15 April 2014

Keeping in the write shape

As I mentioned in my Sunday post, one of my coaching clients wanted to know what strategies I use to keep myself motivated to write. I see this as being a little different from the questions I'm raising and answering in my series of posts about writer's block; this is more about ways I make sure to take care of myself so that I have the energy to write. It's about keeping in the write shape, if you will. (Haha, yes I'm horrible at puns.)

Here are some strategies or tools I use to help me write.

#writeclub on Twitter; sometimes I participate in Friday's sessions, moderated by @FriNightWrites, but more frequently I use the hashtag when I need someone else to help keep me accountable. Or just to know that I have company. I've met many a writer through this hashtag, and I am, in fact, drafting this post right now while running a #writeclub sprint. 

Get up & move around for 15-20 mins. I might take a walk or a shower, play with the dog, do tai chi or qi gong, wander aimlessly around house looking out windows...the point is just to stand for a bit.

Speaking of standing, sometimes I'll try standing up to work: putting my laptop on top of my dresser. Not the most ergonomic solution, but gets blood flowing again.

Freewriting. I'm working on a couple of novels right now, and if I find the idea of writing the actual story daunting, I'll write about the story for a while, and that usually leads to writing the actual story with no additional effort on my part. This works for me because I have a million ways of psyching myself out, so the freewriting is about bypassing the psych-out.

On that note, I think a big part of the reason I get so tired sometimes when I sit down to write (and hence want to just fall asleep) is because I spend a lot of time fighting with myself or psyching myself out about writing. If this resonates, you might also check out the series of blog posts I've been working on about writer's block. Basically I try to ask myself, "Why am I blocked? What am I telling myself about this thing I'm trying to do?" and then "What do I need to hear to feel more easy about this?" and then I tell myself that thing.

Along similar lines, I will sometimes ask myself what I need in the moment. Last Friday morning I was feeling sleepy already at 10am, but I had a bunch of stuff I needed to do, so I journaled: "Here is what we need to do today. What do you need right now in order to feel good about getting all this done?" I was expecting an answer like, "Take a nap," but actually the answer was, "Work on the novel for a bit, then take a shower." I ended up taking a quick 10-min nap toward the end of my writing time (before shower), but I still consider that a win.

Read something stimulating/inspiring. Simone de Beauvoir's Second Sex is in the bathroom right now and I read a random paragraph or two while I'm visiting that room. I find it wakes my mind up, regardless of whether I agree with what I've read or not. I also love Charles Simic, James Tate and Russell Edson for a brief reading break because their poems are bite-sized and awaken my creativity.

Say no to myself. When it comes to procrastination techniques, my Achilles heels are binge-watching TV on the Internet and getting caught in the email-Twitter-FB loop. It helps a lot if I just tell myself no in the first place. "What shall we do while eating lunch? Watch an episode of Project Runway? Just one episode won't hurt." But the thing is, if there's more than one episode available to watch, I'll just keep hitting the play button. So I either have to say no completely and focus on just eating, or I have to pick something to watch that only has one unwatched episode available.

And finally, I think diet plays a super important role in my energy level. A few years ago my naturopath explained to me how I was jacking my body by not eating breakfast and by drinking coffee all day, so I started eating breakfast regularly (within the first hour of being awake, she insisted), and it has helped (though I still need to back off on coffee). Lately I've cut WAY down on refined sugar, bread, cheese and alcohol. I spent two weeks avoiding all of those foods (sugar from honey or fruit was okay though), and at the end of the two weeks I'd lost seven pounds and had noticed a dramatic increase in my ability to sustain my energy level all day. A couple weeks ago I went back to old habits for five days and immediately gained back three pounds and had to take naps every day.

I'm sure the lack of exercise during that time didn't help, either. I notice that when I do one hr/day of exercise (walking, tai chi, tennis, whatever), I have more energy. Without exercise I am lethargic all the time. Blech.

What strategies do you use to keep yourself on track and/or motivate yourself in the moment?

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