Dedication to your writing is important, but at times it can go too far. I’ve often found myself so absorbed in my work that I ignored my own basic needs. Which, if kept up, not only jeopardizes my health and sanity but can also negatively affect my writing. To avoid burning myself out I have a few basic daily practices that I make time for in my schedule every day.
Keeping up with these practices ensures that I take the needed breaks away from writing throughout the day and keeps me in tune with my needs. These five practices are quick and easy, so I can be consistent.
There is a long list of health and self-care practices to choose from. These are the ones I have found most important and beneficial for me. Of course, I’d recommend giving them a try yourself, but everybody is different. You have to figure out what works best for you.
What practices best fit your needs, schedule, and lifestyle so that you can stay happy and healthy as you write?
1. Spend Time Outside
I’ve learned the hard way that fresh air and sunshine are essential to being a functional human being. I’ve gone through periods where I was only outside long enough to get to work and back, spending the rest of the day under artificial lights, staring at computer screens. No wonder I was always too depressed and exhausted to write.
Eventually, I wised up and started taking walks on my lunch break and saw drastic changes in my mood and energy levels.
Working mostly from home now, I can easily go days without leaving the house. During the warmer months, it’s easier to get outside: working in the garden, barbecuing, or sitting on the porch to read.
But winters are much harder. I’ve had to push myself into the habit of taking short daily walks. Often tricking myself by spreading out errands over the course of a couple of days. One day I’ll do my grocery shopping, the next a run to the library, and then another I’ll treat myself to a mini shopping spree at the dollar store.
2. Move My Body
I can spend hours sitting in the same position in front of a computer, tv, or reading a book. But it wreaks havoc on my body. Especially, when I’m hard at work and focused on writing.
Maybe it’s just me but does it seem like the more intensely focused on writing you are, the more you hunch over your keyboard?
Even with good posture, it’s not good for anybody to be in the same position for hours. I always end up feeling stiff, achy, and sore, which drains my motivation to jump back to writing the next day.
To help prevent the stiffness, I’ve begun starting my day with a few minutes of stretching and maybe even a short yoga session. I’ll usually do it after journaling and before I really get into serious writing, otherwise I lose track of time and forget.
After a couple of hours of writing, late morning or early afternoon I’m ready for a break. I’d like to say I work out every day, but that’s not true. While I do squeeze in a few short workouts a week, most often I just walk. I enjoy it and I can kill two birds with one stone, moving my body and getting outside.
It’s one of the best things I can do for my writing. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had a writing epiphany during these walks and came back home even more excited about whatever I was writing.
3. Treat Myself
I make sure that every day I find a way to treat myself. I change it up from day to day. It’s usually something small and spontaneous to reward myself for a good writing day or as comfort when things haven’t been going so well. Most often it’s something I can pick up from the local dollar store, a piece of candy, a pen, or cheap art supplies.
Some days I’ll plan ahead and use it as something to look forward to, a favorite meal, an indulgent dessert, or a long hot bath.
Regardless, it keeps me motivated to accomplish whatever goal I set for the day.
When I have had a particularly bad day or week, I’ll give myself an afternoon or even a whole day off to binge whatever show I’m currently obsessed with. It might sound counterproductive, but sometimes we all really just need to give ourselves a break.
4. Embrace Silence and Stillness
I used to be the kind of person that always needed background noise. I’d write, read, and work with music or the TV on to fill in the silence. It’s taken me many years and many abandoned daily meditation practices to really learn how to enjoy and embrace stillness and silence.
I was a victim of the busy mindset, thinking that to be productive I should always be doing something. This was especially discouraging when writing was hard, and it felt like I was spending more time thinking about writing instead of actually writing. But I’ve come to understand that quieting my brain can help me connect with my creativity and reach a state of flow.
Every morning before I even take my first sip of coffee, I’ll sit and just do nothing for a few minutes. I try not to think about anything, take a couple of deep breaths and just sit with that silence.
If I can remember, I’ll repeat it throughout the day when switching from one task to another. Again, I’ll just take a couple of breaths and try to clear my mind before moving on to something new.
5. Read for Fun
I was a bookworm from a very young age and was naturally drawn to writing. My desire to write was a direct result of my love of reading. But somewhere along the way, it became a requirement of the job and not something simply for enjoyment. I learned that you needed to read like a writer, interpreting words/lines/sentences, identifying themes, and picking apart the craft elements that made a piece of writing work.
I’m always reading a couple of books at once. Often it will include a writing craft book, nonfiction research, and writing similar to what I am working on. While I do enjoy reading these books, sometimes it feels too much like work. I get bogged down when I go to pick up a book and think about how it can be applied to my writing.
I offset this feeling by keeping at least one book handy that I’m reading simply because I know I will enjoy reading it. Even if I only get to read a chapter or two a day, it’s nice to read something just for fun.
Tell us in the comments: What do you do to stay happy, healthy, and writing?
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Alexis M. Collazo writes in a wide variety of styles, forms, and genres. She’s worked as a freelance writer, copywriter, and content marketing blogger. She is currently working on a memoir written in prose and poetry. After moving to Pennsylvania in 2016, she worked at the local public library where she led monthly writing workshops. In 2021, she was certified as an Amherst Writers and Artists workshop facilitator. She now leads online workshops and hosts write-in sessions, to see current or upcoming events visit www.alexismcollazo.com.