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Self Care For Writers Online

Written by Lara Williams

As a writer, we are afforded many opportunities to engage online that are beneficial, rewarding and fun. We may wish to increase our profile by interacting with other writers on Twitter. We might be vlogging book reviews or behind-the-scenes insights into our writing practice. We may host a lively author profile on Goodreads. Whatever platforms we use, or however we engage with social media – it is worth considering the ways in which we can do so in a way that is both productive, and protective of our emotional and mental health. 

And while social media and sites such as YouTube and Goodreads are mostly very supportive, safe and useful spaces for writers – there are occasionally times when using these platforms might make us feel anxious, vulnerable or angry. This certainly shouldn’t put you off: every time we leave the house we run the risk of interactions that might not go exactly as we hope they will. But it is worth being mindful of ways we can minimise the chances of this online, or how we can deal with their aftermath. The ways we can exercise good self care.

What Is Self Care & How Can We Use It Online

Self care is any action we engage with to take care of our emotional or mental health. And self care online is just specific to how we can do so when interacting in an online environment. It includes the ways in which we can take care of ourselves while, for example, speaking to people on social media, or reading book reviews published online. This might be how we protect our privacy or whether we respond to negative reviews or comments. It might include managing our anxiety or being wary of our emotions in an online arena. It might include the ways we consciously remove ourselves from a disagreement or a precarious conversation. Above all, self care is about being attuned to our own needs and the good things we can do to look after ourselves.

Privacy Online

A good starting point when thinking about self care online is to audit your privacy. Obviously different writers will be comfortable sharing different levels of their private lives online. But no matter what you are sharing, it is always worth ensuring you are following best practice in terms of protecting your personal data. Get Safe Online is the UK’s leading resource for staying safe online, and has a page dedicated to ways you can protect your privacy online, and the various things you should be aware of. Digital Guardian is a data loss prevention organisation, and offers guidance on ensuring your passwords are safe. Finally, the Huffington Post has some helpful information on the different privacy risks when using social media.

Confrontation

Confrontation and conflict is often part of life, but it can be harder to deal with when you are being confronted or being spoken to negatively online – you cannot always determine the tone of the comment and might feel pressured into quickly responding.

Ways To Avoid Conflict

Be careful in how you word tweets or Facebook posts. Reread them and make sure they are coming across clearly and unambiguously. Remember, tone is often impossible to perceive online, and so be mindful of this if you are posting something you believe should be intended with irony or sarcastically.

If you are posting something potentially controversial, accept that you may elicit a negative or combative response from some people. Certain subjects relevant to writing are likely to attract the attention of internet “trolls” – you cannot control their behaviour and so do not try to. Try not to take things personally.

What To Do If You Are Being Confronted

First of all, consider the nature of the confrontation, and how you might want to respond.

If you believe you might have legitimately offended someone, hear them out. Be courteous but do not get dragged into a protracted argument. Be willing to own and apologise for something you have said. Spend time with a response before sending it. Aim to de-escalate the confrontation. At the earliest opportunity, take the conversation out of the public realm. Offer to speak with your confronter via email, in your Twitter direct messages or equivalent. The consultancy company Bizxcel offers good guidance on how to avoid an online confrontation.

However, if you feel you are being unfairly targeted or harassed, as hard as it might seem, try not to engage. Report tweets, Facebook posts, Youtube comments or Instagram content that could be considered abusive or defamatory. Screengrab posts before reporting them as evidence.

Negative Reviews Online

Negative reviews are part and parcel of being a writer – you cannot please everyone. There are many different platforms on which you might receive a negative review: Amazon, Goodreads, a website or blog, or even YouTube. Chances are, at some stage in your career, you will receive a negative review.

Trickily, however, when you receive a negative review online there is usually the opportunity to respond to it. You might be tempted to tweet the writer of the negative review or find yourself in an argument in the comments.

The Guardian advises maintaining a dignified silence, and not seeking out the reviewer, or trying to change their mind. Writers Digest encourages you to remind yourself you cannot control what anybody else writes, just as they cannot control what you writer. And IndieAuthors suggests reading the good reviews in lieu of responding to the bad ones. Again, the same principles reply in terms of negative Goodreads and Amazon reviews – do not reply. On Bookriot a reviewer even suggests not replying to the positive reviews, as it feels a slightly uncomfortable dynamic.

Sometimes, a helpful exercise when dealing with bad reviews is to investigate what else the reviewer has reviewed. You might find they writing glowing reviews of books that are simply nothing like your own, and so it may be a matter of taste. You might find the person who wrote your scathing Amazon review has in fact written a number of scathing reviews, and that is their prerogative – but it might make you feel a little bit better about your own. Above all, it is always helpful remembering reviews are innately subjective.

Looking After Yourself Offline

If you are feeling overwhelmed by something you have encountered online, or if you have been embroiled in a conflict or conversations that is making you feel anxious, try stepping away from the internet for a while.

There are resources to help you manage anxiety in a more broad sense. The mental health charities Mind and Anxiety UK have some excellent tips of managing stress or anxiety in the moment, such as breathing exercises and distraction techniques. If you are finding you need more tailored help, speak to your GP.

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