Self-Care and the Healthy Writer

health is not valued

I’ve let myself go, and not in a good way. Not like I’ve decided to stop worrying about things I can’t change, or that poor review, or what someone thinks of me.

No, I used to run, not from my personal demons or bills, but literally–10k, 5k races, I even ran a half-marathon. I used to love it, the accomplishment, the exhilaration, the sheer pleasure of being outside. Just me and the squirrels.

That changed when I found writing. For a while, I did both. I wrote, went to work, I went on runs. But slowly, as writing became more and more important to me, running became less and less and soon I stopped altogether.

Since I’ve stopped, I’ve fallen into a routine: get up, get the kids to school. Then I settle in to write for three or four hours. I take a shower after that, do chores, pick up the kids from school, then make dinner. The evenings are spent online chatting with friends, maybe watching some Netflix. Maybe writing if I’m really into a scene. Then I go to bed. I can usually write about 10,000 words a week, maybe more if I don’t have to labor over every word, if I know what I need to write ahead of time.

Nice work if you can get it.

There are only so many hours in the day–everyone knows this. Especially the writer who only puts down 100 words before having to do something else.

Who has time for exercise?

When I was writing and running, when, for those few months before one passion overtook the other, I used my running time to plot books. I would listen to music, or if it was early in the morning, I would run in silence and think about my characters, what trouble I could create for them while I effortlessly ran my six mile route through a pretty city park near my apartment.

These days, in a time where families need two incomes to make it work, and you have little kids watching TV all the time and the noise stresses you out, or you listen to a book while you make dinner because you don’t have time to read, we don’t think a lot about self-care, exercise, even eating right. We do what we have to do to get through the day with our sanity intact.

The other morning, tired, after dropping the kids at school, I crawled back into bed with my cat and let my mind drift. I thought about where I was with my book, the people giving me a hard time on Twitter, what I did last week. I dozed, let my thoughts drift for a couple hours while my cat’s head rested on my arm.

We don’t do this very often for a lot of reasons: guilt, thinking it’s a waste of time, knowing chores could be done, words could be written, but we should.

Creativity is hard work. Writing is emotionally draining, maybe physically, too, if we deal with carpal tunnel, eye strain, or back pain. Many writers deal with anxiety or depression, especially if they are querying and waiting for news.

I’ve started walking–I can’t jump back into running just yet. Nothing abandons you faster than stamina, but I’ve promised to lace up my shoes, get some air, get my blood flowing, my heart pumping.

I used to listen to podcasts, but I’m going to try to walk maybe every other time in silence, let my mind drift. Think about plots, notice how the sun sparkles on the snow, take time to breathe. Let my characters speak to me.

calm mind

If you are drained, strained, stressed, you’ll have nothing for the page.

I’ve let myself go, and in the process, I’ve gained weight, and every year my bad cholesterol numbers go up along with my BMI. But not only have I lost some of my health, I’ve lost the peace running gave me.

Self-care is important, and how you do it is up to you. Sit outside and listen to the neighborhood dog barking, read that book, go to coffee with a friend.


Fill your creativity well.

Take care of yourself.

Because you don’t have anything if you don’t have your health. The Healthy Writer

To encourage you to become a healthy writer, I’m giving away two paperback copies of this book by the fabulous Dr. Euan Lawson and Joanna PennThe Healthy Writer: Reduce your pain, improve your health, and build a writing career for the long term. She’s a wonderful part of the indie community, and we’re lucky to have her as a professional role model. (I did not get any kick-backs for giving away her book–I bought the paperbacks myself on Amazon.)

Spring is coming! Get out there!

Click here to enter the drawing!


How Do You Feel When You Get Your Work Back From Your Editor?

As a writer, putting your work out there is difficult. It’s probably the number one reason writers don’t publish: they are afraid of people seeing their work. And not only seeing their work, but judging it. I’m editing Summer Secrets right now. My editor (I feel like such a professional writer when I say that!) sent me back my novellas, and over the past week, I’ve slowly been putting in the revisions she suggested and fixing the mistakes she found.

You would think that I would be ecstatic that my novellas are so much closer to publication, and don’t get me wrong, I am. But you know how I really feel when I go through all her comments and suggestions?  Shame. Embarrassment. Sadness. Fear.


The definition of shame from Merriam-Webster is:

shame definition

When I go through my editor’s comments (and let me be clear, these are all my feelings, not caused by my editor. My editor is a professional, in that she is kind, supportive, and in no way hurtful or disrespectful in regards to me and my work) I’m ashamed. I’m ashamed I made the mistakes I made. I’m a writer, aren’t I? I can’t see for myself I used the same word five times in two sentences? I can’t see for myself my two main characters have names that are similar and therefore yes, a reader may mix them up, and why couldn’t I choose different names, for crying out loud?  In the definition above, 1a mentions shortcomings.  Uh. Yeah. Nothing makes you feel like you are less than a writer than when all your mistakes are highlighted and accentuated with a comment. Definition 3a mentions regret. Yep. I have a ton of regret in that, why didn’t I find all these mistakes before I passed on my work to someone?


Embarrassment goes hand in hand with shame. I’m embarrassed I sent her my work with so much wrong with it. I’m embarrassed I didn’t try harder.  Never mind how many times I read through them, never mind that I used Grammarly, then read them again. Never mind I spent money on printing them out to edit a paper copy. I didn’t try hard enough to make them mistake-free. That’s my inner critic talking, my irrational, unrealistic inner critic. Because any writer knows how impossible it is to catch all your own mistakes.


But it’s how I feel when my eyes slide away from a highlighted paragraph and the comments telling me what’s wrong with it and possible ways to fix it.  My cheeks heat up, I have to swallow hard, and I have to force myself to just get on with it.


Sadness is probably the weakest feeling I have when I edit, but it’s still there. I get sad that my editor had to work so hard, I get sad when I feel like I could have tried harder. I get sad when I think there are better writers out there than me. Sadness waltzes with self-doubt in my heart when I see how many comments she made in my document. But you know what else I get sad about? Thinking about not writing anymore. That makes me sad, too.


fear of writing

When I searched “fear in writing” I found this lovely drawing on Lynette Noni’s blog post. I have a lot of fears about my writing, and yes, they come out when I’m editing. I fear I’m not a good writer. I fear I’ll never sell any books. I fear I’ll never be able to make a career out of my writing. After all, I can’t be a good writer if my editor finds all these things wrong with my book, right? And I want to be a good writer so I can sell books, so people can say, “Wow, that was probably one of the most emotional, heart-wrenching books I have ever read.”  We all want to be writers who touch someone in some way with our work.

But What Else . . .

But you know what else I feel when I edit? I feel joy. I feel happy when my editor says she enjoyed a setting description or how I nailed how a character feels with show and not tell.  I get excited when she tells me she loved an intimate moment between two characters, and a “More please!” in the comment section. I get excited when she congratulates me on proper grammar.

I’ll feel pride when I hold my published books in my hands, when my friends, family, and co-workers congratulate me on being tenacious, of having a dream and working toward it.

The act of writing and publishing is no doubt an emotional roller coaster ride. There are ups and downs, you’re thrown sideways and completely head over heels. But the trick, and oh my, is it a trick, is to keep fighting. To not let those negative feelings overwhelm you, to let them win. Surround yourself with friends who know what you’re going through, who will support you, and not let you give up.

If I have any advice from going through the editing process, it’s to keep your mind open and learn. Learn from what your editor is telling you. S/he’s on your side. Your editor wants to you to put out your best work, and that undoubtedly is your goal too, which is why you hired one. Don’t take their advice and suggestions as hurtful criticism, (unless it is, then you need a new editor) take their feedback and turn it into a positive learning moment. I’ve learned a lot going through my editor’s feedback.

I took a break from editing to quickly write up this post. I’d come to a paragraph where her advice was hard to swallow. I see it, I understand it, I agree with it, but there again, those feelings come up. Why didn’t I see this? Why did I send my work to her this way? What is so wrong with me I couldn’t fix this on my own?

Nothing is wrong with me. Nothing is wrong with you, either. We’re all human, and doing the best we can.

For more articles about fear in writing, look here: