Have you lost your writing mojo?
Your mind whirls in a dance of distress as you stare at that blinking cursor.
Dammit! You have a deadline!
You know and follow the expert writing advice: set a schedule, push through resistance, keep at it. Yet the words won’t flow.
You can’t find that writing mojo!
Maybe it’s time to take a break.
Wait, wait…hold the shrieking. How can you possibly take a break when you’re already behind with projects or deadlines?
It’s been proven: rest increases your productivity and writing output.
Think about it. When your last brilliant new idea blossomed, were you sitting at your desk, flogging yourself to keep going?
I doubt it.
Allowing the mind some fallow time is how we let in new ideas and inspirations.
Self-Care For Writers
Every writer worth his or her salt knows they must keep their butt in the chair and write. However, it’s equally important to get your butt out of that chair.
You know that old adage about cooking while you’re in the midst of an argument? All that angry energy goes into the food. Well, the same applies to writing while you’re feeling depleted. You wind up with depleted prose.
Your creative brain is a muscle. Consider how athletes train. They push themselves – hard. Yet for optimum performance, muscles need recovery time. So athletes take days off training to rejuvenate their muscles.
Our creative muscles need breaks too. A change in focus replenishes those creative and intellectual synapses, priming you for another session.
Do you recognize when your mind muscle needs a rest?
Your body always tells you. The hard part is listening. When you push past those warning signs, your work suffers, your creative process flags, and – worst of all – you lose the joy of writing.
But what about all that work waiting to be done?
Here’s the good news: Self-care for writers takes only small snippets of time.
In fact, probably less time than you spend poking around on Facebook or perusing Pinterest.
Practice these five tips and watch your motivation to write soar.
Back away from the computer! It’s easy to get glued to that screen, even once inspiration wanes.
Moving your body brings blood to every cell, including brain cells.
Ideally, carve out at a minimum of a half hour each day to get your heart pumping. This can be as simple as a walk through your neighborhood or as elaborate a fancy new workout routine at the gym. Turning up some music and dancing around the room works too.
Any type of movement is better than none. If you can’t fit in an exercise routine, you’ll still notice a massive difference in your productivity if you get up and walk around, do a few stretches, climb some stairs, or step outside. Take a short ‘movement break’ for every hour you sit at your desk.
Start today. Set a timer and get up and away from your desk for 2-5 minutes each hour. Way better than Facebook!
Are you drinking at least one glass of water for each cup of coffee or caffeinated beverage you consume? Even if you don’t fuel your writing with caffeine, how often to you remember to slake your thirst?
The human brain is 70 percent water, and this needs to be replenished to operate effectively. Sadly for coffee achievers, caffeine dehydrates you and pulls water from your cells.
It’s a simple fix to include more water into your day. Keep a large glass on your desk, and make sure to drain it every two hours. Before you refill that coffee mug, drink a glass of water.
This is the first thing to get short shrift in a busy person’s life – and writers are as guilty as anyone else. Maybe you get up an hour early to give yourself time to write. A good practice – as long as you’re making up for that lost time by slipping between the sheets a bit earlier, or taking a short nap.
I’m a huge fan of the power nap. It works wonders when your brain shuts down and you can’t come up with fresh words or the solution to your story conundrum.
Get away from your desk and settle on the couch or even on the floor. Set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes, release whatever problem you’re struggling with and let your eyes close. With practice you will drift off and awaken surprisingly refreshed when the timer goes off. At a minimum, your brain will be rested and your eyes ready to stare at that screen again.
If brain fade isn’t enough incentive to try a power nap, consider this: Shirking on sleep can result in premature aging symptoms like wrinkles and disease.
Fueling your creativity with cheez-its only pays off for so long. You might get away with such habits for years, thinking you’re saving time by not fussing with food preparation.
Yet, depriving yourself of needed nourishment will eventually result in frequent illness, aches and pains, and sluggishness. All of which will keep you from producing the stellar writing you know you’re capable of.
Did the word ‘sluggishness’ ring a bell? If you’re reaching for sugary snacks and junk food to boost your energy, here’s what happens: Your blood sugar spikes and you think, woo hoo! I’m on a roll now! Then, BAM, that blood sugar plummets and your brain basically shuts down. Goodbye writing mojo!
Rather than reaching for another candy bar, experiment with different snacks.
Not quite ready to give up your goodies? At least add in some vegetables, fruits and whole grain breads to counteract their effect.
Before you sit down to work (or before you go to bed), prepare a few healthy snacks so they’re ready for you when hunger hits.
#5: Mindfulness practice
I resisted starting a meditation practice for years. I wanted to do it, but I just didn’t have time. Perhaps you feel the same?
Study after study shows that a regular mindfulness practice results in increased productivity, sharper memory, and a flow of creativity.
I finally made the commitment to practice for just five minutes a day, which I soon increased to 10. It turns out that 10 minutes a day is enough to derive some of the amazing benefits of meditation!
Sounds impossible? I challenge you to give it a try for 21 days and see if you notice a difference in your writing. If you’re wondering how to start, take a look at Mary Jacksch’s article on how to meditate at Good Life Zen.
If you still balk at setting aside even 10 minutes, try incorporating mindfulness into something you already do. Make one meal a day your mindful meal. No reading or TV, just you slowly chewing your food and tuning in. Or practice mindfulness while walking.
Remember, a writer’s most important tool is a well-rested mind, one that is ready to explore, examine, and express. When you take a break, and pause to focus on something different, you will return to your writing newly energized, clear, and with fresh inspiration.
Go ahead and indulge in some writer’s self care. You may be astonished at the results.
How about you? Do you already practice any or all of these self care tips? If not, which one can you implement today?
About the Author:
Sarah O’Leary is a writer and wellness coach on a mission to empower women feel vibrant, look radiant and finally step up to their dreams. She believes in having fun and living healthy, and that the two can coexist. Download her free ebook, Pathway To Radiance:Self-Care Stories and Strategies from 50 Empowered Women.
Image: Woman with laptop on beach courtesy of Bigstockphoto.com
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