I write every day. Whether that be on the latest book in the Red and Black series, a blog entry, or a marketing plan for my next book. Keeping up this daily discipline has helped me develop my craft, and finish the projects that I’m working on. This success is why I often recommend that people at least try writing every day. Especially to those who may be great at starting projects, but often get stuck before they get to the end.
As I’ve nurtured this daily writing habit, I’ve discovered that there are other things you need to stay on top of. Dare I say it, they’re often more important than the writing itself. At least, if you want to maintain a long term career.
Let’s break them down.
Sleep– This one may send you scratching your head. Did I write a post about the importance of writing first thing in the morning? Doesn’t that mean sacrificing sleep? Not necessarily. It took some trial and error, but by streamlining my morning routine, and trying to be in bed in between 10-10:30PM each night, I’m usually able to get in a good 7 hours of sleep.
As someone who’s struggled with insomnia for most of my life, I know what it feels like not to get the rest you need. When I’m consistently exhausted, my mental state takes a real hit. I have problems remembering things, and just putting two and two together. This doesn’t result in the best conditions for creating stories. When I’m well rested, I’m a much more efficient writer, and as someone who typically only has an hour to write each morning, I need to be sure I’m making the best use of the time that’s available to me.
Healthy Eating and Exercise– A couple years back, young adult author John Green embarked on a project called 100 Days, where he and his friend Chris dedicated a hundred days to eating better and exercising. During this transformation, John talks about how as a young man, he used to think that his mind and body were completely different zones, but realized, after taking better care of himself, that everything is connected.
As writers, we spend so much of our time in our own heads. In our efforts to craft better stories, it can be easy to skip on the fact that between our day jobs and writing, we spend the entire day starting at a computer screen. And that’s not good for us in the long term. Now that I’m in my thirties, I notice that if I skip my daily exercise (I go for a walk every day), I’m less likely to have energy. If I eat poorly (something that I honestly struggle with), I’m more likely to have an upset stomach or get a migraine, both things that have been known to steal away my writing time. If I want to keep writing a daily habit, I need to start by taking care of my body.
Time With Loved Ones– I begin writing at 7:30AM each morning. At 8AM, my husband leaves to go to work, and every morning I get up for ten seconds and wish him well before climbing back up the stairs and diving back in. Does this interrupt my flow? Yup. Do I regret doing it. Very rarely.
Most writers are introverts, and I’m no exception to that. I lived on my own for my senior year of college and discovered just how easy it was to cut off the rest of the world. But ultimately, it’s not healthy for me, nor is it fair to the people that I love. My relationships are what buoy me when my sales are down, or when I’m feeling inadequate. And as a fiction writer, I am primarily writing about people. How terrible a writer would I be if I didn’t have real life examples to pull off of?
Aside: It’s important to note here that just like you should value the people in your life, they should also value you and what is important to you. Partners who discourage you in your quest to write, whether it be in some misguided attempt to keep your expectations low, or (even worse) because they can’t bare that there’s a piece of your life that doesn’t revolve around them, are not valuing you back. If you are in a relationship like this, I would highly recommend having a serious discussion with your partner (maybe even with the help of a councilor) about the importance of supporting each other’s hobbies and dreams.
This post, as you may have surmised, is all about self care. This is something that I feel like the indie author community, in it’s quest to pump out content as fast as possible, doesn’t pay enough attention to. It’s one thing to neglect yourself in the short term, whether that be a couple days of poor sleep, or missing out on a night out with friends when you’re on a deadline. But ignoring your physical and mental needs in the long term can have consequences. Just ask the my lingering carpal tunnel syndrome, developed during my call center days in my early twenties, which still flare up a decade later.
If you’d like to learn more on the value of self care for writers, I’d highly recommend checking out The Healthy Writer by Joanna Penn and Dr. Euan Lawson, which talks about this topic in far more detail then I could in one blog post.