When I began writing, I dove straight in. Deep into a big pile of words.
You've probably figured out by now, I tend to have an all-or-nothing mentality. Also, I was scared. I was so scared that this writing gig wouldn't work.
So I hyperscheduled myself: all writing and words, all the time! Relax by reading! Pull apart movie storylines! I will be a fiction-maker extraordinaire! I will breathe out stories!!
This isn't a super-sustainable way to stay a writer.
Your life has to be about more than words.
Is that a horrible, sacrilegious thing to say on a writing blog?? Does it feel like an April Fools trick? But oh, it's so true.
When all I do is writing, a very scary mindset creeps in:
Writing becomes my everything.
And then, when writing stops going well--because it will stop now and then, it will stump me completely sometimes, I will pull my hair out, it's all part of the contract--
When writing stops going well, everything stops going well.
And suddenly I'm on a really ugly road.
If I want to keep getting out of bed in the morning, I need my life to be about more than just writing.
Bonus: my writing gets a lot better when I have a few non-verbal pursuits mixed in.
(Something about actually living... you get better at working with imagery and stuff. New metaphors at your disposal. Characters that don't sound just like you. Funny how that works.)
For a while, I unwound by playing piano, focusing on sounds and timing instead of words. Then I fell in love with knitting: Hats! Colors! Techniques! Textures!
But then I realized that it was a lot better for my speedy little typing fingers to have a hobby that didn't require quite so much finger movement. (Ouch.)
So lately, I've settled on cooking. (If you check out my Instagram account, you can usually see a string of food pictures. I have to remind myself that I'm not actually a food blogger, whoops!)
Hey, I love to eat really good food. And cooking is one of those rare pursuits that requires all five of your senses and then some. (Do we want to get me started on how much I love cooking? Not today. You'd be reading this post forever.)
So I kick myself away from my desk by 4:30 at the latest, and I start nosing around in the kitchen. Chopping veggies, sautéing garlic, sniffing spices.
I let the word-sifting part of my brain go blank, and guess what happens. My subconscious mind, or my imagination, or whatever you want to call it... It shows up.
It sits on the counter next to me, swinging its legs and blinking at my impressive chopping skills. And now and then, it hands me a line of dialogue. Or it unties a little plot knot I'd been stuck on. "Hey, look at that," it says, placing it on my chopping board.
This is why some of my writing notes smell like garlic, but whatever. I'm good with that.
What about you? Have you got this balance thing down pat, or are you looking for a good hobby? What great non-writing hobbies have you cultivated?
Whatever pursuit you choose: it's about being creative with something other than words. It's about cultivating more in yourself than just writing.
Above all, don't let writing become your everything. Just don't. You'll be so much happier.