As a writer, mental health matters. When you use your creativity as your bread and butter, it becomes even more important. If you plan to create an author business, or you're already doing (go you!) it take the following advice into consideration.
Why? Because there’s a lot of gray areas between work and life when you're balancing owning a business, writing, and working primarily from home. Being an author is not a conventionally mapped-out career and is deeply personal, so it can be difficult to navigate both emotionally and mentally.
3 Mental Health Tips For Writers
#1: Create goals that feel reasonable for the season you're in
Life ebbs and flows. We know this. Change is inevitable, and not every season of our life looks like same or functions the way we wish it would. Big life events like having kids, moving, changing our day job, or the passing of a loved one can all impact how we work. Similarly, successes and failures within our writing can also influence our creative energy.
It's important to acknowledge these fluctuations and how the time and energy we have to devote to our writing is influenced. You may consistently write 2,000 words every day for two months to suddenly only being able to write 500 a week, or less- that's okay!
More growth, more engagement, more readers- these may be the goals you have in mind for your author career, but know that these are not small accomplishments. Having strategic preventative measures to protect your mental health is not only smart, but necessary.
To avoid getting overwhelmed, take the time to set small, reasonable goals for yourself and pair them with clear action steps to help you reach that goal. The more you understand how your daily objective adds to the big picture, the more motivated you'll be to see yourself through to the end goal.
Don't be afraid to shift the size of your daily tasks along the way. Big or small, each step brings you closer to your long-term goal. Focus on applying your time, energy, and resources in a manner that is sustainable, and you'll find your writing career will feel more enjoyable and manageable overall.
#2: Define your work schedule and adjust when necessary
As an author, work is always at your fingertips and it can be tempting to create 24/7. Scrolling your feed for fun can soon turn into documenting marketing ideas for your next book post, or enjoying a new book you're reading can suddenly turn into an unplanned book review. That coffee meet up with a friend can turn into a conversation about your latest book, and that late-night "I'll just write for fun" session can become a serious writing binge.
This is why it’s important to set working hours. Not a 9-5 schedule (unless you're into that sort of thing), but rather shifts of blocked off time when you dedicate yourself to work vs. having "off the clock" moments with your family or recharging your creative batteries. An easy way to keep track is to schedule time on your calendar- both work-related and personal, or to use a time-tracking software like Clockify for your working hours.
Even when hustle culture encourages it, it's not realistic nor healthy to be plugged in and working 24/7, and is a surefire road to burnout. Anticipate, plan for, and protect time to take real breaks and remember to schedule vacations and time away from work.
Remember, part of being your own boss is to make sure you give yourself time off to reset (and to follow your mental health tips for writers!).
#3: Set firm boundaries to protect your peace
There will be many, many times when you'll want to break your boundaries with yourself in favor of working harder. DON'T. As an author and small business owner, sooner or later you're going to feel the pressure. Pressure to write more, grow more, sell more, entertain more, engage more- it'll be a constant call to work harder and publish more books as fast as humanly possible.
But here's the thing, you're only human.
You may see the short-term pay-offs such as preliminary growth on social media, getting the next few chapters of your next release written, or feeling like you've finally managed to get ahead on a few tasks that have been piling up. But what you won't immediately see, is that working when you should be resting is going to cost you your mental health.
Pitfalls like creative burnout, comparison, self-doubt, anxiety, and depression are sneaky. They creep in when you're feeling your best only to hinder you on the flip side. While you may think you're gaining when you ignore your own boundaries to rest, relax, spend time with your family, or otherwise take a breather, what you're actually doing is undermining your health.
Where creators tend to fall into this trap is because at the core, we love what we do! We're so excited to create more, write it out, and share it with the world. And that can be a beautiful process. However, we also know it's a deeply personal and messy process too. Since our work is tied with our emotions and sense of self, it's unsurprising that over-creating can cause problems.
To avoid feeling drained and risk losing the joy in your creative process, keep your promises to yourself. Being a good boss means that you hold yourself accountable. When you announce that you're taking a social media break- it means you're also not scrolling through other writer's feeds at 10pm. When you decide to give yourself a break from client work it means you're not available-PERIOD. Not even when a question pops up in your email.
At the end of the day, being your own boss means that you make the decisions. When your mental health as a creative writer is in peril, it's your job to hold yourself accountable for your recovery. Similarly, it's also your responsibility to safeguard yourself, and your business, from the problems that plague our industry- even the invisible ones like burnout. Being an author means so much more than just constantly writing. It means protecting your ability to write, create, and continue doing so.