Sometimes, we get so busy that we forget that one of the most important ‘to-do’ tasks is taking care of ourselves. This lack of self-awareness can result in fatigue, burnout, or even the dreaded writer’s block. For writers of all stripes, it can seem like a really hard thing to devote time away from our writing—even if it’s time well spent, or succeeds in getting us past a thorny writing problem.
So, today I’d like to talk about five simple ways to take care of yourself, whether you’re trying to take on writer’s block or just trying to keep your peace of mind.
Keep a Journal
It might seem counter-productive to write in a journal rather than work on your story, but keeping a journal is an important habit for everyone to have! By writing down what’s bothering you, you’re able to let it go and stop the little things from piling up.
One thing that I like to do is keep a Happy-ness journal. In it, I have a list where I write down the things that make me happy. They can be as simple or complicated as I want. And then, on an appropriately numbered page, I write down my thoughts and experiences about what made me happy. I feel better prepared to tackle difficult projects afterward and like to read the entries on days when I’m feeling particularly blue—such as when I’m depressed or can’t write a word to save my life.
Also, it has stickers. Stickers are wonderful things.
Get Outside and Enjoy Nature
Being outdoors and moving has been proven to boost moods, plus it’s healthy for you! Enjoying nature and the great outdoors doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to go camping (though if that’s your bliss, I say go for it) but just that you find a place you find beautiful or interesting.
For example, one of my favorite places to relax is a little knoll in the park behind my apartment building. Another place is a beautiful old neighborhood behind my work. Just being in either of those places fills me with peace and, more often than not, new ideas.
Turn Off the Filter and Read a Good Book
As storytellers, writers are constantly picking apart books that they read. I even have a notebook for that specific purpose! However, it’s a good thing sometimes to turn off the ‘writer’ portion of the brain and just enjoy a good book. I mean, that’s what generally brings us to writing in the first place, right? Loving a good book so much that we decided to make our own?
Go about finding a ‘just for fun’ book however you want to. For me, this generally leads me to silly fantasy and sci-fi novels, such as the Myth series by Robert Aspirin, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, or (my favorite) the Xanth series by Piers Anthony.
All delightful. All hilarious. All perfect for reading and just enjoying the story.
Do Something Else
I’ve talked on here several times about working as a freelance artist, but not about how I still do art while working on writing. Often, when I’m faced with a writing problem—or just stress, in general—the solution is to start with a single line and then doodle my feelings out on the page. While my drawings now aren’t nearly as polished as they once were, they’re a wonderful way to work through feelings that I don’t have words for.
Find the thing that helps you feel a bit better about your problems, whether it’s gardening, drawing, running, or dancing and do that for a while until you can face the problem. If you don’t know what that is, that’s okay. Experimenting with new things also counts!
I’ve often found that when I’m blocked or worried, it’s because I feel that I’m too little and the project is too much. In writing, this can mean that I think I’m not up to the task to finish the story I’m doing. That the story is too important for little ol’ me to mess up.
That’s dangerous thinking.
One of the best solutions I’ve found to this is to do something silly. Just insanely silly. For writing, this could mean writing a ridiculous scene where two characters discuss how cool it would be if they could use bouncy balls for transportation. Or even writing an entire silly story, such as one where two followers of Cthulu think the Elder God is a pretty standup guy who’s been given a bad rap and want to free him so they can tell their side of the story. I’ve written both of those things and 9 times out of 10, they got me out of the writing rut.
Writer’s block is made out of fear and worry. It’s meant to tear you down and can be devastating for writers who have severe depression or put too much pressure on themselves. But, as huge as it can seem, it’s all bluster. All you have to do to defeat it is laugh and smile and realize that you’re so much bigger than your problems.
So, take a deep breath.
See? You’ll be just fine.