Self-Care for Writers

Why would writers need self care? Most of us do this for fun, or to get away from our “real” jobs at [insert day job that may or may not be slowly sucking the joy of life from your very bones here]. And writing’s not that bad. You’re just sitting at a desk jotting down stories about dragons, or aliens, or the zombie apocalypse. How hard could it be?

(We all know at least one ignorant dolt who’s said that to our face.)

But self-care is critical, even if you’re a full-time writer and you love every minute of the process. I’m an author who absolutely loves writing. Well, maybe not the second draft of the novel where I have to fix the biggest, most glaring mistakes that make my first draft look like a fourth grader spent way too much time at a keyboard. But everything else about it is amazing. I also love blogging, YouTubing, and reading.

But in the last two months, I have posted no YouTube videos, no blog posts, have barely gone five chapters into my current read, and have drastically slowed down my writing. Why is that?

Well, for starters, I moved. My roommates and I found a new apartment in a much nicer neighborhood that’s $200 cheaper, so the last couple of months have primarily involved packing, loading, cleaning, unloading, and arguing over whose geeky posters go where. That’s stressful enough, but on top of that I got a new full-time job, continue to work my old full-time job as a part-time position, and finished the first draft of my sci-fi novel, which I’m about halfway done transforming into a second draft. Also, there’s the short story series Diary of the Green Snake I’m spearheading, the third story of which is due in a few weeks. And I’ve also go two more novels that I’ve been outlining and worldbuilding, one of which I’ll start turning into an actual manuscript between the edits of my current sci-fi novel.

I realized very quickly that I won’t be able to continue doing all of that and continue with my blog and YouTube channel. Much as I would love to take a permanent vacation from my–now two–jobs, I can’t drop either of those if I want to pay my bills, put gas in my car, eat, et cetera. I’m also the kind of author who puts her manuscript first, over blogging and YouTubing. Which meant those two went out the door.

It can be easy to trap yourself in misery with your writing. So many authors hear, “Keep writing your first draft until it’s done, no matter what,” and “Read and edit your manuscript a dozen times to make sure it’s as good as it can possibly be.” And I agree with both of those things. I kept plucking away at my manuscript until it was done even when I wanted to tear my hair out. I will be re-reading it after my edits are done at least five more times before beta readers even enter the equation.

But we as writers also deserve a break. Few things destroy the simple joy of creativity more than neglecting self-care. If you’re at the point where you’ve finished the current draft, or you’ve been blogging for so long your reposts have reposts, stop. Post on your blog that you’re going on hiatus for a couple months. Shove that manuscript in the back of the drawer. Take a break from the mountain of books you’ve been plowing through to re-watch your favorite TV show. Just take a break. And then get back to it with fresh eyes and a fresh attitude. You deserve it.