Sometimes I think people forget how vulnerable and human writers actually are. It’s easy to ascribe them the mythical characteristics of unstoppable badasses when they’re pumping out works of such transcendental beauty as Leaves of Grass and so forth. But my point is that even Emile Zola and Kate Chopin got curious enough about the smell of their own farts to roll back and grab their ankles on slow weekends. Probably. Anyway, here is a list of simple things that have benefited my writing game and that I think every writer should consider.
- Get yourself a friend you trust that ISN’T a creative writing student. I’m not saying that there aren’t benefits to having your work read by other wannabe writers, but I really think people should consider sharing their stories with someone who hasn’t taken a class. I’ve been lucky enough to have a roommate that’s been willing and even eager to give me feedback on both finished works and ideas. Give your stories to such friends, because the feedback they give you is always fresh and genuine. When it comes to other creative writing students, there’s sometimes a tendency to regurgitate the words of your professor. You must remember that creative writing students read things differently, and you’ll find yourself getting crucified for every extraneous adverb or adjective. But what you really want to know is if the text is good or not. Does it resonate? Does it titillate? Does it instill fear and sadness? Does it elicit laughter and anger? At the end of the day, it’s readers that you are trying to win over, not writers.
- Go swimming. I know this one can be substituted for running or striking a punching bag, but I like swimming the best. For the longest time in the U.K I would go swimming for an hour every Friday in the evenings. Timing is important because you are there to relax yourself mentally. Even though it’s an exercise, I went because I considered it a mental workout. Obviously you can’t do this if there’s an orgy of prepubescent nose-pickers splashing about and emerging out of nowhere in front of you like so many heads of the Lernaean Hydra. When you are free of them and the leathery pensioners selfishly bobbing up and down along the ends, you will find yourself in a perfect setting to decompress from a hard day’s writing. You can also expect to form a few ideas as you go through the simple repetition of swimming lengths. When I lived in Houston, my roommates and I would hit up the outdoor pool as often as we could, and we’d talk about what was on each other’s minds and help each other get through the week. There’s something about being in water that I find so relaxing and meditative, in a way that I don’t find with other activities.
- Get yourself a dog by any means necessary. Writing is an overwhelming lifestyle and a sedentary one at that. Having a puppy that loves you can make all the difference in the world. One of the greatest pleasures I have experienced in living with a puppy is how ecstatic they are every time you wake up in the morning or come home from a hard day in the Texas sun as an unpaid, unofficial volunteer. Looking into a dog’s eyes releases oxytocin, the same chemical that your brain releases when looking into the eyes of a newborn baby. It’s a profound experience and writers need love. I don’t think people understand just how vulnerable the writing lifestyle can make you. For someone like me, already diagnosed with depression and anxiety, I needed that extra love a dog brings. Aside from the obvious benefits of playing with them, the responsibilities are also very helpful. You need responsibilities and necessities outside of the writing so that it doesn’t consume you and you burn out into some kind of inhuman husk. Our dog in Texas is a border collie, and one loaded with sass to boot. So taking her for walksies every few hours helps break up the day and get some blood pumping. Every writer will benefit from an understanding and respect for movement and kinetic energy. Be it swimming, running, or just plain old walking, this will keep your mind sharp and your brain creative. And what’s best about having a pupper is that you don’t need to motivate yourself to get up and move- taking them for walks is a necessity and they’ll let you know. There’s such a difference to thinking “Maybe I should walk around the block after breakfast” to “Oh snap, I need to take the dog out!” and having one guards against the urge to not go out.
- Covfefe. I mean coffee. My discovery of coffee this summer in Houston was an absolute lifesaver, and the fuel that helped build TumbleweedWrites into what it has become. Every morning, the first of us to wake would make a pot of Joe and by the end of the summer I was having about 3 a day to keep me energized. Without it I was a groggy asshole whose every bodily instinct lent towards curling up on the couch and playing Pokemon Moon on the 3DS.
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