Not Just a Writer

Let’s talk identity.  Let’s talk self-esteem, self-worth, labels, and life.

The first year or so after I started writing, I found it a terrifying thing to try to talk about my writing.  What would I say?  How do I explain that I’m writing a novel?  How do I talk about my story?  What do I say when people ask “so, what’s your book about?”  My little novel felt like something so personal, like a dark secret that I couldn’t share with anyone I knew.  (Sharing with strangers online to get my work critiqued was oddly unfrightening.  The opinion of strangers mattered much less to me than the opinion of friends or acquaintances.)

It took me a long time to be comfortable sharing with people the fact that I am a writer. But eventually, I learned how to bring it up in conversations.  How to give a few-sentence synopsis of my story when people asked what my book was about.  How to deal with people’s response to me saying “I’m writing a book.”  I was ready; I’d made it.

I was ready to call myself a writer.

When NaNoWriMo came along, I posted about it on Facebook.  I updated a couple times, sharing bits of my writing journey.  When I finished editing my first novel, I even got so bold as to letting friends read my work.  *gasp*

And then I got to the point where it /maybe/ went too far.  I started to find my identity in being a Writer.  *I* was working on getting published.  *I* had written two novels.  *I* was an Amazing, Outstanding, Uniquely Awesome type of person whom everyone should admire.

And then –

Life got busy, and I stopped writing as much.

I decided I probably didn’t want to publish my first novel.  (The simplified version is that I outgrew it.)

Another story idea that I’d run with for a while didn’t want to be made into a novel.

Suddenly, I wasn’t the “Ideal Writer” anymore.  And that made me feel not-so-great.

What if I never got published?  What if I never finished this WIP?  What if I just never sat down to write again?  What if life is just too busy for me as an adult?  What if _____?

You know what?  It doesn’t matter.

You see, my self-worth as a human has never been based on the fact that I’m a writer.  Sure, writing has brought me a lot of joy and fulfillment and made my life better and more interesting.  It’s introduced me to new friends and taught me about hard work and perseverance.  But my value as a human being has never been, and never will be, tied to my writing.  I am not a word-count.  I am not “worthless” if I never publish a book.  All of those ideas are fallacious and dangerous.

My self-worth is found elsewhere.

Someone decided long ago that I was worth dying for.  (His name’s Jesus; he’s a pretty cool guy and I highly recommend being friends with him.)  My self-worth is based off the fact that I’m a child of God, more loved than I could imagine.

As a human being, I have intrinsic value that is not tied to what I do.

Furthermore, I’ve never been just a writer.  I am so many other things, and to describe myself as just one thing would be an oversimplification.

I am a student, studying to get a degree in English with a concentration in Secondary Ed, so that some day I can pass on to others my love for literature, stories, and semi-colons.

I am a book-lover, one who finds pieces of herself scattered across the pages of a hundred different stories.

I am a nerd, one who uses Doctor Who and LOTR quotes to relate to the world around her.

I am a creator, one who finds joy from writing blog posts and making videos and drawing fanart and making cards for people and touching the world in little ways.

I am a friend, one who will support people through literally whatever life throws at them.

I am a (novice) musician, one who finds peace and joy from learning to play an instrument.

I am an equestrian, one who has studied the Silent Language of horses, and can speak back to them in their own language.  When I ride a horse, we do not walk or trot or canter – we fly.

I am a traveler, one who has seen bits and pieces of the world, and has caught a bit of Wanderlust, wanting to see more of the planet I live on.

And yes, I am also a writer: one who turns caffeine into stories, who dreams things into existence, whose fingertips on keys bring unrealities to life.

I am a complex human, and putting pressure on myself to write so that I have value is neither healthy or helpful to my writing process.

 

Okay.  I think that is all for now.  Remember that your self-worth does not come from what you do, and that you should write because you want to, not because you feel like you have to.

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Caring for the Writer Outside – Part 2

Last post, I talked about caring for your inner writerly-self by consuming good art, and finding inspiration in the things you see and listen to and read.  The second part of this Writerly Care discussion is on Self Care – that is, taking care of the Outer You, the shell you walk around in every day.  We as human beings – and especially as writers – tend to forget to take care of ourselves sometimes.

Here’s the thing: I feel like it’s so much easier to access that creative side of my brain when my body is well taken care of.

I’ve found some pretty straightforward self-care methods that help me feel like a better, more energized person – so therefore also a better writer.  Here’s my top 5 tips for caring for the Outside of the Writer:

1.  Drink Water

*Whispers* okay I know this one is a bit cliche, and writers hate cliche things.  But really, folks.  Drink water instead of soda.  Drink water when you feel hungry.  Drink water as you write.  Drink ice water when you want something to make you feel better.  Drink water.

2.  Exercise (or at least go outside!)

I can feel your reactions.  You’re all doing this:

cas head tilt

“Hmmm, exercise?  No thanks.  I’d rather shoot myself in the foot.  Then I’d have a valid excuse to sit in my comfy chair all day.”

But listen.  I’m not saying you have to run a marathon.  I’m saying get up from your laptop and do 20 Jumping Jacks.  I’m saying take your dog on a walk.  Who knows? Maybe you’ll find some plot bunnies while you’re out walking around.  I know that for me, personally, I feel a lot better after exercising.  My mind is clear, my body is tired-in-a-good-way, and I feel energized and ready to face the day.  And when I do sit down to write, it’s that much easier to focus, sink into my world, and let the words flow from my fingertips.  A small writer’s block is often cured by some sunshine and fresh air.

And if the outdoors is too much for you, get up and put on some music, and dance around like a drunk giraffe (as demonstrated by the 11th Doctor in the gif below).  It will get your blood flowing and your ideas churning.

drunk giraffe

 

3.  Eat (something) Healthy

I like to munch a lot as I write, so it’s important that I have some healthy snacks in my house.  If I consume chips and chocolate all day long, my body and mind feel yucky.  That’s not to say that you can’t eat chocolate.  Please, eat chocolate.  But also find some fruits or veggies that you enjoy.  Writing is hard, you guys, so why not fuel your physical self with good things instead of yucky things?

Also, I’ve heard some of you lovely writerly folk say that on a particularly intense writing day, you simply forget about meals.  I get it: there have been times when I’m mid-chapter and forget about eating lunch or something.  So, I recommend you stock your refrigerator (or, if you’re a college kid, your lil’ mini-fridge) full of healthy snacks like yogurt and fruit before a big writing day.  Then you can grab something nourishing and get right back to it.

eat you'll feel better lupin.gif

 

4.  Get Enough Sleep (at least occasionally)

I know we have this idea of the Brilliant Writer being up at 2am, madly pounding away at their keyboard.  But that doesn’t have to be true.  *Checks time* 1:58 am.  Hehehe.

Sure, if inspiration rears its ugly head at midnight, get up and type for a while.  But also, try to give yourself enough rest.  Don’t be afraid to take a night off to go to bed early and recharge your body.  You’re not going to be your best writerly self when you’re brain’s got a Tiredness Cloud hovering about.

Yes, coffee is a writer’s best friend.  But sometimes sleep is a good pal, too.

coffee

 

5.  Forgive Yourself

Okay, this last one is a more about your inner writer than your outer one.  But this one is an important thing for me to remember: writing begins with forgiveness.  I grabbed this idea from this blog post, but let put it this way: don’t let yesterday’s failure affect today’s success.  Forgive yourself for not writing yesterday, or at all the past week, or the past month.  And then sit down and write today.

Look, right now I’m a busy college student, and writing isn’t my job.  It’s my hobby.  Being a full-time student is my job, and as much as I want writing to be my profession, it’s not right now.  So, if I’ve spent the last three days studying for exams instead of writing, I’m not going to beat myself up.  Sitting down to write today is wonderful and delightful, and if it’s the first time in a while I’ve done so, that’s okay.  I’m going to enjoy it anyways.

Which of these do you struggle with?  Do you relate to this advice at all?  Do you have any more writerly wisdom to share on the subject of self-care?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Caring for the Writer Inside, Part 1

This is part 1 of a short Writerly Care series I’m starting.  It’s not exactly writing advice, more like advice on being a writer and taking care of the artist within.

Today’s topic: consume good art.

Here’s one of my favorite quotes.

time spent reading.jpg

I’m sure some of you have heard this before, or are at least familiar with the idea that good writers read a ton.  And I agree – I definitely feel like reading fuels me to write. Reading good books (and sometimes bad ones) makes me want to write good books.

BUT.  I also find inspiration in so many other things.

This is the best way I can describe it: seeing good art makes me want to create art.

I love following YouTubers who create things for a living.  I love following artists on Instagram who post their drawings and share their light.  I love songs that blend lyrics and rhythm and notes to make something beautiful and new.

So, this is your friendly reminder that you as a writer need to consume good art.  I have some suggestions if you’re feeling a deficit in your art diet:

1. Poetry

There’s something delightful about poetry.  It’s loud and soft, small and potent.  The words pack so much power in so little space.  I recently discovered Mary Oliver, and I really like her poetry.  I’m sure you’re familiar with some other new poets that are getting a lot of hype.  Go read the poetry, soak in the words, bask in the strength of them.

lin being excited.gif

2. Music

Browse through Spotify, click around on YouTube, listen to a new genre.  I’ve found that I have a constant need for new music, and it’s part of how I stay inspired.  Expand your horizons.  Try musicals, or soundtrack music, or indie, or country, or rap, or vidoegame music.  Let good music drive you to write good stories.

3. Old Favorites

I re-watched Fellowship of the Ring with a friend last night, and I feel like a new human. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is my favorite movies of all time.  Watching one of these again reminded me just how much stories matter, and how much they mean to people. These movies motivate me to keep telling my stories.

so there I was

Maybe you don’t have time for a 4-hour movie with a friend.  That’s okay; listen to a 4-minute old favorite song that makes you fall in love with being an artist.  Read a chapter from a favorite book to remind yourself why you’re a story-teller.

Consume good art.  Let it fill your soul so that it spills out onto the page when you write.  Take inspiration from the creators and writers and artists all around you.  Find things that you love and enjoy them, and then go create things to share with the world.

And if you need some suggestions to get you started, here’s some things I’ve been enjoying lately:

Music: Dear Evan Hansen (a new musical), A Playlist of My Favorite Soft/Chill Music, Some of My Favorite Instrumental Music

YouTubers (also musicians): Tessa Violet, Dodie ClarkPeter Hollens, Rusty Clanton

Instagramers: Mari Andrew (adorable artist), Inspired to Write (bestest human ever)

Let me know in comments if you experience this too – where seeing some great piece of art makes you want to create as well.  Also, let me know if you’ve found some great music/ movies/ art recently, or what you’re enjoying that inspires you.  Do you have artists you look up to?  Do you have a favorite movie that moves you to tears?  Share your thoughts.