Throughout the month of February, we’ve been thinking about our love of writing: love of language, love of the process, even writing about love in our fiction.
But it’s not just your writing that needs a little love– it’s you, the writer. You can’t write that next chapter if you’re tired, hungry, distracted, and uninspired, and while February may be the month of Valentine’s celebrations, it’s also a month of sub-zero temperatures, lots of snow, and very little sunlight.
So, we decided to reach out to an expert in self-care for writers. Heather Cramond is a poet, playwright, editor, and yoga teacher. She’s also the instructor for our popular Meditation & Writing series.
Here are Heather’s tips for showing yourself a little love while keeping the words flowing.
Find Your Ideal Writing Time
I am a morning person. I have always been a morning person, and wake up feeling like a person 90% of the time. But before you throw things at me, please know that I can’t stay up past 9pm without chemical intervention. Or dancing.
Those of us who tend toward the Ben Franklin side always have grand plans of discipline. But if you’re a night-owl, even that fourth alarm clock won’t make you get up early to write. Find something that works for you. There’s nothing morally superior about being up before the dawn. Also, stay off my lawn.
Know Your Weaknesses
Despite being a morning person, I love sleep. Left to my own devices, I would take a nap at 2pm every day and 5-more-minutes until it gets dark. So if I feel like I need a nap, I let myself sleep for thirty minutes. If I’m still tired after that and there’s no reason, I go for a walk or journal instead, and lo, I wasn’t really tired, I was avoiding my feelings.
I’m sure the editor in your brain broadcasts your weaknesses to you on the regular, so I don’t need to tell you what they are. But if you know that you tend to get angry when you drink a whole pot of coffee, maybe have one cup, wash out the cup, and draw the line.
I’ve had headaches since I was a teenager. I tried all sorts of things, thinking I had migraines. As an adult and as a yoga teacher, I now realize that those were not migraines. I just laid in bed too long reading about vampires and hurt my back, and the pain transferred up to my head. A few weeks ago, I was balled up on my boyfriend’s couch, sobbing. Also not a migraine. I was dehydrated.
Even the greatest writers have to drink water and exercise and hug other mammals. These things should be common sense, but they’re not. I love this article that lists basic things you can do to keep your engine running. I have several copies of the printable pdf taped up where I can see them so that the next time I’m angry, I realize that I need to go for a run.
Find a Writing Buddy
I actually switched to writing from a focus on theatre because I couldn’t stand the relentless pressure to be an extrovert. But guess what? Writing gets lonely, and when you’re alone too long you get weird (she says, writing this while eating butter and not wearing pants). I’ve found that my most joyful and subsequently most productive writing periods have involved someone else, whether it was writing a musical with a partner, or setting a weekly date where I’d sit across the table from a friend and not talk. It was magical.
Make Time for Silence
Oh yeah, not talking. It’s great. My day job is in an open office, so I’m surrounded by people coughing and overheard phone calls all day. I listen to a lot of rainstorms, but noise-cancelling headphones can’t solve all your problems. You have to make headspace for yourself. This week, I tried a 5 day challenge where I pared down my media intake, and I gave up reading for a week when I did Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. You could go further and take up a meditation practice, but you can start by stopping the madness.
Don’t Forget to Write
My teacher said that depression is a state where the emotions are bottled; the opposite state is expression. As writers, putting words to paper is not only a vocation, it’s a necessity. In order to survive, we have to make things, and this is your thing, right? So get to it.
Heather Cramond is a poet, playwright, RYT200 Hatha Yoga instructor, co-founder of Requited Journal for Innovative Art, and a writing instructor at Loyola University Chicago. You can learn more about her at her website, Beserker Enterprises. Join Heather at StoryStudio for her next Meditation & Writing class, coming this spring.