top of page
  • Writer's picturekirstiewright

Top mental Health Tips for Writers: A complete Guide


Writers have been exploring topics related to mental health throughout the ages from Greek tragedies exploring characters that were experiencing distress to more modern authors including Elizabeth’s Strouts “My Name is Lucy Barton” (2016). Overtime a stereotype has developed of writers being solitary and having an above average incidence of mental health difficulties. This guide aims to explore the link of writing and mental health in a time when writing can take the form of many mediums including novels, short stories, poems, play, screenplays, essays, articles, blogs, marketing, letters, diaries, and journals.



writing mental health

 

First let us explore how writing can have a positive impact on mental health.

 

Helps express thoughts and feelings.

Writing can be a good form to express inner thoughts and feelings and can help process difficult thoughts and emotions. After writing down thoughts, it can feel like less is going through your mind. You can then to start to work though these thoughts and feelings and problem solve what you have written down or see things from a different perspective.

 

Expressive writing is a form of writing which focuses on writing about personal events to process thoughts and feelings. The writing you create can just be for you. It does not have to be read by another person for writing to have a positive impact on wellbeing. Some of the key components of expressive writing are that is that the writing must be in explicit detail, in depth, feelings and events must be linked. Writing events in such detail helps increases the writers power as the writer controls the narrative. Research has found that expressive writing benefits both physical and mental health. In a study in which participants wrote about difficult events for 20 minutes a day for 4 consecutive days compared to those who wrote about neutral topics immediate effects included a reduction in distress. Longer term effects of expressive writing included lower blood pressure and fewer admissions to hospital.



writing mental health

 

Foster Connection to others.

Although the process of writing can be a lonely one, the content you write can resonate with others which can foster connection to others. Writing can bring people together who have similar opinions, writing has the power to create healthy debate and bring people together to solve a problem.

 

Increase self-awareness.

Writing often involves becoming aware of your own, thoughts, feelings, and responses to events. This can increase awareness of your personal experience and reduce being on autopilot and just responding to your environment. This can foster growth as you become aware of your inner experiences and where you want to be.



writing mental health awareness

 

It can help you think more clearly.

Writing involves thinking about a topic and putting your thoughts into an order that makes sense to other people and creates a good reading experience. This is a good skill that can help you think more clearly about your experiences.

 

Skill Building.

Take a moment to think of the last time you mastered a skill? How did it feel? Writing is a skill that is often built over time. Mastering a skill feels good. Seeing your writing get better and better boosts your confidence and in turn can have a positive impact on mental health.



writing mental health skill building

 

Sense of purpose.

Do you enjoy writing? How do you feel after you have written that blog/ book/ article? Writing can create a sense of purpose and meaning in life.

 

Can help build skills in focusing attention.

Focusing attention on what you want to focus on is a key skill. In a world where lots of different demands are vying for your attention at any one time being able to keep your focus on the task in hand is a key skill. Writing builds the skill of focusing on what you are writing. This skill of creating focus can be used in other areas for example focusing on what you want to be doing rather than negative thoughts.



writing mental health mindfulness

 

Lets now explore how writing can negatively impact mental health. Authors are increasingly speaking out at how the writing industry can impact mental health to raise awareness and start to increase mental health support for authors.

 

Long Hours spent by yourself writing.

This can be a double-edged sword. On one hand spending a long time by yourself focusing on writing can be extremely rewarding. Seeing a story or article developing in front of you can build self-esteem. On the other hand, it can be very isolating and lonely. Often you do not have colleagues to talk to about the work. You may not have spoken to another human all day. Even if you don’t consider yourself a people person, we are social creatures and being isolated for long periods of time can have a huge impact on your mental health. Being alone for long periods of time can also lead to us comparing ourselves to others on social media. Being alone means we do not get to see another struggle and we may assume it is just us.

 

Tight Deadlines.

Deadlines as a writer are often short. This can lead to a high-pressured environment in which you put lots of pressure on yourself to come up with something original in a short amount of time. Sometimes this can be exciting but often this amount of pressure can cause negative emotions and procrastination which further lowers mood.



mental health writing

 

Managing different media.

We often think of writing as the final product. However often once the blog/article/book has been written that is only the beginning. There is managing the promotion of that piece of writing. Juggling different tasks can be overwhelming.

 

Self-doubt.

Will people want to read what I have written? My work isn’t as good as others. Does this sound familiar? Self-doubt has been found to be common in the writing profession.


Freelance work.

Lots of work as a writer is freelance. Freelance work can be rewarding but also comes with its own set of stressors. Please see this article for the pros and cons of freelance work as well as tips on how to manage wellbeing as a freelancer.



writing mental health

 

Rejections.

Rejections are part of the course of being a writer, but it doesn’t make it any less hurtful. Having put your innermost thoughts and feelings out there, criticism and rejection can hurt. What makes this hard is rejection can be any many forms as a writer e.g. rejection of an article to be published or criticism of an article that has been published.


Writers Block.

Writer’s block deserves a blog in of itself. Writer’s block can be extremely frustrating. Have you had the experience of sitting down to write and your mind goes blank? Often, writers block is linked to fears and negative emotion. These fears can vary from person to person, but common themes are fear of failure and fear of judgement. Writer’s block can also be linked to putting intense pressure on yourself to write and creative. The more you push the more you are in fight flight mode so all you can focus on is the threat of not being able to write rather than letting ideas flow and the cycle continues.


Emotionally taxing.

Writing often involves writing about our own thoughts and feelings and deepest fears. As discussed above this can have a positive side to it but it can also be emotionally draining.



mental health writing

 

Burnout.

After periods of intense activity caused by some of the above stressors including tight deadlines burnout may follow.

 

Exposing self.

When your book/article or other mode of writing you use is published is exciting but also can evoke difficult emotions as often we are exposing our innermost thoughts to others. It can feel rather exposing.



writing

 


What can help mental health support in the writing industry?

In our culture there has developed a idea of a tortured artist which has given birth to an idea that there has to be suffering for there to be creativity. This has often meant that mental health difficulties and low wellbeing have been seen as part of the process rather than offering people support or starting to look at changing processes and system in the industry that could alleviate stress. Now many people are speaking out about mental health in the writing industry.

 

Aiming to create a culture of kindness, compassion and openness where people are encouraged to prioritise self-care a environment will be created where writers feel more supported.

 

What can individual writers do to support their own wellbeing?

We are all unique individuals and what works to boost one person’s wellbeing may not work for someone else which is one of the reasons why individual therapy can be very helpful.


I will briefly run through strategies that are likely to help support the wellbeing of writers but remember it’s not a one size fits all. Using these strategies does not mean that you will always feel happy as this is not our natural state. Anxiety and low mood are normal part of life. These strategies are to hopefully help limit the intensity and duration of negative emotions as well as the impact they have on your life.



mental health writing industry

 

Routine:

Routine is a key cornerstone for wellbeing for many reasons, it gives us purpose, having a routine means there is less to think about. For example, we don’t have to think about getting up washing our teeth and getting dressed as it’s a routine, we just do it. This gives us more space to think about other things in the day. Consistently getting up and going to bed at similar times helps with sleep. Especially if you are a freelancer is its easy to get out of a routine. Take time to focus on the routine that you want and take steps to implement it.

 

Realistic Goals:

Writing can be exciting and overwhelming. Break writing into smaller goals e.g. writing a paragraph or a certain number of words. Writing a whole essay can be daunting but breaking it down into smaller parts can help it feel more manageable. Reaching these smaller goals and seeing progress is also a great motivator and reduces overwhelm. Talk to your editor or employer if you are feeling overwhelmed about deadlines. They might be able to help.



mental health writing

 

Stretch:

Writing can present a physical challenge for the body as its often involves sitting still for long periods of time. Ensure you take breaks to stretch regularly and have a good writing set up that ensures your posture supports your wellbeing.

 

Managing criticism:

Focus on what you have achieved e.g. you completed the book even if it wasn’t well received, that everything is opinion not fact and opinions change. Think of all the creators whose work was not appreciated immediately including Moby Dick by Herman Melville.

Get feedback from the people who you have identified as your audience.

It can be hard to receive lots of notes from editors but remember this is part of the process and doesn’t mean that what you created is bad. They are just trying to make your work even better and are on your side. Remember you can always go back to the editor; it is a collaborative process so you are entitled to share your view on their feedback.

 

Connect:

Connect with fellow writers to reduce isolation and so you can share experiences.



mental health writing

 

Ensure basic needs are met:

Have you skipped lunch when trying to meet a deadline? Ensure that what you fuel your body with will help your long-term focus. We have all reached for the chocolate but ensuring that overall, you are eating health food, drinking plenty of water and sleeping well will ensure your basic needs are met. Its hard to do your best work when your body hasn’t got the right nutrients.


Take a break:

It might seem counterintuitive when you have a deadline looming, but breaks enhance productivity. Why not try the pomodoro technique of 25 minutes focus followed by a five-minute break, with bigger breaks of 15-30 minutes every 2-3 hours. Get outside for your breaks if you can. We all need vitamin D and most of us don’t get enough of it from our diet so getting outside will help with this.


Find activities that help decrease stress:

This could be deep breathing, walking or exercise. This is different for everyone. Find what works best for you and try to do these activities regularly and when you notice stressors.



writing mental health

 

Nothing can be perfect:

Be kind to yourself if you make mistakes, Try to focus on learning and making progress over perfection.


Seek professional support:

If you think you are experiencing a mental health difficulty see support from a therapist, counsellor and go to your GP.


Gratitude:

Practising gratitude has been found to have positive links to wellbeing. If you take time to focus on what you are grateful for it helps you to think about what you do have rather than what you don’t. It can help you to celebrate small achievements that may overwise be overlooked.

 

There are changes the industry itself as you as a writer can make to start to make the writing world more open and kinder place to work. If you would like one to one support by a therapists trained to work with creatives or would like workshops on the topics raised above for your staff contact us.

5 views0 comments

Comments


bottom of page