Friday, February 5, 2016

There is an ‘I’ in Writing: Self-Care for the Writer

By Linda Rettstatt

Many writers, me included, can be so caught up in writing that we forget to take care of ourselves. How do we care for and nurture the writer in us? We can get bogged down with too many projects going on at once and deadlines, deadlines, deadlines to meet. Our lives become cluttered. I was thinking about this today as I gazed around my apartment at the physical clutter. It’s hard to tap into my creative side when I’m surrounded by chaos. So, what do I do? I pack up my laptop and head to a coffee shop—where I’m surrounded by other people’s chaos.

Sometimes I can tune that out, but not always. I fall into a trap of non-productivity. Creating and maintaining a pleasant writing space is only part of caring for ourselves as writers.

Writing, in itself, is a solitary venture. I can lean toward becoming a hermit if I’m not careful. Part of caring for myself is making the time and finding the ways I can connect with friends, especially with other writers. A few writer friends and I meet every Thursday night at a local Panera Bread for what we call Authors Unplugged. We eat, chat, and then each work for about an hour on something (a book, a short story, editing, etc.). During our conversations, we might brainstorm, talk about upcoming conferences, and just share what’s going on in our lives.

Another suggestion I have for those of you engaged in writing is an annual writer’s retreat. Find a comfortable, affordable place (which is easier if you have a group of four to six people) and plan your own writer’s retreat weekend. Lesson learned: Do not spend most of your to-and-from days driving. Look nearby, within a three-hour or less driving distance. It’s a great way to step back from your routine, immerse yourself in the writing world, but also take time to relax.

Give yourself a break. Seriously. No one will do that for you. Step away from the laptop (or whatever instrument you use for writing). Take a day off and play. Spend time with family and friends. Don’t become enslaved to your writing that the ‘work’ of writing takes all the joy out of the process. Remember to laugh with friends, enjoy a meal with family, and just breathe.

When it comes to the care and feeding of the ‘I’ in writer, what works for one person might not work for another. Listen to yourself. Learn the things that nurture and free your creativity and do more of those things. If you don’t take care of your writer-self, no one else will.
Linda Rettstatt is an award-winning author who discovered her passion for writing after years of working in the human services field. When she’s not writing, Linda loves travel, nature photography, and figuring out what makes people tick. Her fantasy is to win the lottery, buy an old Victorian home on the eastern shore and open a writer’s retreat. While she waits for that fantasy to materialize (i.e. that miracle to happen), she continues to live and work in NW Mississippi and to write under the constant observation of her tuxedo cat, Binky. Visit Linda’s website at  Twitter:  @linda_rettstatt
Facebook:  Linda Rettstatt, Writing for Women  

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