Friday, November 13, 2015

Self-care for Writers (Part 1 of 11)

“Why do you polish your tools every time after you use them?” I asked my dad when I was about six years old.

“Makes them last longer.” Dad was a man of few words, but I understood. At the time it seemed like a lot of extra work. When I was older I understood the lesson. As I thought about this topic, the principle applies. If I care for myself—my body, my mind, my spirit—every part of myself—I’ll survive and be productive much longer.

We writers tend to neglect caring for ourselves, and that’s true whether we write full time or only an hour a day. We can learn to care for ourselves, so let’s start with something simple: “Self-feeding means I’ll remain productive longer.”

If we’re serious about writing—and doing it long term, we need to think about caring for our instruments. Our brains and our body are our tools. This series is about keeping our tools sharp.

Let’s start with something simple: Feed yourself.

It amazes me when I talk with some writers who don’t read much. “I can’t be a writer and a reader,” one man said. “Just not enough hours in the day.”

He didn’t mean that he never read, but he treated reading—especially books—as something he did when he had extra time or wanted to relax. He didn’t see that as a vital part of his learning experience.

You can unconsciously learn when you read others. I’m not the analytic type and don’t try to dissect sentences. I think of it as absorbing. I get the feel of the structure and the author’s use of words.

About a year after I began to write, I realized the importance of reading to keep myself growing. I promised myself to read at least one book a week for the rest of my life. And I’ve held to that. Instead of stealing time from my writing, opening a book for an hour has become a powerful self-teaching tool.

One writer said, “If you keep going to the well to fill up your bucket, eventually you pull it up empty unless you find ways to fill the well.”

My advice is read everything. Read constantly. Take in every kind of nourishment you can. If you want to be a successful writer, read successful authors.

I want to be a successful author.
I read to nurture myself.


  1. After a sick month, a wise writer friend pointed me to your blog series. Sometimes we need to hear things that we KNOW, but have been neglecting far too long. Thank you for this valuable series!


What are your thoughts?