Writing is a lot like running long distances. If we think we can, we can. Our minds and emotions are called upon, and sometimes cajoled, to jettison us across real and self-imposed deadlines. Even when we give it our all, the road can stretch long before us.
Between start and finish lines are magical effortless days anchored by disappointing ones when getting the story down feels like bench-pressing a Buick. And there are mediocre days, at the end of which, we forget the progress made in a manuscript. That’s the nature of art and creativity—knowing it’s so should silence the nattering critic in our heads. Well, at least it should.
Authors commonly spend up to three years (and beyond) to research, write, edit and revise a single novel. If you’re a writer who needs reminding of the awesomeness of what you’re achieving, read this social media post by traditionally published Diana Gabaldon—What “Finished” Means to an Author.
About a year ago, I had an epiphany. I need to exercise self-care of my inner writer.
My dear friend Maggie Perotin, takes a holistic approach to her business and leadership coaching. I can really get behind her coaching messages and workshops about balancing mind, body, and spirit in business life. (Yes, writers wear entrepreneurial and leadership hats.) In her book Dream, Plan. Do, she writes about journaling at the end of every day—5 things you’re grateful for, 3 things you’re proud of and 1 thing you learned. Implementing this practice shifts how I internalize what I do each day. It reinforces that a writing life consists of the strung-together moments that shape my thinking—morning meditation, books I read, walks with my husband, vegetable picking in our garden, conversations with friends, curated quotes, introspections.
I am an appreciative person by nature, but writing five specific things for which I’m grateful deepens my satisfaction with each day. Some days I’m grateful for a new chapter draft or a plot breakthrough. On others, it’s ice cream or new socks. When I first started listing things I’m proud of, entries were all writing related. Soon, entries shifted to my humanness—the three remarkable children my husband and I raised, surprise phone calls from friends, time found for more exercise. I’m calmer which is precisely the state I need to be in for creativity to rise.
Without writing down what new thing I learn each day, the miracle of that acquisition is overlooked. I take for granted what I know, figured out, added to my bank of knowledge. I may learn a new writing tip, how to integrate a Mailchimp feature into my Instagram platform or that unharvested carrots go to seed in year two. Sometimes I gain a new perspective on human behaviour or a personal insight. Reflecting back, I notice my continued learning falls into several of Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences—particularly linguistic, intrapersonal, interpersonal, spatial and naturalist categories. Imposter syndrome be gone.
Thank you, Maggie! Journaling daily about gratitude, what I’m proud of, and what I’ve learned has become a celebration. Instead of racing through each day to get to the next, I’ve slowed down internally, become more mindful. I see more. And the words are flowing. It’s more conducive to creativity and healthier for my thoughts to focus with appreciation on how far I’ve come instead of fretting over the uncertainties between myself and the finish line.
(PS Click here to join Gwen’s bimonthly newsletter and receive your free excerpt of The Last Hoffman.)
The Last Hoffman is a poignant family drama featuring a multilayered cast of tightly woven characters in a fractured northern community. It will restore your belief in second chances.“For all the novel features characters that are alone, it is a story driven by human connections (…) With vivid descriptions, natural dialogue and in-depth characterization, Tuinman compels us to look beyond the surface. The ending is triumphant.” –Historical Novel Society
“The environmental component is relevant to our times, the struggle to be heard over greed and ignorance and other people’s agendas is real. (…) This book would lend itself to be made into a movie.” ~ Canadian Author Association Reviewer