The Art of Staying Sane

Photo of Pamela Mingle

by Pam Mingle

Have you ever felt bombarded by the number of possibilities out there? All the social media to engage with, meetings to attend, blogs posts to prepare, manuscripts and books to read, research to start? Notice I haven’t even mentioned any forms of the verb “to write.”


During my critique group meeting Friday, I felt myself getting twitchy. Every time someone would share something they were involved with, I’d think, “Eeek, I should be doing that,” or “I should LEARN to do that,” or “I’ve got to read that book. Why haven’t I read that book?” A weight began pressing against my chest.

My critique group is comprised of the other members of The Wild Writers, and what a talented bunch they are. Writers (all ages and genres), artists, and illustrators. Bloggers. Those who tweet. Readers. Mentors. Researchers. SCBWI volunteers. Award winners. How could I keep up with this crowd, let alone all the other talented people out there, and still keep writing as my first priority?

After the meeting, I took a long walk and confronted the cold, hard truth: I don’t have the interest, let alone the skills, to do all that my colleagues are doing. It simply wouldn’t work for me. I whipped out the note pad I keep in my pocket and began jotting some ideas as to how writers might deal with this pressure we’re all feeling, the pressure to do what everyone else is doing:

  • Consider where you are with your writing. What are your personal goals? What do you need to do to accomplish them?
  • Prioritize everything else. Make your writing time inviolate. If you want to blog, tweet, check Facebook, study writing craft books and articles, etc., do it some other time.
  • Ask yourself which of these activities is the most important to you. Are any of them hurting rather than helping you? Are you doing some of these things to avoid writing?
  • Gradually shed the tasks that have become a burden—the ones that feel like an obligation more than anything else. Recently I decided to “unsubscribe” from several electronic publishing-related newsletters. I’d felt obligated to read them every day, and it was too time consuming.
  • Be honest with yourself about what you can take on. Resist the urge to compare yourself with others. Only you can know what works for you.

It’s so easy to lose focus, to become overwhelmed by the number of diversions available in this media-rich society. Certainly there are times when writing has to take a back seat. If you have a book coming out, or you need to set aside a draft to gain perspective, it may be the right time to work on marketing and promotion, catch up on your professional reading, and find out what’s happening in the publishing world, among other things. But long term, the day-to-day life of a writer should be about writing above all else.

What are you doing to keep writing first in your life?


  1. This is something I wrestle with myself. There’s so much that I SHOULD be doing, both in book promotion and in life. (Not to mention any form of that to write verb.) My feeling, after quite a few failures and dropped balls, is that your best bet for PR activities is to pursue something that you love, and would do for its own sake even if you didn’t have a book to promote. Otherwise, you probably won’t do it well or often enough to make a difference. But that’s one of those things that’s easier to say than to put into practice.

    • Hilari–All the “shoulda,” “coulda,” “wouldas” make life hard (writing is HARD!). And I totally agree with you…if you dislike doing something…you’re not going to stick with it.



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