Saturday, September 19

Tending the Writer's Emotional Health

*Title of post nabbed from super awesome workshop in Washington by author, Joanne Rock*

As writers we are faced with numerous challenges. We have to deal with writers block, eye strain, headaches, back aches, and carpal tunnel; criticism, derision, fear, despair and rejection. And all for what? The slim chance to see our book, the baby we slaved over for weeks, months and sometimes even years, on the shelves at Barnes & Noble or on the e-shelves of Amazon?

But then, that does sound rather fantastic, doesn’t it? To see your name printed so neatly on that shiny new cover, decorating the shelf. And yes, you’re right. The shelf would have been lonely and empty if your book was not gracing it with its wondrous presence.

Or perhaps you write simply because you love it. Because it feeds your soul and calms those pesky little demons who threaten to sneak out and control you if you don’t release your pent up imagination. But even if you fall into this category, which I think most writers do, there is still that niggle in the back of your mind, the one that whispers, “This could be published. It’s good enough. My story is good enough. It should be shared with the world!”

Wouldn’t it be grand?

I agree. It would be. And with that end goal in mind we tend to ignore, or at least accept, all the eye strain, the sore necks, and all of the cranky, sleepy Muses who absolutely refuse to work when we need them to. They strangely sound a lot like your children and your husband, don’t they? Muses are finicky creatures, who like to work only when they feel like it. Even if that means its 3 am and they just woke you up from a lovely dream. Your characters are the same way. Like stubborn actors in a play, they tend to be a little melodramatic and pigheaded. But we still love them anyway. Just like we still love our children and our husbands. Most of the time.

Being the director of these persnickety actors and an even fussier Muse, we are responsible for a lot. We need to be in tune with their emotional health at all times. Are they feeling up to doing a sad scene today? Is my heroine still mad at my hero for the dumb thing he said yesterday? Will they play nice if I ask them to? And so on.

But, as the director, we never seem to worry about our own emotional health. We never stop to ask ourselves if we’re feeling up to working on a sad scene today, or if we’re still mad at the hero for the really dumb thing he said to the heroine yesterday. And why not? Aren’t we just as important as our characters and our Muse? Shouldn’t we, as the director of all this mayhem, deserve a little break every once and a while? Even if it is just to ask ourselves how we’re doing?

Indeed, we do.

So, my fellow writers, sit back and listen carefully to what I’m about to tell you.

You are just as important as your characters and your Muse. Even more so actually, because without you, the show can’t go on. But don’t despair! There are some tricks to keeping yourself healthy and well while still writing.

1. Have a good writing space-- This varies from person to person, so there is no concrete idea here of what is a good writing space. Find what works for you and make it as comfortable for yourself as possible. Make sure there is good lighting and enough support for your back and wrists.

2. Eat healthy-- Rather than grabbing that bag of chips, stop and cut up some veggies to snack on while you work. It’ll make you feel better overall and afterwards you won’t feel guilty.

3. Drink lots of water-- I know writers tend to like caffeine, for the obvious reasons, but try to drink water as well.

4. Get up and move around-- Sitting, hunched over the desk all day will do no one any good, least of all you. Take breaks and wander around. Go outside and walk around the block, or go do the laundry! Yes, I know. That one sounds like so much fun. But really, it’ll help.

5. Talk to people who actually exist outside of your mind-- Trust me on this one. We’re crazy enough as it is without foregoing normal conversation with real people. Don’t make it worse.

6. Sleep!-- I know this one can be difficult, what with children, husbands, jobs, and school getting in the way all of the time, but sleep comes before writing. Trying to write while sleep deprived is the quickest way to a burnout. And no one wants to see a writer during a burnout. Even the thought of it terrifies me.

*Side note. Is anyone else imagining a crazy eyed, wild woman running around, frothing at the mouth while she clutches a pen? No? Okay, maybe it’s just me.*

7. Reward yourself!-- Reach the word goal of the month? Write a really hard scene? Finish your novel? Then you deserve a reward! Try not to reward yourself with food (remember, we’re trying to be healthier!) but perhaps go to the local bookstore and binge on a much more invigorating snack? Or maybe you could buy that comfy desk chair you’ve had your eye on for the last 6 months. Go for it! Why not? You deserve it!

And last but not least...

8. Simply enjoy yourself-- Whatever you’re doing, wherever you are, make the most of your opportunities and have fun! Be creative, be wacky and be wild. Why not? If anyone questions why you’re talking to yourself in the store or why you’re face is always plastered with a goofy grin or why you always laugh at the jokes that no one else does, just tell them you’re a writer. Crazy is part of the job description.

Don’t we have the absolute best job ON THE PLANET?


  1. Well said.

    And btw, if you speedwalk around a standard city block, it's about 500 steps and it takes about five minutes (typically 2000 steps = one mile). Great for helping avoid writer's butt, and shaking out the tension.

  2. Your crazy lady btw, has a nest of very bad hair and quite a few more pens & pencils tucked away in there!

  3. B.E.- Thanks! Writer's butt is an issue. I do believe it's sweeping through the Writing Nation as we speak, LOL!

    Mum- Yes, yes she does, LOL! Sighs. We think alike a bit too often for comfort!


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