Every year I set myself a goal of writing more. I don’t say how much more and I don’t set a word count or time-at-my-desk target. This is probably against the advice of every goal setting self-help book you’ve ever read but it works for me.
I know when I set myself harsh or impossible targets it’s way easier to sulk and not achieve anything than it is to get some good words down on the page. I don’t want the joy that is writing to be tied to some punishment-reward cycle, when there are so many things beyond my control that can influence my ability to write.
Yes, I think I write best when I write every day. Yes, I’m also human and sometimes things like A GLOBAL PANDEMIC can interfere with your writing mojo.
So, on days when I can’t write, I turn to things that support my writing practice. I see these all as connected to my writing – like a lichen made up of lots of different symbiotic things. I wanted to share five of them with you, in the hopes that they help you as they help me.
Listening to and reading other writers talk about writing
I love listening to the following podcasts:
- Poetry Unbound
- The Penguin Podcast
- The Shit No One Tells You About Writing
- World Book Club
- Between the Covers
- Beautiful Writers
I’ve really enjoyed the following books and websites on writing recently:
- Brittle Paper
- Matthew Salesses – Craft in the Real World
- Stephen Koch – Modern Library’s Writer’s Workshop
Reading books that have nothing to do with writing
This month I’m reading Esther Perel – Mating in Captivity, Merlin Sheldrake – Entangled Life, Gabor Mate – When the Body Says No, and Arundhati Roy – My Seditious Heart. It’s odd for me to be reading so much non-fiction, but I think it’s because the chapters are short.
Although buying books isn’t free, reading them at the library is. You can access the whole City of Cape Town library catalogue here or the Gauteng provincial library catalogue here or the KZN library catalogue here. You get my point. Many of these libraries also stock a huge variety of books about writing, if you’re feeling keen.
Yoga (or stretching)
Moving your body can move energetic blocks. It can help you reconnect to your breath, and how you’re feeling. If you’re a writer you spend WAY TOO MUCH time sitting at a desk, which is objectively terrible for your health. So moving can help to make sure that you don’t become a little c-shaped human being by your nineties.
I have been practising yoga for a decade now – at times more vigorously and more often than others. It’s not an exaggeration to say that yoga has helped keep me sane in the lockdown, by helping me to slowdown and breathe and move. Experienced yogis will know that hip-opening practices can also help you to cry it out when you need to.
About ten days into South Africa’s lockdown I decided I’d practice every day. A month later I roped my husband into that commitment. We’ve been practising together (almost) every day since then. During that time I have mostly been watching videos from Yoga With Adriene who is a friendly, warm, and inviting presence in our living room. There are literally hundreds of classes on her YouTube channel, ranging from five minutes to an hour. She even has a practice for writers.
If you’re wanting longer or more intermediate / advanced class, you can also find great free classes with:
I’m sure there are many more, but these are ones that I’ve tried and enjoyed.
Meditation (or breath work / mindfulness)
Another risk of becoming a c-shaped writer-human is that you close off your chest muscles and forget to breathe properly. Connecting to your breath has been shown to lower your heart rate, help you sleep better, and keep you calm when the writing anxiety strikes.
Or you can DIY…
Sit in a chair or lie down and take a deep in breath, through your nose, for the count of four. Then breathe out, through your nose, for the count of four.
You can do this. I believe in you.