Stress and Support: Understanding the Writing Life

by Eleanor Parker Sapia

A week ago, I read about the suspected suicide of Benoît Violier, world-renowned chef and owner of the three Michelin star restaurant, Restaurant de l’Hotel de Ville, in Switzerland. I was deeply shocked and saddened. Why did wildly successful, 44-year old Violier, owner of one of the best restaurants in the world, who was at the very pinnacle of his success after receiving well-deserved accolades from his peers and numerous high profile awards in the food industry, shoot himself?

It boggled my mind. Then I thought of what I knew about the deceased chef; any chef, really: Violier worked long years in a hot kitchen, where he managed a successful culinary team, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t take many personal days off in his high pressure, physically and mentally challenging job. He must have been dogged by food critics at every turn, and I know from briefly dating two chefs, competition is fierce among chefs, even among those who are friends, and they don’t have much of a social life. Day after day, they are expected to turn out masterpiece after masterpiece on a plate, in a limited time, and then the dinner service begins.

The number of suicides in the creative field begs the questions: Did these exceptionally talented people have support systems? Who was there for them?

Two years ago, I would have told you I couldn’t imagine working under such extreme pressures. Today I am the author of a successful debut novel in my genre of Caribbean and Latin American Fiction, and as I write my second book, I can relate to the pressures Violier endured.

When I began writing my second book, I was dogged by my inner censor with questions such as, “Are you sure you can do that again?” “Will this book be as successful as your first?” “Your readers will compare this book to your first, can you deliver?” I really hate that guy, the inner censor, and I’d be lying if I said I don’t worry about those questions when a paragraph in my WIP doesn’t work, or early in the morning when a chapter I’ve written the night before must be rewritten because I know it’s not my best and I can do better.

Writers deal with many stress factors in the journey to publication: the writing itself; research; deadlines; tough editors and proofreaders who demand rewrites and push hard; criticism and negative reviews from book reviewers, readers, and fellow authors; and dealing with rejection after rejection from agents and publishers. And the competition can be fierce among writers, which I don’t go for. I’m all about striving for my personal best and supporting my fellow authors. Writing is physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally taxing as it is—we need each other.

We writers sacrifice a lot for our love of writing books, and readers hope their favorite author will churn out masterpiece after masterpiece, in the shortest amount of time possible. The writer and the reader alike are excited for more, which is great, but good writing takes time. The combination of writers wanting to put out the best books they possibly can, and not lose their readers to how long it takes to write a book (especially historical novels) equals stress. We want to please our readers, but we also need balance in our lives. We all do.

In addition to the alone time most writers crave and need to put out good books, many Indie writers I know manage creative teams that consist of an editor, a proofreader, a cover designer, and book manager. In many cases, it’s the first time a writer has ever managed a team, or they do it all themselves. Writers are required to wear many hats in the publishing and marketing of a book, and for newcomers to the business of publishing books, it’s a whole new world that we must learn quickly and do well in order to reach new readers.

Lastly, you’d never guess by the amount of time writers spend on social media, connecting with readers, that many writers are introverts. Now, I love meeting new people at book events and book signings, and I have a wide circle of wonderful friends, but I’m a certified INFJ—I’m happiest in my head with my characters and stories, which is a good thing for a writer!

It turns out the writing life isn’t all that different from a chef’s life. We all need support and understanding, and down time.

So, when you see a fellow writer or your favorite author on Facebook and you’re tempted to say, “Hmmm, she should be writing that second book instead of playing around on social media,” stop yourself. Remember, in addition to writing books, many authors, myself included who don’t have an agent, are book managers and/or project managers of our creative projects, which is like holding a full time job plus two or three part-time jobs. And besides, writers enjoy connecting with their readers on social media because without them and their loyalty, our books wouldn’t go out into the world.

We all know what helps us to decompress, regroup, and relax. We writers, however, never fully rest; not completely. Our brains are ‘on’ most of the time as we take in everything around us, filter it through ourselves, and put it down on paper for hours, days, and years. We are one obsessed, deep, complex group of wonderfully creative people, and sometimes we need to rest our brains. But rest assured, writing is never far from our thoughts. The guilt of not writing is a horrible thing; we’re usually chomping at the bit to get back to it, but many of us have full time jobs, families, and at times, we need a vacation, family time, or simply a breather, but we’re back at it as soon as we possibly can. Trust me, we must write and we’ll be easier to live with.

Thank you for buying our books and after you read a book, please take the time to write an honest review for the author and share it on social media. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We wouldn’t change our passion for anything, and we need your support. In turn, we promise to keep your book shelves packed tight.

ellie

A Puerto Rican novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s careers as an artist, counselor, alternative health practitioner, Spanish language family support worker, and a refugee case worker, inspire her stories.

‘A Decent Woman, Eleanor’s debut novel, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico, was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends National Latino Book Club, and is listed in Centro Voices, The Center of Puerto Rican Studies, ‘Essential Boricua Reading for the 2015 Holiday Season’. Book clubs across the United States continue to enjoy A Decent Woman. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, ‘Latina Authors and Their Muses’, edited by Mayra Calvani, and in the soon-to-be released anthology, Organic Coffee, Haphazardly, edited by Allie Burke. Eleanor is a proud member of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, PEN America, The National Association of Professional Women, and the Historical Novel Society. She is a contributing writer at Organic Coffee, Haphazardly Literary Society.

When not writing, Eleanor loves facilitating creativity groups, reads, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time. She is a mother of two wonderful adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel, ‘The Lament of Sister Maria Immaculata’, and a collection of short stories.

http://amzn.to/1kzKdGq

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9 thoughts on “Stress and Support: Understanding the Writing Life”

  1. Thanks for this. As a life-long reader, it is easy to imagine that the writer writes and somehow a book magically appears on a shelf in a book store or library. As one who has recently begun blogging, I also relate to the “chomping at the bit” when not writing (right now feeling that guilt for not having gotten out a new post for a while). All creative folk deserve all the support and encouragement they can get. Re-blogging.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi bobcabkings. My pleasure. Thank you for your comments and visit. “All creative folk deserve all the support and encouragement they can get.” Yes, indeed. Thanks for that and for reblogging my piece; much appreciated! Happy writing to you.

      Liked by 1 person

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