Creative Nonsense

“I’m a fairly undisciplined writer.” – Neil Gaiman

Practicing Writer’s Self-Care: Finding Support

Writers are, by nature, mostly introverted creatures.

We slink away during parties or social gatherings, notebook and pen in hand in search of somewhere quiet and dark to write our new ideas.

We stay up til late at night or rise before the sun, for our imaginative floodgates open widest when all is still and quiet and we are alone and undisturbed.

As writers, we put up with the barest minimum of human contact, just enough for us take note of an unusual interaction or study every-day behavior before we retreat back to our caves, our imagination full of new ideas and restless to unleash them.

At least, that’s what I do.

Perhaps I’m wrong in my perception of other writers. I do not mean to speak too generally or be exclusive. But all you quiet ones out there – I see you. You’re not as invisible as you might think.

When We Write, We Write Alone

Introverted or extroverted, writing is still a solitary craft. We come up with our ideas alone, with slog through and try to make sense of them alone, we write and write and re-write alone.

Unfortunately, no one can write the book for us. For whatever reason, be it divine intervention or simple happenstance, this story has chosen us as its creator; we have no choice but to go forwards and try to play God.

Despite the fact that writing is, in the end, up to the individual writer, there is still a need for help. Some help, any help. That’s why you’re here reading this post, is it not?

Because writers not only need to fill our creative reservoirs every now and then, we also need support.

I’ve said this before, probably in every post: writing is hard. And while we might be strong-and-silent type, we still need someone who encourages us, who understands, who sympathizes, who picks us up when we’re down and says yes, you can do this.

This is something I didn’t realize was so crucial to the writing process until I encountered it head-on.

The lack of any kind of encouragement in college lead to my eventual curling into myself and hiding from my own creativity. But it’s introduction to my life lead me on the path I’m on right now – I’m more creative than I’ve ever been, and I don’t see myself stopping any time soon.

Support Can Take Many Forms

For me, support first came in the form of the man who is now my husband.

He’s very similar to me; introverted, quiet with an over-active imagination. We’ll go to a concert or to a baseball game and then quickly retreat back to the safety and solace of our house, where we can re-charge our social batteries in each other’s quiet company.

He also does something for me that literally no one in my life ever has: he goes out of his way to make sure I have time for my writing. And if there isn’t time, then he steps up and does extra chores or errand-running so that there can be time. Writing is not just something I do anymore in the spare moments, the breaks between the ebb and flow of the day: it’s the rock in the stream the rest of my day shapes itself against and flows around.

I’ve never had the opportunity to approach my writing this way, and the results have been phenomenal.

He is my support. He catches me when I’m being too hard on myself, reminds me to be gentle, to take breaks and eat food and that hey, it’s okay if this chapter or post isn’t perfect yet. You’ll get there.

I’m not just being sappy here. We all need this. We really do. I’m not necessarily talking about trying to find a spouse or a new best friend or a therapist or some writer’s group – if you want to search for those things, go right ahead.

I know myself well enough to know I work myself to the bone and kick myself for every flaw, every set-back, ever mistake. We all talk about how “perfection doesn’t exist” and then what do we do? We go home at night or wake up at 4am and try to create something that’s perfect.

It’s in our nature. We want whatever we put out there in the world to be the absolute best thing it can be.

And then when we don’t get there, we hate ourselves for it. Our imaginations become toxic and our mental health suffers from it.

So, find support and encouragement where you can, my fellow writers. Maybe it’s a cousin or an aunt or your parents or even an old teacher who’s email you managed to dig up from the drags of your inbox. Hell, maybe it’s their actual mailing address.

Regardless of what or whoever it is, find the person – even if it is just one person – who you feel comfortable venting to. Who you you hand shitty drafts off to, who is your fan no matter what. It’s not weakness – your own strength and belief in your abilities can only get you so far.

Everyone falls in a hole sometimes – but you gotta stop being stubborn and call for help when you can’t climb out on your own.

Why the #WritingCommunity is Not Enough

Ah, social media: every introvert’s dream – and nightmare.

Over the past decade or so, writers have found ways to use social media to their benefit: sociological research, connection, education, and venting.

However, despite the wonderful support from the #WritingCommunity on places like Twitter and Tumblr, it can be very… overwhelming. The sheer number of people who belong to this community is mind-boggling, and it’s easy to feel dwarfed and forgotten. Likes, followers, comments… It’s easy to say these things don’t matter, but they do. They matter to almost every person who makes an account on these sites. And not receiving those things? Well.

I’ll use myself as an example: I’ve been actively using Twitter (and the hashtag above) for a little over two years. I have 2k followers and a lot of stuff I send out there gets on average three likes and one comment.

Not bad, right?

Well, there are others who have been using Twitter and the same hashtag, posting the same stuff with the some frequency as me and have been on Twitter for less than a year and they have 5k followers and every single tweet goes viral.

If you’re on Twitter, you know exactly what I’m talking about. And if you’re not on Twitter, then I bet shit like this is the reason why.

Social media popularity – just like the publishing industry, to everyone’s dismay and misfortune – is random. There are people who get “famous” who aren’t as good a writer as you are and there’s really no reason behind it other than timing and per-programed algorithms.

That’s it. That’s the only reason why some people do really well on social media and some people don’t.

And it sucks.

So please, use social media for connection and increasing your visibility, but don’t expect it to fulfill your hopes and dreams. Give yourself some time away and don’t rely on your fellow #community members as your sole form of human contact. It’s not healthy and it won’t do you much good, especially if you’ve hit a bad spot and you’re reaching out for help.

The Pain of Rejection is Too Much for One Person to Bear – Alone

As writers, we are going to hear a lot of “no’s” before we hear a single “yes.”

Many of us are still searching for that one “yes” even after years and years and years of only hearing “no.”

While most of the time it’s nothing personal, having a piece you poured your heart into get rejected sucks. It’s a serious blow to our hopes, dreams, and more importantly, our egos.

I mean, we already spend enough time kicking ourselves for never being able to reach the “perfection” threshold, right? The rejections don’t help.

Our mental health suffers. Our creativity suffers. Our faith in our own ability dwindles.

This is why we need to seek out some form of support.

As writers, our egos are as large as they are fragile. They need to be stroked consistently in order for us to continue to foster our writing.

We need someone who can tell us yes, you can do this. You can finish this project. You will get published if you’re willing to try and learn and make changes as you go.

We need people to remind us that we don’t suck.

And not that I should have to remind anyone of this, but I will just to be safe: don’t be a selfish prick about asking for help. Don’t close yourself off from someone and only open up when you need them. The kind of support I’m talking about here comes from fostering a relationship, and relationships need to go both ways. Be someone else’s crutch to lean on, listen to their problems, too. Be encouraging of their hobby or craft and don’t make it all about you and your issues.

Seek help when you need it – and offer it when you see someone else struggling.

It’s called being a decent human being.

In Conclusion

Writers need to find people in their lives who take their writing as seriously as they do, even if those people are not writers themselves. Maybe they’re not the harshest critics or the world’s best BETA readers, but they’re there to give us a hug and say, “good job, I’m proud of you.”

Seems deceptively simple, right? Well, it’s not. I never, ever had something like this in my life before I met my husband, and it has transformed my writing for the better.

Writer’s need support. We need people who inspire us, who encourage and love and believe in us, who are our fans before we ever even begin the search for an agent.

I encourage you, lonely writer, that if you don’t have at least one person in your life who can provide this for you, that you go out and look for them. It doesn’t have to be a romantic relationship, or even a close friendship – it just needs to be force that is positive, that is excited about what you are doing and wants you to continue doing it.

As writer’s, we’re always told to “write for ourselves, and the rest will come later.” Nice idea, right? Too bad it’s completely bogus.

The truth is we write because we want to be read, we want to be noticed and loved for what we do. And if we don’t have that kind of recognition, that kind of gentle praise early on in the process, the rest of the journey becomes all that much harder to endure.

And it’s why many give up.

So, writers, go find your cheerleader. Go find the force outside yourself that will help you stay motivated. Because yes, our work comes from within, but there is only so much of ourselves we can draw from before we hit the bottom, before we are empty.

If you’ve ever done any kind of research on mental health or have ever encountered issues with mental health in your personal life, you know acknowledgement and asking for help are the two biggest steps towards getting better.

As writers, we need to remember to practice self-care, to be humble enough to remember that while yes, we are playing God as we create our new world through fiction, we are still human.

R.F.

Thanks for reading. I’d love to hear your good (and bad) stories about times you’ve searched for support in your writing in other people. Are you a part of a writer’s group? Tell us about it. Did you have a professor in college who you thought was encouraging you but was only being a condescending prick? Tell us about that too. My “call to action” for you today is to practice some self-care and open yourself to a social situation that could potentially strengthen you and your writing abilities and then recall the interaction in the comments below.

3 thoughts on “Practicing Writer’s Self-Care: Finding Support

  • Sumeet Bhamra
    May 28, 2019 at 1:25 pm

    Love this post! This is something that is so important but rarely talked about. Especially the piece about the online writing community not being enough to be considered self care.

    • Rebecca
      May 28, 2019 at 1:27 pm

      Thank you, Sumeet! I feel the same. I think mental health and creativity usually go hand in hand, and should be fostered equally. I hope you’ll share this with your network!

      • Sumeet Bhamra
        May 28, 2019 at 1:28 pm

        Definitely! I feel the same way.

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