Self-care is important no matter what field of work you’re in. But if there were ever a prime candidate for isolation, self-neglect, and burnout, it would be the writer.
Between the solitary nature of the job and the tendency to get lost in the words (usually for hours on end with barely any breaks), it’s no wonder many authors often struggle with self-care—especially when they’re in the midst of crafting a new book. But a captivating novel isn’t the result of a caffeine-induced all-nighter. It’s the product of a healthy mind and body.
Writing is emotionally and mentally taxing work, and neglecting yourself in the name of it is counterproductive. If you continue to put your book in front of all of your other needs, you’ll eventually burn out. The only remedy for this is to make time for self-care so you can recharge and return to your writing with a clear head and renewed energy.
While incorporating any kind of self-care into your life will only benefit you, there are a few habits and rituals that specifically align with the unique challenges and demands of writing. Making time for these practices will not only improve your overall well-being but also enhance your writing in the long run.
Get a Desk Plant
It may seem silly, but adding a plant to your desk can do wonders for your mood and productivity. Beyond just creating a more aesthetically pleasing environment for writing, taking care of a living thing can be therapeutic. Remembering to water and tend to a plant can also serve as a gentle reminder to tend to yourself, too. Plus, plants help purify the air in your workspace, making it a healthier place to spend long hours.
Set Writing Hours
If you’re guilty of working through meals and staying up late to finish a chapter, it’s time to set some boundaries around when you write and for how long. Sticking to the same writing schedule every day provides the structure necessary for healthy habits to form. Be realistic about how much time you need to write, and make sure to schedule breaks for meals, exercise, and recharging.
Find a Non-Writing Creative Hobby
Many writers believe that they don’t need a creative outlet because they already have one—writing. But if you’re a professional author or work on writing as a career, it’s essential to have another outlet for self-expression that doesn’t make you feel the pressure to perform. Painting, photography, pottery, and cooking are all great options for unwinding and tapping into a different kind of creativity.
Take a Daily Walk
Even if your novel takes place deep inside an enchanted, overgrown forest, chances are you’re writing it from behind a screen. Outside of the obvious dangers of eye strain and poor posture, spending too much time indoors and in front of a computer can negatively impact your mental health. Make it a point to go outside for a walk each day to clear your mind and give you a much-needed break from the screen.
Put Chores on Autopilot
Because writing a novel can be so mentally taxing, it’s important to minimize other stressors in your life as much as possible. Set up automatic bill payments, sign up for a meal-planning service, and invest in a professional cleaner if you can afford it. Eliminating unnecessary tasks and decision-making from your daily routine will free up more time and mental energy for writing.
Stick to a Sleep Schedule
I don’t need to tell you just how essential sleep is for your mental health and overall well-being. But for writers, it can be easy to push bedtime further and further back in pursuit of finishing that next chapter. However, consistently going to bed at the same time every night and getting enough sleep will lead to better focus, creativity, and productivity during your writing hours.
Keep Your Breaks Screen-Free
When you do take breaks from writing, try to make them screen-free. This means avoiding scrolling through social media or watching TV during your designated break times. Instead, use this time to engage in activities that will help you recharge and disconnect from the digital world, such as reading a book, practicing mindfulness techniques, or calling a friend. Doing so will give your eyes and brain a well-deserved rest.
Make Novelty a Habit
Creativity can become stagnant when we stick to the same routine day after day. To stay energized and motivated, try incorporating novel experiences into your schedule. This could be as simple as trying a new coffee shop or taking a short trip to a nearby town. By exposing yourself to new environments and activities, you’ll broaden your perspective and keep your creative juices flowing.
Move Every Day
Exercise is a necessary form of self-care for writers. Not only does it improve physical health, but it also boosts mood and cognitive function. So, make sure to incorporate some form of movement into your self-care routine. Whether it’s a morning walk, a nightly yoga routine, or hitting the gym a few times a week, finding a physical activity that you enjoy is a game-changer.
Invest in Small Pleasures
And finally, remember that writing doesn’t have to be all work and no play. Splurge on a fancy notebook, treat yourself to a new writing tool, or stock your pantry with your favorite afternoon snack. Anything that makes your writing process more enjoyable is worth investing in.
Don’t overestimate the power of having someone to hold you accountable for your self-care habits — and your novel’s progress. Consider joining a writing group or hiring a coach to keep you motivated and on track with your goals. Having someone else invested in your well-being can make all the difference in sticking to these healthy habits.
If you’re interested in working 1:1 with someone who can help you along the long path toward publication, click here to learn more about our book coaching sessions.