Writing can be a beautiful yet challenging endeavor, one that often demands a deep connection with an author’s thoughts and emotions. I often find that it’s an intricate dance between my writing and my mental health. My moods sometimes dictating whether or not I can write, and then sometimes, what actually gets written. There are days where I’m looking forward to pounding out that fight scene, and other days when things are going so chaotic that there’s no way in hell I’m going to manage a sex scene, let alone a tender moment on the page. So, I thought I would take you behind the scenes and share a little about how this all plays out with me.
Writing offers a unique duality when it comes to mental health, bringing with it a blessing as well as a curse. First, it’s quite cathartic at times, allowing me to process complex emotions, traumas, even fantasies and daydreams. Giving me a safe place to work out the stressors in my life. A manuscript is a safe space to externalize thoughts and feelings, sometimes even before having to take them out into the real world where how I handle things could cause even more headaches. Trust me, it’s been known to happen.
However, writing comes with its own set of pressures with looming deadlines, writer’s block, and a drive for perfection. Or, at the very least, scraping to put food on the table—or Jameson in the flask. I keep seeing people pull out flasks in television shows and tell the girls I need one. I have three, but they’re for vacation use only. See? I just worked through that issue with my writing. I’m still not happy about it, though. These problems can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression. Will I never be good enough? Will they love Rhychard Bartlett as much as I do? Why can’t I shoot magic from my fingertips like Jasmine does? You get the picture.
However, there are things I have learned to do that have helped me remain calm and not start drinking at seven in the morning, balancing my writing with my mental health. Here’s nine things I do not to go crazy.
- Self-Reflection: First, I spend a lot of time looking inward. This helps show me the reason for my stress, allowing me to recognize it and deal with it. It keeps me grounded as well.
- Set Realistic Goals: Then, and this one took me a long time to learn and if you ask the girls, I still haven’t, I set realistic goals. I had to figure out what was a reasonable word count goal per day, as well as realistic deadlines for releases that gave me time to do things properly, and not rush through the writing and publishing. Believe it or not, adding subscriptions to the mix has helped with that because it forced me to stop trying to write so fast.
- Build a Support System: And then I had to create a support system that encouraged and supported me through all my outrageous ideas. Of course, the first of these is the girls, who are always boosting me up and pushing me forward, or reining me in when I get ahead of myself. But, this also includes the great authors I surround myself with and close friends who accept my quirkiness without judgment.
- Balance Routines & Creativity: I am a man who loves routines, and my pattern is pretty well set in stone with little variation. And when it does get varied, it throws me way off and my day is shot. Still, its the balance of my writing routine with making sure I actually take time to rest that allows me to keep at my creative ideas.
- Stay Physically Active: This next one I am still working on: stay physically active. I’ll be the first to admit I need help here, but I have slowly started working in a small exercise routine that doesn’t involve going to the kitchen for chips just to get my steps in. I have found that staying active boosts my creativity and eases my stress level, whereas it used to be that the thought of exercise only increased my stress level.
- Take Breaks: Sometimes, I just have to step away, put in my ear buds, and turn on some Dean Martin. It rejuvenates my mind and keeps me from suffering burnout.
- Embrace Imperfection: It’s never going to be perfect. Not my goals, not my writing, not my ideas. Nothing. And that’s all right. It’s a journey, and the joy is savoring that, not rushing to the destination.
- Celebrate Everything: It doesn’t matter how small or big. I celebrate it. Positive reinforcement boosts self-esteem and motivates me to keep going. Besides, I love rewarding myself with Reese’s Cups and Jameson and cigars. Don’t worry. I eat the chocolate while walking around the kitchen for my whiskey glass, so it burns the calories.
- Maintain a Journal: I might not write in it every day, but it’s right there on my phone and I have it divided up into five sections. I start each day with some self-care hopes and how I would love to feel at the end of the day, and then I have a section to write about my day, my writing, and my health. That last one stays empty a lot. And then I have a place where I can reflect back on my day before I go to bed. A journal provides a separate, safe place for my self-expression, as well as emotional release.
You see, by prioritizing my mental well-being while nurturing my creative muse, I create a harmonious and fulfilling writing journey that benefits both my craft and my mental health. Writing, for me, is, and always has been, a source of joy and self-discovery. I never want it to be the thing that brings me stress or sadness. And as someone said to me recently, if I don’t take care of myself, I won’t be able to take care of those I love. It’s the same with writing. If I don’t protect my mind and body, the stories I want to tell will never get told.
What do you do to practice self-care? I’d really love to know. Drop me a line in the comments and share it with me.
Until next time, happy reading!
Robbie & the FGR Team