Writing sounds like an easy job, right? Sitting at a laptop in a cafe, sipping lattes and tapping away at a keyboard, waiting for the royalties cheques to roll in….
That is, unfortunately, not how it goes for most of us!
Writing can be a very isolated profession, trapped behind a desk for many hours a day, hence writers like to take their laptops to cafes to see other real human people every once in a while! As a part time romance writer, this can be even harder- many people starting out at romance writing do it on the side of another, full time job. So you come home from your ‘real’ job, plop down in front of the laptop and write, write write.
This can get pretty tiring, as you can imagine, and if you don’t look after yourself, burnout can be upon you in no time at all.
So, here are my top tips for staying in good form as a writer.
This is key! Make like a shark and keep moving. Take very regular and frequent breaks, whereby you stand up and walk around, maybe step out into the garden for ten minutes, get some fresh air and a change of scenery. Try getting a walk in at lunchtime, and make sure to stand up whenever you can. Sitting down for hours on end is bad news, for both the butt and for the inspiration. My mind never works so well as when I have just been for a walk to refresh the little grey cells. I have a stand up riser for my desk which is great- I can stretch as I write or read back over my last few pages, move my legs and feel much more mobile than when I just sit for hours on end.
Coffee is a delicious beverage, but man cannot live on caffeine alone! Many of us don’t drink anywhere near the amount of water we should, and the effects of even mild dehydration can be pretty uncomfortable, such as a fuzzy head and feeling tired and headachey, not good for concentrating on your dialogue! My top tip is to keep a water filter jug in the fridge, then top up a litre bottle to keep by your desk all day to sip at and keep the brain ticking over, pumping out those storylines. I love to be fully hydrated and drink around 3 litres a day- why not try to build up to that slowly if you aren’t quite there yet?
Another tip that sounds so simple but in practice, can really be pretty tricky! We all know we should be eating more fruit and veg, as well as having less processed food and takeaways, but as a writer, sometimes you end up burning the candle at both ends and the delivery pizza menu is all too appealing. I find it useful to set aside a couple of hours at the weekend to roast a load of vegetables, bake some sweet potatoes, cook up some rice, quinoa and pearl barley so that they are ready in the fridge with some lettuce and fresh salad veg to make interesting and filling salads for lunch all week. Another tip to consider is using your slow cooker more – I love throwing in some beans and veg and coming back to an amazing chilli after a hard day at the keyboard!
Mind your Mental Health
Physical health is so important, sometimes we forget our minds need a little TLC too. Lots of romance writers are women who can face unique challenges in starting up a writing side hustle, such as difficulties managing child care with their partner, or arranging for the house work to be more equally distributed- yeah even in 2021 women still do far more housework than men and do the lions share of childcare. Managing this inequality, or even just adding in an extra task can lead to stress, in addition to the general stress you may feel in taking on a new creative project like romance writing. I find journalling and meditation both really valuable to my mental health. Also, remember to book a little holiday from your side hustles every now and again! Your readers will appreciate when you return refreshed and ready to spoil them with more tales.