Of all God’s creatures, perhaps the most maligned and most misunderstood is the author. It’s easy to see why, really—for all the amazing literary transubstantiation that transforms caffeinated beverages into words, they still have the tendency to wander aimlessly, ramble about imaginary people, and go for long stretches without showering or changing out of yoga pants. You may find them sobbing over their keyboards for no apparent reason or giggling manically to themselves with their fingers flying over their laptop keys. Never fear, however; this behavior is normal and what authors like to call Part of Their Process.
If you have one within your care, you may want to refer to this handy field guide on how to properly care for and feed your author.
1. Feed your author a well-balanced diet.
Authors may say they can subsist on a steady diet of black coffee and Twizzlers, but this is indeed not the ideal diet for one who lives a mostly sedentary lifestyle. Long hours in front of the computer, frantically typing words beneath a looming deadline, tend to make authors forget about normal things like meal planning and cooking. If you live in a house with an author on deadline, the kindest thing you can do is help plan well-balanced meals that do not involve talking into a speaker or paying a delivery man. It has been scientifically demonstrated that a clean diet filled with fresh fruits and vegetables increases both productivity and creativity. For difficult cases, we recommend tossing sliced fruit and bags of baby carrots toward the author’s desk and then backing away slowly.
2. Take your author for frequent walks.
Because authors live in their own minds for long stretches of time, they have the tendency to forget about the outside world. Yet plenty of research has demonstrated that productivity and focus decrease the longer we spend on a task, and people who take hourly breaks (yes, even to watch funny cat videos on YouTube) are more productive than those who don’t. Additionally breaks taken outside have even greater benefit: a walk around the block can make your author more creative, more focused, and more productive when they return.
3. Encourage your author to play regularly.
It is easy for your author to get so fixated on the deadline ahead of them that they only make time for their obligations and their work, leaving recreation on the back burner. However, long-term play deprivation has the same effect as sleep deprivation—it can make people cranky, less creative, and more stressed out, none of which are conducive to writing their best work. Whether it’s playing the guitar, putting together Legos with a child, or doing a crossword puzzle, play unrelated to work is vital to your author’s wellbeing.
4. Expose your author to many different inspirational art forms.
Many authors will limit themselves to reading in their genre for inspiration, which is leaving out an entire world of artistic endeavors to explore. All arts have one thing in common: they’re meant to give the watcher/reader/listener a different view on the world and to make them feel. For writers, that means inspiration can be found across genres and disciplines: dance, music, art, theater. Take your author to a concert, to a play, to the ballet . . . and watch the creativity flow.
5. Give your author frequent praise, while blocking access to their Amazon rankings and Goodreads reviews.
Authors are strange creatures who rarely believe the praise of strangers but take their criticism directly to heart. If you love an author, the best thing you can do is to remind them how proud you are of them, while limiting their access to the worst of the online criticism. They need to be reminded that they’re more than their ability to write stories and that they’re important no matter how successful (or not) their writing is. The more they can focus on the close relationships in their real life, the more able they will be to brush off the criticism of strangers . . . and the better equipped they will be to make more art.
Of course, there are times when all the above will fail, and it’s important to remember that at heart, authors are still wild creatures. If you find yourself in a situation where none of the above are possible, I suggest that you throw good-quality chocolate . . . and run.
What are your self-care must-haves to keep yourself happy and productive? Tell me in the comments below. One commenter will win a copy of my upcoming novel The Saturday Night Supper Club, releasing February 6, 2018! Or preorder your own copy here.
Carla Laureano is the RITA® Award–winning author of contemporary inspirational romance and Celtic fantasy (as C. E. Laureano). A graduate of Pepperdine University, she worked as a sales and marketing executive for nearly a decade before leaving corporate life behind to write fiction full-time. She currently lives in Denver with her husband and two sons, where she writes during the day and cooks things at night. Sign up for her newsletter at www.CarlaLaureano.com to get a free e-book romance novella.