Self-Care for Creatives

This is Caitie Flum, literary agent at Liza Dawson Associates.caitieflumRC2

This is a tough (and wonderful) business with lots of long hours, high expectations, and rejections at every turn. There is high burn out in all areas—not just for writers, but for agents and editors, too.

Self-care is something that people in publishing are talking about a little more–and that is a very good thing. I think it is something EVERYONE needs to focus on—but especially those in creative fields.

A lot of us in this industry are also dealing with depression and/or anxiety, which compounds the strains even more. I am no expert, but here are some of the things I have either utilized or recommended to others.

  • Find a group, either in real life or online, that knows what you are going through, especially people who are around your level. It will show you that you are not alone and you will form friendships. Having a support system is so important—even if it’s just people who will tell you they’re feeling the same things
  • Remember that everyone has been there, even if there’s pressure not to talk about it. Bestselling authors tweet about how they still feel imposter syndrome sometimes. Heads of agencies sometimes can’t sell things. Editors lose out on books. You are not alone. You are not failing.
  • Take a break. Sometimes it fees like you can’t because there is so much to do, but it can be just what you need—and can make you more productive in the long run. This break doesn’t have to last days or weeks, but find something as simple as a podcast to listen to or a hobby that has nothing to do with books that is something that you do purely for yourself. Even if you set a timer and tell yourself you get a 30 minute break, that can help.
  • Know it is okay to ignore social media when it gets to be too much.
  • If you can afford it, find a therapist. Unfortunately, especially in the US, that is not always an option, but if it is for you, take advantage of it.

What are some of your best self-care tips? Let us know in the comments! Or send us an email at info at manuscriptwishlist dot com.


Caitie Flum joined Liza Dawson Associates in July 2014 as assistant and audio rights manager. She graduated from Hofstra University in 2009 with a BA in English with a concentration in publishing studies. Caitie interned at Hachette Book Group and Writers House. She was an Editorial Assistant then Coordinator for Bookspan, where she worked on several clubs including the Book-of-the-Month Club, The Good Cook, and the Children’s Book-of-the-Month Club.

7 thoughts on “Self-Care for Creatives”

  1. Yoga, walking, or running are the keys to my self-care, both as a writer and as a parent. If I can get close to the ocean or water of any sort, in good weather or bad, it’s restorative to me.

    I also took a mindfulness course through the med school here and felt the effects meditation had on my entire being. It actually helped me get through creative blocks as well as kept me calm when I allowed myself to just sit, doing only one thing for twenty minutes. (Instead of my usual doing twenty things in one minute.) Meditation is hard but it’s worth it. It made me slow down my entire day and focus on just one thing at a time, which did wonders for my lack of patience and anxiety.

    The best takeaway from the mindfulness course, though, is something you can do anywhere at any time: take three deep conscious breaths and be aware of every second of those breaths. In. Out. Just those three conscious breaths can have a positive effect of your whole self. I do it sitting in traffic — eyes open, of course.

    Also, be kind to yourself. Mentally beating yourself up over real/imagined failures or disappointments piles on your anxiety, stress, and unhappiness. Forgive yourself and let it go. Move on. You’ll try again.

  2. Ack — sorry to double-post but four more things that have helped me:

    * acupuncture

    * massage

    * volunteer trail restoration with the national parks: working in the dirt, getting sweaty, pulling weeds or whatever, was so relaxing. I don’t have a garden but this was just as good.

    *Headspace Mindfulness App: just ten minutes a day. It’s doable. It makes a difference.

  3. What a great idea for a post!

    I’ll add yet another endorsement to walking. I’m lucky enough to live near an incredible nature preserve, so I can easily ramble for two hours or more. It’s also useful for me in that I write about Faerie and nature spirits. Taking two hours away from my writing might otherwise make me twitchy, but I can justify the time away to my brain by calling it research–location scouting, world-building, even character sketching.

    Another thing I find helpful (though others may find it distracting) is keeping other things I love in my writing room. I’m an amateur herbalist, so keeping my herbal supplies in the room reminds me that there’s more to life than writing, even if sometimes it doesn’t feel like it. And if I’m having a terrible writing day, I can create an herbal something–tea, tincture, oil. Holding a physical creation in my hands, rather than ideas, can be very soothing. And the smell of the herbs doesn’t hurt, either!

    And finally, reading is very soothing to me. I find the most escapist thing I can lay my hands on and lose myself in a fictional character’s problems. It also serves to remind me of why I started writing in the first place.

  4. I find that doing manual/physical work helps, because it utilizes an entirely different set of skills from the mainly mental work of writing. Building something, cleaning, cooking. Regardless of where you live, there is probably an organization that needs volunteers who do things like that, so it gets you out of your home as well for both a physical and mental separation.

  5. I like the idea of we all talking about this! When I read “a lot of us in this industry are also dealing with depression and/or anxiety”, I knew this post was something that I needed to read. Something to make me feel like I’m not alone, like we all somewhat “belong together” because we all have issues — I need to keep thinking like that sometimes, need to remind myself that everyone in this industry has emotional problems.

    I have both depression and anxiety and a series of other things that require both therapy and medication — but sometimes this is not enough, and I doubt I’m the only one that feels like this isn’t enough. But you know what really makes me feel better, mainly when I’m beating myself up because of something that I wrote (or didn’t)? Videogames. Really. The scarier, the better. Not so long ago, when my depression wasn’t even allowing me to go out of my room, I called a friend from my high school years and we found my old videogame along with a few “boy” games that my brother suggested. Games that have a really good plot, but are also pretty scary and annoying and capable of angering me a lot. And this is surprisingly good! I got worked up because of the game and I spend hours trying to figure something out — something that has nothing to do with the publishing industry or anything at all. It’s a very good therapy.

    Besides that, I have five cats (don’t look at me like that! I’m a cat lady and I’m okay with that) that are always around. Four girls and a boy. The eldest, the only boy, likes to bite things playfully — he has a love affair with my hair and I’m okay with that, too. The three younger girls are always running around, destroying and stealing things. The older girl likes to sleep next to me the entire day — and sometimes she brings her toys and we play together (in fact, she just “gifted” me with her Patrick Star plushie). It’s a good therapy, too. Animal therapy is, im fact, the thing that makes me happy whenever I’m feeling crappy. Just going to walk around the zoo helps, too. I think that just being near any animal is good for our minds, helps us relax.

    But when nothing of it works, I usually just go to one of my parents and pretend I’m a little girl again.

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