What to do when you feel like being a writer is driving you crazy: 7 sanity-saving tips
This is a guest post by Nadine Rose Larter
Over the last few weeks I have been losing my head. For the most part I thought I was alone…until I started paying attention to the writers around me. Now at one point I was tempted to blame Winter for my trip into oblivion, but apparently some of my writer friends who are all in the middle of glorious Summer are feeling the same way. I no longer know what to blame.
The thing is this: being a writer is hard! I’ve been a grown-up (aka out of school) for thirteen years now, and the only lesson I seem to have learned from those years is that I should have just been writing the whole time instead of failing at a bunch of stuff that I didn’t give a fig about. I turned 30 recently and all I could think was, “Well, I’m doing what I want to be doing, so that’s awesome.”
But…it’s not awesome. I have a pile of debt from printing my first book. I should NOT have gone that way, but too late now. And the sales are at a stand-still! While I do have a small income that comes from other sources, my “career” is doing nothing but milking me dry, and financially I am not coping. Now it’s easy to say, “Get a job and write on weekends” — and if you can do that then hats off to you! — but I know that as soon as I venture back out into the real world, the world that I love will be lost to me for another ten years. So I have literally spent the last two weeks crying (I am a girl – I am totally allowed to do this).
Of course this has lead me to one question: How do I stay sane while I am going through this? I do not doubt my abilities — I trust that my talents will grow as I nurture them — but I do sometimes doubt my ability to stay true to these abilities!
Now things are already looking a lot brighter than they were a week ago. Not so much in my writing world but in the world in general. The thing is, our writing world is never going to be perfect. It is always going to feel like being in a relationship with Satan’s bipolar cousin. There are, however, a few sure-fire ways to help smooth the ride a little, and I hope these silly little tricks will help you in the way that they have helped me.
1. Drink tea. (You’re laughing already aren’t you?)
In my desperation to find some sort of solution to curing myself of the need to murder my writing self, I came across a blog post that was completely useless. It did, however, suggest that I drink tea.
I, of course, am a coffee drinker. I drink Herbalife tea for my health daily, and at night before I go to bed I usually have a cup of rooibos tea (South African product…sorry guys) and on occasion I order a Red Cappuccino (it’s tea!) instead of coffee if I go to a coffee shop where I know the coffee is awful. But I am not a tea drinker. Coffee is my default beverage. Coffee is hardcore. Coffee is for writers who have a very low alcohol tolerance. Coffee it must be! But I decided to give it a try. And you know what? It’s kind of fun.
Tea comes in all sorts of wonderful flavors, and it never gives you the shakes. You get cherry-flavored tea and orange-flavored tea and both are wonderful! And tea feels so sophisticated! So…I want you to go out Tea Shopping. And then go home and make yourself a cup. Tea is wonderful. It is calm and soothing and it feels kind. Right now you’re not being kind to yourself. Let the tea be kind to you for a while.
2. GET OUT OF YOUR HOUSE!
You already know that one is true, but you’re still sitting on your butt in front of the computer procrastinating by reading this post, aren’t you? We all know it’s true. We all know that in order for our writing lives to thrive we need first to allow our actual lives to thrive, and yet we don’t do it. Why? Because when you’re feeling this low then going out into the world is too much. Do you want to know what the worst thing about being a writer is? Your work and home life blend together and dilute each other. You never feel like you’re properly working because you are at home, and you never feel like you are properly taking a break because home is where your work is. So get away.
A friend of mine asked me to check on two art exhibits for him over the last week. I swear he was sent from God. I was forced to get out of my house to help a friend, and I loved it! I made friends with one of the curators and have learnt a ton in the whopping two hours that it took for me to get through both outings. I feel lighter. I feel more capable of venturing out…and not to procrastinate…to feed myself! You cannot expect your artist to thrive if you do not give it food.
3. Cry. Scream. Throw things.
Have you ever thrown a coffee cup against a wall? It is exhilarating (just putting it out there). As writers, we spend our whole lives buzzing around a cerebral mash-up of thoughts and emotions that are too much for one person to contain. You think too much. End of story. But you need to, so not thinking is not going to help at all. You do need to talk about stuff though. And I am not talking about the kind of talking where you are holding on to something and refusing to let go. If you will indulge me for a second:
Imagine all those frustrations and pains you are feeling now, and imagine that as you share them, as the words come out of your mouth and into the air, they begin to dissolve. The air dilutes them, rendering them less effective. They still exist, yes, I am in no way calling any fears or insecurities irrelevant, but they are weaker now. You have spoken them out, and they are out of your body. They are floating around in the atmosphere where they can no longer bruise you so badly.
4. Ladies: believe in PMS.
Or menopause or whatever it is that you might be suffering from. For a long time I refused to believe in this hormonal phenomenon. To me it has always been an excuse for women to be nasty. It is not just that. The truth is, you might be feeling particularly low today, and you probably have every reason to feel that way, but allowing yourself the luxury of “maybe I’m just a little off balance today, tomorrow will be better” does make it easier to cope in moments when you are feeling your lowest.
5. Stop bullying yourself!
This is another given that we all tend to ignore. Do not be your own enemy. Be kind to you. Push — yes! Bully — no!
6. Step away.
Sometimes the work-in-progress looks like vomit in a blender. So stop. Give yourself a day or two to write something else. Write a short story. Try some flash fiction. Write some poetry. Let it be terrible and self-indulgent and completely mopey if you must. When you go back to your work-in-progress you will be pleasantly surprised to discover that it is not as bad as you thought it was.
7. Talk to other writers.
We’re an awesome bunch. And luckily the internet puts us all in each other’s pockets. Your friends might not understand what you are going through, but your writing acquaintances do!
Otherwise? When all else fails, put on your favorite music and dance around the kitchen while baking something absolutely sinful to eat!
At the end of the day it really is all about the little things. Never forget that the little things are really just big giant beautiful things and that when you indulge in a lot of little things they tend to make a huge difference. You ARE worth a yummy cup of tea. You ARE worth a long, lazy walk on the beach or through the park. Just because your writing life is at a standstill doesn't mean that the rest of your life has to be gloomy too. At the end of every thunderstorm there is a bright rainbow waiting for you.
About this post’s author:
Nadine Rose Larter is a compulsive communicator living in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. She is the author of Coffee at Little Angels and promises that there are many more to come. She is a wife, a mom, a cupcake fan and is irreversibly addicted to book sales.
Good article. I, too, have a writers’ forum where there is a whole lot of mutual support. Please feel to join us too! https://forum.devinwrites.com