Good friend and colleague Diane Sherlock recently wrote about the importance of taking care of yourself as a writer. In my interest of covering the craft of fiction, this is a principle I often forget, one that I let slip sometimes, and, of course, feel guilty about perhaps more than I should. There’s a lot to be said about taking your writing seriously. And to do that, you must think of yourself as a writer. If you don’t value yourself as a writer, you will never be able to produce a product that adequately reflects your capability. Here’s some simple, but profound advice from Diane:
Your writing will do better if you the writer get enough sleep, some exercise, some snuggles or hugs, and time to daydream and ‘refill the well’ as Julia Cameron put it.
Her post got me thinking about how we can take care of ourselves as writers. What considerations must we take into account when defining ourselves as a writer, and treating ourselves as writers. Here’s a few ideas for you. If I’ve forgotten any, or if you have something you like to do to treat yourself as a writer, let me know—I love hearing about differing processes.
1. Define yourself as a writer: If you don’t think of yourself as a writer, no one else will either. Refuse to feel inferior simply because you’re unpublished. Publication does not make a writer. A writer is as much as identity as a profession. Do not think of your writing as a hobby. It is your job. It may not pay what you’d like, but as with all labors of love, if you’re doing it for the paycheck, you’re in it for the wrong reasons. Have some business cards made up with your information and the title “Writer.” Own it. Be it.
2. Manage your health: Not something you’d hear too often, but if you’re unhealthy, you won’t feel your best. Hard to write when you’re miserable. And, because writing is a fairly stationary act, several of us become rather sedentary. In the same way our prose must have motion and action, so must our bodies to be in the best health. I’m preaching more to myself than to you. I could do with a little more activity. Exercise opens the mind and can dramatically improve our writing. Suffering through writer’s block? Take a jog, then go back to the computer.
3. Keep your inspiration tank full: Art begets art. Find what inspires you and delve in to it. Is it reading? Beautiful HDR photos? Paintings or sculptures? Movies? Taxidermy? Museums? Nature hikes? Walking the streets of the city? Music? Whatever it is, continue to enjoy it, but do so deliberately. How does your appreciation of this art translate into words?
4. Live life deliberately: If you’re not a careful observer of the world around you, you will not be able to fully realize and flesh out a world of fiction. If you don’t dream with diligence, you cannot create the fictive dream. Experience life to it’s fullest, taking note of the emotions, of your physical senses. Always ask yourself, “How might I render this in my fiction? What words best paint this particular moment?”
5. Slow down: When did we start living at life speed? Take a moment to slow yourself down. If you don’t, how can you slow time in your fiction? And really, isn’t that what fiction seeks to do—show a complete image of a fraction of a second? There’s a time to run a race, and there’s a time to rest after. But there’s always a moment of stillness before the starting pistol sounds. Fiction lives, fiction breathes, in these moments. Latch on to them. Hold them in your heart only long enough to put them on paper.
Have I left anything out? How do you keep your inspiration tank full?