I'm not quite in the place in my career where I have six-figure book deals and write full-time, so I keep my day job. But I love what I do, and it helps me create and connect with my characters and their voices. I'm a therapist (licensed in the state of GA) and I specialize in working with college students. As a therapist, I see it all. We all do. We're the people legally bound to keep your secrets, listen to your story, pick apart your grief, hold your pain, and help you move forward in your life. It's a heavy task, and many days, we leave utterly exhausted even though we never left our chair. Because of what we hear and do every day, it's important to take care of ourselves. From Day 1 in graduate school, we were taught that self-care has to be priority. You can't be an adequate therapist if you're running on fumes. It's such a part of our jobs, every continuing education conference worth its salt has a session on self-care.
Studying professional counseling has made me aware how important it is to take care of ourselves first. Think of the flight attendant telling you to put your oxygen mask on before helping anyone else. But self-care isn't just for therapists and healthcare providers. It should be for everyone.
I wanted to use my areas of expertise to begin talking about how we take care of ourselves as writers. Most of us are still working full-time or going to school full-time, and yet, we find time to write. I saw someone say once that being a writer is like agreeing to have homework for the rest of your life. So true! As soon as I come home, I cook or eat what my husband has cooked, and then I flip open the laptop and explain why I need 2,000 words today.
And even when we're not in front of a computer, we're still writing. Scenes form in our heads at the weirdest time (like when I'm driving) which usually leads to us staring off into space for an indiscriminate amount of time. We're tired, our eyes are bleary from staring at a LCD screen all day, and the characters won't stop talking in our heads. If it sounds like madness, that's because it is ;) And we need to take care of us first, then the book. So it's important to take breaks *gasp*. Close the laptop, put down the journal and pen, and just breathe.
My first encouragement to all the writers out there, is enter your day mindfully. Start with 5 minutes of yoga, or deep breathing. Clear your head-space before going into your writing session. Creativity is stifled by all the junk we have floating around in our minds. To-do lists, things forgotten, grocery store runs, and weekly plans can all get in the way. Take a breath, and clear all that away so you have room for the creative process. Let it go for an hour or two, and give yourself the time and space to create something wonderful!
I look forward to sharing more ideas and tips from my own experiences! Stay tuned for more on writer wellness and taking care of you while writing the next best-seller.