I subscribe to several blogs, and one is called brainpickings.org – it usually has great posts that appeal to me in several areas, be it writing, the arts in general, psychology, social issues, etc. Last week, I saw a post about Poet Jane Kenyon and Advice On Writing. This quote in particular really resonated with me:
"Be a good steward of your gifts. Protect your time. Feed your inner life. Avoid too much noise. Read good books, have good sentences in your ears. Be by yourself as often as you can. Walk. Take the phone off the hook. Work regular hours."
It struck me that this isn’t just good advice for protecting your creative spirit and writing life, but good advice for living your life in general. Especially in these times, which seem more tumultuous than any we’ve seen in a generation or two. The world is in a state of transition, and like all transitions, some serious chaos is accompanying that. It can be downright disheartening and draining to just look at the news every day. It can be emotionally overwhelming, which sometimes leads to physical manifestations of those concerns and anxieties. I keep seeing people online talking about how important self-care is, now more than ever. Those people are absolutely right.
It’s a tough call these days between wanting to stay informed and wanting to stay sane. I’ve had to make good self-care a priority. For me, that’s meant taking a step back from social media/getting online/the news in general, because being bombarded by constant intensity, vitriol, and uncertainty was wearing me down, mind, body and soul. So that quote above? Let’s look at it a little closer.
Be a good steward of your gifts. Manage the keeping of your gifts wisely and with as much passion as if you were telling your best friend, lover, child—someone super important to you that you’d likely be nicer to than you often are to yourself—to take good care of those gifts, and do that. The world needs you and your gifts.
Protect your time. Feed your inner life. Avoid too much noise. Easiest way to do this? Stay offline. Or at least get online less. Read books. Binge watch a TV series. Go to the movies. Sing songs you used to love. Dance while you’re cleaning your house. Do something every day to feed your head. It’s good for you. And right now, it may even save you.
Read good books, have good sentences in your ears. See above tip. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Be by yourself as often as you can. As a writer and a single mom, I’m actually by myself more than most people, and I do treasure that alone time. If it’s not easy for you to come by—and for most people, it really isn’t—you need to fight for some alone time. Make it a priority; schedule it into your day or evening somehow. Even if it’s only fifteen minutes, while your baby is napping or your kids are playing video games or your significant other is scrolling on his/her phone... find a way to have some time all to yourself each day. It is more re-centering than you might imagine. And it also helps you go back to your busy world of demands with a little less... edginess. Try it if you can.
Walk. Take the phone off the hook. My main form of exercise is walking. I love to take long walks outside. Breathing fresh air (no matter what season), a change of scene, reconnecting with nature... some of my best story ideas have come to me on walks, as well as some of my greatest personal epiphanies. Sometimes nothing comes to me at all, but it just feels so nourishing to take a walk and let my mind wander. And I don’t—I repeat, I DO NOT—answer my phone or look at it while walking. (Only exception: I look at it if it rings in case it’s one of my kids’ schools calling. If it’s not them, I don’t answer the call.) Do that for yourself a few times a week, if you can. If not, even once a week can make a difference. Reconnecting with the outside world in this way is so rejuvenating for your mind, body, and soul.
As for the Work regular hours thing... well, easier said than done for many. But coming at it as I think it was intended—as writing advice—yes, if you can get into a regular routine for when you write, making it as much of a priority as doing your laundry or cleaning your house or going for a run, your writing muscles will thank you for that. Humans respond to routines. Make that time every day to write, and before you know it... you’ll have written something.
Good advice for writing, and for life. Take care of yourself. It’s so very important, and we all forget that sometimes.