Too tired to write – self-care for writers

Physically, writing doesn’t require much energy. You need to push a pen or pencil across the page, or tap your way around the keyboard. That’s not a lot of effort. In a pinch, you could probably do it lying down with your eyes half closed (though the resulting prose might be somewhat lacking in brilliance).

No, the difficult part of writing is the part that happens on the inside – coming up with ideas, sorting out how to convey them, winnowing out the just-right words and arranging them in patterns that are both meaningful and beautiful. Writers may not need to be super-humanly strong on the outside, but they definitely need a certain intellectual fortitude and stamina.

At the moment, I’m feeling a bit drained of both fortitude and stamina. My commercial copywriting business (and the marketing strategy that accompanies it) has been going gangbusters all year. I am not complaining (at all), but I am worried there might be a brick wall looming in my headlights soon.  For months, my days have been whirlwinds of client calls, planning, research, copywriting, editing … and that doesn’t even include all the blogging. I sat down today to write this post and spent nearly a full half hour staring at the screen, waiting for a topic to pop into my head. Nothing. Crickets.

Pretty ironic given that I just wrapped up a four-part series on writer’s block.

But, this isn’t a case of writer’s block. I’m not feeling fear or pressed for time (any more than usual) or unsure of how to write a blog post. I am just tired – plain, old tired. The eyes are open, but the mind is not firing all cylinders. I’ve been running and running and running and now I’m running out of steam.

Something’s gotta give …

… and it’ll probably be me.

There is more to being a writer than finding your muse, learning your craft, and building your platform. Writing is a creative practice, and – like any creative endeavor – writing requires life energy … juice … mojo. If you run yourself so ragged that you can barely manage to crawl up to bed at night, you’re way past the point of being able to feed your creative fires. You’re in survival mode – dealing strictly in self-preservation, not inspiration.

So, when you find yourself too tired to write – stop. I know it’s hard. Life slows down for no one. There are still bills to be paid and deadlines to be met and children to be fed, bathed, and put to bed. If you’re like me, you’re pretty damn sure that you don’t have time to indulge in self-care for your inner writer. You just have to get things done – forget the woo-woo ways of writing coaches and creative gurus and just power through it. Keep moving. Right?

Wrong.

If you choose to blow past the warning signs you will certainly pay the price. You may not pay it today or tomorrow. You may not even be fully aware that you’ve paid it, but your work will suffer, your creative process will stall, and you will start to lose sight of the joy of writing.

Giving your inner writer a little TLC doesn’t have to be a big deal. You don’t need to go on a two-week retreat. You don’t need to dedicate fifty percent of your time to writing the novel you’ve been talking about for years. You don’t even have to do your morning pages or take yourself on artist’s dates (though I highly recommend both). All you need to do is give yourself a little time to breathe, daydream, play, and rest. Replenish your creative well by making room for fun. Goof off without guilt. Let your mind wander off the rails and see where it takes you. Schedule down time – just a little. Take five deep, intentional breaths. Go to bed early.

A writer’s tools are many and varied – software and hardware, favorite pens, special notebooks, style guides, frameworks, and a good thesaurus. When it comes right down to it, however, the most important tool a writer has is a well-rested mind that is ready to explore, examine, and express. So, when you’re feeling too tired to write, go ahead and indulge in some self-care. You can thank me later.

How do you know when you’re about to hit the wall? How do you bring yourself back from the brink? Do you have a favorite ritual or routine that helps you replenish your creative well? 

Image Credit: Danielle Elder (with color edits)