We women are strong. We take on large loads and bear them bravely. But, too often, we neglect our inner selves in the process. This can have dire ramifications, especially for women writers.
I’ve found that it is always when my life is at its most stressful that I most neglect myself. I stop exercising, stop eating and sleeping well, and stop doing the little things that nurture me and keep me grounded. My hair gets too long, my toes go unpainted, and I start to forget what my best friends look like. I also forget to write.
Writing to me is the ultimate nourishment. Through writing, I make sense of the world around me and my place within it. I learn what I feel, what I need, and who I am. It enables me to truly experience my life, and to process those experiences. When I stop writing, I lose that connection and my balance. I begin to feel stressed, untethered, and restless. Everything becomes a chore. To reconnect, I must start writing.
Unfortunately, when I have three deadlines looming over my head, two children at my feet, and enjoying a hot bath is nothing but a distant memory, taking the time to write seems far less important than anything else on my list. So, it gets pushed back again and again (and again) to make room for the things I (falsely) believe are so much more important.
It is only when I take the steps to break the cycle that I begin to come back to myself. Suddenly, everything seems a little less stressful, a little less taxing. I can, once again, approach my never-ending to-do list – and my life – with enthusiasm and strength. I can bask in my experiences instead of rushing through them. And, I know I’m not alone. Other women writers have told me they feel the same.
But, breaking the cycle isn’t easy. How do we begin?
Start small. Spend 10 minutes a day reading a piece, book, or genre that you know inspires you. Let the words fill your head and your consciousness for the day. At some point, you’ll be hit with an idea for a new character, an opening line, or a short story, poem, or essay topic. Write it down. Do it again the next day. Within a week, you’ll have a small collection of seeds perfect for planting.
From there, the task gets much easier. Once ideas for books, poems, and articles are constantly pinging my consciousness, writing becomes a necessity. I have to get the words out of my head or I won’t be able to focus on anything else. So, I set a small goal, and I stick to it.
Pick something that works for you. Decide to write a certain number of words, for a particular amount of time, or until you fill a pre-determined number of pages. Then, do it.
Don’t worry about creating something good. Just write. If it has been a while since you made a daily practice of writing or if you’re particularly stressed, you’ll likely be surprised at the experiences, emotions, and thoughts that fill the page. When I first started writing again after my mother’s death I had no idea how to get started, but once I did, the words filled the page. I was able to turn those initial thoughts into an essay for the women’s studies bestseller Women Will Save the World, which made it even easier to keep writing.
Once you’ve started, don’t stop. Explore your thoughts, feelings, and ideas further. Eventually, you’ll feel lighter, as if you’ve cast off a heavy burden. Life will become more joyful, you’ll begin to feel more present during each moment, and you’ll continue to find the time to write, thus creating a positive cycle of renewal and growth.
It’s important, though, not to make your writing time just another item on your endless to-do list. If you find that you’ve come to a point where finding the time to write is becoming more of a stressful obligation than a nourishing, peaceful time in your day, it may be time to switch tactics or take a break. Explore a writing workshop, harness the advice of a writing coach, or follow Julia Cameron’s advice and take yourself out on an artist’s date.
Do whatever it takes to nourish your self, your femininity, and your inner writer. Most importantly, remember to have fun!
Sarah Hackley is the editor for Absolute Love Publishing and its imprint, Spirited Press. Through both, Sarah provides individualized, comprehensive editing services to authors seeking to bring light and inspiration to the world. A passionate believer that the written word can change lives, Sarah is deeply honored to be a part of these projects. She also is the author of Finding Happiness with Migraines: A Do-It-Yourself Guide. Her other publications include pieces for the women’s studies bestseller Women Will Save the World, Code Blue Politics, The Comic Bible Magazine, On The Issues Magazine, and Texas Family. Her poetry has appeared in Under The Bridges of America, Crucible, The Final Draft: Midnight Masquerade, and The Austin Younger Poets Award Anthology. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter.