Let’s face it, writers have a well-deserved reputation for sitting still for long periods of time, wool-gathering, and, well, oddities in general. We’re just people and need the same things as the rest of humanity, and a little something more. We need to take care of ourselves and our muse.
Forgive me if I sound like your mother for a minute, but it’s important. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you seeing experiences and getting out in the world to make sure you have material to draw from?
- Are you reading almost as much as you are writing?
- Are you eating properly?
- Are you getting exercise?
- Are you getting enough sleep?
- Are you taking care of your general health?
If you can’t say yes to all of these questions, consider the effect it may have on your creativity.
Writing can be physically challenging. You are typing or moving a pen for long periods of time, probably not changing your position often enough or practicing good posture. Your wrists, shoulders, and spine take the brunt of it. Pain is not always conducive to creative thought.
Give your body the strength it needs to perform for you by providing exercise, stretching, and good nutrition.
Think about sleep. If you like to write curled up in a chair or lying in bed, but find you doze off, move to the dining room table. If you catch yourself dozing, you aren’t getting enough sleep. National surveys over the last few decades reveal that most American adults are short-changing themselves on sleep. It’s important for your health. Adequate sleep helps you cope with stress and the demands of life. A tired brain is sluggish in terms of creativity.
As important as it is to care for your body, you need to care for your mind as well. We write based partly on personal experience and get ideas from exposing ourselves to conversation, observation, and stimulation. We all add little tidbits of our lives to our work, perhaps basing a character off a nosy neighbor or a woman hurrying down the street with a cell phone to her ear, and details we observe, such as a pigeon strutting along a sidewalk, a young couple involved in a lovers spat, the kindness of one stranger to another.
We must feed our minds with experiences outside our four walls so we have fresh observations to draw from, fresh conversations to make connections in our minds, and fresh stimulation of our senses so we can pass along these tidbits to our characters.
Are you feeding your muse with time away from your writing desk? Are you seeking the art and humanity all around you? To paraphrase an old adage, your muse will scratch your back if you scratch hers (or his). The best way to take care of your muse is to take care of yourself.