Writing for Health

by limebirdkate

I believe in the importance of writing every day. I’ve even said just 15 minutes a day can be enough to keep the creative juices flowing. I usually write from 4-5 am. This is a time that has worked for me for about 7 years.

When I was in the middle of my NaNo ‘12 novel, I realized there was no way I could write beyond 50,000 words without stopping and researching the colonial period, historical figures, setting. Writing seemed useless without deeper knowledge of certain elements in my story. It’d be like treading water; I’d be going nowhere fast.

So, I figured I’d take December through February to research. This seemed like a good idea especially because it gave me a good excuse to not look at my NaNo novel as it steeped in those pantsed ideas.

Due to my tight schedule, I have been researching during my writing block. The problem though is that not writing creatively makes me sick. I mean, it really makes me sick. I have no energy; I have lost my appetite; I have no desire to get up at 4 when my alarm goes off; I trudge through my day; I don’t imagine anything anymore.

I have stopped thriving because I have been neglecting my Muse. Obviously, I have to make some changes if I want to be happier, healthier. I have to write. I must write.

So, I am cutting down on my research. I’ll write 30 minutes and research 30 minutes. Even if my writing ends up being trashed, what’s important right now isn’t the output. What is important is the attention I give to my Muse.

I could equate this with physical exercise. Bodies need to be worked regularly. If we neglect our bodies, they deteriorate faster, sooner. In turn, I believe our emotional selves suffer. I think Muses (or however you want to describe your center of ideas) also need to be worked regularly for our overall health and well-being.

How about you? Have you neglected your Muse long enough where you stopped thriving?

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42 Comments to “Writing for Health”

  1. Great post Kate! It’s really thought provoking, as I definitely think there is a correlation. Definitely for me! 😀 xx

    • Thanks, Beth. It’s funny, now I’ve come down with a nasty cold. I’m sure it’s because I’ve written this and my body is telling me to get on with the writing already!

  2. Totally know where you’re coming from – I recently slowed down my blogging due to extreme time pressures at work, and I honestly believe the lack of regular writing or getting in touch with my creative side contributed to a period of general ill health. Much better now, thankfully!

    • Hi Liv, I’m glad that you’re better now. What makes being sick even worse is that we don’t feel well enough to do anything, let alone be creative. So, then we stay sick longer (I think). Stay well! 🙂

  3. I totally relate and love the connection to health and well being. My time is inconsistent and limited with two little ones and a new publishing business that competes with my fiction. I get progressively crankier the more days in a row I don’t have time (or enough time) to write. I never used to miss a day of writing and now it happens all the time.

    • Hi Laura,

      Ah yes, the multi-tasking lives of mothers! I’m right there with you. That’s how it starts off with me, feeling grumpy when I miss too many days of writing, which then turns into physical symptoms (headaches, stuffiness, lethargy, etc.) Hopefully you can find a way to sneak your writing back into your day, Laura. 🙂

  4. Ah, yes. Ignored my muse for several years and wasn’t the happiest person on the planet. Spent part of the time depressed with days where getting out of bed and wearing something besides PJs were huge efforts.

    • Hey kathils, yes, it starts off with the grumpy moods and segues into depression, or physical illness. If I weren’t so frustrated, I’d be impressed by the scientific nature of the beast (i.e., Muse).

  5. It seems especially bad at this time of year, when everyone is stressing over the holidays, and for me, work always turns into crunch-time with projects that must be finished yesterday.

    And, sadly, blogging takes it’s toll, too. Trying to keep up with others means I have less time for my own writing. And while commenting on everyone’s blogs is great, it doesn’t satisfy my Muse’s requirements for creative writing.

    For a month now, I’ve felt like I have a low-grade bug, and it may be the result of exactly what you’ve described. The Muse may be telling me a short story on the blog isn’t enough exercise to keep her strong….

    I have to make some changes next year and find my way back to those revisions and rewrites and new stories….

    • Hi JM,
      I think you’re right about the holiday season adding to the problem. This is a hectic time where the spirit is about people other than yourself, giving instead of receiving — so, naturally, we might tuck away our Muses for a bit.

      Blogging is such a difficult question to navigate. I love it because it’s good for me in many ways, but it does steal time away from my creative writing. And I know what you mean by thinking short story writing might not be enough to keep your Muse happy. I was spending a lot of time doing the 100 word challenges instead of working on my novel, and I noticed they grew less and less interesting to write (much less read). I think my Muse demands the novel full-time too.

      Hopefully we’ll straighten things out for ourselves come 2013. 🙂 Good luck to you!

  6. I can attest to this because I have not been writing regularly over the last few weeks. My works tends to get in the way this time of year, and will do so for the next month. It’s exhausting. I have been reading and editing my work as often as I can and trying to elbow some room to get back to it.

    Thanks for the post Kate! A good kick in the pants to get moving every day.

    • Hi Bob,

      JM, above, said the same thing about this time of year. It’s really difficult to tend to our creative sides when we’re so busy with the holidays. I s’pose New Year’s Resolutions are good for these sorts of conundrums.

      I hope you can figure out a way to get back to your writing every day, Bob! 🙂

  7. This is a really thought-provoking post, Kate. There is certainly a link between what is physical and mental/emotional in our lives. After all, when we get depressed, our bodies can exhibit some of those same signs of neglect you mention (lethargy, loss of appetite).

    You’re going through an especially hectic and stressful period right now, though, that I wonder if it isn’t more those unexpected pressures causing an impact on your health than the loss of time to write. That creative outlet likely has something to do with the reactions of your body, but perhaps it’s that your mind is preoccupied with other concerns? I’m not a doctor, so I’m half speaking from thin air, but I’ve seen other artist friends (and felt, myself) this same cycle of anxiety leading to lack of creative output, leading to despair, leading to lack of creative input, leading to anxiety about that, leading to physical manifestations…that I can’t imagine it’s so simple as only not having the time to write.

    You say yourself that the schedule you’ve had in place has worked for you for seven years. That’s a long time to have such dedicated diligence! It’s impressive, yes, but – more than that – it’s a routine that you’ve put your body through. It’s not just your Muse working in aether during that time. You are putting in focused concentration, those synapses are firing…your body is used to that exertion, even if you don’t consider it physical exertion in the same way an athlete might consider their morning 5K. Reading/researching (and retaining) does take some energy and concentration. It does not take nearly the same amount of concentration that creating does, though.

    I think you’re correct that you need that time to devote to writing something new. However, I don’t think it’s all about the romantic notion of a Muse neglected.

    But, that’s just me.

    Good post, and sorry I rambled and got off on a tangent. Feel free to delete this. 🙂

    • Hi Mayumi,

      You raise awesome points, some that I did consider when I wrote this post.

      I wonder if I were writing like I usually do, and still had the stuff going on with my mom, if I would actually be okay physically anyhow? I’d be low, certainly, because of the family stress, but perhaps I wouldn’t be as low as I am if I were at least taking care of myself with the writing.

      Of course, it’s all tangled together. One issue affects the other issue and so forth. My mom’s situation certainly adds fuel to the fire.

      No need to apologize. I love ramblers! 🙂

  8. I’ve got the stress, I know that. Two funerals close together and family coming in for Christmas, now more family because of the funerals. My company doesn’t allow any time off of work during the holidays. It will be good to see everyone but oh the circumstances.

    We do have to feed the muse or they will get us back. They’ll take up with some other muse and then they’re just never around when you need them.

    • Hi Neeks,

      Oh no, two funerals this month? That’s awful. I’m so sorry. That’s a lot to contend with during the holiday season. I hope things will get back to normal for you before long.

      I love how you warn about muses taking up with other muses. I think that’s just perfect!

  9. Very thought provoking. My challenge is to stop thinking that the hour or two spent each day writing the Blog is not wasted time. It doesn’t feel like proper writing. Paul

    • Hi Paul,

      That’s a tough one, because I personally don’t consider blog writing the same as creative writing (unless we’re posting fiction or word challenges, etc.) However, this is because I am first and foremost a fiction writer.

      Not all writers write fiction. In those cases, writing a blog may be enough because that’s the kind of writing they like best.

      Even though I’m ‘writing’ blog posts on a regular basis, I’m still not satisfying my Muse. Perhaps that’s where you’re having some difficulties? You’re not writing what you like best? What about your dog story? I haven’t forgotten about it, you know. 😉

  10. Oh dear, dear, you should never neglect your muse – your body will suffer. I think 30 mins each sounds the way to do it. Don’t forget to look after yourself.

    • Hi loony,

      Coming from one of the most creative people I have ever ‘known’, that’s sound advice. I’m glad you think splitting it up might suffice. Thanks. 🙂

      • What a wonderful thing to say – thank you so much. I do think it is funny how not writing can make us ill – when I don’t do it, my left hand is so itchy in the palm, I could scratch it off and curiously, I am left handed. I think the secret is to not let yourself feel overwhelmed and rushed, that also makes us feel stressed and then ill.

      • Now that’s strange — a scratchy palm? Your body is quite direct with its messages!

  11. I have moderate depression and writing is the only thing that keeps me out of the pit.

    • Hello iniriba,

      Depression is not fun, not fun at all. I’ve had bouts of it myself; it runs in my family. I’m glad that you have found your safety net with writing. Stick to it. 🙂

  12. Great post Kate! I do agree if it’s taking a toll like this to get your mind back to the writing young lady! I’ve never had such a strict schedule for writing like you do, but the past few months I’ve not really been reading or writing any at all and it’s definitely noticeable.

    • Hi Laura,

      Yes ma’am. On the double!

      I think that schedule or no schedule, if we’re not attending to our creative sides enough we’re gonna notice the consequences. Hopefully yours doesn’t come in the form of an alien or 3 headed monster or anything like that. 🙂

  13. It’s always nice to know I’m not the only 4AM writer!

    • Woo hoo for 4 am! Are you serious? You really get up and write during that time? That’s awesome. More power to the early birds. 🙂

  14. While I know it’s not good to sit for too long (which I do so easily when captured by my writing), I find writing so therapeutic. That’s the reason I started writing my life stories in the first place…

    • Oh yes, I sooo agree Lorna. One of my favorite things is to have a whole day to myself — writing! Very therapeutic, whether we’re writing memoirs or fairies or aliens. 🙂

  15. Interesting post Kate. I’m not sure if there’s a correlation like that for me, I shall have to pay more attention to that in myself to see. I agree a lot with Mayumi’s comment, and your reply to it, it’s really hard to separate out the different issues and causes for feeling sick or low, but for you it’s obviously something that you instinctively know about yourself. Also, this post and some of the comments have given me an idea for a future Limebird post, so thank you!

    • It took me a while to figure it out for myself. But as I tracked the times that I was physically ill I noticed I wasn’t writing, or I wasn’t writing enough. And yes, current family issues play a big part in this, too. My plan for 2013 will be a bit different so that no matter what is going on, I’m writing. Just like taking a daily vitamin. 🙂

  16. I do feel the not writing corresponds to feeling more lethargic and I get a boost from the writing. Sometimes I feel I have to just push through it and in the end the writing makes a difference.

    • Yes, it’s hard to want to write when we’re feeling blah. But as you say, if we push through that, we always end up feeling better. Thanks for swinging by!

  17. I appreciate you for sharing this information here. it was a brilliant post. thanks!

  18. I have totally neglected mine. I don’t know if there is any physical change as a result since I started off so ill and suffer from two chronic illnesses anyhow. I do know that my emotional health has faltered off and on. I aim to do better this year.

    • Glad to see you back, Raven! Yes, I can see how it would be difficult to know whether or not neglecting your Muse has any impact on your health if you’re already chronically ill. I’m so sorry about what you have to endure. I’m glad to hear that you will get back to it, though. That has to help in some way, I’m sure. My thoughts are with you. 🙂

  19. Sometimes I get writer fatigue. Where I’m just exhausted and nothing good is coming out. Usually after a major revision or drafting. I take a week or two off. Several days in, the itch to write starts. The need to emote. And eventually I’m writing in some way again and loving it. But yes, if I don’t do it long enough, it makes me physically ill. Too much emotional stuff bottled up inside I suppose. 🙂

    • Yes, Kourtney, you’re probably right. Much of our writing is therapeutic and we often channel our emotions onto the page. If we’re not doing that enough then it mades sense that we feel the physical side effects. Thanks for swinging by!

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