Depression and Writing: Don’t End Your Story

People often ask me why I write. I give them plenty of answers like, it’s what I was born to do (cheesy, I know), it’s as vital to me as the air I breathe (also cheesy), I love to create new worlds, I have stories to tell, etc. etc. Writing is also my outlet when I’m stressed or depressed. When I slip into the text and the world falls away, I feel a warmth in my chest that dissipates every awful thing I’m feeling. I’m lost in the story, and everything feels right with the world. In a way, my writing saves me from my negative emotions.

But what about those times when it can’t? What about the times when writer’s block is so strong is drives me into a downward spiral of depression?

I’ve written about anxiety, depression, and writing before, but what happened a week ago is very different.

On February 2nd, my depression almost won. I won’t go into great detail, but I checked myself into a psychiatric ward with the guidance and support of a friend so that I could take care of my mental health.

So I wouldn’t end my story.

You see, I love writing, but I do the same thing many writers do. I attach my self worth to my craft. If I can’t write, I feel like something’s wrong with me and I stress myself out more than necessary. It’s habit. It’s worse when I have a block on a big project I want to complete such as Purple Door District 2. For months I’ve struggled and felt disconnected with my craft. That’s bad enough, but when writing is supposed to be an emotional outlet, and I lose that, I sometimes feel like I lose my purpose too.

Don’t get me wrong, a lot of things compounded over the months to make me so depressed, but not being able to write was a huge part of it. Writers tend to forget about their mental health when they’re so busy creating. We get swept up in what we should be getting done or how we’re not doing enough that we forget the warning signs our brain sends us when we’ve pushed ourselves too far.

-Lack of interest in the things we love

-Unable to deal with daily stresses

-Losing sleep over worry

-Beating ourselves down for not writing because we see ourselves as failures

Sound familiar? I was feeling all of this, and yet I didn’t realize just how depressed I was until it was almost too late. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I’m not shy when it comes to talking about my mental health. Several writers on twitter have been told that they shouldn’t discuss their emotions or mental health because it’s “unprofessional” or “no one wants to hear their drama.”

Bullshit.

Talking about how you feel makes you more real. It makes you more human and relatable. If Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and blog posts are your outlets and the only places you feel safe talking about your emotions, then do it. The United States has such a stigma about mental health, like it’s a hush hush topic that no one should talk about.

Again, I call bullshit. If we talked about it, then maybe more people would know when to reach out for help. Maybe more creative minds would realize they’re not alone in their struggles and there are people who care what happens to them.

You are not your craft. Your worth is not measured by your word or page count, or your amazon reviews, or the number of books under your belt.

One of the things that struck me the hardest about going into the psychiatric ward was when the therapist said, “You’re a writer? Oh yeah, I’ve probably seen most of the writers in the city here.” What does that tell you about us creative folk? We push and push and beat ourselves down when we should be lifting ourselves and others up for our/their accomplishments.

So in case no one has said this to you today, you matter. You are amazing. You are loved. And you have a purpose. No matter how lonely you feel, there’s a community out there that understands what you’re going through. If you’re too nervous to call someone for help, then try #writingcommunity on Twitter, or any number of writing hashtags on instagram. Believe me, you’ll find that there are more people like you than you even realize.

And during those really bad moments, when you feel like the world is coming down and you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, please consider calling the suicide hotline: 1-800-273-8255.

Your story isn’t over yet, and the world wants to hear it. You’re not alone.

Prologues

To write a prologue or not to write a prologue? That is the question, and it’s one that’s been frequenting message boards and twitter. I thought I might as well throw in my two cents about this somewhat controversial topic.

The first, and most important, question to ask yourself is, what purpose does your prologue serve?

Prologues are generally used to introduce something important in the story that can’t happen in any other way.

  • Is a prophecy told?
  • Does something happen in the past that’s vital to the present?
  • Are there characters who need a brief introduction at the beginning so their presence makes sense later?
  • Are there Gods or Goddesses at work that demand their own part of the story lest they curse you with writer’s block?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you might consider writing the prologue.

However, if your prologue only serves to:

  • introduce information that can easily be told through flashbacks or exposition (ie info dump),
  • create an entire world that you completely obliterate at the end of the prologue because you want to start your story with more action,
  • make the story seem more epic,
  • prolong getting to the heart of the story,

then maybe it isn’t for you.

Keep in mind that readers tend to decide if they’re going to continue reading the book after the first chapter or the first few lines. You want to wow them. If you write a prologue that’s long, dry, and unimportant to the rest of the story, you’re going to lose your reader before they even reach the main plot line. It can also distract readers from your main story, leaving them to wonder why the prologue was put in place at all.

On the other hand, prologues are great for pulling readers into your world. It stands alone and can be used in many different capacities. Say you write the majority of your story in one character’s POV. Your prologue can serve to be another character’s POV. If an ancestor plays a big role in your main character’s life, the prologue might be the place to first introduce them. Is there an epic battle that takes place in the past that foreshadows the rest of your story? A prologue is a good place for it.

Every book is different, and so while a prologue might work for one book, it may fail for another. You, as the writer, have to judge for yourself what your book needs. If you give your book to beta readers and they indicate that the prologue doesn’t add anything, listen to them. If they say they feel like they’re missing something at the beginning, then you may very well need to include a prologue.

Prologues don’t have to be long either. They could be as short as a few sentences, imparting vital information to the readers before they step into the main part of the story. The prologue could be several pages, perhaps reminding readers what happened in previous books if you’re working on a series. Experiment with it. You might be surprised what you come up with.

In the end, while prologues may have fallen out of favor, they’re neither bad nor good. They exist for the sake of the book. If there’s a purpose to it, then that’s all that matters.

Sequel Struggles

It hasn’t even been a month since I published The Purple Door District, and I’m already feeling the dreaded sequel struggle. You know the feeling. You finish book one in a trilogy or series. Ideas blossom in your head for the next story. Your characters weave their tales and are ready to continue their journeys. You sit down to write.

Nothing.

Yes, this is going to be one of those raw blog posts where I talk about my struggles and then still try to provide some advice thanks to the help of other incredible writers.

Right now, I’m trying not to throw my computer at the wall because I’m so frustrated with the book.  I managed to write part of the story during NaNo, but now I feel stuck. One reason is because I’m intimidated by book one! I’ve received a lot of really good feedback, and while I know I can still make changes, I don’t want to write a sequel that’s subpar. Not only that, I’m not working with the same exact cast. New characters are popping in left and right, and they’re making the story that much more detailed and difficult.

Don’t get me wrong, the second book was meant to be more detailed and have bigger stakes, as it should, but I didn’t think it would cause me quite this much stress and fear.

I reached out to an incredible romance writer named Eliza David who sent me one of her blog posts about writing a sequel. You can check it out here. She provides some incredible tips such as taking notes of your characters from the first book, and also allowing characters (and conflict) to grow. Check it out!

As I’ve worked on my sequel, I’ve learned a few things that I thought I’d share as well. If you have tips, let me know!

  • Character Bios: Make sure you have character bios and descriptions from the first book and keep adding to them for the second book so you don’t have to keep researching and remembering who has what eyes or hair.
  • Talk it Out: I spent part of the day talking to my co-creator about book two. She had a bunch of valuable advice, and you can do the same with a fellow writer, especially one who has read your book. Outline the next story for them to see if it makes sense and if your book is going to hold your readers’ attention as much as the first.
  • Read Your First Book: This might seem obvious, but I didn’t really think about it when I started in on the sequel. I’d spent so much time editing PDD 1, I thought I wouldn’t have to read it again. Boy, was I wrong. I think it’ll help me stay in the groove of working with some of the same characters once I review it.
  • Outline: Outline your sequel to see if it makes sense in the world of book one. And if you have another book after the sequel, try to outline that book as well so you know where number two needs to end. Granted, this is more for the plotters rather than the pantsers, but I think it’s beneficial to both.
  • Allow Yourself to Feel Frustrated: Seriously, writing a sequel is scary and hard, so if you get frustrated, it’s completely normal. Allow yourself to feel (kick, scream, and cry if you need to), then get back to work. It’s better than keeping it all in.
  • Remember First Drafts Suck: Don’t get intimidated by your edited writing in book one. It started off as rough and unpolished as the sequel. The most important thing is to get the words on paper. You can clean it up later.

Believe me when I say you’re not alone in your dread of writing a sequel. Do what feels right for you, and look up suggestions for how to get through blocks and over hurdles.

My biggest suggestion is try to find a way to embrace your book and not be afraid of it. Because if you’re afraid what could happen, the only person who will ever know the story is you.

Write it.

You can do it!

Marketing 101

After months of writing blog posts, I’ve come to realize that many authors agree on one thing; they hate marketing their books. I can understand why. Marketing isn’t an easy job. You spend all of your time and energy writing an amazing book, and still there’s so much work to do after that to ensure that your baby makes it into the world.

I’m by no means an expert when it comes to marketing, but I’ve learned a few tricks through my own experiences and also reading articles/blogs from experts in the field. I would definitely suggest looking into Jenn DePaula of Mixtus Media. She’s actually running a sale on her Book Marketing Foundations class. Also, check out Alexa Bigwarfe from Write. Publish, Sell who also provides valuable information and courses in marketing.

  • Build a Community: Whether this is through social media, readings and signings, conventions, or gushing over a book, make connections with writers and readers in your genre. Building connections helps open you to other opportunities in the literary world, like signings you never heard about. It’s also just nice to make new friends. Try to focus on those in your genre because they will be the people you sell to later. It’s better to have a smaller group of interested people than a large group of followers who won’t take a second look at your book.
  • Social Media: As much as some people hate it, social media is important. It’s how your readers get to know you. You can share information about your story or your everyday life. Keep in mind, you don’t have to do all social venues. Pick the ones that work well for you. Maybe update a blog every week, or keep a twitter account active. Don’t try to do everything, otherwise you might become overwhelmed. Just make sure people have a place to find you, buy your book, and learn more about you. Readers want to feel connected with the author.
  • Author Website: Going along with social media, you want to be able to market your book through an author website. You can get one for free through WordPress, or you can spend a little money on it through sites like squarespace. Here’s mine for example.  Make it unique. Make it you. The best thing about this is you can store all of your social media links, your appearances, your purchase links, etc in one location. And if working on a lot of social media platforms is too daunting, this is a good place to focus your attention.
  • Author Signings: As much as we would like to stay behind the computer screen, it’s important to participate in author signings. An author named Alexandra Penn says she sells most of her books through in-person signings. To prepare for it, have your elevator pitch ready. Know how to explain your book in 30 seconds or two sentences so you can keep the people engaged. Decorate your table to make it eye catching. Also, consider holding raffles or special sales at in-person signings. It might attract more attention.
  • Swag: Seriously, people love swag. Bookmarks especially tend to go over well with people because they have a dual use. Character stickers, postcards, small journals, key chains, etc. All of these things can be used to promote your book. You can either make the items yourself or enlist others to help you like Sarah Cunningham who made a lot of my swag. Below is a mix of items I have available to promote my book.

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Give away

  • Press Releases: When your book is about to come out (or even if it is out), it doesn’t  hurt to write a press release and send it in to your local newspaper, radio show, or tv station. Contact your local newspaper company (or go on their website) to find out where to send a press release.
  • Interviews: Look for authors or bloggers who are hosting interviews of other authors. This is your chance to talk about your book and introduce yourself to your readers. If you have a book coming out, make sure you get some interviews out around that same time. I host author interviews on my own website here.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. If you have any marketing tips, please feel free to post them down below!

Cheers!

Erin

Marketing Vs Writing Time

I think the favorite motto of a writer is, “I hate marketing my book.” Most times when I ask someone about their marketing techniques, they talk about how much they despise it and would rather have someone else do it. Unfortunately, whether you’re traditionally published or self-published, you will have to do a fair bit of marketing if you want your book to succeed. The question is, how much time do you put into marketing vs your writing? Obviously you won’t have anything to market if you don’t write!

Here are a few tips and ideas I’ve learned about when to market vs when to write and how to divide your time.

  • Feeling inspired? Put the marketing aside and get those words down on paper. Don’t squander time if you’re feeling creative.
  • No Inclination to Write? Then focus on marketing. Sometimes putting together graphics or sending out tweets/building your reading and writing community can help you break out of that creative fog.
  • Deadlines for Books: If you have short stories due for contests, or a book due for printing, put the marketing aside and focus on getting that done. You want to make sure you meet those deadlines so you can market it later.
  • Deadlines for Interviews/Guest Spots: If a site or station is waiting on your interview or a guest blog, for example, then make that your priority. You might have to put your writing aside just to make sure you get that deadline done. Remember, this will give you traction and bring more people to your website.
  • Long Break: Do you have a few hours during the day where you can sit and focus on your book? You might consider writing. While marketing can take hours to do, it’s easier to get that done in shorter spurts of time than working on your novel.
  • Short Break: Are you waiting at a doctor’s appointment? Do you only have a few minutes to relax before a meeting? Spend that time marketing. Post a tweet. Share information about your book. Check your e-mail. It’s easier to do that than to get writing done.
  • Split time: Maybe you want to market and write in the same day. Create meetings for yourself. From 6-8, you’ll work on writing. From 8-9, you’ll work on marketing. Treat those like meetings that you can’t miss. That means you can get both done!
  • Author Events: When you have an author event coming up such as readings, signings, tours, you want to spend most of your time marketing. Share your event to the community you’ve built up. Focus your tweets and Instagram posts around what you’ll be doing. At the same time, post pictures while you’re at the events! Not only will you be preserving memories, you’ll also be sharing your experiences with your readers. This is a time to focus on the marketing and getting to know the crowd, not the writing.
  • Burnout: At some point you’re going to burn out from writing or marketing. When one fails, turn to the other. Usually if I’m too tired to write, I can still market my stuff. I might engage in a twitter thread or post a couple of pictures on Facebook and Instagram because it doesn’t take a lot of energy. Sometimes, trying to share yourself with the social world can be draining. When you feel worn out, settle in, turn off social media, and just focus on your book. And, if you hit a point that you can’t do either, take a break. Allow yourself to breathe and come back to it another day. If you keep pushing yourself, you won’t do well with either your marketing or writing.
  • Scheduling: Each week, create a schedule for yourself. Decide what’s most important (writing or marketing), and jot down the days you want to do one or the other, or both. Having this routine set up can make the whole process a lot easier and more friendly for yourself. Scheduling marketing posts is helpful too. You can take a day to schedule posts/blogs/interviews, and then while those launch, you can work on your writing.
  • Check in with yourself: Check in frequently to see how you’re feeling. If you’re starting to feel too overwhelmed with writing or marketing, it may be time to switch up your schedule. You are in control. You have the power to do as much or as little as you want. Make sure you’re being kind to yourself and taking it all one step at a time.
  • Create Shortcuts: Find ways to get multiple kinds of marketing done at the same time so you have more time to write. For example, use hoot suite or another platform that allows you to schedule and set up multiple posts at once. The site posts for you while you write. Or, schedule a blog post on a Tuesday and have that be your “marketing piece” that you share that day. By 9am, you may be done with your marketing. While views are rolling in on your blog, you can go back to writing.

A lot of this really depends on where you are mentally and what needs to get done. If you’re itching to write, then write. If you’re craving social media, focus on that. And if you find that you’re struggling in one of those areas, then make sure you set up time that you can sit down and focus on publicizing or writing your work.

It’s likely authors hate marketing because either 1. they aren’t sure how to do it productively, 2. they don’t like stealing away from their writing time, 3. they don’t like talking about themselves, 4. it’s just not their forte. If any of this is true for you, you may want to look into finding someone who can market your work for you. That way you can spend more time writing.

I hope this helps!

If you have any topics you’d like me to cover, please post them down below!

Mental Health and Writing

I’m no stranger when it comes to depression and anxiety. I walk with them, hand in hand, everyday of my life, and sometimes I get dragged along, kicking, screaming, and crying. The US is notorious for looking down on those with mental health. We’re supposed to suck it up and be strong, but really, that creates more problems in the end. So when the world gets to be too much, I turn to therapy writing and reading.

Everyone uses writing in a different way to help themselves. Some write journal entries, spewing out their emotions so they don’t have to hold them so heavily in their hearts. I write violent scenes so I can feel something other than the pain inside of me. Poetry, short stories, novels…they can all help because they give you something else to focus on.

If you want to deal with the problem or emotions you’re going through, use therapeutic writing as a chance  to center on the issue. Write down how you feel and what events have led you to those negative emotions. As you do this, you might see patterns form. Maybe you’re not getting enough rest and that’s causing problems, or a new stress was added into your daily life. Whatever it is, remember, your feelings are valid. You’re allowed to be upset, and it’s good to take the time to work through your issues.

Poetry can be helpful, too. Splatter your page with the rushing thoughts in your head and see what you create. You can always go back to it later if you want to adjust the rhythm, rhyme, or form. There’s also nothing wrong with writing the poem for your eyes alone. Don’t worry about editing or how the words might sound. Let them flow and see if that helps alleviate some of the stress. Some of my best pieces have come out when I’ve been at the peak of depression.

Working on my novel can be very therapeutic too because it gives my brain something else to focus on. I have a huge issue with stress eating; I always have. So if I feel depressed or overwhelmed, I try to turn to my computer instead of grabbing a bag of chips or cookies. Does it always work? No, but more and more I find myself sitting down to my work instead of eating, and I consider that a success.

Right now, I’m in a hospital getting treated for cellulitis. Deep down, I’m scared, angry, and frustrated with myself, but I know those emotions aren’t going to help me heal. So I’m keeping my mind and hands busy by writing this blog to you. My body is resting and my brain is getting a break from fretting over the pain and stress.

I’ve said many times that it’s important to take care of yourself when you write. Writing can, at times, be the healer we need to get through stress, depression, grief, and more. Find what works for you. If you have any suggestions on how to use writing for healing, post them below! The best way to help each other is by sharing ideas.

Your feelings are valid. YOU are valid.

Happy writing.

How to Create a Writing Routine

One of the biggest excuses we writers have about not writing is that we don’t have the time. I get it. We have kids, pets, or spouses to take care of, jobs that eat away our lives, volunteer positions that make the days long, and health issues that steal creativity. Sometimes it really does feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day.

So how does writing fit in and still allow you to get enough sleep at night?

Well, that depends on the writer. Some people work better in short spurts. Others need longer periods to craft their stories. Here are a couple of ideas that can get you started.

Word Count Routine: Set a word count for yourself that you need to achieve by the end of the day. It can be 50 words or 5,000 words. Choose what feels comfortable for you. Make sure you start out small. You want to create an attainable goal, otherwise you’ll just be disappointed if you don’t reach it. One author said her goal was to write a sentence each day because sometimes a sentence is all you need to get back into the story. This can be completed at random periods throughout the day or in one sitting.

Sprints: One of the fun exercises that NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) people like to do is sprints. No, I don’t mean run around a building (though I think we could all use a chance to stretch our legs). Someone will set a timer, usually about five or ten minutes, and then everyone writes as fast and as much as they can in that time period. The goal is to have the most text written by the end. Friendly competition might get your brain moving or at least keep it motivated. You don’t have to do it for very long, but you can get a lot out of it. The more you do it, the more you’ll get used to it. This is a great thing to do if you’re with a group of writers and trying to help one another get motivated.

Time Routine: Similar to the previous two, time routine means you set a certain amount of time to write. Maybe you want to make sure you write for 30 minutes every day, no matter the word count. Treat this like a work meeting. This isn’t something you can just “miss” each day. For me, I tend to start writing at about 9pm because that’s when my day ends. My friend, romance author Eliza David, likes to write at about 5am when I’m still dead asleep. Sit down, shut off all distractions (that includes twitter!) and just write. Make sure you have a timer. You can also use a phone app to help you stay focused. Forest is a great one. The entire time you work, you grow a virtual tree. Eventually you can make a little forest. If you stop early, your tree dies and never goes away. Morbid, I know, but it’s a good motivator.

Weekday/Weekend Routine: Sometimes a busy life means you can’t write everyday, and that’s okay. You have to have time to take care of you and everything else in your life. If that’s the case, schedule a time during the week or weekend that you can devote solidly to writing. Maybe Friday night is your night. Someone else takes the kids or cooks dinner. This is time for you and your craft. You can set up times every other night if you’re able to fit it into your schedule. Do what works for you.

Spurt Routine: A spurt routine is a little similar to sprints, only you’re not racing anyone. This routine comes from taking whatever available time you have in the day to write. Maybe you have 10 minutes at breakfast to get out a paragraph or two. You’re waiting at the doctor’s appointment; what a great time to jot down ideas or outlines. Friend running late? Pull out that journal and write some sentences. This may seem a little haphazard, but honestly, I sometimes get some of my best writing out this way. I have an intense 5 or 10 minute session where I just focus on nothing else but my writing. By the time I’me done and have to leave for work or get called back for my doctor’s appointment, I might have made my word count. Heck, I could have written half of a chapter during the hour it took me to get into one of my doctors!

People who truly want to write will find time in their daily lives to make writing important. You might have to give up an extra episode on Netflix, or maybe you can’t get together with friends on a certain night of the week, but we sometimes have to make sacrifices to do something we love. Keep in mind, though, that if you pick a routine that just doesn’t work for you or seems too insurmountable, it’s okay to change it. Try it for a month or two. If it doesn’t feel right, try something else until something sticks.

And remember, it’s okay if you don’t write everyday. We all need breaks, and if you really don’t feel the passion to put words on paper, don’t beat yourself up. Breathe. Take a step back. Adjust your routine. Going from a timed routine to a weekday routine might work better for you.

What kind of routines do you follow?

This topic is brought to us by @just_dahhhling on instagram! If you have topics you’d like to see, post them below!

 

Writer Burnout

It’s fitting that I’m writing about this topic since I’m dealing with writer burnout myself. Let’s try some real talk. As a writer, no one is harder on you than yourself. You push yourself to write, edit, market, publicize, etc. When you publish a book, you wear all these hats, and you tell yourself you have to keep going every hour of the day. If you stop, what if you miss an opportunity? What if people think you aren’t working hard enough? What if you don’t meet a deadline? What if–

You snap.

Suddenly the world crashes down and you don’t know where to go, or who to turn to for help. Ideas vanish. You sense the start of a panic attack. Nothing you do feels right or enough. And sometimes, you just go numb because it’s all too much to deal with.

This hit me last week, and I’m slowly crawling my way out of it the depths as I write this blog while sitting in a Panera. One moment I was up and productive, and the next I was curled up in my bed, unable to move from complete mental and physical exhaustion. Last week, the only strength I had was to go to work then come home and sleep. I knew I should put up posts, tweet, be interactive with the community, edit, write, etc but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I opened a blank page on my computer, and I almost burst into tears because plucking ideas out of my head was like tearing at an infected scabs.

Not exactly a delightful image, but it’s the best way I can describe it. I was surviving on caffeine and doing everything I thought I could to edit and promote my book. The one important thing I forgot to do? Take care of myself.

When you get to the point that even opening a Word document makes you sick to your stomach, it’s time to step back from the page. You’re allowed to skip a day of editing, writing, and marketing. You’re allowed to get more than a couple of hours of sleep at night. And you are allowed to take care of yourself.

So what do you do when writer burnout hits you? Here are a couple of tips.

  • Sleep: If you’ve been falling asleep editing/writing your manuscript at night, it’s time to step back and go to bed. Your body and brain will thank you. Even better, it’ll refresh you.
  • Shut Down Social Media: It’s not the end of the world if you’re not on twitter/facebook for a day. My favorite thing to do is to shut off my phone and put on a good movie that makes me happy.
  • Do Something Else: Try another hobby that’s not writing related. Go on a short trip. Hang out with your friends. Allow yourself to enjoy the rest of your life while you recover.
  • Take Personal Time: On the flip side, if going anywhere is too exhausting, then rest at home. Read a good book. Listen to music. Cuddle your cat or dog or bird (in my case). Focus on self care. If you don’t mind your body, how do you expect to keep going?
  • Take a Mental Health Day: Whether it’s from work (if able) or from social events, just back out and do something for you. Get a massage. Cuddle up in warm blankets. Allow your brain to rest. Getting rid of the regular stresses might help you recharge.
  • Write Something Else: Believe it or not, sometimes if you have writer burnout, it may be due to a specific project. Try switching it up and write something that inspires you, whether it’s a short prompt, or a fun story you’ve had stuck in your head.
  • Be Kind: I can’t stress this enough. Be kind to yourself and realize this happens to everyone. Taking a break doesn’t make you a bad writer; quite the contrary. It means you’re being responsible for yourself. When you break your arm, you give it time to heal. You have to do the same thing when your muse breaks, so please, be kind to yourself.
  • Remember it Doesn’t Last Forever: When you get into this state, sometimes it’s hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s there. Sure, there might be some smoke or shadows blocking it, but you’ll find your way to it, and your writing spirit will ignite again.
  • Make a Schedule: When you feel like you’re ready to jump into the fray again, take it slow. Create a schedule of things you want to do to get yourself up and running. And check off the things you accomplish. It’s a great feeling.

Please take care of yourself, my friends. It’s just as important to keep your mind healthy as it is your body.

Writing With Anxiety

Let me paint a picture for you. It’s the middle of the night, and you’ve just completed a chapter in your book. When you crawled into bed, you were excited with your progress. But as the clock ticks on, you start to dread what’s on paper. What if it doesn’t work? What if it’s not good enough? What if I’m not good enough? What if I can’t cut it as an author? What if I’ll never get published? What if—

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone when I say that anxiety sucks. It’s horrible for everyone, but as a writer, it’s something that niggles at the back of my mind everyday. Even as I write this blog post I feel its cold claws digging into my shoulders. Will this help anyone? Am I making sense? Will anyone read it? What’s the point?

The point is is that I’m sharing a story with you and revealing a part of myself that a lot of others might keep hidden. Our country is notorious for turning its back on those with depression, anxiety, and many other mental illnesses. You’re called weak if you cry or share your feelings, or you’re told to toughen up.

Well, I’m here to tell you that your feelings are valid. It’s okay if you think you’re not the best writer. It’s fine if you think you’ll never publish anything. You’re allowed to feel all these things… for a moment. What you do with that energy is what’s most important. Will you let it stop you? Or will you use it to push forward and be the best that you can be for yourself?

Even the greatest writers feel like they were 1. the worst at one point or 2. they still feel that way. We are our own worst critics. Your book may not be perfect, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end. Take the time to polish it. Work with someone you trust to go over the manuscript and make it better. Or, put the writing away for a day or two, take a breath, then return to it with a fresh mind and heart. Feel… and then move forward.

Here are a couple of things I do when my anxiety consumes me as I’m working on my novel.

  1. Breathe. Really, just close your eyes and breathe in and out.
  2. Step away. If you start hating your work, then it’s time to back away from the computer or notebook and take a breather.
  3. Work out or do something else active. Get that serotonin moving again and let your brain rest. You might be overworking it.
  4. Do something else creative. It’s perfectly fine to have another hobby to focus on when your writing gets to be too much. Researchers actually encourage it especially during moments like these.
  5. Support. Reach out to a support group. Post on twitter, facebook, instagram, wattpad,… wherever you feel safe. Believe me, someone else will be going through the same thing.
  6. Be kind to yourself. Remind yourself that your writing doesn’t have to be perfect. You can always edit later. And if editing is the problem, then write for a little bit. Just try not to beat yourself down for it. You’ve got this.
  7. Use your coping skills. Whether it’s taking your medication regularly, or doing yoga/meditation, take time to treat yourself mentally, so you can get back to the thing you love.

Anxiety is an awful thing to deal with, but it’s not impossible to work through it and keep writing. Even if you don’t believe in yourself, other people do.

I do.

 

Literary Community: You’re Not Alone

There’s a community to be found whether online, in person, or just through the simple knowledge that there are others out there going through the same kind of struggles.

When most people think of writers, they picture solitary creatures hiding away and typing to a computer screen’s glow. Alright, so I suppose that’s not too far from the truth–I’m doing that right now–but what many don’t understand is that writers aren’t alone. There’s a community to be found whether online, in person, or just through the simple knowledge that there are others out there going through the same kind of struggles.

While I was growing up, I didn’t have a writing community to call my own. I felt like the weird one who spent more time scribbling in a Lisa Frank folder than playing outside with her friends. But when I hit high school, I was introduced to a writing community based on the Redwall books by Brian Jacques. Imagine my shock when I could create characters and write about them, and people would actually respond back. This was the first time I didn’t feel alone as a writer.

This kind of online networking still exists today in roleplaying sites or even on places like Wattpad. Here, writers and readers come together to share stories, comment, vote, write/read, and message one another. I’ve already made some online and IRL friends through the platform. And best of all, it’s helped me get my writing off the ground again. I can ask people in my genre questions about world building or story structure. And at the same time, I can offer advice to newer writers who don’t know where to start.

Twitter and Instagram are both great places for building a writing community as well. Between things like #pitchwars and #pitchmad (events that allow you to mentor with other writers or pitch your stories to agents) you get to meet a lot of people. There are also particular hashtags people can follow to talk about their experiences, like #writerlywipchat. One of my favorite events is the #chance2connect meetup led by Kim Chance (@_KimChance). Once a month, she posts questions that writers can answer that encourage the community to interact and get people to meet one another. I’ve stayed up late having great conversations with some fantastic writers.

But what if you don’t want to meet people online? Well, there are writing conventions like the Pikes Peak Writing Conference that you can attend. I spent about four days in Denver, Colorado sitting in on literary lectures and meeting both new and published authors, agents, editors, etc. We had meals together, learned from one another, and created friendships that still last today. I would love to go back! I felt so inspired and encouraged. It helped me realize that writing is honestly what I want to do with my life.

Of course, not all of us can travel or pay for conferences. So how do you find your community in town? One way is to check Meetup. You might find writing events that are hosted in your local area. There’s National Novel Writing Month where you write 50,000 words in the month of November. Many cities have leaders who set up writing get-togethers. Check the NaNo site to find your area! If you look in library calendars, or maybe a local literary paper, you might find a group of writers. Or, if you’re in the Iowa area, you’re always welcome to join me at The Writers’ Rooms, a non-profit corporation focused on providing a free, safe environment to writers of all incomes, genders, skillsets, etc. If you’re looking for workshop, then there’s the brilliant Iowa Writers’ House which also hosts an astounding airBnB.

You’re not alone. There are writers out there looking for companionship and the chance to just sit and brainstorm story ideas. Some of my best work comes out when I’m with other writers because I’m happy. I know that I’m not the only one struggling or going through this big process of creating a book. Most of all, I love to meet people and learn about their journeys. I believe that it’s important that we, as writers, learn to support each other in our personal quests. This world is hard enough as it is. I’d rather spend my day encouraging an author than trying to rise above them. As my friend Author Brian K. Morris says, we’re all part of a Rising Tide, and when we help one another, we all rise together as a community.

Just as a reminder, I post author interviews every Friday. Last Friday I showcased Leona Bushman, and this Friday will be Shakyra Dunn! Please stop by and show your support!