Self-Care Tips for Authors
“You write books? Oh, okay...so...what’s your real job?”
If your response to any variation of this remark is to violently set upon the speaker with whatever blunt instrument is in easy reach, then you might need to do something to mitigate your stress.
Because, let’s face it, not only is creative work a real job, but it is a hard one. There’s a reason why bleeding is so often used as a metaphor when discussing writing and other artistic endeavors. You’re essentially putting a piece of your soul down on paper and sending it out into the world. That’s an ordeal on many levels. It’s often a lot of fun, but it’s never really easy.
So, what are some methods we can use to keep it from shattering us completely?
Take (real) breaks.
I don’t mean the kind of “breaks” where your phone is still in your pocket. I’m talking about completely unplugging from everything related to creating and business for a certain period of time so you can actually recharge. Anything less than that is not going to be enough. Specifically, you should be cutting yourself off from the Internet every so often.
Calm your mind.
There are mixed feelings on meditation in the author community, particularly among Christian writers. I don’t really have a problem with it so long as it doesn’t involve any anti-Christian elements or doctrines, and it can be done in a non-religious/non-spiritual manner. On the other hand, quiet time and prayer within a fully Christian context can be beneficial for mental health as well. The point isn’t really about religion or philosophy; it’s about clearing your mind of concerns and anxious thoughts to reduce your stress. However you choose to do that is up to you, so long as you take the time to do it.
Do something fun that has nothing to do with creative stuff.
Find a hobby with no connection to art. Something you enjoy that has no expectations attached to it whatsoever. Go for a hike. Ride a horse. Take up a sport. Travel. Try to pick something that takes you completely outside your usual experiences. This will help you to recover from stress and to refresh your mind.
Do something creative with nothing riding on it.
On the other hand, creative work of some kind can actually be a good method of recovering from burnout. Try writing something that’s totally fun for you, and which you might not even be planning to publish. This will remind you of why you chose to write in the first place—which is easy to lose sight of when we’re struggling to make money with our creations. Or, do something artistic in another medium, like drawing, painting, or music. This is a great way to renew your passion for making art.
If you’re starting to get sick of writing, take action of some kind immediately. This isn’t a problem you should gloss over. If you let it get worse, it can derail your career completely. Everyone needs to reboot every so often in one way or another if they’re going to stay on this path. After all, writing is a real job...but if we take care of ourselves emotionally and mentally, we’ll have a lot more of those wonderful, triumphant moments when it doesn’t feel like work at all.
Kyle Robert Shultz