“Maintaining Physical and Emotional Wellness as a Writer” / Whitney Boyd

098Whitney Boyd is a cold-weather-hating yet hockey loving Canadian, author of three women’s fiction novels published by WiDo. A mom to two hyper little boys and a very overweight puppy, she enjoys running, reading, cooking and eating chocolate (not always in that order). She has a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish and is working on her post Bachelor’s degree in Psychology.

(The following post by Whitney Boyd first appeared on Colleen Story’s Writing and Wellness Blog. It is used here with Colleen’s permission.)

Physical Wellness

When I am at a computer for long stretches of time, I tend to get snack-ish. It’s a guarantee. I will crave sugar and chocolate and chips and soda and everything unhealthy I can imagine. When I used to work in an office, I gained ten pounds in a year (which may not seem like a lot, but I run half-marathons and have maintained the same weight for about a decade.) I find the same issue when writing. Constant food equals weight gain…which makes me bitter and unhappy. To drown my sorrows, I turn to food. It’s a vicious cycle.

So, to combat my food cravings, I… (drum roll please)… well, I got nothing. No crystal clear, beautiful solution yet. It’s a work in progress. Every day is a challenge. I make small changes, like bringing a water bottle to my desk with me, so when I start rummaging around drawers for something, my water is right there, sending me subconscious messages to drink.  Or, the same thing that anyone on a diet is told, I simply force myself not to buy snack food when I’m at the grocery store. Celery and cheese or carrots with ranch dressing can be perfect substitutes for me when I get in the hungry tiger mood, but they keep me feeling physically healthy which helps me have a clear mind in order to write.

 Emotional Wellness

The biggest challenge of being a writer is the emotional toll it takes. I’ve never been a person who takes criticism well (eg: in grade three I was chatting with a friend and the teacher told me stop talking… I felt guilty about it for weeks), and so having my words and ideas picked apart by people who don’t know me or how I intended them, always upsets me. I understand why certain celebrities say they don’t ever Google themselves. It can be really difficult to deal with people who only want to state the negative, and at times, verbally attack you as the author.

My book can have hundreds of five and four star reviews, but I get a single one star angry review and my entire world crumbles in. Not to sound like a totally pathetic, stereotypical female, but one of my first negative reviews made me cry…fetal position, sobbing, you get the picture.

I cope with this emotional roller-coaster by not reading reviews. It takes all my self-control to not check them, but it’s something I’ve had to do. Like an addict, I’m all or nothing, so, since I can’t handle it, I’m cut off. I also try to spread love more now. I used to be a casual critic. If I didn’t like a book or movie, I had no problem pointing out all the flaws to my friends or anyone who cared. Now? I make an effort to shut up in most cases. Just because I hated it doesn’t mean there isn’t value in it for someone else.

The old adage of “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will break my heart” is so true and I try to find the good now. If only more people would do the same.

The One Thing That Has Kept You On Your Path

I started writing because I needed an outlet. I was stuck in a dead-end job, bored to death and in a department full of computer techie men…a.k.a not people to giggle and chat with on lunch breaks. So, on my lunches and in evenings, I would write. My characters became my work buddies because I’d think about them and what they were doing when I got especially frustrated in the office. I know this sounds weird, but I swear I’m not delusional!

Finally, after I quit that job, and my social life got much more agreeable, I continued writing because by then the characters had almost become alive. Their stories demanded to be told, so I wrote. After my first novel, I thought I’d be done for a while, but soon a new character appeared and I felt the same urgency to get her down on paper. The same thing happened the third time. Now I’m in between. I haven’t had another flash of insight yet, so I’m putting writing on hold for a bit and focusing on my boys and will see what happens in the future.

Advice for a Young Writer

There are a lot of hard things about being an author. Getting published in 2014 is not as easy as Anne of Green Gables made it seem back in the 1900s. Agents and resumes and cover letters and all kinds of details that you never think about make getting published very frustrating.

Then once you land a publishing contract, editing is hard. Your perfect story suddenly has a million things wrong with it and you make changes and add and cut and it is hard work. It makes it better in the end, but during the editing process there were a million times I wanted to scream in frustration!

And there is dealing with negative reviews once you finish and the book is out. You put your soul on display for others to view and judge and it is very challenging.

But, keep going. That’s my advice. Suck it up and keep trying.  Like anything worthwhile in life, being a writer takes effort, but it is worth it. You have become immortal.

1 thought on ““Maintaining Physical and Emotional Wellness as a Writer” / Whitney Boyd

  1. Yes, writers are vulnerable and I think it’s because we exist in a state of openness and readiness in connection with the world around us, so people’s responses can hurt us, but ultimately we are writing because we have in different ways come across this particular ‘expression’ of what it is to be human; we have found a way to communicate with our fellow humans, and so the writing becomes something we have to do. So I guess we all have to ‘deal’ with the rest of it. I have a bike, in the summer I can take off and ride through the countyside, through, gates, and farms, and hills, and woods, mindlessly.

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