Hello, friends! I want to talk about mental health today—specifically if you’re a writer. It’s important! I spent a good deal of 2017 trying to figure out why I was stressed and how I could tone it down, and I discovered that I wasn’t taking care of my mental health, or honoring my mental bandwidth to do all the things.
I was inspired to write this post after a particularly powerful podcast episode on the Write Now Podcast called “How to Rest as a Writer.” I realized that if I listed out things I was frustrated with, a good portion of it dealt with things like maintaining my social media and writing goals. Basically, things no one asked me to do, but I work myself to the bone, anyway.
So after some soul searching—which takes a ton of time, believe it or not—I started working on these following tips. This is advice I’ve given myself and I’m sharing them now with you. Please note that I’m not a parent nor am I a college student, so I know some of these things seem really far-fetched. But I promise if you tailor these tips to your current season of life, you’ll be taking better care of your mental health.
Honor Your Pace
One of the hardest things about seeing everyone’s 2018 resolutions or posts was the overwhelming desire to copy all those good ideas. Some writers are extremely ambitious about what they want to read, write, or publish. And I wanted to be just like them. Even though I’m already busy.
So I decided to only set goals that are within your power to accomplish. We’re all busy in one way or another, so we can’t copy someone else’s dreams and assume we can do it.
Remember what you want to do and how you plan to do it—and it doesn’t have to match what your favorite author or mentor is doing. Regardless of how much you do or don’t do, you’re doing the best you can. You’re still living the dream.
Stop Doing Things for Free
If you do anything in this world that involves writing, art, music, or design, chances are that there are many opportunities to do a lot of quality work for free in order to amass “exposure.” I used to have this mindset that all of these types of jobs or services would add up in my karma piggy bank. However, there’s nothing more stressful than feeling like you have to do something for free.
I used to feel this way about being an ARC reader. Because I believe so much in book reviews, supporting local authors, and being the kind of readers I want to attract, I would feel unnecessarily pressured to read a book and publish a review in a relatively short amount of time.
A book review meant a free book, which also meant blog content, which meant more fans and friends for me. I realized the stress wasn’t worth it. So, I decided I would volunteer to read books I was truly passionate about or if I had the time.
Free yourself of this need to add up good vibes or karma. Instead, do stuff with a price tag. As they say on the internet, “Know your worth, then add tax.”
Relish Hobbies that Aren’t Writing Related
It has been really helpful for me to do literally anything else besides reading, writing, or editing. No, social media doesn’t count here. I do things like lift weights, play Pokemon Go, watch movies, sleep, play Just Dance, cross stitch, spend time with good friends, and bake. There are probably many more things that you can think of that count as an “escape” from your writing.
I don’t believe we’re just writers. We’re more multi-faceted than that. As I’ve experienced, when I tap into other unrelated hobbies or interests, I feel more complete as a person and I am convinced it makes me a better writer.
The point of mental health is to do necessary activities—on a weekly or daily basis—to give you relief from activities that give you anxiety, depression, or stress. I love to write and I love to edit, but it can strain my creative energy if I’m writing all the time, not taking a break, and not rewarding myself for the progress I make.
So this year, I’d encourage you to indulge in activities you already enjoy. Or learn new things! I guarantee that you will feel less burned out about your writing projects and goals if you switch things up every once and a while.
Be Okay with Taking a Break
In 2017, I took a “break,” if I put it mildly. This doesn’t seem real, because I was still online, still promoting myself, and still participating in all the NaNoWriMo. If you look back on some of my old Let’s Get Real posts, I was real about feeling upset over politics, struggling with impostor syndrome, and general frustration with my writing goals. Up until October, I wasn’t really “writing”—I wasn’t working on a novel.
It felt like a waste of time to beat myself up over not writing. And so I pass this on to you: degrading yourself as a writer and a person will not get you to write a book. You will not write a quality book if you loathe yourself.
So I gave myself a break. I didn’t write beyond my journal entries, book reviews, and blog posts. But I wasn’t writing a ton of stuff every day.
Once October rolled around, I was jazzed about a new novel concept, and I ran with it. And I ended up writing the whole draft by the end of the year. That is literally a feat that I haven’t accomplished ever.
Maybe it’s a stretch, but I believe that taking a break—taking that pressure off my own shoulders—helped me improve my relationship with my writing and my writing habits.
If you just aren’t into your current project, maybe you need a shift. Maybe a new project or new genre will jump-start your creativity again. Ironically, you can write out your feelings to determine what exactly is bothering you and you might figure out what you need a break from and how to move forward.
Lean on the Community
I know this is a double-edged sword, because the more you look at your “competition” online, you might rationalize that their social media brands are cooler than yours, they’re writing more than you, they’re getting more freelance clients, or otherwise living the dream—maybe your dream.
Lately, I’ve been “scrolling with intention,” or reading more captions, rather than giving a like and moving on. I’ve realized that other people are giving out similar SOS calls for help. For example, I saw a cute picture of three succulent plants in cute matching pots. The person who posted the photo (and made the pots) said they were closing their shop to focus on their mental health. And she got a flood of positive vibes from other people who slowed down to read and respond.
Both sides of that situation count as leaning on the community. The shop owner was open, raw, and honest about her current situation. As the onlooker, I felt empathy for her. I know what it’s like to put things on hold for my mental health—how guilty she might feel even though she knows it’s for the best.
We hate to say “things are going bad for me.” It’s not fun to say “I’m failing and I hate myself.” But we all feel that way. Consider how you can ask for help, and consider how you can be that help.
You’re Doing Great, Sweetie
That’s enough for today! I hope this helped you somewhat with whatever is on your mind. Discomfort is a sign that things have to change. It’s a sign that you’re ready to grow or you need to pivot so you can reach your goals. It sucks, but we all feel it at one point or another.
If you want to read my other posts related to mental health, click on any of the following titles:
- How Revisiting My Imposter Syndrome Helped Me Grow
- 4 Things to Remember When Playing the Comparison Game
- How I Overcame Writer Guilt & How You Can, Too
- Why it’s Time to Stop Hiding Behind Impostor Syndrome
- What Confidence Means to Me on Off-Days
How do you take care of your mental health? Which of these tips will you try out in 2018? Did I leave out any suggestions? Share your thoughts (because I’m all about receiving great advice) in the comments or on the socials!