Before anyone says it: Yes, I should be working on my novel. I’m 30 chapters into a 42 chapter holiday novel. I just need a little change of pace today. I’m tired. I’m brain dead. (Probably from my attempt to cut the soda. That will be remedied soon.) In the mean time, I thought I’d share some self care tips for writers. Though, most of these will be useful for everyone.
1. Do Helpful Things for Your Future Self
Yeah, you don’t want to wash those dishes tonight. Or maybe you don’t want to put the laundry away tonight. Whatever it is you’re putting off doing before you go to bed – do it now. Future you will thank you. There’s no worse feeling than waking up with chores waiting for you.
2. Make Your Own Stress Measuring Scale
Mine is based on those silly little face charts you see in hospitals when doctors ask you how much something hurts. I measure stress the same way and provide appropriate care. If it’s below five I carry on with the day as normal and just make sure to squeeze in some downtime to myself that day. 6-7 I stop right then and do whatever I can to fix the problem (sometimes there’s nothing. It’s just what it is.) If I can’t fix the problem I take some downtime. For me usually half an hour of reading will level me out enough to get back to work. I know this isn’t the case for a lot of people. You can’t just stop working and take a break whenever you like. I write full time at home and have this privilege. Anything above a 7 and something has to change big time. Honestly, since moving I’ve only hit a 8 once and just needed to take a step back and get a new perspective.
3.Schedule Your Goals
I know this one might belong more on a success guide, but for me having a schedule of what I need to do every day to make my goals happen keeps me level headed. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’ll enjoy every step or even want to do that piece everyday, but with everything outlined it’s easier to remember why I’m doing it. The why is what makes the world go round.
4. Meal Prep
I recommend this to everyone, but if you live alone and work a lot of hours this can be a life saver. Cook a lot on day and eat on it over the next few days or longer. Your freezer is your friend. Some days I’d skip lunch if I couldn’t throw something in the microwave and chow down quick and get back to work. I know, mindful eating people, that’s not good, but it’s better than not eating at all.
5. Set aside ‘headspace’ time and stick to it.
There’s this meme all over the internet about spending more time ‘imagining’ or thinking about your story than writing it. This is a healthy part of writing and creativity. Though, if you want to do it long term you really need to get a handle on it. Sure, if you’re laying in bed thinking about your story as you fall asleep you’re probably fine.If you sit down at the keyboard and imagine instead of write you’ll only be frustrated with yourself later. Set a time limit on this and write. For me this is a self care tip, because I write to pay the bills and if I’m not writing the bills don’t get paid. If they don’t get paid there is no such thing as self care in my life.
6. Track your time.
I write professionally. Well, full time and it’s my sole source of income. After I moved, I started tracking my time. No, not limiting my activities, but tracking my working hours to see where my time was really going and what wasn’t working for me. As I’ve perfected the schedule I get more writing done than ever. Last week I wrote for 12 hours and 22 minutes and came in at around 26.5k words. Yes, I write faster than some people and I’m not saying you should aim for any certain time. Before that I was writing about 15 hours a week and pulling in about the same in word count (15-17k.) Tracking my time and making sure I had enough time to do all parts of my job (writing, editing, rewrites, marketing, social media, cover work, etc) allowed me to focus on my writing during my writing time. This has allowed me to have a lot more free time to unwind by focusing on one task at a time instead of being in the middle of a sentence and remembering something else I needed to do.
7. Sleep. Seriously – Get Some!
Before I moved work was my number one priority. I’m a classic workaholic and I’m not happy unless I’m working. BUT I’m not happy while I’m working if I’m dragging ass and brain dead. So now, sleep is my top priority. Sure, it annoys my friends that I disappear so early in the evening and turn my phone on do not disturb, but me and my pillows have improved our relationship. Also, from time and word count tracking I’ve discovered the better sleep I get the more I write the next day.