Writer, heal thyself!
As a newcomer to writing and publishing, there have been the typical highs and lows that authors often experience. No amount of pep talks, trolling newbie author boards, or self-affirmations helps those periods of doubt. You know the times: queries sent into the great black void, the release of the first book to…cheers? crickets?, the awesome reviews, and the reviews where no feelings are spared. For every fist-pump milestone, there were corresponding fears and doubts. Too many highs and lows. Too much doubt. So how could I fix this problem?
A side note: As a physician, this job is heavily invested in fixing things. Solving problems is what I do in my day job, and I’m pretty good at it. I also give lots of advice to go along with the fixing of patients’ problems.
However, this writer/doctor is great at dishing out advice…but not so great at taking it. But enough already. Enough with second-guessing and fear of rejection. Enough! I’m no expert on writing and publishing, but I’m can sure give out medical advice. Perhaps this doctor could help herself? Time to take some of my own medicine – writing style!
Confession time. I deliver babies, so I often tell women to breathe. (Sometimes also husbands.) At 9 centimeters dilated, women might ignore this advice and hurl objects, hurl obscenities, or simply hurl. But for the mothers-to-be who take this simple advice to heart and try to take slow, deep breaths, their anxiety and pain improves, the pelvis relaxes, and that baby descends through the pelvis faster. (By the way, if you tell a fully dilated woman she has “discomfort”, it is likely that she will demonstrate in an easy-to-undestand manner the difference between “discomfort” and “pain”.)
Writers get good and bad reviews. The first time I read through all of the reviews, panic and feelings of worthlessness swamped me. Why? Because I fixated on only the negative reviews (discomfort) rather than the big picture of a published book that quite a few people enjoy (cute baby). Once I shut up, listened to myself and took some deep breaths, the panic faded away and I could do something more productive, like edit the next book!
#2) Exercise every day.
What the heck? Dr. Jill’s lost her mind. What does exercise have to do with writing?
How about everything?
Writers, how many times have you sat in that ergonomically inappropriate chair for hours on end, writing/editing/outlining? You know the seat. It’s the couch or the floor or the super comfy La-Z-Boy recliner. Anything but the chair in front of your computer desk. Bet when you get up from the writing location, you made old-lady noises. Maybe joints popped and crackled like a bowl of Rice Krispies. So, to save your hips, knees, shoulders and back, walk 5 minutes for every hour in the writing chair.
But how does walking relate to writing advice? Walking, even for a short period of time, has been documented to produce stress-busting endorphins, improve attention and creativity, and elevate mood and self-esteem. Health-wise, walking also helps to reduce pain (30 minutes of walking is demonstrated to be superior to certain pain meds when it comes to back pain), improve heart health, and reduce deep venous thrombosis (DVT) risk. So, when the writing gets me stressed, my first-line treatment is to go for a walk.
#3) Take this pill once daily. Do not skip a dose.
Same premise goes for writing. Write daily, even if it’s only for a few minutes. I used to worry about whether I could produce decent prose or come up with good ideas and get them on paper in a coherent manner. Writing daily, even if it’s not the most fabulous work, is fine. Because when you prospect for gold, not every pan has a nugget. And that’s okay. Keep swirling the sand, something good will eventually appear.
#4) Give it time. Things will improve.
I often give this advice to patients. If a patient has pneumonia, and we’ve started treatment, I explain: You’re going to feel rough, but medication, rest, and hydration will help. Even though it might take up to two months to recover completely, you will improve slowly but surely over that time.
Of course, I hate this advice when I have to take it. But with respect to the writing process and writing career, “giving it time” doesn’t come naturally. However, in frustrating times of writing and publishing, when things get stressful, it’s useful to take a step beck and yes, give it time.
#5) Take little steps. You’ll get there.
Again, I can dish it out, but boy do I hate to take this piece of advice. I’m more of a “one giant step” kind of gal, but when it comes to the long journey of writing, the likelihood of meeting every goal in one fell swoop is slim to none. There are so many things to do. Get social media presence set up, send out queries, market before and after each book’s release, plan for future series, and – oh, yeah – write more books!
So much to do. Totally overwhelmed.
Therefore, one last piece of advice (to me): “When eating an elephant, take it one bite at a time.” -- Creighton Abrams, Jr., US Army general in the Vietnam War. (Disclaimer: I do not advocate eating an actual elephant. To be honest, I am a vegetarian and would not eat any animal.)
To readers, writers, and, well, anyone: If this little window into my world of doubt and denial helps you avoid the same frustrations, then more’s the better. Please let me know if this post helps, and I’ll be happy to send you my bill. (Screw insurance companies and medicare. I will accept payment in the form of chocolate!)
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Author, daydreamer, and practitioner of trying very hard to duct tape folks together and help when I can.
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