Sarah Tomp is the author of MY BEST EVERYTHING. She has a MFA in writing for children and young adults from VCFA and teaches writing for UCSD-Extension. @swtomp

Pet owners can be a bit kooky about their animal friends. Nothing but the best for their sweet (insert appropriate species: dog, cat, lizard, emotional support peacock).

So, I have to ask: Have you been taking care of your creative beast?

As writers, we put so much attention to our minds that we can overlook our bodies. And yet, they are, so far, dependent on each other.

Working on my MFA was an amazing experience. It allowed me to prioritize my writing and put it front and center. The kids still had to eat, basic needs still had to be met, but writing – it was there, shiny and bright, woven into every aspect of my day. I had no idea I could dedicate so much time and energy to my writing. And I found that one idea would lead to others – I experienced an overflow of creative energy.

My mind was on fire. But it was hard on my body.

I absent mindedly ate whatever was easy. I turned sedentary and sat for hours with my words. When I woke up in the middle of the night, I used it as time to write instead of going back to sleep. And then, the wonderful, gratifying, exhilarating experience of having my novel published was payoff for all that hard work. But, it was even harder on my body. More of the above.

And so, with a nod to February’s status as the American Heart Association’s “Heart Month,” I encourage you to take care of your body as way to nurture your creative pet.

BASIC PET (BEAST) CARE

  1. SHELTER: How is your environment? Are you working in a safe and (moderately) clean space? Is it free of allergens? What about toxins – in whatever form is your particular risk? Is your living and working space somewhere you can relax?
  2. FOOD AND WATER: Most pet owners don’t feed their animal buddies junk food. They don’t let them have free access to the treat cupboard. Not to exert control and punishments, but because it’s better for them to eat healthy and in moderation. Are you taking time to feed your creative beast the foods it needs?
  3. PLAY AND EXERCISE: Do you remember to get up and move? Do you step away from the desk each day? Do you explore and have fun in the outside world? Do you see new sights? Listen to new sounds? Smell new smells? (Sniffing strangers is not advised.)
  4. STIMULATE AND CHALLENGE: Are you teaching yourself new tricks? Taking risks? Trying new things? Have you thought about exploring an entirely different creative outlet? What about learning to make music? To paint or sculpture? To dance?
  5. AVOID TRIGGERS: If your beast gets tense or distraught over certain external situations (fireworks, aggressive cohorts, noisy streets, thunderstorms, Twitter outrage) do your best to avoid them. There’s no reason to force your beast into situations where they are certain to feel anxiety and tension.
  6. REWARDS/LOVE & AFFECTION: Remember the power of praise and affirmation. Reward your beast when it delights you. Acknowledge the behaviors you want to reinforce. Good job, beasty, you wrote a damn fine sentence today! And the surprise revelation – wow! Let me rub your belly for that one! (You may have a different reward system, feel free to improvise.)

See this self-care wheel, courtesy of Olga Phoenix for more suggestions for self- and creative beast – care.

Be good to your beast!

Sarah Tomp