Last week, my therapist and I were discussing self-care. I had a hard time thinking of what I'd actually been doing for self-care, and it made me think of one of my favorite quotes from among the books I've edited:
"Self-care may be one of the most misused phrases in today's world, used to justify everything from overeating to overspending to just-plain-poor choices. The good news is that self-care—genuine self-care—is critical, so you . . . may give yourself permission to make it a habit. . . . [Once you do,] it can bring you lifelong benefits."
-Ginger Welch, How Can I Help? A Teacher's Guide to Early Childhood Behavioral Health, p. 107
There are all sorts of ideas for general self-care out there, so I won't address those here. What I'm thinking about today is self-care specifically for the writer part of our souls.
One of my old writing teachers (I honestly can't remember who) once told me, "Garbage in, garbage out." Put another way, if we want to produce good writing, we also need to consume good writing. It makes sense—what we write is at least partly a product of the things we put into our brains. Unfortunately, these days it can be difficult to find good writing to consume, especially with so much bad news and social-media ranting clamoring for our attention.
So what should we consume to feed our writer souls? I'm not going to try to make one of those "50 Books Every Person Should Read" or anything like that. That comes off a little snobbish to me. What I can offer are some ideas to help you figure out what feeds your writer soul. Ask yourself questions like these:
What pieces of writing (books, movies, or whatever) have made me genuinely laugh—a lot?
What pieces have made me cry in a good way?
What pieces have made me just feel good, even if I can't explain why?
What pieces have left me thinking, "That was awesome. I want to write something like that"?
What pieces have left me emotionally satisfied, the way I feel when I close the book at the end and let out a long, contented sigh?
What pieces have stretched my mind and given me valuable insights?
What pieces have inspired me to keep going, even when times are tough, and reach my goals?
What pieces have put into words the deepest feelings of my heart?
What pieces do I go back to time and again?
Your answers to these questions will help you find the things that feed your soul. As examples, here are some of mine:
Disney's Bedknobs and Broomsticks (film)
Sorcery and Cecilia (book)
Edenbrooke and other books from the Proper Romance series
Les Misérables (the musical, that is—not the film of the musical!)
The BBC adaptation of North and South (film)
Pride and Prejudice (book)
The Fablehaven series (books)
Avatar: The Last Airbender (TV series)
The Dragon Prince (TV series)
"I Do Adore" by Mindy Gledhill
"More with You" by Malinda
"Baba Yetu" from Civilization IV
Give those questions some thought, and then go find some writing that feeds your soul. Not only will it help your writing, but it'll help you feel better overall.
P.S. On the fence about enrolling in my manuscript-critique course? It closes on 11/14, so don't wait! Click here to find out more!