Friday the 13th has me in its clutches. I feel washed up, worn out and utterly brain dead. I'm terrified I won't write another good word—so much so, that Freddy could schlep on by with a hockey mask and a chainsaw and I wouldn't even flinch.
We writers spend all kinds of time biting our nails, pulling our hair, pickling ourselves with tequila and smashing our heads against our desks. We put oodles of pressure on ourselves to write better, faster and smarter. We fear the worst: that our words will never be seen past our crit groups and over-accommodating parents. That we will never have anything publishable. That if published, nobody will ever read our novels. Or love them. Or say good things about them. Or ... (insert 1001 ways we face our keyboard in terror every day) ...
Yet, we fail to realize that simply living the life of a writer is its very own Friday the 13th.
- We don't back up our work properly and it gets eaten by the cyber monster.
- We unwittingly spill coffee on our keyboards, attach cookies to our hard drives and open the door to viruses.
- We forget to eat, drink or otherwise take care of ourselves, often being caught in our jammies and bed-head long after it's prudent.
- We forget to feed, clothe and bathe our children/pets/significant others.
- We neglect ourselves physically, allowing writer's spread to ooze off our chairs as we nibble chocolate and sip java.
- We impose on our friends, neighbors and neighbors' friends to read our rough gems and can't understand why we get a) mindless back-pats, or b) dirty looks anytime we venture out in public.
- We lose touch with reality and can't understand why nobody else has met our friends. Not to mention, it's kind of hard to teach our kids not to cavort with strangers when we've never met a single one of our writing buddies in person.
- We edit too much, sucking the life out of our characters and the magic out of our stories.
- We edit too little, leaving gaping plot holes for potential readers to fall through, never to be seen again.
- We don't edit at all and believe our first drafts are magnificent. You poor editors and agents. Bless you and the work you do in wading through our delusions.
- We wait for our muses to karate chop our writer's block instead of taking control and digging our own way out of Alcatraz with a plastic spork.
- We wine ... er, whine ... all the dang time. Writers have it rough and we want everyone and their grandmas to know about it. And when whining doesn't work, we resort to wining.
Writers traditionally have a higher incidence of mental health issues. We spend time alone, in our made-up worlds, and garner little support from those around us. We sit for hours at a time in less than stellar settings. This wears on the body and the soul.
Don't believe me? Peruse the list of creative people who have suffered from some form of mental illness/mood disorder.
Patty Duke, Connie Francis, Peter Gabriel, Charles Haley, Kristy McNichols, Spike Mulligan, Abigail Padgett, Charley Pride, James Taylor, Mike Wallace, Kurt Cobain, Elton John, Sheryl Crow, Axl Rose, Ted Turner, Robin Williams, Winston Churchill, Princess Diana, Edgar Allan Poe, Hans Christian Andersen, Charles Dickens, Michelangelo, Vincent van Gogh, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Margaux Hemingway, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Drew Carey, Judy Garland, Jim Bakker, Abraham Lincoln, Richard Nixon, and Virginia Woolf.
If that's not enough, consider the physical risks writers take every day. Deep Vein Thrombosis can occur in the lower extremities when individuals are inactive for long periods of time such as travel or sitting at a desk. Studies have shown that women who sit for extended periods of time are two to three times more likely to suffer from a pulmonary embolism than their more active peers.
And that's just the beginning of a long list.
So, the mother in me has a few words of advice for the writer in you.
- Drink lots of water—tap water, occasionally, if you can stomach it. Filtered water and bottled water don't have fluoride. Likewise, sodas and creamers are high in sugar. When sipped all day, these sweet drinks add oodles of calories and lots of cavity potential.
- Get up and stretch. Every hour or so, you should walk around. This will help keep your circulation going and minimize your risk of blood clots. It will also help alleviate muscle fatigue in your hands, wrists and back and keep your mind more alert.
- Get out of the writing closet. Tell your family and friends. Share your blog and your progress. Don't bore peeps to tears with your every little writing drama, but be open to answering questions about your writing and don't be afraid to proudly proclaim, "I am a writer." It does wonders for the psyche and minimizes feelings of isolation.
- Find a group of writerly types to learn from, support and be supported by. Learning insider info goes a long way in keeping us from making those premature submission mistakes. It also provides us with the know-how to be smarter, faster and better writers.
- Take yourself seriously. You are a writer. You will write. You will research. You will edit. You will learn. You will query and query and query some more until you succeed. Maybe not with your first or third project, but that's okay. Writing is a process. You are the master.
Grab a spork and join the fun.