Wednesday, April 26, 2017

#WriterWednesday: Author Self-Care

*originally posted on The WordWranglers Blog*

A writer friend posted something on social media over the weekend that made me sad. She'd had a terrible review posted of her latest book (a review I found to be quite unfair and not just because she's my friend, but because this particular review offered nothing beyond the reviewers hatred for the subject matter..and put that hatred onto the author). I think we can all identify with the feeling of helplessness that comes with bad reviews, whether they come with constructive criticism or just angry 'I hate you' type words...helplessness because the book is out there. It's been published. there isn't anything we can do about the fact that not everyone will like our books.

Her post got me thinking, though, about self-care, so I  thought I'd share a few things that I think are helpful in these kinds of situations.

Writing is solitary, so take time to not be solitary.  Most of my day is spent with a computer. Sure, there is social media, but it's filled with strife lately...and there is email, but an emailed 'atta girl' isn't the same as a hug or a slap on the shoulder. So take time to cultivate real-world friendships - those with other writers and those with non-writers. Go to lunch, have coffee, or just go for a walk. Taking some of the aloneness out of writing helps to take some of the sting out of those moments when things aren't going the way we want them to go.

Know the difference between writer's block, anxiety and depression. Having writer's block isn't the same as having a depressive episode or being anxious. Although being depressed or anxious about something can block your writing. Here's the thing: you can write through writer's block. You can't write your way out of depression or anxiety; those things require therapy, a doctor...So take steps to talk to someone who can help deal with those dark places. Depression is a real thing, and it should be treated as such.

Try not to read reviews. I know, this is so much easier said than done. But if you're an author, don't go on Goodreads or B&N or Amazon multiple times a day to see who is saying what about your books. We're human. There could be 574 amazing, great, 5-stars, loved everything about this book reviews...but that 1 dissenter will be the one voice that stays in our heads for weeks on end. That creeps up when a scene is hard to write, or that whispers in our heads when that proposal is due. So don't go there. Don't torture yourself. But you need review quotes for social media or ad campaigns --- ask a trusted friend to check the reviews. Have them copy and paste a few stellar comments into a document and pull quotes from there. And, if you must, go yourself, but promise me - PINKIE PROMISE - that the last thing you read on that review page will be something that glows with positivity.

Turn off the Internet. Here's the thing: as connected as the Internet makes us feel - and as solitary writer creatures, we do crave that feeling of connection - the Internet also steals our time. It sucks us into the lives of people who do not care about us, and who exist to get in our heads to cause pain. So turn it off because those people who are demanding that you pay attention to their drama or who want something from you or are otherwise making you feel 'less than'...do not matter. The people who matter are your friends -- and you know the difference between friends and frenemies, even the online versions -- your family, your editor, your agent. The rest? Well, they can be fun occasionally, but they can also pull you away from what you need to do --- write the next book.

Your body and your mind are temples. Exercise. Eat real food. Drink water. Understand that some days - no matter how dedicated you are - significant writing just isn't going to happen, and that is okay. Some days the only writing that happens will be thoughts about what needs to be written. That is okay. When those days happen - and I know when they're coming, you can start to recognize the signs, too - set up that lunch with a good friend, take an afternoon for a mani/pedi, take an extra long walk along a nature trail...Make those days count because while you're enjoying the hibachi grill at lunch or the relaxation of the spa or the rejuvenation of nature...the story will still be working. Some of my best writing comes in the day after I couldn't write a grocery list.

Comparison is the thief of joy. Theodore Roosevelt is quoted as saying this...I've heard it from a thousand other people - writers, ministers, teachers. Comparison doesn't offer anything productive, it only tells us what we're doing wrong...but the thing is, no two people will have the same journey. Not anywhere, and that goes for writers or teachers or plumbers. Comparing ourselves to a New York Times bestselling author isn't helpful. Convincing ourselves that because we've sold 500 more books than someone who has sold only 50 is only self-serving, and sets us up as judgmental, passive-aggressive haters...and that isn't helpful. Write the best books you can, be the best friend/daughter/spouse/significant other that you can be. The rest...it's gravy.