3 Reasons Avoiding Self-Care Will Destroy Your Novel

May 4, 2017

The baby screams for attention. Bleary-eyed and weary, Mama drags herself from the bed to change, feed, change again, and probably feed once more. The calendar cheerfully announces that she’s made it a full ten days now.

Bully for me.

Of course, on the way back to her bed, a niggling reminder that something isn’t quite right hits. She glances at the clock. Twelve-thirty. Why does that mean something? Her foot strikes an abandoned ice cream bowl by the recliner.

How’d that get there?

Still, she takes it to the kitchen before her next walkthrough is with junior muffin, and she drops the poor tyke on his head. Dishes litter every surface—dirty ones, of course. All hope of a nap forgotten, she grabs the sponge, squirts soap on it, and jerks the water lever to “hotter than Death Valley in July.”

By the time the kitchen is clean and she’s remembered to take that chicken out for dinner, by the time she’s crawled back into the bed she hasn’t made in three months—and ignores that guilt for once—junior muffin demands attention. Again.

She hasn’t slept in three weeks. First antepartum insomnia and heartburn kept her awake. Now it’s postpartum… everything. But mostly baby. She should have slept while baby slept, but so many things called for her attention. And let’s not even think about the laundry.

Rewrite that little ditty and change the words “mama/she” for author and “baby” for book and you get…

The book screams for attention. Bleary-eyed and weary, the author drags herself from the mound of business receipts she needs to catalog to write, edit, write again, and probably edit once more. The calendar cheerfully announces that she has ten days til her deadline.

And only 30k words to write.

Of course, on the way back to her receipts, a niggling reminder that something isn’t quite right hits. She glances at the clock. Twelve-thirty. Why does that mean something? Her email dings the moment she sits down.

If that’s my editor…

Still, she checks it before she gets lost in her next round of receipts—a reminder for the webinar she needed to take on Twitter marketing. Marketing without smarminess. Yeah. I need that one.

By the time the email is cleaned out and the webinar over—her notes informing her that she’s just lost another thirty minutes of her day, of course—her manuscript demands attention. Again.

She hasn’t slept for more than a few hours since she got the contract. First, the new book adrenaline rush kept her awake. Now it’s called writer’s life… everything. But mostly book. She should have slept during her scheduled “time off” from the book, but so many things called for her attention. And let’s not even think about the marketing…

3 Reasons Avoiding Self-Care Will Destroy Your Novel

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3 Reasons Avoiding Self-Care Will Destroy Your Novel

Magical Forest Coloring Book

Someone claimed that researchers say it’s good for your mental cognition (or at least the publisher’s pocketbooks) to color. So if nothing else, snag a coloring book (or print out a page from online) and color away. It can’t hurt, right?

1. Weakened creativity

Don’t believe me? Look. If you just sit in your little office at home and pound away at your keyboard, you’re killing your novel. Aside from basic physical needs like food, sleep, and mental rest, there are other things that self-care works with. But what happens then? You can’t just eat, sleep, and write. Humans are social creatures.

Even the introverts among us still need social interaction. We need to take care of all facets of our eclectic selves. And doing that actually boosts our creativity. I’ll just throw out a few “for instances” for ya.

Hair: Yeah. I said it. I went there. Getting my hair cut (I hate it long) and styled enough that I don’t look like a mess every time I look in the mirror is not just great for self-esteem or whatever the term is this week. I also got one of my best book ideas at the hair salon while my stylist chopped off the excess lengthening dead cells.  I just sat there listening to a woman describe her cool job. Fascinated. And ya know what? It’s totally going in a book. It’s going to be awesome. Just sayin’.

Eating out: You see the coolest and worst sides of humanity in restaurants sometimes. And yes, those are often directly proportional to how long it is or has been since the bars closed. I’ve seen plates fly across restaurants and people paying for the meal of a man who smelled as if he had pockets full of month-old dead rats. I’ve seen elderly people encourage the next generation and ensure that no kid ever wants to visit Grandma again after what that old gal just put them through.

If that doesn’t give you characterization ideas, what will?

I’ll even take this a bit farther–WAY out there.  For me, anyway.

Nature: Ever tried to describe a specific tree, flower, bird, or weather feeling from memory… and fail? Yeah. The reason we had the memory in the first place is because we went out there once. Go again. Refresh that memory—and it’ll refresh your creativity. Maybe that scene shouldn’t take place in a park. It might be creepier and so much cooler if it takes place in an abandoned desert mine. I’d never thought of that if I had just gone from memory. But walking around the foothills of our mountains and remembering to pay attention… yeah. That got me thinking.

Just as water stagnates if it doesn’t stay moving, so does your creativity. Help it refresh. Take care of it. Change that scenery. If it doesn’t, your novel has every likelihood of being… boring. Or at the very least, not the amazing thing you ARE capable of making of it. And why wouldn’t you choose amazing over “not bad”?


The Elder Scrolls Five: Skyrim Logo

Don’t Battle Burnout, Battle Dragons!

2. Burnout

Look, it’s real. Every time I get down to crunch time at the end of a book or just after a launch, I feel it. It’s as if my brain is crispy—completely desiccated. I ignore email for a few days. Sometimes, I even binge-watch something. I sleep. A lot. I go shopping.

Okay, right there? Shopping? Me? If I go shopping, you know it’s serious. I need a break. There’s nothing I hate more than shopping, but you see… it’s not WRITING. And that makes all the difference. If you don’t do what you need to do to take care of yourself, you’ll find yourself unable to do anything—not just unable to write. You need to care for your mental, emotional, and physical health.

And avoiding self-care just compounds the problem.

XCOM 2 Title Screen

… Or Aliens. Whichever You Prefer.

You need sleep, beauty, food, a change of scenery. Activity gets those neurons firing—or whatever happens in your brain. I never can keep it all straight.

And let me tell you. If those neurons aren’t firing, that novel ain’t happenin’. Just sayin’. I have too many books I want to write to let this happen anymore.


3. You’ll be dead

No, seriously. Don’t believe me? What is eating? Yeah. It’s fueling your body. Without fuel, you starve. Starve = dead.

What is sleeping? It’s refueling your mind. What happens if you don’t sleep? You get in a car and drive somewhere. You hit something you were supposed to avoid. Literally hitting a brick wall = dead.

What are hobbies & interests outside of writing? They’re refreshing your mind. What happens if you don’t refresh your mind? You lose it. It’s gone. It runs away and hides. Lost mind = mental hospital.

If you’re dead, or at least your mind is, that means one thing. No writing.That means no novel. No novel… well… ahem.

So take care of yourself.

It’s the best way to take care of your novel! Now go write—but only after you’ve given yourself a bit of a breather, okay? Avoiding self-care is dangerous–to both of you.

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