The Necessity of Self-Care for Writers

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My first writing-related article was published in the June 27, 2018 issue of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators – Oregon Region online newsletter, Newsworthy. Following is a revised version of that article.


The SCBWI-OR conference in May was full of helpful information, inspirational speakers, and networking opportunities. A common message woven throughout the workshops and presentations was the need for writer self-care. Diversity Through Adversity was the theme of the conference. When dealing with any type of adversity we should pay attention to the protection of our health and well-being. As keynote speaker, Vanessa Brantley-Newton said, “Adversity will come. What are you going to do with it?”

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When hearing presentations and reading articles on writing, writers are often pressed with messages such as “endurance, perseverance, keep going, never give up”. These are super important for a successful writing career, but if that’s all we focus on we can burn out quickly.

We see success stories popping up all around us (if we spend any time on social media), and we can start to “compare and despair”. As agent Molly O’Neill (Root Literary) told us in her “Dealing with Rejection” workshop, “We are all susceptible to story… Even success stories are often a carefully crafted narrative.”

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Lin Oliver, SCBWI’s Executive Director, added, “There are many paths to accomplishment… none are pretty close up.”

As a first-time attendee of this conference and a pre-published writer, I especially appreciated those messages. When you’re driven and aggressive about learning your craft and learning about the publishing world in general it can be easy to focus on what you’re not accomplishing. Much of what we see in other writers’ lives is the polished version, and there is much background and history we aren’t privy to.

When addressing writer self-care, award-winning author Gennifer Choldenko told us, “Treat yourself like you would your favorite child.” We tend to treat our “favorite” children well. Cutting them slack when they mess up. Encouraging them when they feel insecure. Trying to motivate them in loving ways to do their best. Doesn’t the writer in you deserve the same treatment?

Lin Oliver reminded attendees to “practice self-care”. Whatever that means for you – cutting down on commitments, taking a class to strengthen your craft, setting a frustrating project aside for a while, or forever.

Molly O’Neill gave us permission to walk away from a project if we need to. If something’s becoming too stressful, painful, or you’re just going in circles it’s ok to say ‘Enough” or “No”.

These were good reminders that if we don’t take care of our most valuable equipment (ourselves) we run the risk of crashing. We don’t want to crash and burn in our writing lives. We need to power down occasionally, refresh frequently, and get tune-ups regularly.

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Conferences like those offered by SCBWI can be restful, refreshing, and uplifting. We can learn from masters, support each other, and grow in our craft and profession. If we put self-care for every conference participant at the top of the list, we would all come away feeling like “that was the best conference ever!”. And that’s a perfect take-away.

#SCBWI #writerself-care #amwriting #write-tips #amwriting

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