Don’t Be Afraid To Take Time For Yourself (and Your Words)
by Claire Legrand
I love being part of the writing community. I’ve been active on Twitter since 2009, and I blogged pretty steadily for a few years, too. Via social media I’ve met amazing people and forged some incredible friendships. I’ve also learned a lot—about the publishing industry, the writing craft, the experiences of marginalized communities, and how to better articulate my thoughts about my own mental illness.
For any human being, existing as part of a community is healthy. For a writer, it’s essential. Writing can be a fulfilling—but lonely—endeavor. We need friends and writing partners around us who understand why we do this, who understand the sacrifice and the discipline and the brain-twisting work that goes into creating a book. We need fresh eyes on our words, to ensure they haven’t become too precious. We need friends within the community to reach out and let us know when we’ve screwed up, when they need a hug, when we need a hug.
But sometimes? Sometimes, being part of a community can feel noisy, even overwhelming. Sometimes you need a break from the hustle and bustle of social media.
One of the best pieces of writing advice I’ve ever gotten is to “keep your eyes on your own paper.” But that is difficult to do when you’re plugged in to multiple social media platforms every day. You can’t help but see what everyone else is working on and accomplishing. You can’t help but measure yourself against the achievements of others. And that takes time and energy away from the central work of, you know, actually writing your book.
As important as community is, it’s equally important to step away from it when you need to. If you’re anything like me, you suffer from a severe case of FOMO. That is, Fear Of Missing Out. I’m on a social media hiatus right now, and sometimes my brain screams at me, “For the love of everything holy, get back on Twitter right now! You’ll miss out on A Thing! You’re not being a responsible and vocal member of the community! You’ll lose followers! People will forget about you! Your book sales will plummet!”
But aside from those moments of FOMO guilt and panic? My hiatus has been a blessing. In addition to working my part-time jobs, I’m writing thousands of words per day. My head is clearer; my chest isn’t quite as clenched with fear that I’m not writing quickly enough, or selling enough books, or that I’m not clever enough on Twitter, or that I don’t have the right number of followers. All that noise—it’s not there right now. And without it? I can focus on the work. And the work is the thing.
I miss being a part of the active daily community online. Sometimes I feel guilty for not being there. But I also know that I needed to do this, for myself and for my manuscript. I needed to unplug, to step back, to close the door. Not forever, but for a while. I needed help keeping my eyes on my own paper, at least until I type “the end” on this first draft. (Drafting, by the way, is the worrrrst.)
And you know what? That’s okay.
In Some Kind of Happiness, Finley learns that it’s okay to ask for help when you need it. In real life, I have learned that it’s okay to step away when you need it, for your own sake and for the sake of your work. Please don’t be afraid to sign off and unplug. Embrace that peace and quiet. Use it to hone your focus. Use it to read, refill that creative well, and focus on making your words the best words they can be.
That’s the greatest thing about the writing community—everyone gets it. We’re all on this wild creative journey together. And we’ll all be there, happy to see you, when you get back.
Her first novel is The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, one of the New York Public Library’s 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing in 2012. She is also the author of The Year of Shadows, a ghost story for middle grade readers; and Winterspell, a young adult re-telling of The Nutcracker. She is also the author of Some Kind of Happiness, a middle grade novel about mental illness, family secrets, and the power of storytelling, which was one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2016. Her latest novel, Foxheart, is a classic fantasy-adventure and a 2016 Junior Library Guild selection. She is one of the four authors behind The Cabinet of Curiosities, an anthology of dark middle grade short fiction that was a Junior Library Guild selection, a Bank Street Best Book, and among the New York Public Library’s 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing in 2014.
Orphan. Thief. Witch.
Twelve-year-old Quicksilver dreams of becoming the greatest thief in the Star Lands. With her faithful dog and partner-in-crime Fox, she’s well on her way—even if that constantly lands them both in trouble. It’s a lonesome life, sleeping on rooftops and stealing food for dinner, but Quicksilver doesn’t mind. When you’re alone, no one can hurt you. Or abandon you.
But the seemingly peaceful Star Lands are full of danger. Witches still exist—although the powerful Wolf King and his seven wolves have been hunting them for years. Thankfully, his bloody work is almost complete. Soon the Star Lands will be safe, free of the witches and their dark magic.
Then one day a strange old woman and her scruffy dog arrive in Quicksilver’s town and perform extraordinary magic. Real magic—forbidden and dangerous. Magic Quicksilver is desperate to learn. With magic like that, she could steal anything her heart desires. She could even find her parents.
But the old woman is not what she seems, and soon Quicksilver has to decide—will she stay at home and remain a thief? Or will she embark upon the adventure of a lifetime and become a legend?
Some Kind of Happiness
THINGS FINLEY HART DOESN’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT
• Her parents, who are having problems. (But they pretend like they’re not.)
• Being sent to her grandparents’ house for the summer.
• Never having met said grandparents.
• Her blue days—when life feels overwhelming, and it’s hard to keep her head up. (This happens a lot.)
Finley’s only retreat is the Everwood, a forest kingdom that exists in the pages of her notebook. Until she discovers the endless woods behind her grandparents’ house and realizes the Everwood is real–and holds more mysteries than she’d ever imagined, including a family of pirates that she isn’t allowed to talk to, trees covered in ash, and a strange old wizard living in a house made of bones.
With the help of her cousins, Finley sets out on a mission to save the dying Everwood and uncover its secrets. But as the mysteries pile up and the frightening sadness inside her grows, Finley realizes that if she wants to save the Everwood, she’ll first have to save herself.
Reality and fantasy collide in this powerful, heartfelt novel about family, depression, and the power of imagination.
Claire, thank you so much for taking the time to write this article and discuss the effects of social media and the outside world on your own mental and writing health. Interacting with other people through any portal can be over whelming, tiresome, and sometimes even draining. We all need to take some time for ourselves now and again, refresh, and get away from the world in order to find our love and/or gift of writing again.
As always, thank you so much to everyone who participates in this feature. Your words never fall on unappreciative ears. You’re helping so many new writers!
We hope you all have a wonderful rest of your week!