Taking the time to elevate your writing with self-care can make a world of difference in both your well-being and your work. Unfortunately, we often think of the two as mutually exclusive. Well-being is put in one box, and work is put in another. We think, “I’ll push myself hard and get through all my work now, and I’ll rest later.”
The truth is, we cannot create our best work without first taking care of ourselves mentally, physically, and emotionally. It may seem counterintuitive, but focusing on self-care in areas that do not directly impact our writing can often benefit our work much more than if we stay glued to our notebooks or computers for hours on end, willing words into existence. In fact, if you’re struggling to write, it may be a sign that there are other areas of your life that need a little TLC.
What’s more, self-care goes beyond the occasional bubble bath or staycation (but those can be great, too!). Here are some ideas to help you elevate your writing with self-care.
Mental Habits to Elevate Your Writing With Self-Care
Establish Routines and Automate Everything You Can
I’m a creature of habit in many parts of my life. That means a lot of things go on autopilot, freeing up my time, energy, and headspace for things like writing. For example, I check my mailbox every day when I get home. I used to wait until the weekends, and I would dread the pile of bills and junk mail I would have to sift through. Now, my mailbox stays pretty empty and anxiety-free (the original inbox zero!).
Don’t be afraid to harness technology as well. I love everything from recurring meetings on my calendar (that I don’t have to remember to schedule) to bills that pay themselves and coffee on a timer.
Enjoy Non-Writing Hobbies to Elevate Your Writing With Self-Care
Gardening. Dancing. Chess. A musical instrument. Travel. It could be anything, as long as it’s not writing. Even when we love writing and could often write all the live long day, our brains need to be exercised with different subject matter. That’s where inspiration comes from, and we have to live life in order to write about it. Who knows — that horseback riding class you take might impact your next piece!
Read or Listen to Something That Supports Your Personal Development
And it doesn’t have to be the news (although it can!). This could be an audiobook or a podcast with a focus on an interesting subject. I love policy wonk podcasts, which are very different from my day-to-day work. Learn something new and really challenge yourself to get outside your comfort zone. This will help elevate your writing by allowing you to think in new ways on new subject matter. You can apply that ability to think critically and look at something from all angles to your work.
This could also be personal development books on finance, entrepreneurship, or any number of subject areas that help you grow and achieve your highest potential.
Talk it Out
Is there something in your life with which you’re struggling, a mental block that you feel is holding you back from your best work? It can help to talk it out with a professional who can guide you, or even with a friend or family member. Sometimes we don’t realize how much a problem weighing on our mind and heart can affect our writing.
If you need additional support, SAMHSA has a free and confidential helpline you can call 24/7, 365 days a year.
Physical Habits to Elevate Your Writing With Self-Care
Get Enough Nutrients Throughout the Day
Are you always on the run, grabbing whatever protein bar is on hand or skipping meals altogether? Fuel your body properly so you can do your best work. When I’m hangry, there’s no way any writing is getting done. What’s more, when I’m eating properly, focusing on whole foods rather than processed junk, I can get some outstanding work accomplished.
Get Active to Elevate Your Writing With Self-Care
Writing can be a very stationary occupation. You might sit in an office chair or on the couch for most of the day. Walking and gentle stretching throughout the day can hugely benefit the creative process. Or join a class with a friend a few times a week. Getting outside is great for your inspiration, too! Remember: A stagnant body can lead to stagnant thoughts, and that’s not good for writing.
You can even work with a professional to set goals. Right now, my fitness goal is to get into the splits, which requires everyday practice.
Forget About Waking Up Early — Go to Bed Early
If you want more energy and more brainpower to write, you need to get adequate amounts of sleep. For some of us, though, waking up early is a no-go. I personally prefer to wake up at a reasonable hour, but I go to bed early (9 p.m. most nights) so I can ensure I’m getting the right amount of sleep for me. Everyone is different, but I find that it’s much easier to have lights out early at night than it is to drag myself out of bed at an ungodly hour. What’s more, when I prioritize early nights, earlier mornings are much easier.
Get Your House in Order
Yes, your literal house (or office, or apartment, or houseboat, or whatever cool work situation you enjoy). Sometimes living in a chaotic environment can impact your writing. When things are messy around me, I can’t focus on my work. There’s also something deeply empowering about having a tidy space.
No need to deep clean every inch of your home every day — simply address the things that drive you crazy. For me, that’s no dirty dishes in the sink, regular vacuuming, and eliminating clutter (e.g., unopened piles of mail).
Emotional Habits to Elevate Your Writing With Self-Care
Regularly Check in With Yourself by Journaling
I know I said these were non-writing ways to elevate your writing with self-care, but journaling gets a free pass. The focus is less on writing than it is on self-reflection and awareness. Journaling helps you acknowledge and work through your feelings, as well as celebrating wins. It’s like an active form of meditation.
In addition to regular journaling, you can do gratitude journaling, even in a simple format with bullet points. Once you’ve honored your feelings and released them in this way, it’s amazing how it can shift your regular writing practice by giving you a renewed sense of freedom and energy.
Mediate to Elevate Your Writing With Self-Care
Practicing mindfulness, like journaling, helps us acknowledge and work through our feelings and emotions. It also helps put us in the present moment with a focus on action, rather than the past (which can focus on regrets) or the future (which can lead to anxiety). You can then practice writing in the present moment. Our writing can often get stuck when we anxiously focus on the future (“What if someone doesn’t like my work?”). This can lead to inertia and procrastination. Meditating can help teach us how to focus on the now and take that action to write in the moment.
These can be work/personal boundaries, boundaries with friends and family, or even boundaries around your social media use. Take some time to think about situations that make you anxious or take up a lot of your time or energy. Is it because of a boundary issue? You don’t have to cut out the thing or person from your life entirely. Instead, see if you can have a conversation with someone.
Some examples could be, “I’m not answering phone calls after 9 p.m. because that’s my wind down time. But I’ll get back to you as soon as I can the next day.” Or download an app that lets you set a timer for how long you can be on social (e.g., 30 minutes a day).
Revisit Your Spiritual Practice
This is of course different for everyone. It could be going to your house of worship, or discovering your dharma, or philanthropy. Check in with yourself: Do you feel like your spiritual needs are being met? Do you feel like you are part of something bigger than yourself? God, Universe, Source Energy — faith in a higher power, whatever that looks like for you, can support a happier, healthier life, and more creative writing.
Never sacrifice your well-being for the sake of your work. Without you, your beautiful work would not exist! To most fully express yourself through your work, elevate your writing with self-care and see what a massive impact it can have on yourself and others.
How do you elevate your writing with self-care? Drop a note in the comments!