Guest Post: Sara Letourneau – Seven Keys to Maintaining Your Writerly Well-Being

Our healGuest Post Template(1)th and wellness are two of the most important “possessions” we have. Yet as writers, sometimes we take them for granted. If we’re too engrossed in our work and lose track of time, or a crucial deadline on a blog post or a round of rewrites is looming, we might feel tempted to ignore sleep, hunger, and other needs.

Here’s what I can tell you from personal experience: It’s not worth it. In fact, it’s essential for us to step away from our craft now and then so we can take care of ourselves. And by remembering to balance creativity with self-care, we can be productive, happy, and healthy.

So, how can you maintain your well-being without sacrificing too much of your writing? Here are seven keys that focus on all-around areas of physical, emotional, and mental wellness.

Key #1: Hydration

Staying hydrated isn’t limited to physical exercise. Drinking enough beneficial liquids during the day can improve energy levels, mood, and concentration – all of which are crucial for writers. So, don’t wait until you’re thirsty. (It’s a sign that you’re already dehydrated.) Have a cup of water, coffee, tea, or other beverage of choice ready when you sit down to write and use your breaks to get refills.

Key #2: Nutrition

Do you find it impossible to write when you’re hungry? (I do!) Not only does hunger lead to a distracting sensation in one’s stomach, but it also throws the brain “off-balance” by forcing the hypothalamus (which regulates a body’s homeostasis) to work overtime. As a result, the body’s focus shifts to finding food. Malnutrition, or the state of not getting enough food or enough of the right foods, can also affect memory, sleep patterns, mood – even motor skills such as writing manually or typing.

Don’t let an empty stomach derail your ability to think or write. Instead, have a snack handy for when those familiar pangs pay a visit. Some healthy choices include fresh vegetables, dried fruit, cheese or peanut butter with crackers, or nuts and seeds. And when it comes to meals, take a break from writing to feed and refresh yourself, or set a deadline so you can wrap up your session at a reasonable time.

Key #3: Exercise

Not only is exercise good for your physical health, but it also has emotional and creative benefits. It can enhance your mood, improve energy levels, and boost self-esteem. It can also put your brain in a relaxed state that opens the spontaneous pathway, which happens during free association and idea-generation. (In other words, those “a-ha” moments that happen when you’re away from writing? Your spontaneous pathway is open then!)

Since every writer’s schedule differs, it’s important to fit in exercise when it works best for you. And whether you prefer cardio (aerobics, swimming), toning (yoga, pilates), or strength conditioning (weights, indoor rock climbing), there’s no shortage of activities to try. Also, have a journal or recording device ready for when your spontaneous pathway opens. If I’m outside walking, I take my cellphone with me for safety reasons – and for saving “text messages” when inspiration strikes.

Key #4: Rest

Some writers have no trouble sacrificing sleep for their craft’s sake. A few even advocate that insomnia boosts creativity. Not me. I’ve learned first-hand that sleep deprivation can hinder concentration, disrupt the ability to fight stress, and make you super-cranky. And when the cycle goes on for too long, it can force your body to shut down.

If this happens to you, listen to your body. Ensure you get enough sleep by going to bed and getting up at times that work for you. You’ll feel refreshed as well as mentally and emotionally prepared for your next writing session.

Key #5: Relaxation

One of the perks of being a writer is using our craft as a form of stress relief. When something troubles you, journaling can often help you find a solution. Not only does journaling allow you to acknowledge your current emotions, fears, or worries, but the act of writing by hand can also put you in a meditative state by slowing your breathing, relaxing your muscles, and clarifying your thoughts. I’ve kept a journal off and on for years, and it’s been a savior for problem-solving and for calming my (sometimes) anxious mind.

However, what about the times when a journal isn’t available? Try listening to new age music or guided meditations that can reduce stress and anxiety. Practice yoga, which promotes relaxation by combining stretching exercises with focused breathing. Other artsy hobbies such as knitting, painting, and adult coloring books can also help.

Key #6: Social Life

As much as we love writing, we shouldn’t let our passion turn us into hermits. ;) Take some time to meet up with friends, attend events that appeal to your interests, or volunteer for meaningful charities and causes. It nurtures your current relationships and helps you build new ones. And on a wellness level, it can buoy your energy and self-confidence.

Key #7: The Occasional Reward

Did you recently finish a draft? Or hit an important word count milestone? You should celebrate! A chocolate bar, a dinner at your favorite restaurant, a shopping trip, or a day at the beach – whatever brings you euphoria or peace, give yourself permission to indulge in it for the moment. Then, when you go back to writing, you’ll feel satisfied with your progress so far and even more motivated to reach for the next goal.

What are some of your tips for maintaining your “writerly well-being”? Is there one particular area you want or are trying to improve on?


unnamed

Sara Letourneau is a Massachusetts-based writer who practices joy and versatility in her work. In addition to revising a YA fantasy novel tentatively titled THE KEEPER’S CURSE, she reviews tea at A Bibliophile’s Reverie and contributes to the writing resource site DIY MFA. Her poetry has been published in The Curry Arts Journal, Soul-Lit, The Eunoia Review, Underground Voices, and two anthologies. Learn more about Sara at her website / blog, Twitter, and Goodreads.

#WriteFit Challenge – 4 Steps to Using Fitness to Fuel Your Writing Life

WriteFit Blog Title PictureBack when The Sprint Shack was first founded, a fun hashtag was floating around the Twitterverse: #WriteFit. With such a simple yet descriptive name, I immediately knew it’d catch on quick.

From there, I witnessed the very first beginnings of the #WriteFit challenge, which encompasses something every writer I know struggles to balance: the goals of sedentary writer life with the goals of a fit and healthy life. How can we be productive writers–something that requires hours of sitting, often with harmful posture and bright screens glaring against our straining eyes–while still maintaining good health? Poor habits for the sake of productivity aren’t sustainable–just ask the writer and cartoonist Howard Tayler, who had to get spinal surgery from too many hours of sitting at his desk.

Unfortunately, the challenge took place during an extremely busy month and I was unable to participate, but good news: the #WriteFit challenge is back, this time for a whopping three months instead of its usual one!

Here to talk to us more about the challenge are its founders, Jessi Esparza and Katie Siuta O’Shea.

Can you tell us the basics of the #WriteFit challenge for anyone who’s new to it? The what, where, and when?

#WriteFit combines writing plus fitness (hence the Write and the Fit) in a month-long challenge with a social twist. We’ve found that a fitness regimen really helps us stick to our writing goals. There’s something about exercising that helps us clear our minds and focus on getting words onto the page.

By setting goals, we take the first steps to actually meeting them, and by sharing those goals with the #WriteFit community we have people cheering us on and ensuring that we do.  Participants tweet, blog, or otherwise share their progress in word counts, number of steps, number of miles, minutes of yoga (however they’ve decided to keep track) and encourage other participants. You can do #WriteFit anytime, anywhere—it’s meant to be flexible to fit your lifestyle!

Each challenge typically lasts for a month, but right now we’re doing a few consecutive months. People can start at any time!

How do people interested in the challenge participate?

It’s easy! You set goals, achieve goals, share your progress, and support other participants in the challenge.

Set Your Goals: Set specific goals for yourself, such as writing 20-30 minutes every day (or 3x a week—whatever you choose!), paired with fitness goals, such as 30 minutes of exercise a day or reaching 10,000 steps a day. It doesn’t even have to be “writing” new words—some people are in the revising or querying stages and set their goals to spend time on those things.

Achieve Your Goals: This part’s simple—you actually sit down and write, and jump up and exercise (or visa versa–the timing’s not important)!

Share Your Goals: Use the hashtag #WriteFit on Twitter, Instagram, or any other social media site to check in and share your progress with your friends and the other participants.

Support Each Other: Check the #WriteFit hashtag and tweet other participants encouragement. Favorite, retweet, friend – it’s easier to stay on target when you have a community around you. The more involved you are, the better your results will be. You can even schedule writing sprints (or real sprints!) with each other.

Why did you decide to start the #WriteFit challenge? What was your initial inspiration?

Jessi originally came up with the idea a) to make actual progress on her novel, b) to keep up with her other writing projects, and c) to counteract working a 40 hour desk job followed by coming home and sitting more.

Katie, who is way more social media savvy than Jessi, saw how much progress Jessi was making and decided that #WriteFit should be a legit thing. She posted on her blog and Twitter and invited others outside our small circle of friends to participate too.

What has participation been like in the last challenges?

We’ve done the challenge several times in the last two years and we’ve been overwhelmed by the level of enthusiasm. It really spread and took on a life of its own. Even when we weren’t specifically running a #WriteFit challenge month, we loved seeing that people were still making their own challenges, or keeping up with their goals.

After starting her YouTube channel, Katie O’Shea Books, Katie posted several official YouTube #WriteFit Challenges, and it has continued to grow from there.

From what I understand, there’s also a #ReadFit for non-writers and those who just want to read more! How does that work?

The same way as #WriteFit, except instead of writing goals, it’s reading goals. A lot of our friends who didn’t write but loved books wanted to join, so we created a hashtag for them too!

Will #WriteFit and #ReadFit be back in the future? Do you have a set schedule for future challenges, or are they as you have time?

Definitely! Our current challenge is going on through at least July. We don’t have a set schedule but typically we run at least two official challenges a year. Of course people can also continue to use the hashtag throughout the year.

Jessi Esparza is a writer, designer, and nerd of all tradesJessi Bio Picture, who loves cuddly animals, witty people and yummy food. You can find her on Twitter @jessimesparza or on her writing blog, jessiwritesthings.tumblr.com. She has an ongoing serial about what happens when the fairytale realms and modern day world collide. Read it at http://www.wattpad.com/story/1616693-tales. You can also check out her artwork at jessisketches.tumblr.com.

Katie Bio Picture

Katie Siuta O’Shea is lawyer by day and a writer by early morning/late night. She loves photography, music, traveling, and setting way too many goals. You can find her online on Twitter and Instagram @ktoshea, her YouTube Channel Katie O’Shea Books, or her blog, katieosheabooks.blogspot.com.