them? Lots of creatives avoid in-person settings and stick to online discourse (though social media can burn you out, too) but sometimes being around readers and industry pros is necessary. Pitch meetings, book fairs, trade shows, club readings and signings are useful, but they can be a downer. Here are some tangible tricks to try to recover:
Baths -- ease those tired muscles and sore back from sitting on a folding chair at your launch event
Water -- flush those cells with H20
Complex carbohydrates -- when you burn calories talking, selling and explaining your stories you need to replace them
Sleep -- allow your subconscious self to work through your overwhelm and turn your social experiences into memory (not ever-present annoyances -- why did that one guy give me that weird look that one time?)
Chocolate -- trust me: The Surprising Benefits of Chocolate
A vent session -- don't allow a stray word or a rude public insult to fester. Get it out! Shout to the heavens! Externalize your pain (in a safe environment, away from people you might harm with your vitriolic rhetoric and for a monitored time period -- I recommend 10 minutes MAX)
Tea -- mmmm, leaves and hot water and soothing steam
Chats with a loving and sympathetic friend -- being validated by someone who cares about you HELPS
Hugs from a partner -- physical intimacy from someone who cares about you HELPS
Watch uplifting videos or read science-driven books about the goodness of humanity -- remembering that people are awesome even while they steal your energy HELPS
Here are some fun resources:
When Your Creative Juices Are Dry
If you've just finished a marathon writing session, or have a deadline approaching, or your readers are desperate for your next story, you might hit the dreaded Writer's Wall. You sit in front of your screen: empty brain. You pick up your pencil: no ideas. You stumble upon a hole in your plot: ahhhhhhhhhhh, why aren't solutions easy to find? Sometimes you don't need inspiration or motivation to keep writing -- you need a break. Here's what I like to do when my mind is blank:
Water -- HYDRATE YOUR DAMN SELF
Caffeinated coffee or tea -- fire up your neurones and take advantage of the momentum
A run or brisk walk around the block -- when your body gets moving your heart pumps harder, your blood circulates better and flooding your brain with an influx of 'life' might get those ideas moving, too
A healthy stretch, accompanied by a satisfying yawn -- if your body is tense, your thoughts might be stuck
Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Settle your nervous system to let your creativity flow freely.
Read your favourite writers. Remember why you do this.
Watch your favourite movies or shows. Remember why you love stories.
Talk with your favourite creative collaborators. Remember why the arts community kicks ass.
Do a timed non-judgemental brainstorming session. Remember that ideas come easier when you aren't afraid of the weird ones.
Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
A stiff drink (just one) -- relax, bro
A nibble of edibles -- relax, girl
Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Seriously. Chill. How can you write, unburdened, when you're carrying the weight of your own expectations?
Paint, or do other crafts, or make music -- utilizing different aspects of your creativity can give your critical writing mind space to find the story it's searching for
Sing or dance (with a group is best* but if you're terrified of judgement, like me, breaking out the diva persona in your living room is just as satisfying) -- this gets you out of your head and into your body (and connected with community)
Sit in nature -- trees mountains lakes fields sand pits air, ammi right?
Sit in silence -- I highly recommend a daily meditation or yoga practice: here's why
Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. For the love of Pete, breathe.
When Your Thoughts Are Too Tumbly To Track
Maybe drawing a blank isn't your problem. Maybe you love spending time with people. Maybe you have too many ideas, too many WIPs and not enough focus to actually finish what you've started. Here are some things I like to do when my stress response kicks my thoughts into high gear:
Run. Jog. Skip. Play. Swim. Sport. Burn off your energy to let your mind settle.
If you have a medicinal prescription, TAKE YOUR FUCKING MEDS. Every day. On time. Not when you remember, or feel like it, or when "things" are "worse". Take them consistently, following your doctor's advice. Then "things" won't get as "worse".
Beat the shit out of a pillow. Or throw an axe at something. Rage Rooms are awesome.
Work out your excess energy in an... "adult" way: The Benefits of Pleasure
Write everything down -- track those ideas and come back to them once you've finished your story
Create a schedule / checklist / goal document -- you might be stressed about big picture career management, so clarifying your targets could calm those twirly thoughts
Start a journal of non-judgement -- have you heard of THE ARTIST'S WAY?
Do a puzzle, bake something, clean your house or play a video game -- the assembly of external tactiles can assemble your internal ideas
Step away from your socials -- I don't know about you, but the opinions of thousands of other people can really mess with my filters
Yell. Maybe your rapid thoughts are due to pent up frustrations.
Talk to your pets. Or partner. Or plants. Or random strangers on the street. Maybe your rapid thoughts want a sounding board.
Watch or read a story that hits your trigger point so you can have a good cry. Maybe your rapid thoughts are a coping mechanism to help you manage the global sense of ennui your empathetic soul has been picking up on these last three years. I'm sorry, I meant last three millennia. There are incredible benefits to catharsis through entertainment.
Speak to your "higher power" -- you might find clarity with a mentor
Yell at your "higher power" -- you might feel better after an existential blame session
Mourn with your "higher power" -- you might need support from a community of peers
My preference is to break down the components of our creative selves into sections, but if you have broader ways of exploring your psyche, please feel free to share! The more we contribute to these conversations the more we collectively learn and grow.
Hope you found these suggestions helpful. Have a great week -- and take care of yourself! The world needs your words.
*this article is about the benefits of singing/dancing for children, but fuck it -- it totally benefits adults as well