The Healthy Author: Part One

Happy Autumn Equinox!

I mean, it was 110 degrees today but let’s pretend it’s PSL season here. I welcomed fall to the desert by spending the day with a pie pumpkin. (It put up a fight.) I cut it, roasted it, peeled it, mashed it, and turned it into a gluten-free, refined sugar-free, dairy-free, organic chocolate-chip pumpkin bar. I’ve been doing an intense food overhaul to better manage my health. So far, it’s actually working. (Knock on wood.) The headaches, joint pain, and chronic fatigue are easing up. Of course, life has been CHAOS these past few weeks, but I’ve started to just roll with it and take things one moment at a time.

Today, as I was fighting with this pumpkin, I started bemoaning the amount of time I was putting into just making a damn dessert bar. It would be so much easier to use canned pumpkin or just skip the baking process altogether… but then I stopped myself from that negative thinking because (as I’ve mentioned before) I like baking. And time-consumption is part of the process. If I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t bother going through the hassle of creating it.

Which got me thinking.

I recently read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, a book about the creative process. There were a few things I disagreed with, but the main thing that I LOVED is Gilbert’s perspective on writing. Namely, that it should be a positive and uplifting thing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve suffered through someone moaning about writing. I mean REALLY complaining. They complained about it ruining their life, the struggle, the burden… you know, all the tormented artist cliches.

Sure, I’ll gripe about writing. I’ll complain about confusing myself with a plotline or when my characters quit speaking to me. But if it truly caused me a ton of bitterness, I wouldn’t write. Just like  I wouldn’t bother with that pumpkin I fought to turn into a dessert bar. Life is too short to dedicate yourself to something you hate doing.

Lately, I’ve started blocking/muting people who appear in my feeds who post things like “Oh, god I’d rather be napping or doing literally anything other than writing.”  I’ll sit there, looking at their never-ending stream of complaints and think, “Then go do the thing you’d rather do? Are you contractually obligated to write at this very moment?”

I write because I LOVE to write. I write because it makes me happy. If I have bad days, I don’t force myself to do it. If I have longer bad spells, I put on my adult-face and power through it until I get back into the groove.

For instance, after I put the pumpkin bar in the oven this afternoon, I sat down at my desk to write then realized… I wasn’t in the right mind frame. Did I lament my burden and force myself to smash out a scene? Nope. Did I still want to visit my story’s world? Yup. What did I do? Research.  I spent a good few hours fact-checking some things in the draft.

All of these complaints reminded me of someone I knew who, when asked why they became a writer said, “Because I thought it would make me look so cool. I wanted to be one of those writers sitting in a cafe by a river, smoking a cigarette, and musing about life.”

Uh. Ok? I guess so. Personally, I became a writer because I like stories.

How to Not Write So You Can Write

Being a healthy writer doesn’t begin and end with a positive mindset. You need a support system. You need the ability to write. You need the courage to write.

You also need to know how to not write.

You need to have hobbies and a social life and things that do not have any ties to the written worlds you create.

I wonder how many of those people I muted would benefit from learning how to take a break so they could fall in love with writing again. So they could cut out that harmful tormented artist persona and actually enjoy their calling.

 

Screen Shot 2018-09-22 at 8.52.21 PM

Amanda Palmer lyrics above my desk, always there to remind me.

 

Look, I’m not going to be a hypocrite. I’m sure I’m made this mistake but I’m learning to avoid it. How?

Here’s my go-to “Get Your Head Out of Your Ass” tricks:

  • Go for a walk.
  • Brush a cat.
  • Bake something.
  • Read a book.
  • Vine compilations.
  • Clean.
  • Knit.
  • Rearrange a bookshelf. A closet. A drawer.
  • Find something to make writing easier: be it a new set of post-it notes, or compression gloves, listen to another writer talk about writing or their story, or try a new herbal tea. (Completely unrelated, Trader Joe’s Harvest Blend is amazing.)

I tried gardening but… wow, that did not go well. Sorry, plants. I hope you’re in a better place.

It’s a short list. One that I’m looking to improve and expand. So, authors, tell me— How do you stay healthy? What do you do to keep from getting too inside your own head? I’ll post the best responses in a follow-up blog.

Until next time.

 

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