Writing, Stress, and Self-Care

The end of 2016 was a very stressful period for a lot of people, and 2017 isn’t shaping up to be much better. This means that many of us are trying to get through our regular stressful days, squeeze in time for our writing, and deal with many new outside stressors. Many of us are struggling to find our words, to embrace our voices, to cultivate the creativity we thrive on for our passion.

I’m one of them. My 2016 ended with me very sick with a nasty virus for over two months, and I’m still struggling to get back to normal. During this time, I was working on my writing and trying to keep my words flowing. When I managed to arrive at a breaking point I pretty much crashed into a mindless haze. It has been one of the most challenging periods of my writing career thus far.

This is why self-care is so important. I tend to mostly read for pleasure, with very little TV watching. In my mindless haze I started binge watching shows on Netflix. At first, when I was really sick, I did so with very little enjoyment for myself. Then it grew into habit. In fact, a lot of non-productive behavior has grown into habit, and some of this is truly for the better.

Be kind to yourselves, writers. If the words take longer to appear on the page, let them take longer. If you need to turn off the internet and play a game or watch a movie, do it. We can’t create if we continue to maximize ourselves.

Prioritize your time. If you’re on a non-self-imposed deadline, do your best. If the deadline is yours? Let it slag if you need it to. But most importantly, know yourself. If you need that deadline to stay focused, then hold on. But keep your self-care in mind. Nights off, no matter who imposed the deadline, can be the best creative tool.

Above all, keep moving forward. Be proud of the words put on the page, even if they are only 100. Let yourself fall back into your words, or bleed them out.

Find your path. Find what works for you. Lean on your friends. The creative juices will come back, I promise you. They may need time, or pressure, or force. They may look and feel different than normal. But they are still there. They are still a part of you.

Be kind to yourself, I can’t stress that enough. And find a new normal that allows you to continue forward amidst the stress. I know you can do it. I believe in you.

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Deadline Burnout

An interesting thing happened along my journey to publishing SIGNS OF ATTRACTION: I burnt myself out. More specifically: I chased deadlines for six months straight. Most self-imposed while waiting for my actual deadlines to come in. I could call this writer burnout or first book burnout. Instead, this is deadline burnout.

I’m the type of person who likes to arrive early, and that’s how I handled my deadlines. I’m also the type of person who prefers to finish one project before jumping to the next. This is the crux of my mistake.

A querying writer is in control of his or her timing and destiny. Deadlines are self-imposed and can be broken with limited consequences. This was what I was used to. So when my editor told me I’d have edits coming “soon” and I was in the middle of drafting a new shiny, I panicked. I rushed forward, pushing out the draft so that I’d be ready in time.

Then I sat there, twiddled my thumbs, and…picked up something else to work on while I waited. Something else that I felt the need to rush through so I wouldn’t have to put it down unfinished.

Let me spoil a secret: there will be interruptions, there will be the need to step aside from something in the middle of drafting or editing, this is life in writer land. This is what I hadn’t learned six months ago.

This is what I paid for.

Add in my personal life, assisting with contests, and having lovely CP novels to read, and I’m still not sure where my head’s at. I hit a wall at one point and did absolutely nothing for my own writing. I read a few books, worked on my CP stuff, and read a few more books.

Then, my new shiny started whispering to me. New characters requesting I tell their story. I know this shiny will be picked up and put down many times throughout its creation. But I also know there is nothing better than being in the middle of creating a story.

Burnout or not, I’m a writer. I’ve learned my lesson and I’ll do things differently next time. Namely, the only deadline I’ll adhere to are the ones that aren’t mine. Mine are made to be broken.