Protecting the Author Psyche
Authors are a sensitive group. They feel emotions more deeply than most; they have to, to be able to bring scenes to life, from hopelessness and anger to love and elation. They do not read words, hear or see them; they feel them. The words morph into three dimensional scenes that are alive in their heads even when they are not writing. Because of this sensitivity, they can be prone to soaking up the emotions of others like a sponge, often taking on the depression or negativity swirling around them. This has become particularly true since 2016.
Add to that the inevitable rejection authors are faced with: from publishers, literary agents, and even once they manage to get published—from the public themselves. Few careers display how an individual is doing in their work in the transparency of the public arena; our reviews remain out there into infinity (thanks to the Internet) for all the world to see.
Yet for every Ernest Hemingway or F. Scott Fitzgerald, there are authors that avoid depression despite writing dark scenes or being exposed to personal or collective negativity. What do they do to rise above the negative energy? Here are just a few of their tips:
Music. Music has the ability to raise energy vibrations, almost instantly pushing away dark thoughts. Musicians such as ABBA, Fleetwood Mac, the Eagles, Bee Gees, John Legend, Queen, Jason Mraz… the list goes on and on. Music from almost any musician can be found on YouTube or through streaming services.
Film. The key is watching something light, often completely opposite of your thoughts or the scenes you’re writing. It can be a series such as Friends or Will and Grace, or movies like Mama Mia. The focus should be on the light side of life.
Laugh. Laughing out loud has a therapeutic effect that remains in the psyche. It can be laughter from a good joke, a comedic movie or book, or just a fun time with friends.
Nature. Being in nature has a way of grounding a person, which is necessary because they spend so much time in their heads. Sitting or walking in a park, canoeing or kayaking, or anything that literally has you stopping to smell the roses and listening to the birds.
Light. In almost every genre, the scenes become tenser as they near the climax. The countermeasure is light. From opening drapes and letting the sunshine in to using an alarm clock that awakens with light instead of sound, light has a sedative effect on the psyche, literally chasing the darkness away.
Aromatherapy. Certain scents can raise moods. If you love the beach, try scents with coconut, pineapple, tropical flowers and fresh air or saltwater. It can be in soap, a plugin room scent or a candle.
Color therapy. Remove dark drapes, dark or muted wall paint, accessories or wallpaper and replace them with colors that raise the mood, such as the blue of a sunny sky or pastel green and sunny yellow. Think of the tropics or the brightly colored homes in many Scandinavian countries, who have learned the bright colors positively effect moods during long winters with short days.
Read. Of course, authors love to read. The trick is to read books that are lighter than what you’re writing, to give your psyche time to recover and replenish. Comedies, light romance or feel-good stories are best, especially if they take you to tropical locales during the winter, or places that make you feel good.
Get out. Authors are comfortable by themselves and won’t generally be with others just to avoid being alone. That said, it’s amazing what a few hours with positive people can do for the psyche. The trick here is to avoid taking on the problems of others or getting into stressful conversations.
Pets. Science has proven time and time what every pet owner already knew: that owning a pet is good for our health. They can reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, improve our hearts, and give us a reason to get out of bed. Include brisk walks with your pet and you’re working on two areas at once.
Forget the Big Guys. It was once the pinnacle of success for many aspiring authors to sign a contract with one of the largest New York publishers. In the past decade, it’s been proven that you don’t need that relationship in order to have a very successful writing career. Small to mid-size publishers are always searching for great talent. They are less likely to cancel a contract based on the book’s performance during the three-month launch, and they are more likely to provide personalized attention and guidance. Self-publishing is another avenue, which bypasses rejection slips altogether; however, you do need to understand the industry in order to rake in the sales you desire. To reduce stress, learn as much as you can about writing and publishing and go into it knowing it’s a life-long career and not a one-hit-and-you’re-done career. There are exceptions, but if you prepare for the long haul and you succeed at an earlier point, that’s icing on the cake.
p.m.terrell is the internationally acclaimed, award-winning author of more than 21 books in several genres. Her first book was published in 1984 and she became a full-time writer in 2002. She has mentored authors for more than 15 years and is the co-founder of The Book ‘Em Foundation and the founder of the Book ‘Em North Carolina Writers Conference and Book Fair. For more information, visit www.pmterrell.com.