Self-Care for Writers
As Linda Mercer worked on her first draft of Rebuild Your Immune System in 10 Minutes a Day in my Bring Your Book to Life® Program, I was struck by how useful her brief and powerful self-care practices can be for writers. I asked her if I might interview her about how to apply her 10 minute self-care tips in writing a book.
Lisa: In writing your first draft, how did you personally strike that balance between being productive and self care / wellness?
Linda: Because I already had a routine for self-care/wellness habits that were vital to my productivity, creativity, and well-being, it was natural for me to continue my self-care while I wrote my book. When I committed to write the book in 8 weeks I knew it would be challenging to stick to my self-care routine, so I first listened to my coach’s guidance on how to be the most productive during this short and intense writing experience.
I was able to take to heart your advice to commit blocks of time each day that I would write, and to let everyone in my life know I would not be as available during this time and ask for their support. That gave me the foundation to schedule my writing time around my self-care schedule.
Watch for These Triggers
Lisa: Were there particular writing habits you needed to watch out for (like writing at three in the morning)?
Linda: Yes! With such an intense writing schedule, I sometimes felt the urge to get up at three a.m. to get my thoughts onto paper—and make sure I could meet the deadline. And, there were a few times I actually did actually get up at three to write. This usually happened when I got behind because I had given in to the temptation to research more than a first draft calls for, or got triggered emotionally and needed to process those emotions for a day or more. Writing a book can be a very emotional experience, and those feelings need to be dealt with.
In my experience, unexpected events come up that need to be handled, causing you to fall behind in your writing schedule, and this usually tempts you to write at times you are not at your best, or that deplete you.
I did not, however, give in to every thought that woke me up at three a.m. If I don’t sleep enough, I am no good for anything the next day. I’ve learned techniques to get me back to sleep if I wake up, such as breathing, bed yoga postures, meditation, and so on. I found if I just kept a little notebook by my bed, I could jot down the basic thoughts and then get back to sleep using relaxation techniques.
Another writing habit I needed to watch out for, again, usually because I had fallen behind in my schedule: Going straight to the computer when I woke up, and skipping my self-care routine. I found it difficult to be “in the zone” as you call it, or to access my inner muse. I soon realized that my writing was not as good when I tried to write without taking care of myself first, and rarely gave in to that temptation.
Lisa: That’s such an important point. I can be taking care of myself for weeks and then suddenly fall into an old habit of jumping on the computer first thing, telling myself I’ll just do it this once and it won’t make a difference, but it always does. Anything else that impeded your writing?
The Challenges of Writing a Self-Care, Self-Help Book
Linda: Self-doubt and self-consciousness. My advice after finishing this book would be to shift your focus off yourself, and focus on the reader and how your message is going to make their life better, even if your writing is not perfect.
Lisa: I love that framework. It’s so easy to get caught up in trying to be “good.” All we need to do is get in touch with the transformation possible for our readers in order to get out of our own way. Sometimes the practice of writing and reading a vision statement whenever we write can help us stay in that space of service, possibility and passion.
On Creativity for Writers
Lisa: Did you find that self-care and a focus on wellness made you more creative or more productive?
Linda: Yes, more productive for sure—I completed the entire first draft of a 280-page book in 8 weeks! I was also able to write a pitch to literary agents in that window. I am confident that I had the focus and energy to complete this book in that short time due to my extreme self-care and wellness habits. I think it would be very easy to lose your focus and energy, and get distracted or burn out if you don’t take really good care of yourself. Or, you might finish it, but be burned out or even sick at the end.
Regarding if I found it made me more creative: Yes, I don’t think I could have written this book if I hadn’t been able to get my creative juices flowing with my morning routine, (description follows) which always gets me into a receptive and creative state.
Self-Care for Writers: Specific Tips for Writing a Book
Lisa: Can you share any specific self-care or wellness practices that especially helped you in writing your book?
1. My favorite self-care practice is my “morning quiet time.” I almost never skip this practice. On the rare occasion that I do, my day never goes as well. As soon as I get up, I make a cup of green tea, and take it into my bedroom sitting area (or, sometimes even climb back into my bed). I do nothing for about five minutes as I sip my tea and just “be.” Then I read from one of my daily meditation books, meditate, pray, and journal.
Often, I get a lot of creative ideas during this time, and write them in my journal or another notebook. Most important, I get centered, focused, calm, and recharged—ready to start my day with clarity, calm, and vigor. It’s a powerful self-care experience and guides my life.
2. Walking: Taking walks and hikes in the mountain preserve where I live is an integral part of my self-care. It helped my writing experience in several ways: a. It cleared my head after a long stretch of writing.
b. The increased oxygen and fresh air re-energized my body, which would get sluggish from all the sitting. It also improved my brain function so I could reboot and start writing again. I found usually I could only write for 2 to 2 1/2 hour blocks before feeling like I couldn’t write another word.
c. It relaxed me through the deeper breathing and discharge of pent-up energy from all the sitting.
d. Great ideas came to me during my walks and hikes.
e. It increased my sense of gratitude for the beauty and magnificence of nature, helping me to be in a better state of mind to write.
Lisa: I love walking before writing, too. Those are five terrific benefits you share! Any other practices you recommend?
Linda: Number 3. Yoga is another indispensable wellness practice for me. It is deeply relaxing and nurturing. I always get clarity and answers when I practice yoga as it taps into my deepest intuition and inner wisdom.
4. Eating healthy: I always took time to eat healthy. Good nutrition is a non-negotiable wellness practice for me. Because I healed myself from MS mostly by changing my diet, I never neglect the incredible power of food to nourish and heal my body and mind I also make sure I am hydrating well and eating every 3-4 hours.
I personally highly value what many life coaches call “Extreme Self-Care,” which means taking responsibility to figure out what I need physically, mentally and spiritually to function optimally and feel my best, and to then give myself those things. My personal goal is to take really good care of myself so that I can be my best self and the best person for everyone and everything else in my life.
Lisa: You decided to work on growing your author platform in order to traditionally publish. As you journey into that, what are some of the self-care decisions you are faced with?
Linda: Growing my platform has meant that I have less time than ever for my self-care. It has necessitated my building a new website, learning social media and online marketing skills, learning to blog successfully, and a host of other tasks required to build a platform.
To address this challenge, I put the following approaches into place:
1. Delegate: I learned to delegate: I have a webmaster, someone who manages my social media, and I joined an online marketing business school that provides coaching, mentoring, live labs, mastermind groups, member website, peer support, and online and live training programs.
I learned the value of asking for help and I discovered the beauty of mentors. I have never had so many mentors and coaches in my life, but it has made all the difference in my ability to get things done. I learned that people don’t succeed alone, but with help.
One of the ways I practice self-care—by asking for help and getting help when I need it. This allows me to continue practicing self-care while building my platform.
2. Quick Wellness Practices: Even with all the help I enlisted to build my platform, I still found that I had less time for my self-care than before. It has proven to me that my 10-Minute strategies from my book, 10-Minute Wellness, work. I’ve been able to reduce my morning quiet time to 10 minutes when I need to, and still feel good. I also take 10 minute wellness breaks during the day, especially when I’ve been sitting too long at the computer, or writing for long stretches.
The balance between activity and rest is very important to conserve and build one’s energy.
Lisa: The fact that you’ve taken the journey more than once makes for a better book, I know. It’s my experience that whenever a person begins writing a book about a topic, challenges will come up that relate to the material you are writing about. You get to remember first hand how important your information is–and you get to put yourself in your readers’ shoes.
Are there particular strategies that can tend to be in conflict with self care?
Linda: Overdoing, over-committing and over-scheduling are in conflict with self-care. In writing a book, it’s important to let go of a few things while you write your book.
Lisa: You mean, take some activities off your plate?
Linda: Yes. A few other things in conflict with self-care:
- Writing for too long at a time, which drains your energy and creativity. Better to pace yourself.
- Staying up too late and not getting enough sleep
- Eating poorly because you think you don’t have time to cook or shop for healthy food
- Pushing yourself too hard
- Being hard on yourself
- Not saying no,to things you don’t want to do, or not setting boundaries are also contrary to good self-care.
Lisa: Yes, writing a book–at least finishing it–makes you better at setting boundaries!
Any advice about dealing with these self-care conflicts?
Linda: Honor yourself and honor your time. Honor your body, your mind and your spirit. Be a little selfish for awhile. Let go of some things. Focus on your dream of writing your book. Don’t try to do too much, or everything. Believe in yourself. Love yourself. Respect yourself and your time. Have fun while writing!
Readers: Please share how you practice self-care as a writer and your experience with self-care as a creativity enhancer by commenting below.
Linda Mercer, MSW, owner of the Miralinda Center for Well-Being, in Scottsdale, AZ, is a leading expert in the cutting-edge science of 10-minute health and wellness strategies. With over twenty years as a licensed psychotherapist and wellness coach, she helps frustrated health and happiness seekers transform their pain, worry and fatigue into vibrant health and indestructible happiness using her proven 10 Minute strategies. She is author of Rebuild Your Immune System in 10 Minutes a Day.
Receive Linda’s free Wellness Package: 10 Ways to Activate Healing and Reverse Chronic Illness report, PLUS, her 10-Minute Guided Meditation and Manifest Your Destiny Guided Visualization audio downloads by signing up for her free monthly newsletter.