For many of us, the goal is to write every day, every hour, maybe even every minute. Like Alexander Hamilton, we aim to be NON-STOP. We write like every moment away from the page or the keyboard will somehow mean we’re not the right kind of writer. But not writing 24/7 doesn’t make you any less of a writer. And sometimes, no matter how hard we try to argue that this – turning ourselves into Golem for the sake of creeping in a few extra words – is the best thing for us, it usually isn’t.
Believe me, I know the temptation to chain my hands to the keyboard so I’ll keep working. But I used to be a slave to my work. A happy slave, yes, but I wasn’t making time for anything much else. What I WAS doing was exhausting myself and my creativity (16 hours over a screen will do that to you sometimes), and injure my neck and back. Like many of us, I become a Quasimodo-of-sorts while writing. It’s hard not to succumb to the curled-up fetal position, fearing the blank page even as we combat it with that triumphant black script.
Writing is my best friend. It’s also my worst enemy. Because of this, we have to rmemeber to keep ourselves in the balance. This can be done in simple and– *sigh* shall we say not-too-painful?—ways.
ALWAYS MAKE ROOM FOR MOVEMENT
No, this isn’t necessarily taking a thirty minute walk—although if you’re so included, this is incredibly good for you and a great way to get the writing juices going! It’s definitely helped me get the creative ball rolling more than a few hundred times.
What I AM talking about is making the time to stretch and take a few steps. GET UP FROM YOUR WORKSPACE. It can be hard; heck, do I know it. But stiff limbs, crooked necks, and strained eyes aren’t our friends here. What we’re looking for is a healthy balance—forgive the phrase, it will likely get worse as this goes along.
Simply moving, making that promise to yourself that YES, I WILL GET UP FOR MY DESK FOR A LAP OF THE ROOM EVERY HALF HOUR, will make a noticeable improvement. Not only to your sore and neglected limbs (don’t frown at me, we all know we’re the worst), but your whole body will thank you for it! I’ve definitely noticed my own mental health improving with movement.
While it is best to get your sweat on with a couple of reps of star jumps through the day (or push ups, if you really hate yourself), simply getting up and walking is the best place to start. Soon you may even surprise yourself by going to the gym!
But in the meantime: just set an alarm, and consider the space between breaks as writing sprints—which can often be more productive than sitting in front of a computer all day anyway.
MAKE SURE TO HYDRATE
I know it sounds simple. And often, it really is. But more often than not, we’re likely to forget to keep a bottle of water on our desks once we’ve hunkered down. I’ve often sighed in frustration and decided against going to the kitchen to grab a glass of water simply for the fact that I’VE ALREADY sat down. This is not to say I’m lazy: sometimes when my nerve pain acts up, it’s too painful to get up from my spot often. So I would prefer dehydration over pain.
But when it can be helped, it’s best to keep a water bottle on the table, and not dismiss it away as I’LL REMEMBER IT LATER. Lately I’ve kept a little home for a litre bottle on my desk. Each time I fill it up, even when I’m not going to sit down, I place it back on in its spot. This way, I know that on those days when I’ve forgotten, I’ll have something. A litre also might not sound like much, but it’s better than nothing.
Let’s not forget that dehydration happens quickly and often leads to headaches—resulting in less writing and more frustration in the long haul.
TALK TO SOMEONE
But what if you don’t want to? Simply talking to someone—either via text or calling, or *gasp* seeing someone in person over coffee—often can help us when we’re stuck in our ruts. Unfortunately, it happens. We wear ourselves out by trying to be the best, trying to get just that little bit more on the page before the next break, and when we come back to our stations, no words appear to mind. It happens too often for my liking.
But if you have someone to talk to to break up the day, you’ll be surprised by how much easier it can be to work through your writing woes. Talking helps us work through things. Whether we understand it doesn’t matter. Personally, the act of talking (or messaging) through something that’s blocking us often helps our brains to work around them. Many a plot hole has been fixed this way.
And even if it’s not about writing, if it’s simply to check in on a friend, it will help. In whatever way matters most: writing, mental health, or if it’s just to take a step back from your work.
And now a hard one: TRY NOT TO EDIT AS YOU GO.
Believe me. This is self-care. AND NO ONE CAN CONVINCE ME OTHERWISE. We are our harshest critic, especially us Artistes. And going round and round in circles, inspecting every grain of our work before it’s even finished is never conducive to a large output.
Speaking from experience, I take a lot longer to do ANYTHING when I’m circling back and going over my work. I nit-pick everything, forgetting that the first draft is telling the story to myself, and that no one else will be getting their hands on our work until it’s done. Let’s go over that again: ONLY YOU will be reading your work before the drafts are done.
And truthfully: editing is also a harder slog when you don’t have a complete story ahead of the one little section you’re going over. Editing is easier when there’s a finished project. That way, you can work in foreshadowing or subtle changes/growth in character. Scouts’ honour.
I’m 100% guilty of this — I think to some extent, we all are. But learning to stop going over our work before it’s done results in more time DOING and less worrying about it. So take off the critic hat, and drag that beanie down over your ears. Do things one at a time. You’ll thank me for it.
In the end, there will be one million more things that I could tell you about looking after yourself when writing. These are just the small things I personally like to focus on. They’re always the things I forget, until I’m in the writing groove that won’t slow down. They help with making everything flow out easier, and in the end, isn’t that what we all want for our work?