There are many great books on writing in general, and fiction writing in particular (ahem, if I may draw your attention to the one below for instance…). Those books are meant to offer the best advice—and motivation—on how to do that miraculous, remarkable thing.
And there are many books and blogs and articles for anyone who is in search of physical and emotional self-healing.
Now and then, writers can find wisdom and solace in self-caring books that cater to them especially as artists such as THE ARTIST’S WAY by Julia Cameron and IF YOU WANT TO WRITE by Brenda Ueland.
I love those two books because it acts as cheerleaders to keep me writing without despairing of my progress and purpose as a writer.
And yes, I highly recommend those books for your virtual or real library shelf as go-to companions for those lonely, frustrating days when writing seems fruitless and pointless.
But it’s also important to have a daily self-care routine.
Writers often work in solitary situations and often without encouragement or feedback from surrounding individuals we interact with in different ways—a spouse, co-workers, friends.
Our cohorts are not always understanding of our creativity and the creative process which usually demands a lot of solitude and down-time.
As Brenda Ueland said, “Imagination needs noodling–long inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering.” Not everyone understands this need!
I am not psychologist, but having been a writer since childhood so long ago, and witnessing hundreds of writing students as both a classmate and teacher, I can identify some behavioral patterns that call for immediate self-caring.
Here are some warning signs that writers should be aware of:
–Lack of sleep caused by worrying over the manuscript. Well, that happens, but sleep should be replenishing because your active brain needs to rest as well and allow the other parts—the dream-factory areas—to emerge and give you more ideas.
–Short temperedness/moodiness. Be careful. Not everyone will comprehend these reactions. Your mind is elsewhere and on your story, and so when you need to be part of society again, you have to return and be in the moment of your life with others whether it’s at home or work (the other work).
–Hygiene breakdowns. Oh, a bad sign. Unless you are lucky enough to work non-stop because your editor is demanding your manuscript for a publication deadline, then dishevelment is acceptable. Otherwise it’s not at all healthy and often a sign of…
–Depression. Creative people do go through this a lot especially when a rejection of our work annihilates our enthusiasm and hope and happiness too. The best solution is to get back to work on something new.
–Bingeing on anything (food, alchohol, drugs, Netflix, back issues of The New Yorker, even reading loads of other writers’ fiction). This is really procrastination, which is a sign of fear, which also leads to guilt and depression because you are not writing.
One solution is to take short breathers away from the writing. Physical movement is good. Julia Cameron recommends walking at least 20 minutes every day.
She also suggests morning pages (a three page journal writing when you wake up), and my favorite–an “artist’s date” in which you take yourself out for an outing with just you and your inner artist to do anything YOU want to do.
Writing demands mental and physical stamina. Writing takes energy and concentration. It also acts on rewards. Reward yourself every time you write—even if it’s a few kind supportive words.
You deserve it!
If you become physically ill from writing due to stress, or discouragement, then perhaps you are in need of a community that can help you get through those times when writing is harmful and not the liberating creative joy it should be.
If you can, join an online group or one in your area. Most writers are shy, so you shouldn’t feel deterred if you are also reticent.
Writing classes or a group to share work and advice even on a monthly basis are terrific motivators and will give us fresh perspectives and others to simply talk to about our stories.
We need community as much as solitude. But it should be of like-minded, helpful people doing the same sort of thing—writing! In other words, we need a tribe to belong to.
Marketing guru Seth Godin stated that for “millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.”
Find your tribe and continue to write on your own. But whatever you do always check in with your needs before and after you write, and don’t forget to at least say something kind to yourself, even if it’s “I tried.”
“Never be afraid to sit awhile and think.”—Lorraine Hansberry, American Playwright, Writer.
P.S. Need help and inspiration in writing GREAT fiction?
Find both in my writing guidebook: THE FICTION PRESCRIPTION: HOW TO WRITE AND IMPROVE YOUR FICTION LIKE THE GREAT LITERARY MASTERS.
NEW! Now in paperback: https://amzn.to/2WwRXgE
Irene’s WRITING WISDOM DAILY DIGITAL CALENDAR with great quotes by great writers is now coming to you every day in your email inbox (check your spam files if you are not receiving them).