Being a Better Writer: Mental Health

Hello writers! We’re back with the final installment of Being a Better Writer … from Topic List #20. Still, I probably gave a few of you a scare there. Tis the season, right?

Anyway, before we dive into today’s writing topic—which has a lot more to do with writing than some of you might think, so stick around—I do want to reemphasize what was said above with a different context. This is the last topic from Topic List #20, and that means that there is currently a Topic Call going for Topic List #21. If you’re not familiar with what that means, well it is pretty straightforward. Have a writing topic you’d like Being a Better Writer to discuss? Head on over to the Topic Call and post it! Get your topic put on the list! That’s it! Hit that link!

And that is all the news I’m doing today. That’s it. Topic call, and the end of Topic List #20. Because I want to dive right into things today. I want to talk about mental health.

Not just in writing, but the whole process. Editing, writing, publishing … the works. Why? Well … because if I’m honest I feel like mental health and its related, associated topics aren’t addressed as much as they should be. Especially if you live in the United States, where decades of neurosis from earlier generations have pounded the idea into many people’s heads that “If it’s not physical labor, it can’t be stressful because it’s not even work.”


I’m not exaggerating about this. I wish I was, but I have been told point-blank before by more than one person that what I do ‘isn’t work and can’t be tiring because all I do is sit and hit keys all day’ or some variant thereof. Because it’s not a ‘real outdoors job’ therefore it cannot be tiring, exhausting, stressful, or even count as effort or ‘real work.’

Now, I’m going to say something right now as an aside: This. Is. Crap. Utter garbage. And I can say that with the highest possible authority, because I’ve done some of the hardest of the “real jobs” out there. I paid my way through college working on commercial fishing boats. I remember one week where I tracked my time working, on my feet, and it was over 150 hours in one week. That’s right, I was getting two hours of sleep a night or less. I’ve been so tired from those jobs that I’ve literally fallen asleep before hitting a bed and slept for 20+ hours at the end of trips.

BUT … I would never say that what I do now is any less stressful or hard work. Is it easier on my body? Yes. I’ve got some long-lasting impacts to my knees and the rest of me that came as a consequence of all the hard labor I’ve done over the years.

But have I been just as mentally fogged at the end of a day in which I’ve edited over 60,000 words as I have at the end of a long day on a fishing boat? YES. Writing, editing, and publishing a book is exhausting. My legs may still have plenty of energy at the end of an 8+hour writing session, but my mind? It’s been through a wringer. I’m exhausted. I have ended 10+ hour days of fishing and 10+ hour days of writing with exactly the same mental fog of fatigue.

As someone who has done both ends of the spectrum, from commercial fishing boat and cannery work to sitting at a desk all day trying to figure out how to make an imaginary person’s declaration of love sound genuine, real, and in characterI am someone with the authority to say “both of these are exhausting.”

Are there people who shirk and aren’t that tired? In both paths. There are just as many people who call it a day and slack off on a fishing boat after a single set as there are people who “write” by sitting in front of a keyboard watching Youtube and then after 3-4 hours writing a single sentence that they’ll “touch up” tomorrow. Yes, both exist. But far too often one type of job gets a free pass in the public mind, while the other doesn’t.


Okay, stepping back from that aside and explanation, I wanted to make that tangent clear because as I stated at the start and with the lead in … Many, many people, especially in the US, believe this to be true. “Oh, it’s just writing. What do you have to be stressed about?” This is a question I’ve had directed at me after expressing to someone that I’ve had a long day, because many people in the US have bought into a fiction far more outlandish than anything I’ve ever written, the fiction that “brain work isn’t real work.”

Unless, of course, you’re a CEO or a C-Suite executive. Then it’s the most draining, compensation-desperately-needed job in the world.

But back on topic, today we’re discussing mental health and writing precisely because of this false perception. A false perception that many writers fall into the trap of. A belief, pushed fiercely by some, that writing and similar work “can’t be real work” and therefore cannot be the cause of stress.

And this mistaken belief? It can wreck you.

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Being a Better Writer: Bias and Growth

Hello again readers! Welcome back to Being a Better Writer. You know, it’s moments like these, typing out a welcome introduction once again that I somewhat envy the ability of film and video to just drop an intro on people. Granted, most people skip it, and people would certainly skip over the same opening paragraph, but it would take some early lifting out of every installment of BaBW.

Ah well, at least this segues into news and whatnot better than a constantly identical intro was. Though this week I don’t have any news other than what would be repeating last week’s news post: Starforge almost has a completed first draft. Thing’s a beast too. Once I get done with this post here? It’s back to working on it and getting that last chapter and the epilogue done. After which I can finally take care of some IRL things like getting my car sold.

So without any news, let’s talk about today’s topic, which is kind of a tricky one. It’s also by reader request, and when it showed up on my list, I knew I wanted to get to it early.

Now, in a way we’ve kind of touched on this before. Indirectly. Being a Better Writer has seen a number of posts on things like Why Writers Should Play Games or Writing Exercises for Viewpoints. Among others (hit the tags on those links to find more). A good writer is one that’s embraced a wide range of activity that stimulates and works their mind.

But we’ve never talked much about the other side of this that was requested. A side that, at least in my mind, brings up the image of stale bread.

Yeah, maybe it’s because I’m hungry, but I think today’s post is going to make some food analogies. Get set, hit the jump, and let’s talk about bias in our writing, and how we can expand.

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Being a Better Writer: The Importance of a Support Group

Hello readers, new and old! Welcome back to another (or perhaps your first) Monday installment of Being a Better Writer! For those of you that are new (and quite possibly discovered the site from your attendance of Life, The Universe, and Everything this weekend), BaBW is a regularly-occurring Monday article discussing all things writing, one topic at a time. Over the years, it has discussed hundreds of different topics, such Sanderson’s Three Laws of Magic, The Five-Man Band, Subverting Tropes, and even The Art of Misdirection, to name a few. Such has been the series’ popularity that if you’ve just discovered Unusual Things for the first time, it’s highly likely that you’ve still seen a snippet of it somewhere, from Wikipedia to Google search summaries on various topics.

Basically, if you’ve just arrived and are looking for writing advice, rejoice. There’s hundreds upon hundreds of articles here, all searchable, categorized, and even tagged. If you want writing articles on everything from brainstorming to formatting, you’re in the right place.

So welcome! To those of you returning readers, I hope you had a chance to attend the aforementioned LTUE convention this weekend. As usual, my daily write-ups are up and on the site, so if you missed the con (sadness, especially as this year it was online due to Covid-19, and easier to attend than ever), you can still catch a summary of just some of the panels that occurred.

And with that, there’s no other news to discuss today. So let’s dive right into our topic. Which is going to be a bit less of a common one. In fact, I was actually planning on writing about another topic until more than a few of those LTUE panels mentioned this one, and I decided it deserved its own place on BaBW.

Which makes today’s topic a slightly rarer one. Usually for BaBW the topics are the nuts, bolts, and washers of fiction. How to sell emotion, or how to make sure that your conflict is gripping readers. The stuff people think about when they think about writing.

But every so often BaBW takes a step back and tackles another aspect of writing that sometimes isn’t given nearly enough credit in the writing process: The health of the writer. The importance of keeping the primary and secondary writing machine—your brain and your body, not your keyboard and your word processor—in good shape so that you can continue to produce those stories that you love so much.

So today, readers, we’re going to talk about the importance of a support group.

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