I was recently commissioned by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) to write a piece for authors struggling to work through this time of coronavirus. The article is called Keep Up the Good Words.
I acknowledge that I’m writing from a fortunate position. Not only do I have plenty of work (although I’ve lost several months’ income from school events and conferences) but I also don’t have a home life full of negative pressures, whether from inadequate accommodation, emotionally fraught relationships or the never-ending hard work and angst of trying to keep manage a family during lockdown. I live in the country, with a large garden and open space and myriad benefits that I acknowledge gratefully. I have plenty of worries but they are the sort that keep me awake at night rather than also dominating my day. At the moment.
But, whether I’m talking about mental health or career health (and the two are connected), in order to do a good job in helping people and to be professional I need to be able to step back and look at the situation with a slight – very slight – emotional distance. People don’t give good advice when in a panic or the throes of distress.
People give good advice when:
- They have some knowledge and understanding of the processes of human behaviour and psychology
- They know something of the lives, drives, mechanisms and pressures of the people they advise
- They are feeling calm and thoughtful, allowing their prefrontal cortex to lead their emotional limbic system, rather than the other way round
I know what it’s like to panic about when I’ll ever get a book published or an article commissioned; I know what it’s like to have ideas ignored or rejected; I know what it’s like being a fragile freelancer. It’s horrible; it drags you down; makes you feel angry or worthless but always powerless. So I’ve been there but I’m not there now. And I hope that – the having been there but not being there now – helps me offer calm, thoughtful advice, whether on wellbeing or writing.
Thank you to ALCS for asking me to write that article. (And for their own excellent work in improving writers’ rights and income.) I wish I thought my advice would solve everyone’s problems but I know it won’t. What I do hope is that it helps some people take a step back, breathe, wait, observe, and then keep on keeping on. Keep up the good words.