Amy Palmer

Of writing, reading and creating

Self care when creating

Now, I’m sure we all know what it’s like to get carried away in a new project. How wonderful and thrilling it can be, but also how easy it is to forget to take care of ourselves. Self care is very important all the time, but particularly when you’re carried away in a new project. So I’ve put together a quick list of things you should be keeping an eye on/trying to do. Mostly because they’re things I often forget to do, and a reminder can’t hurt.

1. Keep track of time.

We all know the way hours can pass like minutes when we get into the flow. You sit down to start writing in the late am, look up and suddenly it’s the middle of the night and you’ve skipped two meals and your back is complaining at you, but at least you’ve written 5k.

While this can be wonderful for productivity, it’s not so great for you. Set yourself an alarm that goes off every hour. It doesn’t have to take you out of your productivity groove, it just has to remind you that time is passing. And for the sake of all the things I’ve noted below, you need to keep track of the time.

2. Sleep

I know very well the frustration of having to switch off the PC, or put down the pen and go to sleep because I have something to get to the next morning. Nothing kills the writing buzz quite like remembering I have to be up for work the next day. I can, and have, pulled all nighters. I did it at University for coursework and writing, and I’ve done it once for the sake of writing since leaving Uni. Occasionally I get by on four or so hours sleep, because I just can’t bring myself to leave my project.

This is really not the best way to go about things. You need sleep. You definitely need to be able to function for things like jobs and school. I’m lucky in that I can generally be a functional human being for an extra day without a proper night’s sleep. But I’m better, everyone’s better, on a good night of rest. Listen to your body, and when you start to get tired, get some sleep. I promise your output will be better than if you’re trying to string a sentence together without proper rest.

3. Socialise

Writing, and most types of creative endeavour, are a lonely, individual thing to do. It can require hours of sitting by yourself, without other people. And if you really get into the groove, sometimes it can end up being that for more than a day at a time.

Find other people to be around. Humans are, overall, social creatures. We can only be alone for so long. Get together with a friend for coffee. Video chat with your family. Gather your house mates for a film or board game evening. Do something with other people to get yourself out if your own head for a little while. It’ll leave you feeling refreshed, and may give you some new material to work with. (My housemates, for example, are a veritable fount of bizarre quotes and commentary that I can work into my writing.)

4. Eat and drink

This is one of the things that I find I’m most likely to neglect when I’m writing, and also one of the easiest to fix. I have a bad habit of just having coffee on hand when I write. While coffee is great, it’s not exactly the best choice I could make for four drinks in a couple of hours. It leaves me dehydrated, and hungrier than I think I should be at sudden intervals.

Keep water on hand, or squash if you don’t like water. Even energy drinks. Some sort of rehydrating equivalent. Don’t let yourself get dehydrated and hungry. If you’re like me, and like to browse while you write, keep an eye on what you’re browsing on. I for one don’t much notice or care what it is I’m eating as I write, so it’s the perfect time to get some fruit and veg into my diet. If you don’t browse, take regular breaks to have something to eat, even if it’s not full meals. Your brain needs the fuel as much as your body does.

5. Get outside

Chances are, you do your writing inside. Whether you write by hand or on a computer, you probably have a study or bedroom where you get most of it done.

Get yourself outside for a bit. Not only will the sunshine (even if it’s weak) help you with your vitamin d production, it’ll also give you a chance to get out of your head for a bit, and away from the computer screen. It also gets you up and moving, and gives your wrists a break. This can help you to avoid all sorts of worrying health side effects which can come from sitting down and looking at a screen for hours on end.

Most importantly, remember that you need to look after your body and mind while you’re creating. You can’t make anything if you push your body to breaking in doing so. Keep an eye on the long game, as well as the immediate.

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