Do you ever feel like you’re running on a hamster wheel, always struggling to catch up? You’re not alone. Author JEANNIE MOON has some advice to help you stay productive, happy and sane.
My first book, The Temporary Wife, was released in May of 2013. That was just three years ago, and it was a dream come true. Since then, I’ve written eleven more books, and that total includes five novellas and six more full length works. Four books a year. Other authors do this with regularity, so it’s not unusual; however, I do work full time, and I’m not leaving my position in the near future, so the pace has been a challenge.
Most assuredly, a challenge.
While it’s nice to say I have a dozen books out, looking back, I don’t know if it was the right thing to do. Sure, I built my reader base, but not as strongly as I’d hoped. I wrote some wonderful stories, but I often wonder what could be better. But more than anything, I ran myself into the ground, and no matter how much you’re willing to sacrifice for your art, your health shouldn’t be what you’re willing to sacrifice to the publishing volcano.
I did just that. I sacrificed myself mentally and physically because of my writing schedule and six months ago, I started to crash. And it was ugly.
Really, really ugly.
Here is the simple truth: burnout will end a career faster than bad reviews, so finding time for self-care and balance is critical if a writer is going to stay productive, happy and sane. (Put the emphasis on SANE.)
The Hamster Wheel
You know what I’m talking about. You see it in your head. Adorable Fluffy is in his habitat where he’s running, running, running on his little wheel. You can hear it squeaking, can’t you? He seems happy, but he isn’t going anywhere. Now picture yourself doing the same thing—running, running and going nowhere.
Feel familiar? It happens to all of us at one time or another, but I find writers are hopping on that wheel more and more, and they’re sacrificing their physical and emotional well being as a result.
You don’t have to be a writer to feel like this. It could happen to a business person, a nurse, or a stay at home mom. It’s not just a writer problem, but it does feel a tad disproportionate. So once you realize where you are, what do you do? It’s time to make a plan.
Body, Mind and Soul
Originally I was going to break up this section, but body, mind and soul are all interconnected. The relationship is basic. So basic that we often take it for granted, and your well-being is nothing to mess with. This is about fuel, movement, rest and mindfulness. It’s that simple, and that complicated.
Fuel. Your body needs good food, so focus your choices from the outside ring of the grocery store. The center aisles tend to have more processed foods, while the outside is where you find fresh foods. But you already know this. Feed your body fresh food five to six times a day, at regular intervals to avoid blood sugar spikes, cravings and fatigue. Unfortunately, when we’re pressed for time, we go for convenience, and the more convenient a food, the higher it usually is in salt, fat, and preservatives. You’ll feel better when you’re eating better.
Movement. My full-time job (teacher) makes it impossible for me to sit still for long periods, but when I’m writing, I can sit for hours. Lately, I’ve been breaking my writing into sprints, making it a point to walk around every thirty minutes. If the weather is good, I’ll go outside and play with the dogs. If I need a quick break, I have a treadmill in my office, and I find even walking for five minutes at a brisk pace keeps my head in a good space. Moving keeps aches and pains from settling in. And face it, if you’re body is hurting, everything is hard.
Rest. I used to brag about how little sleep I was getting. It was ridiculous. I should have been ashamed for hurting myself like this. You need sleep. Don’t skimp. Shoot for seven to eight hours a night. I know, I know…this is a pipe dream sometimes, but make the effort. Sleep is restorative, without it your body rebels. You won’t be as sharp, you’ll be moodier, and it will be harder to complete tasks. I’m not advocating sleeping your life away, as always this is about balance. But your body needs rest to stay healthy.
Mindfulness. Nothing I’ve said so far is new to most of you. Consider all of those tidbits gentle reminders. However, the mindfulness piece is trickier. What do I mean by mindfulness? I know to many it means to be in the present, to appreciate what is happening in your world. However, I’m going to approach it more generally: this is about being aware of yourself physically and mentally. You need to know when to stop pushing yourself to do more and take a break. In short, you must learn how to say “no.” I’m not in favor of abdicating everything, I’m a helper by nature, but sometimes I have to step back and give my body, mind and soul a chance to rest and heal. You need to spend time with family and friends, binge watch a favorite show, or read a book. Get a massage, or a manicure. Buy yourself a bouquet of flowers; love on yourself a bit. If you don’t, what’s the point of working so hard?
Keeping the Well Full
Spinning your wheels is not healthy, and unfortunately in this crazy writing world we inhabit, we’re always expected to do more. It’s frustrating, but if you make a point to practice self care, you’ll come out the other side with much more balance in your life. Remember, if the well is empty, if you’ve drained it trying to keep up, you’ll only feel frustrated.
I still struggle with every item I’ve mentioned. Taking time for myself is an ongoing challenge, because I do have a job other than writing, and my time is limited. However, I’m learning how to say “no,” and making time for life. I’m stepping off the hamster wheel, and so far, I’ve been happier for it. You will be too.
How do you deal with the hamster wheel?
Author DEBORAH BLAKE joins us on Wednesday, May 11
Jeannie Moon is the bestselling author of a dozen contemporary romances. She’s the mother of three grown kids and lives on Long Island, New York with her high-school sweetheart husband, and three rambunctious dogs. She writes for Tule Publishing, Berkley Romance (PenguinRandomHouse), and has self-published as well. Keep up with Jeannie through her website or on Facebook.
Bachelor Gavin Clark is determined to help Marietta reach its fundraising goal for the town’s hospital charity. So the handsome emergency physician is up for almost anything on his date with the lucky winning bidder.
Little did he know his former high school crush, Ally Beaumont, just so happened to be that lucky winner. Their date whisks them off to her friend’s destination wedding at a romantic, luxury ranch resort in the western Montana mountains and close quarters, a shared history, and a magical location push the two old friends into each other’s arms…
Is Gavin and Ally’s story just beginning, or will their romance end with the weekend?