10 Ways to Care For Yourself As a Writer
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Back in the summer of 2016, I wrote a very personal article for the blog.
In it, I revealed that I battle depression and shared tips on how to write while living with a mental illness. I never could have imagined how much of an impact that article would have. It's one of the biggest reasons why I want to talk more about writerly self-care on the blog this year!
As writers, our work is so mentally and emotionally draining. It’s not hard to fall into periods of burnout or extreme doubt, which, being so difficult to overcome, can prolong our writing ruts even further and leave us feeling defeated. This is not a pattern I want you guys to fall into, which is exactly why I want to share ten ways you can learn to care for yourself as a writer today on the blog.
#1: Call yourself what you are — a writer.
If you're writing, you’re a writer. It truly is as simple as that. It’s not publishing or reaching a certain skill level that validates you as a writer. The fact that you’re actively and consistently creating new stories is all the proof you need to take up the title and start proclaiming your writerhood to the world. So what are you waiting for? Go own your status!
#2: Accept that you’ll always have room to grow.
“I don’t think I’m good enough to be a writer.”
This phrase most often stems from a place of doubt, but it’s also extremely problematic. It implies that there’s a certain skill level you need to reach before you can call yourself a writer (which, as we talked about in #1, simply isn't true).
It also reinforces the idea that writing is pure talent, which is also false. Does a bit of talent help a writer along? Sure. But good storytelling is a craft that can be learned by anyone with a love for stories, an open imagination, and the willingness to work hard for what they want.
Your skills as a writer and storyteller may not be where you’d like them to be today, but there’s nothing stopping you from getting there. You truly are as good a writer as you work to be.
#3: Give yourself time to write.
If you struggle with the first two self-care items on our list, you may also experience writer’s guilt.
Again, this guilt usually comes from a place of doubt. Why write when you aren't that great or when you could be spending time with family or friends, putting in overtime at work, or doing something else you consider more productive or worthwhile?
Writer, you should never feel guilty for doing what you love. If stories are your passion, make the time to write them — guilt free. Nurturing your passion is what brings you joy in life, and as a bonus, it's also the quickest way to improve your writing skills. So give yourself time to write freely and willingly. You won't regret it.
#4: Create an elevator pitch.
Has someone ever asked you what your book's about, only for you to awkwardly stumble through an answer? Me. Too. One thing we certainly don’t want to equate our writing with is embarrassment. That’s why it's so helpful to have an elevator pitch ready to go!
I prefer to keep things sweet and simple. In most cases, the person you're talking to isn’t expecting a seamless three-paragraph book blurb. They’re simply curious about what you write.
“Oh, it’s the first book in a fantasy series. It has multiple main characters and lots of intrigue. Kind of like Game of Thrones, but for a younger audience.”
“It’s about a woman named Claire. She’s a talented healer, but she has crazy ambitions that often get her into trouble. She’s like Christina Yang from Grey's Anatomy, but in a medieval fantasy world!”
You don’t have to include pop culture references in your own elevator pitch, but I personally find that doing so helps move the conversation forward. It gives the person you're speaking with something to relate your book to.
#5: Stop caring about what others think.
There are going to be people in your life who think writing is a waste of time. It’s not a profitable career, it’s too time-consuming a hobby, it’s a silly pursuit. I’m sure you've heard it all, but that doesn’t mean those statements are true. Not in the slightest.
There will also be people who doubt YOU as a writer or think the genre of stories you tell are silly, sappy, cheesy, etc.
The key is to simply stop caring what those people think. I know it's easier said than done. I'm a recovering recovering people pleaser, so I hear ya! But you have to accept that you're never going to please everyone — and that goes for readers, agents, and critics, too.
Instead, focus on creating amazing stories for people who share your interests. Because there are people out there who love the same types of stories as you, and they're just waiting to devour everything you have to share.
#6: Set up an automatic back-up system.
If you've ever lost work due to a crashed computer or a failed save, you know how frustrating and heart-breaking it can be. But don't spend your days worrying about backing up your work! Instead, switch over to an automatic back-up system.
My favorite automatic back-up system is Dropbox. It's free, and set-up is simple. All you have to do is head over to Dropbox.com, sign-up for an account, and download the free app. The app appears on your computer as a folder.
House your project files inside this folder, and every time you press "save", your files will update automatically in your Dropbox cloud. Even if your computer crashes, you’ll be able to access all of your saved files by simply logging into your Dropbox.com account. Pretty awesome, right?
Write your novel in Scrivener and you won’t have to worry about remembering to press "save." Your entire project will automatically save itself every time you pause typing for a few seconds, so you can write completely worry free. Huzzah!
#7: Organize your notes and project files.
Nothing is worse than rifling through dozens of project files and notebooks trying to find that one cool line you wrote while waiting for your Triple Venti Caramel Macchiato at Starbucks.
It’s time to admit you can’t work this way. Which also means it’s time to get organized, even if finding an organization system that works for you turns out to be more time-consuming than you expected.
You may need to try out multiple systems and reorganize a lot of work before you find the perfect set up, but getting organized is worth it when you can sit down to write knowing exactly where all of your notes and files are housed. I personally enjoy using Scrivener to get organized!
#8: Find a community.
Writing is lonely work. It’s no wonder that doubts often creep up and disrupt our groove.
That’s why finding a writing community is so important! If you’re lucky enough to have a writing group in your area, I can’t recommend getting involved enough. Being able to meet up with fellow writers in person is an amazing opportunity.
But if you don’t have a writing group nearby (or if yours wasn’t the right fit for you), don’t stress. There are plenty of ways to get involved in the online writing community. In fact, I facilitate two different online communities for writers that I would love for you to join!
Your Write Dream is a thriving Facebook group where writers can seek support and encouragement in their writing journeys, and #StorySocial is the weekly writer's chat I host on Twitter. Click on the links to learn more, and come get involved.
#9: Take breaks from your writing.
The surest way to avoid writing burnout? Don’t write so hard and fast that you get burned out! That may seem like pretty obvious advice, but so many writers still work themselves into the dirt.
I’ve learned over years of falling into writing ruts (my most recent lasting over two months!) that you can’t just take a break when you have no other choice. You have to take preemptive breaks, too. Simply taking a day each week or a few days each month to rest and recharge is huge.
You don't even have to stop working altogether (though that's perfectly okay, too). Instead, simply have a little writing-related fun. You can create a Pinterest storyboard, write some bad poetry, read up on your favorite research topic, or play around with a new story idea!
#10: Write what you love.
The key to caring for yourself as a writer truly lies in writing what you love. In feeding your passion, and giving your love for storytelling the room to thrive and grow.
So many writers spend their days worrying about how they'll find an agent, how marketable their story will be, or whether or not their readers will enjoy it. And while those things are important, they shouldn't be your main concern.
After all, if you aren’t writing something you love, why are you writing in the first place? If you’re passionate about a story, I promise you there will be readers who will love it, too. No matter how weird, sappy, literary, gory, or so on you make it.
You’re not alone in what you love. So don’t settle for writing anything less than what makes you happy.