Us writers are strange creatures. Many would assume that we are self-indulgent, given that we spend hours every day typing out our thoughts and visions. Over time, this has given way to an image of writers all over the world sitting serenely next to a steaming cup of coffee, pondering the view over whichever idyllic landscape they find themselves in and then, eventually, exhaling slowly and typing their memoirs until they are provided with their next snack. The reality, however, is far less charming. If fellow writers are anything like me, writing is a process by which you retreat further and further into yourself, until daily human practices are rendered superfluous. So, in celebration of finishing my new book, here are a few self-care tips for writers.
1. Observe general hygiene. No shortcuts. Even when you're behind on your word count. Even if you've had a flash of inspiration, quickly jot it down on your phone or write a few prompts on your manuscript. It is amazing what brushed teeth, a clean face and relatively under-control hair can do for your general self esteem.
2. Exercise. This may seem obvious, but it's the obvious things that escape us when you're under stress. Staying indoors all day seems like a necessary sacrifice to finish your work, and nobody is expecting you to complete a 3-hour gym routine, emerging from your writing process like some sort of chiseled yet eloquent demigod, but it is amazing what half an hour of moving can do for your state of mind.
3. Choose who you talk to about your book wisely. As a writer, you get two types of friends. The friends that understand the writing and publishing process and those that ask inconvenient questions such as: "Oh so you're writing a book! Who's your publisher?" "Wait, you're writing a book but don't have a publisher yet?" "How much does a writer make?" or "Have you heard from the agent/publisher yet?" I used to be the type of people that would get all sorts of friends, acquaintances and random baristas at the local coffee shop in the ups and downs of my literary career. Now I know better and only confide in a small group of like-minded friends.
4. Protect your words. Writers love to write, but often we don't channel our words correctly. If you're spending your whole day writing blog posts, tweets or emails to others, conduct a little experiment. Copy and paste all the writing you did that was not absolutely necessary (ie. it was not part of the communication/output needed to keep your job and relationships) into one word document. Then measure the word count. If that word count is more than the book that you can't find time to write, well, there's your problem.
5. Give yourself time for art. Creative output requires creative input. If you just write all day you will soon run dry. So allow yourself time to get inspired by art, TV series, other books or nature. During these times you will usually get your best ideas. At the end of my last book, I felt like everything was inspiration and would come home with loads of notes on my phone to fuel the next day's writing.
6. Write. The best thing you can do for yourself is give yourself the chance to write. It may hurt, it may feel hard-going at times, it may make you feel terribly poor and unsuccessful compared to your corporate friends, but you have to give your idea a chance to be seen to completion.
7. Get something small done everyday. Not every day is going to be the most inspired one. On these days, focus on something else like refining the plot outline, researching or reading writers that inspire you.
Unless writing novels has become a job someone is employing you to do, chances are you don't have an HR manager focussing on your wellness. So remember you are worthy of care, you are worthy of rest, and, while only a handful of people may know it, you are creating something spectacular.