Author Nicole Gulotta has found that when her body is cared for, her creativity “flows more freely and more frequently.” On the other hand, when she’s tired, her muscles ache, and she hasn’t practiced yoga in way too long, her creative energy is stagnant.
Writing feels impossible.
As Gulotta notes in her beautiful book Wild Words: Rituals, Routines, and Rhythms for Braving the Writer’s Path, “the body comes first. You can’t produce your best work if you don’t take care of yourself, and since writing is a lifelong pursuit, you must always nurture yourself along the way.”
We know this. But we try to dismiss it. We try to pretend it isn’t true.
We sacrifice sleep and rest and keep hustling. We skip restorative yoga class or simply stretching to focus on a project or run errands or clean up the house. And it’s not as though these things aren’t valid and important. After all, many of us don’t have the luxury of saying no, for instance, to extra work.
And yet there must be some time and space for caring for our bodies, for our needs, for our souls.
Gulotta includes several invaluable suggestions in Wild Words to help us return to ourselves and compassionately support ourselves. Consider trying these tips this week:
Make a list of activities, actions, and small gestures that restore you and help you feel more connected to your body. Keep this list somewhere that’s easily accessible (like your phone or journal). Gulotta’s list includes: looking at the ocean; feeling the breeze on her face; petting her dog; reading a book to her son; eating homemade granola with ice cold almond milk; attending a yoga class; lighting candles at dinnertime; saying no to something that drains her energy; remembering her work isn’t for everyone; watching a musical; recognizing her limits; and naming her fears out loud.
Ask yourself what you need and what you can change. For example, Gulotta asks herself what she needs to do her work, or to do it better (e.g., a mindset shift, a dedicated workspace). She also asks herself what she needs to support her body (e.g., a massage, more sleep); if she needs a new morning or evening routine; and if she needs to find her appetite for writing and for life again. Then she considers the smallest action she can take to effect change. This might be anything from trying a Zumba class to deleting some shows on your TV and reading instead.
Go slow. Gulotta talks about slow writing, but we can apply this idea to anything in our lives (like our lives overall). She defines slow writing as “the belief that less is more, our writing careers are long, and there’s no rush, no race, and no reason to push ourselves to the brink of exhaustion. Or, a more succinct definition: not doing all the things.” She further notes (and I particularly love this): “And since your time and your health are precious assets—not renewable resources—slow writing is also about protection.”
Gulotta offers these guidelines for practicing the art of slow writing (which, again, can translate into the art of slow living): take care of your body; take on fewer creative projects at a time; do what’s best for you and your community (not what an expert recommends); write at your own pace; don’t compare journeys with someone else; and honor milestones of all shapes and sizes.
Importantly, these suggestions aren’t one more thing to cram into your already bursting to-do list. They’re not one more thing to feel terribly guilty about.
Rather, these suggestions are invitations to look at our days a bit differently, and to acknowledge the truth that we deserve care, and there are small ways we can provide ourselves with much needed nourishment.
And you can start at any time.