Author Health: 5 Self Care I Like to Do

Hullo, world!

It’s October, meaning all the leaves light up like illuminations, then promptly fall within a week. Alas, such is autumn in Canada. 

Today, I’m back for my monthly installation of Author Health. So far we’ve looked at the importance of family and authors, and discussed a little about my rather chaotic life as an author

As I was looking through some possible things I could talk about in the Author Health series, it came upon my mind how vital self care is to authors. And not just actually authors, but anyone. 

After I do self care, I’m more energized and feel…well, recharged. Like when you plug your phone in when it’s dying. 

Without proper self care, we become that dying phone. 

So without further ado, I present to you 5 Self Care I Like to Do. 

1: Taking A Walk

I know, I know, I sound like some old lady with a walking stick. But hear me out. Walking is actually a very good form of meditation when you focus on the act of walking alone.  I personally dislike sitting around and meditating, because I automatically sit in seiza like I do in karate. And after I do meditation, I begin the gruelling training sessions. 

At least, that’s the feeling I get. 

So instead when I feel stressed or tired out, I take a walk. I like to take short walks around the neighbourhood that barely spans five to ten minutes, and super long walks spanning hours. 

I love getting outside because it allows me to come out of my head. And as authors, that is one of the most important things to learn since we get so caught up in our stories and works and whatnots. 

2: Having a Bath 

Yes, I used to have a bath everyday. Yes, I’m Japanese. Thank you for asking. 

Anyhow. 

It’s a little unrelated to the topic, but I have had terrible eczema since childhood. I also have like a bazillion allergies to keep track of, and asthma on top of that. So whenever I got particularly stressed, all of these factors would combine and attack me at the same time. Which, for your information, is not fun at all. (Rather dreadful, I say.) 

Having a bath with essential oil–like tea tree or lavender–always calms down my sensitive skin. It also helps my body relax. Soaking in the hot bath and just letting your mind settle down in the heavenly scents of aroma is one of the perfect self-care. Even if you don’t have a full bath, soaking your feet in hot water instantly warms up your body and re-invigorates your blood circulation. 

3: Throwing Yourself a Tea Party 

If you have been with me for a while now, you would probably know just how much I love drinking tea. (I drink coffee, but usually diluted with 70% soy milk and cream.) In fact, I probably drink at least five cups of tea per day…which is partly because I grew up in a tea drinking culture, and we always have a kettle full of tea. 

But what I’m talking about here is not just simple tea drinking whilst you bang out thousands of words. 

It’s called throwing a tea party. 

Me explaining tea parties

This is where you drop everything you’re doing, salvage a nice set of tea cups or mugs, excavate cookies and pastries that go along the occasion, brew yourself a wonderful cup (or cups) of tea, and enjoy that moment like you’re a sophisticated Victorian lady. 

And, you don’t even need to invite other people. (You’re more than welcome to, of course, but I find it much better when I am alone.) I mean, it would also depend if you’re  an introvert or an extrovert… *goes to hide my extreme introversion in the closet*

What I hope people will think of tea

4: Going out on a Date 

Didn’t see that coming, did you? Here you were thinking I was going to be your friendly old-maid fifty-years-down-the-road, and I pull up “Going out on a Date”. And you thought I was introverted!

I know that feeling…

Well, calm yourselves down, since I don’t mean anything like a modern date. What I really mean is, set up a date with one of your girlfriends (that would be my Mum and my sister) and go out into the world to have some fun!

For example, my sister and I are going out on a date this very afternoon. We’ll go to the wonderful central branch library to drop off books and pick up a few holds, go to Muji and drool over organic clothes and pens, perhaps get something to drink at a coffee shop, and go to a department store. 

See? Doesn’t that sound absolutely lovely? 

And even when we don’t go out “out”, we might throw a karaoke party and sing Vocaloid songs until our throats have failed us, paint our nails, do a little spa activity. That sort of stuff. 

(I do apologise to any of the gentlemen in the audience today. It is kind of turning out to be rather girly and all.) 

5: Reading Inspirational Books + Listening to Music

And lastly, one of the simplest yet effective self care activities: Reading inspirational books and listening to music. 

Notice here I don’t say just books. I said inspirational books. This is because, as authors, when we are so drained from writing or the work that comes from writing related activities, sometimes we don’t even want to read books. Let alone see them. 

I’ve been there a few times when I was so overwhelmed with trying to figure out how to make my story work (“Just please by the name of Aslan, work thyself out!”) that I didn’t want to read other people’s stories. I know, drastic. But it happens. 

So when you’re feeling extremely burnt out, sometimes the best thing to do is pick up one of those self-help books or a mindless read–perhaps a fluffy YA contemporary–and listen to music while you’re at it. 

I myself personally recommend reading the Bible or books like Carrie Pilby (my new book love) and play some Delius or Strauss or lo-fi. Chopin’s études are also fun to listen to. Tchaikovsky or Beethoven, Liszt and the like are too grand for my liking. 

Anyhow, the point is this: You pick up a book that you know to be inspiring, and listen to light-hearted music. That’s basically it. 

And with that, I conclude the 5 Self Care I Like to Do. 

I hope you enjoyed these tips! What did you think of the self care I mentioned above? What are some of your favourite self-care activities? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!

5 Ways to Write (Without Actually Writing)

Hullo, world!

I must convey to you how happy I am to be writing this post. In the month I took a rest from blogging, I realised just how much I missed it. I’ve actually been blogging for almost five years counting my Japanese and science blogs, and blogging is one thing that sparks joy inside me. 

Anyhow.

Today, I’ll be talking about the 5 Ways to Write (Without Actually Writing). I think a lot of times as writers, we’re pressured to be constantly putting in that word count for your WIP. “Writers write”, right? 

Well, not entirely.

I mean, I’ve done my share of the “writers write” routine where I was writing every day, no matter what. But sometimes, you can’t really “write”. Maybe you’ve started a new WIP, and the ideas are all kind of floating in the air. Maybe you’re suffering from a mild writer’s block. Or a little stuck. 

In these cases, there are 5 things you can do to “write”…without writing.

1: Outlining 

Yup, you heard that right. Regardless of whether you’re a planner or pantser or plantser, you can always work on writing by outlining. Outlining is a great way to sort through the direction of your story. There are also many different ways you can outline, but I would specifically recommend looking at K. M. Weiland’s various outlining methods. A detailed outline can help you work towards your “writing” phase when you are putting in your wordcounts, and also help you not to write incessantly. (Like I did for Woodstone…) It’s like creating a map of words to help you “write” better. 

2: Journalling 

Didn’t see this one coming, did you? I started bujo-ing last May, and the habit has been creeping into other areas of my life. I resumed my diary, began a book review journal, and began journaling for my WIPs. 

Yes, that’s right. I journal for my WIP. There isn’t a direct way I do it, but I usually start with leaving the first two pages for the table of contents, then letting my mind wander the pages and write down any inspirations that come to my mind. This has been a singularly useful way to sort my thoughts (and keep them), as well as figuring out characters and worldbuilding. Which happens to be the next thing on the list…

3: Worldbuilding 

When you are less inclined to write, the one fun thing you can do is to build the world. There are various ways you can go about this regardless of the genre. One thing I love to do is to create a Pinterest board. I like to look for “keyword” + “aesthetic” to get the feeling of the story. Establishing the mood and atmosphere of the story is vital. It’s an important part of your author voice as well. 

Then, I transfer the images to words. I create locations of importance with detailed descriptions. I shift through the “normal world” of the WIP–modern or old, with magic or not–and establish that  “normal world” as a reality in that story. 

Because the more real the story is, the easier it is to write about it. 

I also create a detailed timeline of the story, whether the story spans a month or eighty years. By creating a solid world, you get a better sense of what the story is going to be about. Plus, you get to write while you do it. 

4: Character Sketches

As I mention various parts of writing that do not include direct “writing”, one of the most important things to do is Character Sketches. (And undoubtedly the most exciting thing to do other than actual “writing”.) 

You start with an empty head, a character, and a blank page. Then you write whatever comes to your head. This way, you get to rediscover the person you thought you knew. It works especially well with the antagonists of the story. 

For Juliet, I wrote a short story from the main antagonist’s pov. It helped me deepen his character and understand where he was coming from. It also solved a bunch of plot holes and blank spaces of worldbuilding. 

5: Other WIPs

And lastly, let me just say this: When you can’t “write” your current WIP, it’s perfectly fine to switch to another WIP. 

I was one of those people who resolutely refused to work on another WIP if I was not finished with at least the first draft. 

Me with most WIPs

But sometimes, it doesn’t work that way. And you actually need to switch to another story when the one in front of you isn’t working. Maybe you need to go back to the plotting stage. Or perchance you’re missing an important thematic truth. Whatever the problem may be, sometimes switching to a different genre, a different scene, simply something different, can change your perspective. Then, you can come back to your writing with a fresh eye, and “write”. 

So that’s my perspective on not writing (but kind of writing). 

I hope you have a wonderful rest of your day! 

What do you think? Do you have periods of your writing life when you’re writing (but actually not)? Or vice-versa? What are some other ways you keep writing when you’re not working on you WIP? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!

Author Health: Why Authors Need Families

Hullo, world!

I am still under the weather, but I am out of bed, which is what counts! Despite the grey and oppressive sky we are under, there are still things to be thankful for. (e.g. crispy and juicy sausages for breakfast, the always heartfelt chocolate mini croissants with powdered sugar) And please don’t ask me why I have to always inform you of the weather here. It just means a lot to me. (Sunny weather hasn’t  killed anyone…I mean, funeral scenes are usually not sunny, eh?)

So today, I wanted to kick off a new monthly series, Author Health. I usually have most of my blog posts planned till the next five months or more–yes, I am that crazy over-planner–but midway through my said planned posts, I realised something: This is not the thing I want to read about. *proceeds to chuck the schedule into a trash can*

Now, don’t get me wrong, I like the new blog posts focusing more on book reviews  and such. Afterall, this is a writer’s blog. An integral part of author life is consuming books and dissecting them. 

But the thing is, blogging is so much more than writing posts to gain readership. Blogs wouldn’t be possible without you, dear readers. At the same time, I too am a reader of my own blog. If I don’t even like or feel benefited from what I was writing, would my readers too? 

I think for a lot of us, the COVID-19 crisis enlightened us on what mattered most. For me, I realised that my mental health, especially as an author, was something that I needed to hear more on. 

So without further ado, let’s dive right into Author Health: Why Authors Need Families

1: The Idea 

To start off, let me explain a bit the background of Author Health. It is a fact universally well-known that authors, especially famous ones, tend to have horrible mental health. [Virgina, Pavitra] I don’t even have to consult a list to name great Japanese authors who have killed themselves. 

Guys, it doesn’t take a genius to figure this out: The prospect of being an author and surviving life sucks. Even “normal” people with “normal” jobs suffer from mental well-being [CAMH]. The statistics are dire. 

I personally have struggled over the years with depression and anxiety, both related and not related to my career decision. So I thought, “Hey, wouldn’t it be great if there was an inspirational post at the start of each month veered specifically for authors’ mental health?” 

Voila! Here we are. 

2: What Families Are 

The very first topic that came to my mind was Families and Authors. It’s kind of funny how the people who are the closest to us are usually our most avid fans and also the greatest enemies of distractions. More often than not distractions. 

From looking through many definitions of families, I came up with one that I like best:

Family:

The people related to you with whom you share the dinner table with

-By I, the Great SJ

Yup, that’s true. No matter how “diverse” families have become, it’s still the people you somehow eat dinner with every single day because you’re somehow related to each other. They’re the ones who see the ugliest parts of you and also the people who claim understands you the best. 

Utterly weird, and wonderful. 

They are your best allies and even when they feel like they’re  mortal enemies, are actually the people who will stand by you till the end. 

3: Family Off-Time

And one thing that they help you do is to take an off-time. Sometimes I get so caught up in whatever project I’m doing I don’t move from my seat for five hours. Five. Straight. Hours. See how this could be problematic? 

This is where my family drags me outside for a walk or karate session. (Despite what people think, karate-chops are one of the most ineffective attacks. I’ve broken boards with a chop. It took me three painful tries to get it right.) 

Without my family, I would probably resort to eating ramen all week, not taking proper breaks, or hydrating correctly. Everyone needs someone who drags them away from the desk. And whip up gorgeous dinners. 

Not  that I’m saying that’s all families are good for, per se. They’re also good for a myriad of things I won’t say here since it’s supposed to be PG. 

4: Families before Work

Yes, you heard that right. Although authoring is a very serious business that involves balancing day work and tons of other responsibilities, family relation is more important than all of them combined. It doesn’t matter if you finally got your book deal but your old parents are gibbering in a senior home. Or worse, dead. The time you spend or don’t spend with the people who helped you become you won’t come back after they are past. 

God, family, then work. That sums up my priorities. Having a healthy relationship with your family is the first step in an excellent author health. No matter what is happening in your life, eat a meal together at least  once a day. Or give your parents and siblings a call if you live away from home. Just remember to make a space for family at the top of your life. Trust me, it makes a whole lot of change by just deciding to talk to them. 

And lastly, take some time to be with yourself. You’re also a family member that matters. Spend time for devotions in the mornings. Journal. You are always more than your achievements. 

What did you think?  Do you spend time with your family? What do you think is crucial for author health? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!