Stephanie Morrill is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com and the author of several young adult novels, including the historical mystery, The Lost Girl of Astor Street, which releases in February 2017. Despite loving cloche hats and drop-waist dresses, Stephanie would have been a terrible flapper because she can’t do the Charleston and looks awful with bobbed hair. She and her near-constant ponytail live in Kansas City with her husband and three kids. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and sign up for monthly updates on her author website.
My husband is a boss in the corporate world. He's in charge of a team of 16 people. While on the surface his job is to keep an eye on what the engineers are designing, help problem solve, and make sure everyone has what they need, one of his biggest responsibilities is to care for the mental state of his team.
If you've ever had a boss, you've likely experienced firsthand how their attitude impacts the mood of the entire staff. A good boss nudges employees when he or she knows they can do better, but offers grace at the right moments too. A good boss may need to push a team through a season of hard work, but then knows to offer rest on the other side. A good boss knows how to reward and recognize employees in a way that's meaningful to them.
And as I thought about that, it struck me:
When you are your own boss, you are in charge of your own morale.
Yes, I need to be self-motivated, disciplined, organized, and all those other things that are important when you are self-employed. But I'm also in charge of my emotional and mental conditions.
And if you're like me—meaning nobody asks you to write, but you do it because you love it and want to get better at it—then you are also your own boss of your writing, and you also will thrive if you learn how to keep your morale high.
Here are 5 things I do to keep myself mentally healthy and happy:
1. I reward myself for milestones.
For me it's been as dorkily simple as noting how many words I wrote that day. I do this in a spreadsheet because I'm cool like that, and it gives me the same boost as when I mark an item off my to-do list.
My spreadsheet looks like this:
If you want other ideas for how to reward yourself for hitting milestones, I'll be compiling a list to go out with the next edition of Go Teen Writers Notes.
2. I connect with my peers.
You know how when you struggle through a situation—taking an awful class, babysitting a difficult child, etc.—you can instantly bond with someone else who has done the same thing? That feeling is why my writing friends are so important to me.
Connecting with them energizes me. Not just when we help each other through plot troubles (though I need that too!) but when I'm feeling bummed out about a story or missed opportunity. They're amazing about saying, "Hey, I've been there too. It's tough. You'll get through it."
3. I value rest time.
Sometimes when people work from home, they struggle with frittering away time because there's no one holding you accountable.
But many struggle with the opposite issue. Sometimes my inner boss has a hard time granting me vacation.
Like last Thursday night. I often work at night, but by the time I got the kids in bed and the house somewhat picked up, I was tired. So instead of answering a few emails or finishing that scene I started earlier in the day, I watched an episode of Gilmore Girls.
And then I spent the rest of the night feeling horribly guilty over my choice to rest instead of work. That's not okay. Having time away from work is a really healthy thing, even when you love what you do.
I've also noticed how much more creative and happy I feel when I'm getting 8 hours of sleep at night. I know lots of people cut sleep when they need to get things done, but that's just not a good long term solution for me.
4. I own my priorities.
If you don't take the time to set your priorities, somebody else will.
I become a very frustrated writer on days when I accidentally let others influence my priorities too much.
Mostly my priorities get attacked in my email inbox. I have one sitting in there right now that is an email from a writer I don't know, and the subject line is "Please Read And Respond!!!!" Inside the email is a lot of lingo about getting back to them ASAP. I care about this email and this writer, but it isn't as high on my priority list as they want it to be.
There have been times when I've let somebody else's urgency dictate how I spend my time, but I'm getting a lot better at standing by the priorities I've set.
5. I only take responsibility for what actually is my responsibility.
There are lots of things that I have control over. Writing the best story I possibly can. Creating the most interesting blog posts or social media updates that I'm capable of.
But I can't control if somebody chooses to buy my book or RT my post, right? I can do my best to influence it, of course, but I can't make them do it.
When I'm obsessing over something (why were there not more likes? how come they got a contract, and I didn't?) I have to ask myself if this is something I can control, something I can influence, or something that's completely out of my hands. Identifying which category it belongs in often brings peace to the situation.
What do you do to keep yourself happy and healthy in times of stress?