I was approached by fellow author pal, Kate Foster about having a spotlight on authors and their mental health. Her latest book deals with mental health, so she thought it would be cool to raise awareness (and funds for Beyond Blue) through an auction, blogs and podcasts.
I’ve put my hand up for the auction (which starts April 1st) and am happy to kick off this blog series, having already blogged about my anxiety during my writing journey. So let’s begin by exploring how authors (and illustrators/creators) could have their mental health impacted. The pandemic has exposed many other jobs that have had to carry a heavy mental toil, but that doesn’t mean that creative people are off the hook. Yes, we are doing something that we love, but there are pitfalls that many authors go through.
Authors feel vulnerable
Authors wear their hearts on their page/screen. When a work or story is sent out to the world, we are wondering if people actually like it or not. That heart in your mouth feeling happens all the time, whether its being critiqued in a small group or being assessed by an agent or publisher. It’s either rejection or success. There is no in-between. Even if that feedback is constructive, it still stings a little. You tend to gloss over the praise but focus on that one-star review on Goodreads.
Authors feel like imposters
I can’t believe I’m an author. Sometimes that’s meant to be said in a ‘oh I’m so lucky, pinch me’ way. Other times, it feels like a statement when self-doubt kicks in. Are the fraud police knocking on the door? It’s hard to sustain confidence in this job. When you are between books or stuck in a writing drought, you feel like your author tag is faded and ready to be tossed into the wind. I’ve asked other legendary authors if this feeling of doubt ever goes away, and it never does. Regardless of what you’ve done in the past, you are always judged by your latest work.
Authors feel compared to others
Authors are not immune to the comparison trap. Your social media feed can sometimes be a barrage of attacks. You should be writing more. You should be bringing out more books. You should be better than…
This is hard to shake because when we dive in this writer’s community, it can be less of a calm pond and more like an Olympic pool. You will see some friends make a giant splash and overlap you. Others may splutter and sink. And here you are, treading water, struggling to stay afloat. It doesn’t stop you feeling happy for your friends’ success, but there’s always a shimmer of reflection where you wonder if your career is going swimmingly well or not.
Authors feel lonely
Solidary is part of the job. Most writers write by themselves. Most writers travel to events and festivals by themselves. Your non-writer friends don’t quite get the rejection, or why you’ve spent 3 days poring over one paragraph. Isn’t writing easy? Aren’t children books like only a hundred words, come on, why are you lost or stuck?
The problems of being a writer are so unique and niche, yet they can be hard to share, even with fellow writers. Unless you are lucky to have built up a close relationship with a few, are you willing to expose yourself to being vulnerable, a fraud or not good enough? Or will you hide those feelings away because come on, you’re an established writer, you should be lucky…besides, I don’t see anyone talking about it.
I’ve been an author for 11 years, so I’ve learnt to arm myself with some affirmations to tackle these issues. Next week, I’ll offer some takes on these four feelings. Until then, don’t be scared to talk about how you’re going with others. This blog series is proof that you’re not alone.