Mental illness is prevalent across creative communities. It fucking sucks, man. Writers from Ernest Hemingway to J.K. Rowling have suffered from mental illness, and they sure as hell ain’t the only ones.
Tons of writers have mental illnesses. Particularly, anxiety, which is an odd observation not only I have made. There are tons of misconceptions about mental illness but in creative communities, probably the most prevalent is the tortured artist aesthetic.
I’m not here to talk about that in particular. That’s a whole other blog post. There’s a ton of blunders writers can fall ill to (bad pun) and these are some tips to maintain your sanity and success.
Set Your Limits
You know yourself better than anyone. You know your health. You know when you’re overworked whether that be through drinking too much caffeine, sleeping in longer, or just general irritability. Learn those red flags of yours!
To be an aspiring writer, we have to treat writing as a career. This is a tough industry to break into. Writers can’t just be writers. We gotta be marketers, novelists, bloggers, vloggers, photographers, entrepreneurs, and that’s not even to mention the life we all have outside of writing.
Stretching ourselves too thin is sooooo easy to do. We don’t even notice it until it’s too late.
When we’re half awake, coffee running through our veins and our fingers twitching after writing the fifth draft at midnight.
The moral is to learn your limit. Maybe you were able to write four thousand words but take that productivity with a bit of salt because you aren’t at your best.
Take Sick Days
Just like any other job, employees take sick days. Of course, a lot of writers prefer to work every day. That’s all coolio schmoolio – so long you’re easy on yourself on those sick days.
If it’s at the point when you wake up and you already know that today is going to be a bad health day…take a sick day if you feel that’s what you need.
This is the rule I follow regarding sick days. I have to choose between two options.
- Do work today and the next day and then the next, but all the meanwhile that work is half-assed while my health is half-assed.
- Do minimal if any work for one day, but continue the next week in a healthy and refreshed mindset.
I’d take the latter.
Take Criticism With A Grain Of Salt
An artist is his own worst critic. But when you’re ill, the self-criticism no longer originates from an ambition of growth but rather, a self-hatred inevitable to downfall.
While going through a rough patch, just take the criticism with a grain of salt. Every writer thinks they are the worst writer at one point, but if that lil’ voice is saying that AND you know it’s been a couple days without your medication, just remember that it isn’t criticism anymore.
From then, you can work on focusing on the real problem rather than mistaking it for a chance to improve your work.
Learn To Balance
Many writers end up having to work a full-time job and pursue writing at night. It is what it is…but writing also adds to another list of priorities in one’s life.
Balancing your writing should not be your only priority. Assuming that you are working on a blog, a vlog, maintaining a social media presence, networking with other writes…make sure to not focus on one specific thing. Writers can get stressed out that they’ve been writing on their novel all week but haven’t posted in a week; fix it!
Get a planner and set some rewards. The healthy balance in your work life will bleed into your personal life.
Prioritize Your Life
I’m a full-time student engaged in several extra-curricular. I had to organize my life and prioritize myself.
This could be a whole other blog post but just kinda know which part of your life is stressing you out. It might not be the writing.
It could be your relationship has been pretty distant over the past couple weeks and that’s making you nervous. In that sense, you shouldn’t procrastinate by writing (which I’ve done) but instead, work on the thing that’s actually bugging you.
Take Advantage Of The Good Days
This is a bit cynical but not every day is going to be a good health day. When you know that it’s going to be a good health day…you might want to push yourself to work ahead because you don’t know if tomorrow will be just as productive.
For example, finals week at school-my health always suffers. I can meditate and exercise all I want, it definitely helps, but I already know that I’ll be anxious. I also create content to last me a while after finals while I recover from the stress of school. I’d make vlogs, blogs, and photos weeks in advance.
It’s really cynical to admit that you know you’re going to be ill for the next week. By admitting it and working ahead on your good days, you can save yourself some trouble. That trouble might even make your health worst soooooo…it’s cynical but practical.
Practice Self Care
This is much in the sense that it’s easy to immerse ourselves in our writing. Especially because we are writers because we love to write. Not to mention the added stress of having to push out content, network, and work on our current writing project.
Y’all already heard the We Can’t All Be Neurotypical, Karen! but doing self-care actually helps. Watching the sunset and basking in the silence won’t cure you but it’ll lift the bar.
Also, don’t forget the basics like exercise and hygiene. I know, trust me I know, how hard those tasks are when ill. They help.
If y’all ignore everything in this post, just listen to this point. Getting help will not squash your creativity!
A lot of writers haven’t sought out help because they believe they have to be tortured to produce quality content. My writing won’t be believable…Medicine will squash my creativity…I need to be tortured to be a respected artist.
Medicine never squashed my creativity. If anything, it gave me the energy I needed to work on my passion.
This isn’t going to do any good! Have y’all tried to write when depressed? It fucking sucks ass. Get the help you need to succeed.
Remember Your Passion
Real writers don’t work for the money but for the passion. During hard times, it can be easy to feel like you want to give up.
Although there is always a reason we started this journey. It may not bring us out of our ill stupor but it does its job as a reminder.
When I’m feeling down, I’ll have to remind myself why I’m putting all of these hours of manpower into a career I don’t know will succeed. I am doing this because I want to educate others. I want to write the book I needed. I want to help people.
“I don’t fall into the category of tortured artist. But it’s not made me more or less of anything.” –Noel Gallagher
Being an artist sucks. Being a mentally ill artist sucks even more. The tortured artist is just a washed down, glamorization of mental illnesses that result in nothing, but poor creatives not getting the help they need.
I implore y’all, do what you need to feel better. Do what y’all gotta do to be happy and successful. The two can go hand in hand, it’s just a bit harder but all the more worth it.
Below is a list of sites that have helped me