Self-Care and the Healthy Writer

health is not valued

I’ve let myself go, and not in a good way. Not like I’ve decided to stop worrying about things I can’t change, or that poor review, or what someone thinks of me.

No, I used to run, not from my personal demons or bills, but literally–10k, 5k races, I even ran a half-marathon. I used to love it, the accomplishment, the exhilaration, the sheer pleasure of being outside. Just me and the squirrels.

That changed when I found writing. For a while, I did both. I wrote, went to work, I went on runs. But slowly, as writing became more and more important to me, running became less and less and soon I stopped altogether.

Since I’ve stopped, I’ve fallen into a routine: get up, get the kids to school. Then I settle in to write for three or four hours. I take a shower after that, do chores, pick up the kids from school, then make dinner. The evenings are spent online chatting with friends, maybe watching some Netflix. Maybe writing if I’m really into a scene. Then I go to bed. I can usually write about 10,000 words a week, maybe more if I don’t have to labor over every word, if I know what I need to write ahead of time.

Nice work if you can get it.

There are only so many hours in the day–everyone knows this. Especially the writer who only puts down 100 words before having to do something else.

Who has time for exercise?

When I was writing and running, when, for those few months before one passion overtook the other, I used my running time to plot books. I would listen to music, or if it was early in the morning, I would run in silence and think about my characters, what trouble I could create for them while I effortlessly ran my six mile route through a pretty city park near my apartment.

These days, in a time where families need two incomes to make it work, and you have little kids watching TV all the time and the noise stresses you out, or you listen to a book while you make dinner because you don’t have time to read, we don’t think a lot about self-care, exercise, even eating right. We do what we have to do to get through the day with our sanity intact.

The other morning, tired, after dropping the kids at school, I crawled back into bed with my cat and let my mind drift. I thought about where I was with my book, the people giving me a hard time on Twitter, what I did last week. I dozed, let my thoughts drift for a couple hours while my cat’s head rested on my arm.

We don’t do this very often for a lot of reasons: guilt, thinking it’s a waste of time, knowing chores could be done, words could be written, but we should.

Creativity is hard work. Writing is emotionally draining, maybe physically, too, if we deal with carpal tunnel, eye strain, or back pain. Many writers deal with anxiety or depression, especially if they are querying and waiting for news.

I’ve started walking–I can’t jump back into running just yet. Nothing abandons you faster than stamina, but I’ve promised to lace up my shoes, get some air, get my blood flowing, my heart pumping.

I used to listen to podcasts, but I’m going to try to walk maybe every other time in silence, let my mind drift. Think about plots, notice how the sun sparkles on the snow, take time to breathe. Let my characters speak to me.

calm mind

If you are drained, strained, stressed, you’ll have nothing for the page.

I’ve let myself go, and in the process, I’ve gained weight, and every year my bad cholesterol numbers go up along with my BMI. But not only have I lost some of my health, I’ve lost the peace running gave me.

Self-care is important, and how you do it is up to you. Sit outside and listen to the neighborhood dog barking, read that book, go to coffee with a friend.

Breathe.

Fill your creativity well.

Take care of yourself.

Because you don’t have anything if you don’t have your health. The Healthy Writer

To encourage you to become a healthy writer, I’m giving away two paperback copies of this book by the fabulous Dr. Euan Lawson and Joanna PennThe Healthy Writer: Reduce your pain, improve your health, and build a writing career for the long term. She’s a wonderful part of the indie community, and we’re lucky to have her as a professional role model. (I did not get any kick-backs for giving away her book–I bought the paperbacks myself on Amazon.)

Spring is coming! Get out there!

Click here to enter the drawing!

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