Self-care for writers can be extremely confusing. Often, non-writers will be told to write as a form of self-care — Journaling, Morning Pages, Mindmaps, Reflective Exercises.
But, most likely, if you’ve spent all day focusing on the minute details of a sentence or the placement of that pesky comma to indicate a dramatic pause, you won’t really want to write anymore.
What can make it even more confusing is that writing often comes from a place of emotion.
Whether you’re working in the headspace of a character in a tight spot at the climax of your novel, sketching out the draft of a sonnet with perfect iambic pentameter, or pouring out your family history and soul-searching for your memoir — when you’re writing, you’re usually focused inward.
And that’s often what self-care is for, right? We’re told to make sure we’re focusing on ourselves, looking after our inner world.
So the question is then, how are writers meant to do self-care? Well, I’m here to help, with my top 3 self-care tips for writers:
1. Make self-care a practice
‘Self-care is something that nurtures you right now, and prompts your health in the future nourishing your ‘future self’.’Self Care For Tough Times by Suzy Reading
In her book, Suzy Reading gives the analogy of self-care being the equivalent of planting a seed. You need to nurture that seed to see results, right? For it to grow.
In other words, you need to consistently not just nourish your need for self-care whenever it arises, like when you’re burnt out from writing or feeling low on creativity, but make a practice that you can come to regardless of how you’re feeling.
And the easiest way to do that is to be mindful, for example:
- Counter-act your intense writing session with a simple breathing exercise to bring you back into your present surroundings.
- Try out a couple of calming yoga poses like child’s pose if you’ve written a particularly harrowing piece.
And better yet, know that it’s OK to stop or take a step back if your body or mind says so.
2. Detach yourself from your work
‘Being an artist means: not numbering and counting [the years], but ripening like a tree, which doesn’t force its sap, and stands confidently in the storms of spring, not afraid that afterward summer may not come.’Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
If you’re a writer, it often means your inner world is really strong. That’s where we get all these cool ideas for things to write from, right?
But because of that, it means we can often spend so much time in the headspace of our work in progress (WIP) that we neglect our outer worlds.
We define ourselves as writers and base our life around that, making time to think and plan and write whenever we can.
But, assessing yourself outside of your writing can do wonders!
This is for two reasons:
- You’re helping your present and future self (which is another way Suzy Reading defines self-care). Because, it’ll be extremely useful in the editing stage to know how to detach yourself from your work. The further away you are emotionally from your work, the more you’ll be able to look at it is as just a hunk of words to chop down rather than your beloved piece.
- You’re helping tackle imposter syndrome. Which, as a writer myself, I know is one of the biggest challenges writers can face. (But see the next point for more on that).
A way I take a step back from my work is by having a pen name/stage name.
I know when I’m on stage that I’m PM, I have to be switched on, I have to perform, I have to be confident and deliver. But when I’m off-stage, because I’m not PM, I’m Priyanka, I can detach that part of myself from my everyday life.
3. Focus on your other qualities (tackling imposter syndrome)
‘[Confidence] is not about faking or pretending to be something you’re not. A true actor uses themselves to inform 95% of the character they are playing. The key to great communication is to use more of yourself, with skill. This is what a good actor does.You brand: A Manual for Confidence by Julia Goodman
Now, this quote blew my mind when I read it. It’s basically another way of re-phrasing the sentiment of you are already good enough the way you are or you have all the tools inside you to achieve XYZ writing goal.
But it’s something I never would have thought about unless it was told me that way!
Imposter syndrome or self-doubt or any kind of insecurity often arises from us feeling like there’s something wrong with ourselves, right?
But, maybe we’re just not looking inwardly at ourselves enough.
Now, this might counteract what I said earlier, but I’m not talking about the inner world that you use for writing. I’m talking about what’s beyond that – you AS a person, NOT a writer.
So in the previous example, I gave with my stage name, I can often get feelings of imposter syndrome about that.
Like I’m putting on a persona, I’m a fraud, and especially if someone gives me an opportunity I always question whether or not I’m worth it.
But a good way to overcome that is just to list traits about yourself that aren’t related to your writing, for example:
- I’m kind
- I’m funny
- I’m generous
And then, just try and bring that same positivity to your writing! So if you’re struggling to write a funny scene, for example, you can come back to that list of traits and remind yourself that you are funny, and so, you can write this scene!
Thanks so much for reading my post and I really hope these tips helped you! From one writer to another, you got this! 💖
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