Self-care for Writers (and other lonely creatives)

I’m taking a break from writing. Not for any dramatic reason. I’ve turned in a massive novel to my agent (I threw away half the book and rewrote it before I was happy, so it was a mammoth piece of writing), I have a Hobverse novel that I’m planning to publish with the Skolion writers’ co-op that’s in edits at the moment, I’m waiting on beta-feedback for another novel and I’m just feeling a little flat.

I’ve decided to take a break from trying to force words and rather wait until it’s time to revise the beta-novel. Weirdly, it tends to make me feel guilty when I don’t write, even though I am well aware that simply putting words down in a document is not writing. I need to give myself permission to sit back, let the well refill and my dreaming brain turn over.

Writers can be extra-ordinarily bad at self-care, especially those of us who work from home and/or rely on someone else for income support. Not being financially stable can make us feel guilty about everything, like we’re failures at humaning. Almost every writer I know is an anxiety-ridden mess of feels.

 

I can’t tell other people how to take care of themselves. What I can do is share the little things that I’ve found work to keep me a bit more even. So here goes.

  1. Be kind to yourself. It seems so trite and obvious, but creative people are often incredibly hard on themselves and unable to see the worth in what they do. Without art, without imagination, without stories, the world would be a dull and miserable place. We are the line that keeps humans human. Treat yourself the way you treat other creatives.
  2. Make lists. If, like me, you struggle to feel on top of things, use a site like ticktick to make a to-do list. Don’t set yourself up to fail. My to-do list includes daily things like: make my bed, take meds, read for half an hour, eat lunch. I’m serious. Friends of mine who swear by to-do lists also suggest putting fun things on the list to make you more likely to actually face your day. I like this idea and I’m going to start using it.
  3. Limit social media. Even introverts can end up feeling incredibly isolated when working from home. Sure, we like to work alone and uninterrupted and we like to know we can choose who we interact with, but being shut off from others totally can feel a little depressing. I’d suggest adding a hobby (one that gets you out the house) to your life and interact with humans that way, rather than turn to the easier escape of social media. I don’t *hate* social media, but more and more these days it feels to me like a poisonous replacement for proper human interaction. I don’t think it does the mental well-being of many of us any good.
  4. Read for the sheer pleasure of it. I’m going to guess most of us became writers because we were readers. Because stories opened up worlds for us. Too often these days I see writers who only ever seem to read How To Write/Publish/Market books instead of reading for the sheer love of reading. How-to books have their place, but if your reading list looks like a textbook list for a marketing course, it might be time to sit back and remember why you became a writer. What the IMPORTANT stuff really is.
  5. Daydream. Daydreaming, whether while napping or taking walks or running marathons, is the most important thing writers can do. Yes, you need to get those stories down eventually, but if you’re not giving yourself the space to dream them up first, you’re doing yourself a disservice.
  6. Try something new. Go do something you’ve always wanted to. Go take singing lessons, adult ballet classes, bag some munros, take a painting workshop or a cooking class. Sometimes we get so caught up in writing out worlds, we forget we also live in one. There are a million things out there for us to do, and interesting things happen to your brain when you try them.
  7. Remember your friends. Call someone you haven’t seen in a while, go have cake or wine, go see a show together. Writing can be a lonely place and we get so cocooned in story threads we forget there are people out there who care about us, people we love and want to be around. Sometimes you need to make time just to be a friend.

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cat_hellisen

I write.