I struggle with neck and shoulder tension, and of course sitting for long periods of time adds to those issues.
Taking frequent stretch breaks while writing and a regular yoga practice help. I also love massages when I can afford them.
You Need Friends and Teachers Who Uplift
It’s difficult sometimes to separate the writing (what’s working / what’s not) from one’s identity, but I think it’s very important to do so.
Prayer and meditation help me. I also believe in surrounding yourself with those people who believe in you and who challenge you.
You need friends and teachers who uplift, not those who leave you feeling drained. I love Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way—that book really has changed my life.
I have two Old English Bulldogges. When I’m feeling stressed, I watch them play and realize I’m taking myself too seriously.
I often listen to music that fits (or contrasts) my mood.
When I need inspiration for writing I also read works by writers I admire; it often rekindles my own creativity.
Failure Can Be a Great Teacher
I’ve gotten a lot of rejections, so that’s always hard. However, I think failure can be a great teacher.
If we succeed too much, we risk becoming arrogant and thinking there’s nothing more to learn.
As one of my recent students wisely said, “Failure is somewhat of a gift,” especially when it helps us become better writers, readers, thinkers.
Writing Doesn’t Let Me Go
That is a good question (what’s the one thing that has kept you on your path?). I’m not sure.
I think it’s something that doesn’t let me go, even if I sometimes want to. Ideas for writing and the need to express and connect—these keep coming back.
Advice for a Young Writer: Know that It’s Hard
Writing is hard, so know that.
Sometimes it’s good, but sometimes it’s just good practice.
Keep at it.
“Inspiration comes but it must find you working,” as someone famously said.
Also, you need a tough skin. There will be rejections, but ask yourself what you might learn from them.
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Celeste McMaster is an associate professor at Charleston Southern University. She has published poetry and fiction in Short Story, The Dos Passos Review, Mslexia, New Delta Review, Arkansas Review, and The Whale, and is the winner of the 2016 Saturday Evening Post’s Great American Fiction Contest. She also won CSU’s 2015 Excellence in Teaching Award. To connect with Celeste, see her Facebook page.