In the writing community, we often talk about “refilling the well,” an idea that we understand conceptually, but is often lost in translation when we try to apply it to our lives. What does refilling the well actually look like and how do we make time for it in our already jam-packed lives?
With the recent publication of my debut novel, Perfectly Undone, this has become an important question in my everyday life. The shift to Published Author has been incredibly rewarding and, like any addition to life, has come with all new responsibilities. This could easily lead to becoming overwhelmed (and, let’s be honest, sometimes does), but over the last year I’ve come to discover the best way to keep my balance, manage my stress, and nurture my focus (all necessities for a writer to be at his or her creative best):
Self-care. With a few simple habits, I’ve been able to foster a sense of calm and creativity while working through one of the most demanding times of my life. Finally, an answer to the question of “refilling the well.”
Jamie Raintree is a voracious student of life, which is why she became a writer, where she could put all that acquired information to good use. She is a mother of two, a wife, a businesswoman, a nature-lover, and a wannabe yogi. She also teaches writers about business and productivity. Since the setting is always an important part of her books, she is happy to call the Rocky Mountains of Northern Colorado her home and inspiration. Find out more at www.JamieRaintree.com. Her debut novel, PERFECTLY UNDONE, was released in October 2017 by Graydon House.
There are typically two main arguments against self-care:
- It’s too touchy-feely. What does it even mean anyway? Is it bubble baths and pouring one’s heart out in a journal? Sometimes, but not always. The thing about self-care is that it is completely unique to the individual and is defined by one thing: it gives the writer the time and ability to rebuild their energy stores after it’s been depleted by outside needs. If this sounds vague, it is, but I’m going share some ideas with you shortly.
- Who has time for self-care? And I get it. Most writers are squeezing writing in around day jobs, are juggling family and household responsibilities, and often struggle with chronic health issues. To which, my counter-argument is that the more you have on your plate, the more important self-care is to your well-being and ability to not only write, but to continue to juggle those demands.
And the magic of self-care is that it buys you back time.
Some quick math. (I hear your groans, but it’s easy math.)
Let’s say, because you are exhausted, your headaches have flared up, and you had a long day at work, you sit down to write and you’re so unable to focus that it takes you three scattered hours to write 1,000 words.
On the other hand, if you take 30–60 minutes after a long day to do anything that refills your well, you come to your work energized, focused, and with minimal stress, you write 1,000 words in an hour.
You just bought yourself 60–90 minutes back, and probably even more time in editing since what you’ve written will likely be more cohesive and compelling.
This is an example taken from my own life, something I have experienced numerous times, and why I am a proponent of making self-care as important to your writing routine as the writing itself.
So what does self-care look like for the writer, and how do you implement it into your already busy schedule?
There are two main facets to effective self-care: Mind and Body.
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Self-Care for the Mind
Because a writer’s creativity expresses itself through the mind, which is often depleted by everyday tasks before even getting to the page, it’s important to learn how to refresh and replenish your mind. First, through rest. In our fast-paced world where we are constantly inundated with stimuli, we can’t expect to be able to shut that off on a dime as soon as it’s time to write. Meditation has been touted to increase focus and clarity, but I’ve found simply lying back and closing my eyes for 5–10 minutes will completely reset my day. (I do set a timer on my phone in case I fall asleep.)
A writer’s mind is also a curious mind and is fulfilled by learning new things. Whether it’s a field of interest for the story you’re writing or a personal hobby, keep books handy that introduce new concepts and ideas, or add depth to the knowledge you already have. This kind of focused stimulus fills you up rather than depleting you.
And, of course, reading. Reading is what brought you to writing in the first place, and yet I’m always astonished to hear how many writers are not reading on a regular basis. No doubt, reading has always been a writer’s favorite escape, but in addition to that, turns of phrases and elicited emotions are the triggers that inspire us to grow in our own writing. Continuing to grow as a writer is the ultimate way to ensure you keep coming back to the page.
Self-Care for the Body
Unfortunately, because writers are so mind-focused, we often forget how important it is to take care of our bodies until our health brings it to our attention. Many writers struggle with chronic health issues and all too often, those health issues get in the way of our writing. To keep your most important writing tool sharp—you—making time to care for it is key.
For me, 10–20 minutes of yoga every day is all I need to feel alive in my body and energized when I come to the page. A walk around the block is just as effective. It doesn’t require an hour a day or a gym membership. Simply move in a way that feels good to you and that is sustainable over the long haul. Keep it simple.
But how do you fit these things into your daily schedule when you already struggle to fit in writing? I wish I had an easy answer for you, but the simple fact is that, like writing, you just find a way. Too much, writers put themselves last. Since writing isn’t a “real job,” it gets pushed to the back burner “if there’s time,” either consciously or subconsciously. But writing in itself is an act of self-care. It’s self-care for the soul, and if you don’t make it priority, along with self-care for the mind and body, you’ll find that all aspects of your life begin to suffer: most notably, your writing.
Shoot for thirty minutes a day for self-care—half for mind, half for body—and you’ll be so grateful for the improvements you see not only in your writing, but also your life, that it will become the part of your day you look forward to most.
If you’re an agent looking to update your information or an author interested in contributing to the GLA blog or the next edition of the book, contact Writer’s Digest Books Managing Editor Cris Freese at firstname.lastname@example.org.