The Page a Day Writers Group

Play the Tin Whistle: Self-care for Writers

Posted on: September 21, 2010

Once we instill the basic edict, “Butt in chair!” into our lifestyles, we manage to get something written each day, even if it’s not as much or as glorious as we’d like. For some of us, though, it’s what happens after establishing writerly habits that we need a nudge with.

 1. Butt out of chair!

Yup- get back up, and often. You’ve established your habit- don’t let yourself petrify. Give yourself rewards after 30 minutes, and I don’t mean a pint of ice cream. Take a quick walk around the block or just go sit in the sun and relax. I bet writers are some of the most vitamin D-deficient folks around. I used to be, so I can say that.

 2. Make a coffee date with someone.

Email correspondence is nice, but get out into the world of 3D friends now and then. You’ll feel warm and fuzzy and reinvigorated for your life of words on the page. Plus, you’ll glean real-world dialogue and quirks to infuse into your characters. But that’s not the main point. Honest.

 3. Play the tin whistle.

Or the guitar, or drums, or the accordion. You don’t have to play it well. You don’t even need to get lessons. Just play it for fun- and loudly. Give yourself permission to make music, especially if it’s something you’re not good at. It stretches a different part of your mind. Allow being not good at something to make it easier to just play around with that first draft, that so-not-perfect draft.

4. Take a few minutes to straighten up your desk each day.

I know, this is a loaded topic. “Chaos is part of the process.” Believe me, I don’t have a natural orderly bent. I notice the difference in how I feel, though, when my desk is clear and organized. File folders for each assignment, a binder for my novel- what madness! I’m submitting, nonetheless, in these midlife years after decades of struggle. Order is good. Order feels good. The bleeding of initial disorderly thoughts onto the page is enough chaos for me. I don’t need mountains of it on my desk to wrestle with, too.

I’m just a beginner in this self-care thing, to be honest.  My husband John, also a writer, is my inspiration for the tin whistle- he walked in a few minutes ago playing his very own tin whistle party. I’m up next.

I’d love to hear what works for you. Be generous and share!  

Ondine Brooks Kuraoka

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5 Responses to "Play the Tin Whistle: Self-care for Writers"

Totally agree about the Vitamin D deficiency, I take my sunshine in a capsule every morning.

I unclutter the desk once a week, that’s for the bits I could not leave my seat to put away immediately – writing does take precedence when the going is good.

My get up and do something, is to dance to a bit of pulse-raising music. Or a trip to my local coffee shop, where I often meet friends, but mostly I go there just to be out. When I haven’t arranged to meet anyone, the laptop goes with me or a notebook if I’m in the mood to outline.
The owners know me now, and will chat for a while until my order arrives. If the laptop is on the table, no one disturbs me while I write. It’s a nice arrangement, I get exercise from the walk to and from the coffee shop as well as a change of scenery, and some conversation.

Thanks for sharing, Liz! Cheers to dancing, one of my favorites, too.

Sounds like a fabulous coffee shop.

Write on.

Wonderful glimpse into your process, Ondine! Yes, an organized, pleasant place to work is important. The best self-care tip I learned is that it’s okay to take a night (or a few off). Used to be I felt the whole day was utterly wasted if I hadn’t written several pages. Now I see the value in going to bed when I’m tired, enjoying life and not feeling guilty about giving myself the occasional break.

Kirsten, thank you. Yes, sleep, glorious sleep. If I skimp for several days I seem to be more susceptible to colds. No guilt! Zzzz… My brain functions better, too, after good zzzs.

Thanks for the reminders, Ondine. I’ve figured out a writing routine, how to take breaks and live among the living. Now I have to work at getting to the mess in my work space. Ha!

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The Page a Day Writers Group is a diverse collection of wonderful writers based in San Diego, CA. We've been meeting monthly since 2004. Our primary function is in-depth writing critique, marketing and brainstorming, but there's usually some wine, chocolate and ribaldry involved too. We write fantasy, humor, literary fiction, nonfiction, romance, thrillers and YA. Join us on our journeys to publication and the wonderland beyond!

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