Real World Self-Care Tips for Writers 

By Audrey Quinn

For many of us writers, self-care can be a confusing and infuriating concept. 

Just what does self-care even mean? 

Is it taking indulgent bubble baths, laying on a couch watching Netflix all day, and eating an entire box of Welch’s Fruit Snacks? Well…sometimes, but these things are not essential or unique to self-care. 

Self-care is simply taking the time and space for yourself to relax and recharge, without focusing on your job, work, or other stressful responsibilities that you don’t need to necessarily accomplish right this very moment. 

For writers, this can be especially complicated since, for many of us, the lines between “work,” “hobby,” and “home” are often blurred together. Not to mention we all have lives outside of our art and what we do for a living (pets, families, housework, etc). And finally, not everyone can take a week off from work to vacation in Hawaii, or set aside the time to binge watch all of Good Omens

So what are some of the things writers can do for self-care that make sense for us? 

First self-care tip for writers: Develop a schedule

It may sound like this is just more “work stuff,” and not self-care but, for writers, developing a regular schedule is crucial to maintaining healthy boundaries between when you write, when you work, and when you relax. 

Many writers aren’t given a set schedule by their employers, and so it’s up to them to decide which days and times they want to work, and where they want to do it.

 A realistic self-care goal is to create a schedule for yourself blocking out the times and days of the week you want to write–following it. If you want to get into more detail, you can also block off certain times and days where you plan to relax, whether that means catching up on a book you enjoy and haven’t yet finished, going for a walk outside, or even just taking a nap!

Second self-care tip for writers: Nurture your other hobbies

If you’re a writer then hopefully writing is one of your hobbies, but you likely have other activities and crafts you enjoy as well. For example, I enjoy crocheting and drawing with colored pencils. 

Cultivate your other interests and hobbies besides writing! It will give your mind a break from writing, and open up new creative avenues in your brain as well. Who knows? Maybe something from your other hobbies will be an inspiration to you later on in your writing as well!

Third self-care tip for writers: Allow yourself to do nothing

This is an important self-care tip for everyone, not just writers. 

Our society places an incredible amount of pressure on people to constantly be “doing things” and, more importantly, “producing things.” It’s negative aspect of capitalism you may have heard of, and it even has a name: time anxiety. 

Time anxiety causes people to be anxious and unable to relax due to their fear of wasting time (that is, doing nothing, or getting nothing done). People with time anxiety feel out of control, like there is always something that needs to get done, like there’s never enough hours in the days, and like they’ve “wasted time” if they’ve engaged in something that doesn’t produce a tangible result (like sleeping in, or doing nothing but watching TV or playing video games all day). Sound familiar? Many writers deal with time anxiety, and it’s important to know you’re not alone. 

And there are ways to deal with it. 

How to deal with time anxiety

First, acknowledge your feelings of not having enough time, or feeling like you are wasting time by not “doing anything.” 

Then, work on accepting that yes, you do only have so many hours in a day, but it’s ok. You can only get done what you can get done. 

Thirdly, allow yourself to relax and not do anything. 

This is the part many people struggle with, because they think “I am so lazy…I should be writing, I should be doing shopping, I should be cleaning my house…” and on and on. They think by relaxing and not doing “things,” they are wasting time, but the truth is they are not! 

Not doing anything does serve a purpose: it allows you time to recover from all of the things you already have done today, or this week, or this month. It’s like a little brain break and, by allowing your brain time to rest, you’re taking care of yourself so that you can keep doing all the things!

One of the most important self-care tips for writers is actually simple on the surface: don’t do anything.

Fourth self-care tip for writers: Prioritize your needs (mental, spiritual, and physical)

The core of self-care is taking care of your needs, whether they are mental, spiritual, or physical. Prioritizing your needs can take many forms and may depend on your schedule (see self-care tip number one). But some suggestions are listed below for each category (note the overlap between some suggestions):

Mental needs:

  • Reading a book or series you enjoy
  • Playing a video game or card game
  • Watching a TV show you like
  • Writing in a journal
  • Hanging out with friends and loved ones

Spiritual needs:

  • Hanging out with friends and loved ones
  • Caring for plants, animals, pets, or other living things in your life
  • Nurturing your hobbies (drawing, making music, etc)
  • Connecting with your faith or beliefs, if relevant to you

Physical needs:

  • Walking around your neighborhood
  • Swimming, running, or exercising in a way that you are comfortable and able to enjoy
  • Eating regularly
  • Sleeping regularly (and taking naps if you need to and are able to)

Fifth self-care tip for writers: Work on radical acceptance

This final self-care tip for writers is also relevant to everyone. 

We all face things in our lives that are out of our control, or are beyond our abilities to deal with, and sometimes we react in ways that disappoint ourselves and those around us. 

When there are things outside of your control, work on acknowledging your feelings around those things, validating them, and then accepting that you cannot change the thing that is generating these feelings. It may sound overly simplistic, and I personally believe it is not always possible to accept some things even if I cannot change them, but this is another valuable self-care technique for writers. 

It won’t work for all situations but, for times that it is applicable, radical acceptance has personally helped de-escalate my stress levels before they reached unbearable levels and caused me to have an anxiety attack. 

For example, I was having a really busy (but happy) day at work with writing and packaging books, and when I got home I just wanted to collapse on my couch and melt like the flimsy popsicle-person I am (it was also 90 degrees out). But when I walked in the door, I was greeted with a sink full of dishes, cat puke on the floor, and litterbox accidents on the rugs. This made me really angry, and frustrated, because I just wanted to sit on the couch and relax, and maybe turn Food Network on for background nap noise. But I had to accept that I have a teenage brother who still leaves his dishes in the drying rack, even if it means stacking them up into a tower like it’s a game of Tetris, and I have four cats, one of whom is a morbidly obese, 13-year-old blue whale with bladder and digestive issues. So I had to clean up the dishes and various blue-whale-tabby cat messes before I could turn off my brain for the day…of course, I’m not a saint, and I complained loudly the entire time I did so, but the flimsy wooden popsicle stick inside of me had accepted my fate. This is one way I practice radical acceptance in my own life as a writer, and as a human being. 

I have a feeling a lot of people can relate and maybe consider using this self-care technique if they find their stress levels skyrocketing.

Hopefully, you have a new arsenal of self-care tips and tricks that are realistic for you and your life as a writer. 

Remember, self-care isn’t one size fits all, and it looks different for everybody. Experiment with these five tips, and adapt them to suit your needs!

Photo by Sam Lion