Writers and many other creative types have a reputation for being a little, well, out there. It’s what makes us able to create our art. But sometimes we get a little too wrapped up in our world. It’s not unusual to put off social interactions, ignore health issues or routine check-ups, fail to clean our house, forget to walk the dogs, or even acknowledge family. Us creative types are probably the worse at self-care. Self-care is the idea that each and every day we take care of our emotional, physical, and mental well-being. It’s something everyone can and should practice.
With creative types, though, self-care is difficult. Our brains are constantly working either subconsciously or consciously. Inspiration can strike at any time and must be captured at that moment or it flies away. We can become so completely absorbed in our project we forget to eat or eat more than normal, drink too much caffeine or alcohol, forget what time it is or even the day, etc. Essentially we forget about life outside of our work.
Since we are so terrible at self-care, it can be up to our family and friends to remind us to get out there and live. So how does a family or friend support the writer? A lot depends on the writer’s personality. We are humans after all and vary.
What are the types of situations a friend or family member should pay extra attention and what are some ways of helping the writer in your life?
Acceptance or Rejection: Obviously when your writer gets a work accepted and published, celebrate with them! You know how much work has gone into the piece so feel free to share in their success. Even if the writer doesn’t realize it, your support in whatever form is what kept them going.
When it comes to rejection, let the writer feel whatever he or she is feeling. Some will cry. Some will rage (a lot of that depends upon how the rejection was worded and from whom). Some will shrug it off. Some will eat their way through their feelings. Whatever their reaction is, be there for them. Give them a hug, a word of encouragement, remind them someone, somewhere will accept their work, and ask them what they need from you at that moment.
Writer’s Block: This one is admittedly a little bit difficult to for family and friends to pick up on. Hopefully your writer will admit they are stuck and discuss their frustrations. More than likely our brain just needs to recharge and doing something else. Even simply resting is more beneficial and productive than staring at the wall or computer screen in agony. If your writer admits to writer’s block, suggest they take a break from the piece and work on something else. Yes, the break may cause a bump in their timeline to finish, but honestly if your writer is struggling their project is already delayed. Or take them outside the house. Suggest a walk or some other activity which physically gets them away from the keyboard.
If your writer doesn’t talk about it, be on the lookout for increased crankiness, seems distracted, seems more quiet, or anything else that is out of the norm. Ask them how their project is going and offer up words of encouragement. Ask what you can do to help them. Don’t be afraid to suggest taking a well-deserved break. Another suggestion is to encourage them to discuss what’s got them tripped up with other writers.
When I get stuck I prefer to take a break and do something else. Once I get over the guilt of stepping away, the rest leaves me more alert when I come back to a piece. I also do a lot of venting to my spouse.
Working Too Much: Over and over writers are told to establish a routine and stick with it. We are told to write every day, ass in chair. We see posts or tweets by our fellow writers about how much they’ve written in a day. It’s easy for us to over work ourselves regardless if we have a deadline or not. Like anyone else who works too much, this leads to a lot of stress. If you aren’t seeing your writer very often or when you do they are acting different, they could be suffering from working too much.
Depending on the writer’s situation, the level of support you provide will vary. If they are facing a deadline, you may have to pick up extra responsibilities. Only do these if you can because you can’t completely sacrifice your own life for someone else.
Even if there isn’t a deadline, see if there are little things you can do to lessen their stress. Bring them a meal. Surprise them with their favorite thing. Drag them away from the computer for a few hours to spend time together. Remind them fatigue isn’t good for creativity or productivity. Encourage them to sleep. Tell them social interaction once in a while will not torpedo their project. Finally, talk about their schedule.
Personally I discovered when I wrote every day it made me incredibly tired physically and mentally. I also was more irritable and even resentful. When I switched to working five days a week, I started feeling much calmer. I come back to whatever story I’m working on more excited and energetic. Plus it allows me to have a life.
What it all boils down to is if you have a writer friend or family member let them know you are there for them. Remind them it is okay to talk to you even if you don’t understand some of their frustrations. Be patient, lend an ear, and remind your writer they are human.