Sex For Money is a semi-regular blog series about my experiences in writing, publishing, and marketing gay erotica and M/M erotic romance. All of this information is from my own experience, so your experience may differ. It’s hoped that sharing this information might be helpful to new and aspiring erotica and erotic romance authors, as I see a lot of questions and a lot of misinformation out there. To read more Sex For Money posts, click here.
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Several few weeks ago, I wrote a rather personal Sex For Money post in which I spoke about author self-doubt. I feel the need to follow-up with it as there have been some important developments and it underscores the need for further discussion.
Though I couldn’t see it at the time, it wasn’t actually writing that was causing me stress. Rather, my writing was suffering due to stress from another source.
Like many writers, or perhaps most writers, I have a day job that pays that bulk of my bills while writing income supplements all that. Work had been growing more and more stressful everyday and I had assumed it was due to other influences (as there was both my birthday and my mom’s wedding at the same time, both of which required a lot of work and time from me) and that everything would be back to normal once those obligations were over.
Well, the obligations came and went and the stress I was experiencing at work only grew. So much so that one day my hands were shaking for half my work day. The stress was paralyzing me — both at work and at home. I realized then that I hadn’t done more than a couple hundred words of writing in the last four weeks.
I sat down with my boss to talk about it and we uncovered what was really going on — problems in the workplace that were putting enormous amounts of stress on me, and this stress was eating away at me all day everyday. I’m now on six weeks of stress leave to work on getting better and getting back to work.
Now… I have a rule of not sharing negative personal information on my author platform. You readers are not my therapists and this is not a private journal — this not the place for such a discussion. However, I chose to break my rule this one time to talk about the impact this has on a writing career.
With my day job, even when it was at its most paralyzing, I could still show up for work and do the basic tasks I needed to do and manage to get through the day — even if it meant hiding in bed for the rest of the day once I got home. This meant I was still earning my full day job income.
My writing, though, froze dead for four weeks. While there are continued sales of older works that generate income, an erotica and erotic romance writer’s income comes from regular releases. And with paralyzing stress, I couldn’t write, couldn’t publish, and couldn’t generate new income. If this stress had been caused by something I couldn’t deal with as effectively as I actually am, and if writing income was my sole source of income, I’d be in serious financial trouble.
Writers need to continually work on self-care so that they can remain healthy and productive. A big component of this is thinking proactively, rather than reactively. Spending some time and money on staying healthy and preventing from getting sick is far better than getting sick for an indeterminate amount of time and running the risk of financial ruin.
Every once in a while, I see a post about self care for writers and it contains cliche things like fancy pens, unique notebooks, literary-themed merchandise like teapots and clothing, and good coffee or tea to keep an author warm.
While these suggestions certainly have some validity and do have some effectiveness in maintaining good mental health, they are likely not enough if there is a truly stressful event in your life that can create paralyzing stress. Over the past four weeks, no amount of fancy pens, notebooks, and coffee would’ve gotten me to write more.
Here’s a real list of self-care resources for authors:
1. Get the name and phone number of a good counsellor. If you have difficulty coping with stress, a counsellor can help you figure out techniques to keep you healthy. Two or three sessions, while they can be costly, could save you from succumbing to stress and requiring several sessions at a later point.
2. Get the name and phone number of a good massage therapist. I prefer trigger point massage. It can be painful, but it’s effective. Visiting this person even just semi-annually could help work out the painful kinks in your back and neck before they become too serious. Again, there’s a cost, but an annual or semi-annual appointment is a good investment if it prevents having to go for half a dozen appointments after a stress crisis has riddled your back and neck with knots and twitches.
3. Make a list of things that stress you out and then figure out how to reduce the impact of these stressors. This can be as simple as re-organizing your day or your work flow so that you are better able to get things done. Effective time management makes a huge difference for stress and stress relief.
4. Exercise. Authors sit at their computers a lot. Exercise gets us up and active, increases blood flow, increases oxygen, and just makes us feel good. Figure out what works for you. For me, my favourite exercises are hot yoga and outdoor walks. I’ve got a beautiful cemetery near my house with a 5.5 km walking path that is a great hour and a half break in my day and gets me out in nature and fresh air and sunshine.
5. Healthy eating. What you eat affects how you feel. For me, too much coffee and too much fast food has me queasy and unhappy, no matter how delicious those things are. I’m working on improving my diet with lots of chickpeas, lean meats, and vegetables.
6. Do things that make you happy. It can be easy to put off things that make us happy — time with family, seeing the latest movie, going out with friends — because we have so much work to do. But if your whole life becomes work, then life loses its fun appeal and just becomes a chore.
7. If that’s not enough, reach out. Being an author is an isolating experience, even if we have a family that loves us. It’s easy to believe that we’re stressed because we’re not handling our workload properly and thus it’s all our fault. But reaching out to someone can make a world of difference and help you sort out what’s stressing you and what you can do about it. A writer friend recently reached out to me because he was near the breaking point due to stress and we examined his workload and we broke it into small manageable chunks, discarded unimportant things, and relaxed some self-imposed deadlines. For me, when stress was overwhelming me, I reached out to a close friend and said what I was feeling — he encouraged me to have a talk with my boss and, well, it led to where I am now, with six weeks to focus on getting better.
A healthy writer is a productive writer, a productive writer is a successful writer. Taking care of your health means taking care of your writing business. Don’t put off taking care of yourself until it becomes a bigger problem than it needs to be — take care of yourself now.