This week, I’m breaking with tradition. Instead of writing about your craft, I’m writing about you.
You can’t pour from an empty cup; take care of yourself first. You’ve heard this, right?
Today I’m imploring you to fill yourself up. As writers, we pour ourselves into our manuscripts, our words, our stories. We spend much of our lives alone at our computers, snacking on whatever it is that keeps the words flowing.
Chasing stories is the world’s best job, certainly. With your new manuscript, your new synopsis, the shiny new idea that may someday become your personal best seller, you are growing as a writer.
Are you growing as person?
How are you?
Writing is rough emotional work. Did you know that our job category—artists, entertainers, and writers—is the one most likely to be associated with a major bout of depression?
And don’t get me started on anxiety.
Maintaining your mental health is one crucial aspect of self-care, but there are many other ways to practice self-care. (Personally, I don’t ego-surf, read any reviews of my work, or follow negative people on social media. Long ago, I gave up on being relevant on Twitter or Instagram. For my own emotional health, I decided to be myself in those spaces instead of branding myself. YMMV.)
Today, I’m asking you to fill yourself up. Take a step back. You have writing goals, right? 1,000 words a day, 2,000 words a day, 5,000 words a day (you ambitious wonder!)
Over the next five months, can you stick to some personal goals to maintain your own emotional health? Can you practice self-care on a regular basis?
We’ll do this on the honor system. Today, start with one daily and one weekly goal for self-care. For those of you who have been chained to your desk for too long to imagine this, here are a few ideas for self-care:
- Take a 10-minute walk every hour
- Take a 60-minute walk
- Meditate for ten minutes
- Bathe in sunlight (and sunblock) for 20 minutes
- Trade an hour of writing for an hour of reading (whatever you want)
- Smile for five minutes straight. It’s really tough, but worth it.
- Go to bed an hour early
- Meet one friend for tea/coffee/wine every week.
- Take one day a week away from writing.
- Every Sunday, go somewhere you’ve never been before.
- Learn a new board game
- Practice yoga
- Pamper yourself with a massage—professional or otherwise
- Change your route to work (or the library, or the bookstore)
At the end of August, add a weekly goal and add (or replace) a daily goal. Repeat until the new year.
See what we did there? You may now have four social engagements a month. Or you’re walking miles and miles every week. Good for you! Taking time away from writing to practice self-care also will improve your writing. You will stumble upon new characters quite accidentally. You will play with language in new ways. Disengaging your brain from creative endeavors—even for a short while—will allow your brain to process your work.
Practicing self-care will improve your life and your writing.
I am inviting you right now to fill yourself back up. What do you love that is not writing? What are you writing about? Go do that. Go mountain biking, practice Parkour, swim in the nearest body of water, hit on your neighbor, put on your tap shoes, walk on your hands to the grocery store, stay out clubbing all night, put on a musical with friends, drink beer on a dock.
Go do what you love; you can write about it later.
I love my children. Board games. Yoga. Nature. I’m going outside to play.
Step away from the computer. Spend the rest of the day outside. Yes, the rest of the day. Sit in one spot for an hour. Meet a friend in a park. MAKE a friend in a park. Do whatever it is you love.
Go fill yourself up, and come back tomorrow.
Michele Bacon is the author of Life Before, which will be released June 6, 2016. She lives in Seattle with her husband and three children. For more information, follow her on Twitter or head to her website.