Today, I’m blogging from Chicago. I flew out here for a medical procedure that seems to have been Very Effective. I’ve had a helluva time getting any work done because of my health and now, suddenly, I’m feeling fine.
It’s gotten me to thinking about the self-care of a writer and how important it is that we take care of ourselves.
I don’t know about you, but my muse is a fussy fellow, distracted and discombobulated by the slightest changes in weather. Now, don’t get me wrong. I do not actually believe there is a redneck named Leroy who builds my stories for me. But it is fun to dress the process up like its own little story. A metaphorical way of looking at creativity.
And Leroy, in a lot of ways, is like the goose that laid the golden eggs. You know the story…the goose pops out an egg made of gold every day and the greedy farmer, wanting to extract more gold than his daily ration, cuts the goose open to discover that the goose is not only empty, but also now dead. Dead geese don’t lay eggs.
I think we do the same thing sometimes with our muses. We push, we force, we reach for our knife. Or we neglect, ignore, starve our goose. And we wonder why the golden eggs dry up.
And regardless of my metaphor, we are the geese.
So here are my brief do’s and don’t’s of goose-keeping.
1. Do take care of yourself. It’s a hard habit and I still find this hit or miss in my own life. My goal is to ride my bike five miles per day, five days per week. Some days, I mix it up by taking a two or three mile walk, pushing 75 lbs of babies and buggy as I go. But exercise, even though it takes time, gives back energy. And with my tilting, adjustable, hospital bed table, I can actually do my email, blogging, etc while pedaling like mad. I found it became nearly effortless once I was actually able to work while riding. Some days, I even found myself riding seven or eight miles instead of five because I lost track of time. Exercise, vitamins, diet, hydration, going to the doctor or the therapist (or to Chicago) when you need to, getting enough rest, etc are all ways of doing this. I certainly don’t get it right all of the time, but I’m making progress.
2. Don’t Starve Yourself. Our golden eggs come from a steady diet of the things that feed your brain and heart. For me, its music, poetry, story through the lens of books, TV, movies, even video games. Keeping my brain at work by reading up on subjects you wouldn’t normally read up. Sometimes for me its a Bertrand Russell essay. Right now, I’m reading Judith Herman’s Trauma and Recovery, a classic in its field. Good brain food.
3. Do Connect With Others. Introvert or extrovert, we’re all still social creatures. Take care of your relationships and don’t sacrifice them for all the golden eggs in Aesop Land. Foster friendships of reciprocal caring. Find affinity with others who are both like you and different. I’ve found that despite the fact that people make me tired, I need them. Even if it’s in small doses. These relationships have saved me again and again. As I’ve said somewhere before, “My companions will ever be my saving grace.” And there are so many ways you can do this. Conventions. Workshops. Your local pub or coffeeshop or the other people that you meet in your neighborhood. As we used to say in the army: “Take a buddy.”
4. Don’t Forget Who You Are. Jen and I often will part with the words “And don’t forget who you are.” I’m not sure where it came from but it’s been in my life longer than Jen has. It’s easy sometimes to think either more or less of ourselves than is actually true. It’s also easy sometimes to just dodge the whole self-awareness thing in our mad race to get those golden eggs. But part of caring for the goose is understanding how the goose operates, letting it be what it is rather than what you wish it could be or wish it wasn’t.
I could go on for a goodly while on this subject, but the sun is shining and there’s a Chicago style stuffed crust pizza (and some walking) that has my name on it. So I’m going to turn the platform over to you now.
What are some of your Do’s and Don’t’s when it comes to taking care of your golden-egg laying goose?