Sunday, August 7, 2011

The care and feeding of a writer

by: Joelle Charbonneau

Being a writer means you have to be an independent worker. You have to self-motivate. You have to be willing to ignore the lure of social media or solitaire on your computer and get work done. While there are lots of people involved in turning a manuscript into a book, a writer works alone to create that book. There is no one sitting next to you that makes you log in your time.

Self-motivation is important as a writer. The best self-motivators feel compelled to sit at their computers every day and log a certain amount of words or pages in. Which is awesome. However, writers often forget that while getting pages done is important, so it taking care of themselves.

So here are a few things that writers need to remember to add to the check list along with all those pages written and words typed. (And yes, I am writing this now because I tend to forget to do these things and need a swift kick in the rear.)

1. Get enough rest – writers have to write when they have the time. For me, this is often at night after the tot is in bed. Too often, I am up until 1a.m. letting my fingers do the walking. My body can handle doing this once in a while, but every night for weeks mean running myself down. If your body is tired, your mind will be tired, too. Writing tired can mean writing sloppy. Take the time to get some sleep so you don’t have to do twice the amount of work on the editing end.

2. Eat well – this is kind of like the sleep thing. Writers have to sit for hours on end in front of the computer which requires energy and stamina. It is easy to say “It’s not like I’m running a marathon” and reach for the bag of potato chips, but remember you are running your own kind of marathon. A novel takes weeks and months to create. You need to keep up your enthusiasm and energy for the project in order to reach THE END. A body fueled only by crap won’t be up to the challenge.

3. Read – This one gets me every time. Every writer I know started out as a voracious reader. Before getting published, I used to read between 150-200 books a year. Now I’m lucky if I read 40 or 50, but I make sure to take the time in between projects to read because it reminds me of my passion for the written word. It also keeps me looking at voice, character arcs and pacing in new and interesting ways. Reading will help you remember why you love this business when you are ready to kick the business in the ass.

4. Get away from the computer screen – Writers, performers, musicians and artists are inspired by the world around them. In order to find that inspiration, you actually need to get out in the world and roll around in it. Take the time to enjoy family outings, take walks around the neighborhood and experience the world around you in between getting those words on the page. You’ll be a happier person and a better writer for it.

5. Give yourself permission to take time off – I’m struggling with this one right now, but I’m working on it. Yes, writers need to write, and when I’m writing a project I write 7 days a week. No one can keep up that pace day in and day out. Take a break between projects to recharge. Take time off on the weekends to regroup. Like any job, you need to take vacations (and this means more than an hour or two here or there) to really get away from work. After a week or a month or even a summer you will better remember and appreciate the reason you write. And don’t we all do better when we are doing something we love?


basketcase said...

So true, and so very easy to forget.

Dana King said...

This is the second summer I've taken off from writing. Smartest thing I ever did. (As a writer.) I found last year I came back ready to go, and got twice as much work done, and it was better, cleaner work, to boot.

I'm due to start up again after Labor Day, and I'm already getting the itch. Now I'm making myself wait (I may work on an outline a little). If this year if like last, I'll hit the ground running.

Nancy J. Parra said...

Great post and very true! Take care of you~