Coping with writer's stress


02 February 2024
Author N V Peacock offers a guide for writers so they can look after their mental health during the publishing process

Nowadays, people easily talk about mental health; we have awareness weeks, programs at work and therapy online, but there’s still a frustrating lack of discussion about a writer’s mental health. With this in mind, I’d like to give you a few tips on how I’ve stayed relatively sane through becoming a published author. Are you with me? Good, let’s take this one act at a time.

Act 1: In the beginning…
Maybe you’ve always wanted to be a writer. Or perhaps you woke up one day with an amazing book idea. No matter the reason, you’ll have to fit writing, and learning the craft, into your schedule. You still need an income for those luxuries, like food and shelter, so you’ll have a full-time job, and probably family and friends to prioritise. Time management might make you feel pressured. You’ll have to get up early, stay up late, or try to fit writing in on days off.
At this stage, I felt drained. I was writing on my work lunch breaks and through the night, so getting little downtime; my family were seeing less of me – my nieces started calling me Auntie Social! My advice, take it slow. You don’t need to be like those smug posters online writing 5,000 words a day. Do what you can where you can and remember to still enjoy life.

Act 2: The soggy middle…
Just when you’re in a good place with time management, procrastination hits you. This happened to me towards the end of writing my first thriller, Little Bones. Suddenly, the thought that I’d wasted time on something that might never get published, or worse, get laughed at, was all-consuming. So why finish it and find out? I’d got better things to do. That sock drawer needed organising and all those YouTube videos won’t watch themselves! I got through this by saying to myself, ’This time next year you’ll have wished you did that today.’ That mantra saw me finish my book.

Act 3: Almost there…
Most writers never finish their novel; they stumble with time management, then fall prey to procrastination. But if you get here, remember you’ve done something amazing! But there’s still another hurdle… rejection. No one likes it, but it’s part of life; you’ll have experienced it at school, work, and in your love life; unpleasant, heart ripping rejection that corrodes your confidence and soul. And I will not lie to you. You will get rejected. Yes, there are tales of that writer who was magically chosen on their first submission, but that’s the exception, not the rule. You will need to submit more than once to agents/publishers, unless you choose to self-publish. If you go the latter route, your finger is going to hover over that publish button for some time, and that’s okay. Just make sure that your manuscript is so polished you can see your face in it and put your best foot forward. If you go traditional, like I did, then you’ve a few other things to keep in mind. Do your homework; ensure the right manuscript is going to the right person in the right format at the right time. Just remember when you get a rejection, and gird your loins. It will happen: it’s not you as a person being rejected. Magical things have to intersect for a yes. It has to be divine timing finding a person (agent or editor) who is inspired by your words. And this is what you need, a cheerleader in your corner who believes in your book and you.
My advice? After you submit, start working on something new – this removes that ‘this is my only shot’ mentality. A lot of authors publish their first book later in their careers; it’s not wasted or lost. Expect rejection, learn to embrace it. It’s only by getting nos you can find that yes. Corny, but true.

Act 4? Wait, it’s not over yet…
You’ve signed your publishing deal! Your book is hitting shelves and eReaders, and that’s when imposter syndrome rears its ugly head. Who are you to have achieved so much? Don’t panic! Every author gets this – just few admit it. I’ll put my hand up, though. When I saw the first review of my book, I was physically sick. One star. All that work, time away from my family, exhaustion, blood, sweat and tears for nothing. It wasn’t until it was pointed out that the review appeared five minutes after the book went live that I realised the reviewer hadn’t had time to read it, and even if they had, it’s just one person’s opinion. That book went on to receive hundreds of five star reviews and become a Tesco best seller. So, when this happens to you, take a deep breath. You can’t help intrusive thoughts and feelings when you get a critical review. Mum always told me, ‘You can’t please everyone,’ so keep that in mind. For every one star, re-read ten of those five star ones; it’s human nature to hold on to bad no matter how much good you get
Now, repeat after me, ‘You are not alone. You can do this now. You are a writer.’

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N V Peacock (Nicky) highlights mental health issues in her latest thriller The 13th Girl (Hera) She has run a local writers’ group in Northants since 2012 helping local writers achieve dreams of publication and giving them a community of support and knowledge.


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