Over and over, I notice hardworking creative people (myself included) coming up empty in the areas of time and energy for reasons related to misplaced empathy. The act of writing requires the ability to place yourself in someone else’s shoes, so it makes sense that writers might carry it over into our daily lives, too. A good thing.
With the following people, though, I’ve found it’s a problematic habit to give *too* much:
- Dementors. These people latch onto your face and suck the last dredges of joy out of you like desperate winos. They accomplish this by relaying every Susie Sad Sack tale they’ve heard in the past five days without pausing for breath. Because you’re a nice person, you listen with concern. End result: you waste your emotional energy on empathy for people you’ve never met, can’t assist, and who may or may not actually exist. Never. Cheerful. Again.
- Bottomless Need-holes. Adults who are capable of consoling themselves or making a better plan for self-care who don’t bother. And why would they? They have you! These are the people for whom Let Me Google That For You exists.
- Ass Kissing/Worrying. There’s a fine line between networking and nervously following every move of someone a little more successful than you. It’s easy to obsess when you’re at the bottom of the writing chain. Unfortunately, stalking doesn’t pen your novel for you. Advice: make your interactions meaningful, but don’t obsess.
- Crisis Junkies. Crisis junkies are different than drama queens in that they have a talent for landing themselves in truly alarming trouble on a regular basis. They could choose to end unhealthy relationships, stand up for themselves, or generally make better decisions, but where would be the fun in that? They eat your precious plot-solving skills alive with their steady stream of self-created problems.
- The Project. Playing Emma Woodhouse to someone’s Harriet. In the same way your MC needs to fail to make an interesting plot, so do other people. Trying to save people will exhaust everyone involved. To paraphrase Mr. Knightly, you stop that shit right now. Unless you can weave it into a plot somehow. (Then, you need to message me and let me beta read that juicy, hot mess. :3 )
- The Mirror. Allowing yourself to mirror or adopt the passions or morals of others can seem like enlightenment, at least right up until you crumple under the weight of them. Just because my best friend finds joy in knitting all-organic silk sweaters for donkeys with alopecia doesn’t mean I need to. Being myself is good enough.
- Trying to be Superman/Wonderwoman. Having clean underwear is important. Having a spotless floor 24/7 is ambitious. No one’s going to read your book and know whether your sink was clean or your car was waxed. Do the adult things you need to keep your life running smoothly, but don’t fall into a pattern of perfectionism because you feel guilty for writing or have something to prove. Unless you truly enjoy the process. (In which case: you do you, you shiny, clean unicorn! ^.^ )
You, dear writer, get to matter. Your writing doesn’t need to be a side-hobby. Don’t apologize for it. It’s not selfish that stories are your passion. It’s really okay to let go of emotional entanglements that do nothing to feed back into your own health and dreams. Real friends recognize that your time is important. Life’s too short. Write your beautiful stories.