Making Art From Life. Mental Health For Writers With Toby Neal

What are some of the common mental health issues that writers face? How can we use writing to help us process our problems, and turn our life into art through our books? Author and mental health therapist Toby Neal shares her thoughts and tips.

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week here in the UK with a special focus on anxiety, which so many of us experience in different ways. Get 20% off The Healthy Writer, The Relaxed Author and The Successful Author Mindset on my store using discount code: HEALTH.

In the introduction, Outlive: The Science and Art of Longevity by Dr Peter Attia; Menopausing by Davina McCall; Ultimate Guide to Selling Print Books Online [ALLi]; TikTok publishing? [TechCrunch]; Google rolling out generative AI, Duet for Workspace; Generative Search, Marketing Against the Grain podcast; Did we consent to our data training generative AI? [The Author Analyst]; Writing memoir & Pilgrimage.

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Toby Neal is the award-winning USA Today best-selling author of mysteries, thrillers, and romance, with over 40 titles, as well as writing memoir and travel. She’s also a mental health therapist, which is what we’re talking about today.

You can listen above or on your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and the full transcript is below. 

Show Notes

  • Common mental health challenges for authors
  • Tips for dealing with post-COVID anxiety
  • Dealing with the overwhelm of social media
  • Journaling as a tool to help process and make sense of our lives
  • Writing as a way to turn life into art
  • Tracking self-care
  • How to find a community of like-minded people
  • Working through fear of the future and how to weatherize your author business

You can find Toby at

Transcript of Interview with Toby Neal

Joanna: Toby Neal is the award-winning USA Today best-selling author of mysteries, thrillers and romance, with over 40 titles, as well as writing memoir and travel. She’s also a mental health therapist, which is what we’re talking about today. So welcome back to the show, Toby.

Toby: Thanks so much for having me again, Joanna.

Joanna: I’m excited to talk to you about this really important topic. And before we get into it, we should say, this is not medical or professional advice. Please see your medical professional for your situation.

So you’ve been on the show several times before, so we’re just going to jump straight into the topic. As an author yourself, and someone who helps authors with mental health challenges—

What are some of the most common challenges that authors face in this area?

Toby: Well, I see that most authors who are working in the field at full-time to semi full-time are struggling with isolation, a lot of times anxiety and overwhelm.

Many authors have triggered episodes of depression based on the sales of a book, rejections, etc. There are a lot of sort of cyclical challenges that we face in this creative field.

Joanna: So interesting. We’re going to talk about some of those.

Let’s start with anxiety because I feel like it can manifest in different ways. I love that you say cyclical there. I mean, chronic self-doubt, fear of failure, perfectionism, imposter syndrome, and it can end up in panic attacks. Lots of anxiety, really.

What are some of the things that you’ve seen or even experienced yourself? Any recommendations?

Toby: I don’t think we can tackle this topic without talking a little bit about how COVID and the isolation of the last few years have sort of exacerbated the challenges for not just authors, but everyone. And they’ve also exacerbated the dearth of professionals that are available to help. At least in my area of rural Oregon, you can’t find a therapist, even if you are begging for one.

A lot of people left the field, and there’s just been a gigantic situation with isolation. And whatever your challenge was going into COVID, it might have gotten amplified. I feel that that is something we just have to mention.

So circling back around to the issue of anxiety. Another one we see a lot now is fear of leaving your home, which is agoraphobia. And because we spent so much time in our home, getting out can become something you have to begin to overcome again. And what if you gained weight? And what if you don’t like yourself right now because, you know, of that COVID 10 pounds or what have you?

All of those things get to be, like I said, amplified by the last few years. And we’re not entirely out of the woods with that.

Joanna: I mean, it’s interesting you mentioned fear of leaving home and agoraphobia. I feel like anxiety, and depression, and many of these words we use in mental health, people are like, “Oh, I don’t feel that. It’s not that bad.”

Like, certainly for me, when you say agoraphobia, I’m like, “No, of course, I don’t feel that.” But equally, I had to really get back into expanding my comfort zone. That’s kind of what I’m calling it. Maybe a light version.

I think maybe a lot of us have light versions of these things because we’re not talking necessarily about things that need medication here. What we’re talking about is things that play a part in all of our lives.

So I have to actively, and I’m someone who travels, right. It’s like, oh, it would be much easier to just stay at home, but I have to push myself out there.

What are some ways that we can deal with some of these things? Whether we call it anxiety, or whether we call it stress.

Toby: Stress, or just, you know, getting out of our comfort zone, what became comfortable during COVID, you know. I kind of forgot how to put makeup on and how to dress and basic things like that. My hair, it’s a mile long and hasn’t been styled in forever. All of those things become something that you kind of have to put your big girl panties on and deal with. 

I’m going to talk a little bit about a couple of tools that I feel are really helpful and easy to access for anyone. One of them is called tapping, Emotional Freedom Technique. I use an app on my phone called The Tapping Solution. I am not an affiliate, so I’m going to always say if I’m an affiliate of something.

I am not an affiliate of The Tapping Solution, but it’s got a wonderful library of these different scenarios that you might face with anxiety, from turning your day around, to ten days of gratitude, to increasing your immune system. What tapping is, is a sequential series of pulse points on your face and hand while repeating different affirmations.

So what’s really nice is the people on the app have this lovely mellifluous voice and talk you through first owning the anxiety that you have, and then turning it around to an affirmation. And meanwhile, you’re doing this little tapping sequence. It’s very noninvasive, you can learn it in five minutes. 

I can’t say enough good things about it because I’ve seen it have actual lasting clinical benefits for clients, as well as being completely accessible to the general public. So again, The Tapping Solution and tapping, or EFT. You can look it up online, there’s all kinds of YouTube videos also.

So that’s one tool I want to mention to everyone. And it cannot just be anxiety, but whatever that you want to work on. Like I’ve often worked on, I have a sugar addiction, releasing my attachment to sugar. And really trying, when we get into other tools, for me, diet and exercise are huge in managing mental health.

So I am a clinical therapist licensed in the state of Hawaii to do therapy, and I have all those degrees and what have you, but at the core of it, I’m a person who has struggled with an abusive past growing up in an alcoholic home, overcoming a lot of trauma, and trying to heal myself. All of that led me to become a therapist, and ultimately, a writer, which was always my dream from the beginning. So that’s kind of my background.

So I’m not like speaking to you from a place of “oh, I have it all figured out.”

I struggle, and I’m in the trenches right with you trying to use these tools.

So I want to share the ones that have been particularly helpful. Another one I love is hypnosis.

And when I was trained in clinical hypnosis, my teacher said, “All hypnosis is basically self-hypnosis.” We basically allow our minds to open us to a suggestion, and then we engage with that suggestion. Hypnosis is a super powerful tool along with tapping.

I, for my clients, sometimes I will work with them to create a list of beliefs and affirmations that they want in their lives. Then I’ll use my special hypnosis voice to use their own words to create a hypnosis recording that they can listen to over and over. And we’ve had lots of people see really big breakthroughs with that.

You can get your hypnosis done online. There’s all kinds of things you can buy. The Calm app even has some in it. Like if you want to listen to different hypnosis for sleep, or hypnosis for getting rid of sugar or whatever. So I want to mention these because to me, tapping and hypnosis are hacks. They just like cut through the need to talk about the problem and get right to the solution. Does that make sense?

Joanna: I really love that. I’ve tried hypnotherapy for phobia and I’ve tried cognitive behavioral therapy.

Also, there are other apps, non-sleep deep relaxation, for example, yoga. I mean, the ones that you’ve suggested, and I think this is the overwhelming thing that I feel with mental health and probably with physical health, is you can dismiss things and roll your eyes if you think, oh, that’s too woowoo or that’s not going to work, but just try things out.

And if they don’t work, try something else because the reality is that it all goes up and down all the time.

There is a place for medical help if that is something you need. I felt my mental health was greatly improved by going on HRT as a midlife woman, and that was one aspect of anxiety, depression, that kind of thing. [I recommend reading Menopausing by Davina McCall if you want to understand more about this.]

You can’t just let it carry on. I think that’s what I would say to you. Like we have to deal with this. This is our lives, isn’t it?

Toby: Right. It does.

What we know about mental health issues is they can start small and then they can build.

And the mind is an amazing thing. It’s plastic, it’s expansive, it can be incredibly resilient, and it can also be very resistant, and it has a tendency to catastrophize and always to go to the dark side.

If you look at our evolution, it’s clear that fear and anxiety were there to keep us safe. Then fear of a large dog then generalizes to cows and deer and goats and all these things because your mind is trying to keep you safe. And pretty soon you’re afraid of any large animal, you know.

So that’s why you need to nip it in the bud when you see something getting out of hand. Like, for instance, hoarding is another thing I see a lot of after COVID. We surround ourselves with stuff and somehow think that’s going to make us feel safe or like we have what we need, but it’s a black hole. There’s never going to be enough stuff.

The hoarding is a form of anxiety, in case people wondered. It’s not a lack of willpower, it’s a branch of anxiety. Many people need like a clinical intervention to, A, get rid of the stuff and, B, have the wherewithal to dig into what does the stuff represent. And that can be mental stuff as well as physical things that we’re collecting and surrounding ourselves with.

So my advice is, at this moment, is:

If there’s an area of your life that’s causing you concern, don’t waste time and allow it to grow and expand and generalize.

Because that’s the way the mind works, that’s one of the predictable ways that phobias grow and populate. They get bigger and they get more, rather than smaller, unless you do an intervention of some sort with yourself.

Joanna: Yes, and it’s being aware of what’s going on.

So just a very practical thing around social media, because the internet has brought us many good things, and also many bad things. And one of those things is the kind of doom scrolling that some of us get into, or the constantly checking, whether that sales figures or whether people have liked a certain post or you know, every day checking ad spend, all of that kind of thing. Now, you can do this in a healthy way, but also you have to be aware if you’re doing it in an unhealthy way.

How do you, personally, as an author, deal with overwhelm of what other people think on social media?

This is definitely something I struggle with.

Toby: It’s tough, it’s tough, because I’m right in the trenches with you. I have a very large platform, I have, for the most part, lovely, lovely, loyal fans. And I wish everyone could have a fan group because my little fan group on Facebook is a place where I go, and I created rules in the fan group to make it a safe place, not just for me, but for everybody who’s in it.

I basically limit my social media exposure and my news exposure. I’m very not on the grid with any of that. And I only do what I have to do to maintain my presence as an author in the areas that I see as useful.

Again, everybody’s going to find that to be different. For me, Facebook has been the platform where I focus most of my energy. My fan base is older, that’s the platform they’re on. That’s the platform they’re comfortable with. So finding where your readers are and creating a niche for them around that can be also really lovely for you.

So when I have a down day, maybe I’ll say something, I’ll throw something into my group. This is so sad, I mean, I’m just like admitting my own weakness here. But I’ll be like, “Which character is your favorite in my series?” and then I just wait for the fans to pop up with their little stories. And of course, I do a giveaway, usually, you know. “Just enter to get a mug and tell me which is your favorite character.” And that will boost my mood and my self-esteem, and they’re getting a prize, and they’re happy.

So there’s ways to harness it, you know. But for me, it’s really all about limiting everything and just keeping my phone off a lot. I have no notifications enabled whatsoever on any device. I try to control my access.

There will be the inevitable harsh review, some of them will penetrate my filters, and usually I’ll do a giveaway to counteract that.

Joanna: I love that, turning it into something positive. And yes, I’m grateful for the Patreon supporters of this podcast. I also have a folder in my email which is nice fan mail folder, where people send me emails that make my day.

Sometimes I’ll even print the good ones out and put them in my journal because it feels like it’s too easy to pay attention to the negativity when most people are silent. Like the silent majority is not commenting at all, but we seem to remember the negative so much.

I did want to ask you specifically, so a lot of your background is in Freckled, your memoir, and that book you put a lot of your family in it, you put a lot of your struggles in it. And with your other memoir writing and your travel writing, you’re putting a lot of this out there.

A lot of people have anxiety around putting their personal stories out there, so how have you dealt with this?

Because you’ve also had some negativity around that memoir, haven’t you? So how have you dealt with that?

Toby: That’s a really good question. I kind of come back to the core reason why I do it. And that’s what I have to keep returning to over and over again when I’m feeling vulnerable. So Freckled is actually my best-selling book out of 40 plus titles. It’s sold close to 75,000 copies in full price at almost $9 apiece, and it sells in print as well. 

I think it’s because two reasons. One, it’s a very unusual book. It’s written about growing up in the 70s in Hawaii, and I wrote it in an unusual way. So it’s a very immersive experience for the reader. I age up the writing, and it’s in first person present tense, and you’re just in Hawaii having all these experiences with me, until it ends when I’m 18. So it’s a very unusual memoir.

It was totally mind-blowing for my relatives who had no idea what was going on in our home, and what were the situations we were living in. They all thought it must be so much fun in Hawaii, and really, we were homeless and camping on a river, and eating boiled chicken feet for food, and wearing dyed clothes because my dad was having a paranoid episode, and there was all these things going on.

So I had my aunts and different relatives contact me, like we had no idea. We would have helped if we had known. And I had to work through all of this feedback from people.

So yes, if you’re going to write this kind of book, you had better be prepared. My mom, who was also the most strong supporter of the book, also got to read an early draft, but somehow didn’t grasp what would happen when the book was public.

And later, she got very, very upset with me, and we went through a really difficult period of working through where she felt super vulnerable and exposed and like, did I do that for revenge and all these things.

So I’m not going to downplay that. That is a risk.

What keeps me going is this calling that I felt in my heart to make art from life.

So to me, memoir is making art from your life. It’s not therapy, it’s not your personal journal, it’s not your story, per se, just throw it out anyway. It is a curated art form that you work very hard on, if it’s going to be any good at all. And you do that because you have a desire to make art from the life that you’ve had.

So that’s why I do it. Not for money, not to hang my family out to dry, but because what I believe is that when you make art from life, you bring healing to others.

You draw back this curtain for everybody who has suffered silently in an abusive home with alcoholism, or put on the happy face of the achiever, because that was my role as the oldest child was to go out into the community and achieve, achieve, achieve, no matter what was going on, so that the family looked good.

So when we draw back that curtain, we heal others. We give others permission to tell their story and to bring air onto that wound.

Joanna: It’s interesting that you say that a memoir is not therapy but writing itself can help us. I’ve kept journals since I was about 15. I have them here in my office.

writing journals
Some of my many journals!

And I mean, when I read some of my journals from—I’m married for the second time—when my husband left me, when I read those journals, I don’t even recognize that person. And I’ve never published those words.

This is an important thing, right? You can write for therapy, but that doesn’t mean you have to publish it.

Whereas what you did there was turn your therapy, once you had processed it, into a memoir. How can the act of writing, even if it’s in your journal, help us?

Why does writing help us process things?

Toby: It’s the act of becoming aware of being aware.

And when you think about thinking, that meta work, we draw back a little bit from being in our lives, to assess our lives. And in therapy, and in CBT when I was doing therapy full time, CBT cognitive behavioral therapy, is the best practice recommendation for anxiety and depression and even trauma. So what you need is a tool in order to capture your thoughts and look at them and evaluate their validity.

I love what Robert Fulghum said. “Don’t believe everything you think.” That is a central premise. It’s a central premise of therapy. Don’t believe everything you think. And a journal, and the act of writing, is a way that you can capture what you’re thinking, and then do a little bit of a pullback and go, “Is this true? Is this real?” That is the process of therapy and CBT is evaluating your thoughts and for their truthfulness.

Even when you’re doing it really formally, you use a form of journaling that is like tracking. You have:

“Situation: going to the grocery store.

Thoughts: everybody thinks I’m fat, my hair looks terrible, when I go through the aisles, they’re judging me, and there’s germs.”

Right. So then over here, “Likelihood those thoughts are true: probably 15%.” You have to rate the amount of percent that you give to the truthfulness of those thoughts.

Another way to look at the situation. Yes, there are germs, but I can use hand sanitizer. Yes, I don’t look my best right now, but most people are also at the store to just buy food.

Joanna: Nobody cares!

Toby: So see the four-column structure I just gave you, that is the CBT form of tracking and writing that you would use in therapy. But I have a different form, and like you, I’ve been a lifelong journaler.

And those are going back to the Morning Pages, Julia Cameron’s The Artists Way, that’s just barfing it out on the page. You know, “Here I am today with all of these things, and this is what’s on my mind.” And all of that it is still valid.

Writing is a way that we make sense of our lives.

We write to know more deeply, to remember, and to understand our lives. And for me, that form of writing is separate from memoir.

Memoir is for public consumption, but what I write about in my private time in my journal, that is for me to make sense of myself, and of the world, and of the experience I’ve had. And you know what? Now it’s sort of to remember because I still have some lingering effects from long COVID and memory has been impacted. So I want to write every day so that I don’t forget.

Joanna: That’s interesting. And yes, the reasons why we do things change over our lives. And it’s interesting, I’m more of a binge journaler, so when I was going through that divorce, there were books and books and books. I might have had four whole journals across one year, when I was going through processing things. I would write multiple times a day.

Then when I’m going through happy periods, like at the moment, I only journal like every couple of weeks.

I feel like it’s almost like it builds up inside me until I feel like I really, really must go and sit in a cafe and write my journal because I feel like that is something I need to do every now and then.

I think this is important, especially as professional writers, because there’s this pressure that all the words we write are publishable, but it’s just true.

Toby: No, there is the garbage and luggage, we called it when I worked for a social service agency.

And when we had morning check-in with our employees, the head social worker would say, “What’s your garbage?” You know, the garbage is the ‘blah’ and just get it out onto the paper and release it. But luggage is, “What are we taking with us? What do we need to work through? What is the ongoing theme that we need to take action on?”

So I wanted to say a few words about the ways that we need to keep going with self-care.

I actually do tracking. If I could show it to you, you’d crack up. It’s on the side, I call it ‘the routine.’ So on the side, I’ve got written down five sun salutations, 2 x 15 kettlebells, 45 minute walk, no alcohol, no sugar, spirit time, 1500 new words, supplements and rest. This is all written on the side.

Then I have Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and every day that I achieved doing that activity, I’ve given myself a little sticker or a smiley face. Or if I didn’t do it, like, oh I had that glass of wine. So I’m trying to cut back on alcohol, I feel like it makes me fuzzy and unproductive the next day, even a small amount, but I love a nice nightcap. So it has been a rough habit to give up.

I don’t give myself a censure if I don’t make it, I just give myself the tracking cute little stickers. So I go and buy them online or I buy them at stationery stores.

This stuff works. Even when you’re a therapist, and you know this is behavioral reinforcement, and I know I’m giving myself behavioral reinforcement, I still get motivated by seeing a row of the cute little stickers. Spending money on myself to buy the cutest ones, and I only get those when I’m like, oh, I made it through a week of no glass of wine at the end of the day.

So I highly recommend that if you’re trying to build a habit, and again, these self-care activities are habits that we need to deliberately add to our lives or take away from our lives. When we take something out, we’ve got to put something in.

So again, instead of alcohol, I substituted an expensive bubbly water with a slice of lime, which I had to go buy, and I got the experience of that special drink, and so forth. If I didn’t do anything, then I’m having a rougher time replacing the habit. Does that make sense?

Joanna: For sure. And the stickers, I’ve always done sticker charts. And in fact, now I use to print my own stickers with my own meaningful images.

Toby: How fun. You know, it’s brilliant. That’s what we need is fun.

We need to treat that inner child self of ours with respect, with love, with nurture.

And it is more lured out to play than flogged with punishments. So for those of us in a creative field, it is a tough, tough thing to make a living doing creative work.

Whether it’s painting, or music, or writing or any of the arts, dance, what have you, it’s a rough way to make a living because you’re counting on that inner child to be able to keep performing. It can only really do that when there’s a nurturing environment, and the only person who could really do that is you.

So those are my little confessions, is that I, quite frankly, use behavioral reinforcement on myself. When I get those words, every 500 words, I get a sticker. So I’ve got a separate chart for that because sometimes it’s rough. It’s real work. It’s a job. You know?

Joanna: I think what’s important too is that you—and you have a lot of habits on that list. I mean, I also have various stickers for various things. I also have a logbook.

So my journal is separate to my daily logbook, and in my logbook I write down what I’ve done. So you’re on my logbook for today, this discussion. And also, if I’m feeling something particular, or like you said, I mean, I also try to reduce my alcohol, but I really like a drink. So I will actively choose to drink on occasion. Like if you and I were hanging out, I would hope we would have a glass of wine.

Toby: We absolutely would.

Joanna: Exactly. Or if I’m going out for lunch with Jonathan, I’ll have sticky toffee pudding, or something like that. So it’s that 80/20 rule, I guess.

Can we live in a sustainable way 80% of the time, so that 20% of the time we can indulge or do other things?

Again, like exercise or our physical health, I walk almost every single day, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out or whatever. So that’s okay, it’s not like I beat myself up.

You mentioned a nurturing environment, and obviously, we have to look after ourselves first.

But you and I are also very lucky, and we’ve chosen this life, but we have supportive partners and we have friends, like you and I. We’ve met each other through the community. So if people listening, if they don’t have that supportive environment or author friends—

How can people find a community or attract other like-minded people and have that online?

So how can you do that if you’re just starting out and don’t have friendships like we have?

Toby: I would look for an online group that already existed. There’s various Facebook groups with different kinds of author gatherings, so that’s a great place to do it. Or Discord, or one of those other online social media type places is a great place to just start looking for like-minded people.

I also just moved to a new state and a new town. And I really determined that this time, because I lived in a place for about four years and did not get connected with my community at all. I felt like I was going to be there temporarily, but there was actually no data to show that I was going to be there temporarily. My own attitude and withholding. So again, we create our own self-fulfilling prophecies. We ended up leaving there, and I was glad that I hadn’t put the time in to invest in new friendships.

Then we came to this new town, and I decided two things. I was going to get involved with my community, and I was going to start volunteering in person again. It’s so easy to do everything online again. And now we’re coming out of COVID, it’s time to be IRL.

So the first thing I did was joined my Rotary Club in my town. And not because I felt like “my people” are in the Rotary Club, they couldn’t be more different from me, you know. I’m there, kind of sort of hippie-ish, the writer, and these are very staid, upstanding, retired, local kind of power brokers in my town. The mayor is in my group, and things like that.

What I wanted to do was, I want to be a part of this community, I want to show my face, I want to get to know people, and I’m using my background as a therapist to become a court-appointed special advocate.

So I work with children in the foster care system. And this is, again, a volunteering thing. I had to go through this big, long training. Many times, I was like, oh, this is too much with my writer business and my travel. I can’t, people look out on me, and then I was like, no, I need to be in contact with people who need me and people who remind me how fortunate I am.

That is really key to mental health is like there’s always somebody worse off than you, and it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of that, to be called out of yourself to go and give.

And so I think for anybody who’s struggling with depression, get a pet, get an exercise routine, and start doing something in your community that’s giving back. Because staying in that little cocoon of your own negative thoughts and that dark place that can pull you under, it’s just going to snowball.

Joanna: That’s great. I feel the same. I’m like, we do so much online and in our own heads, and it’s almost remembering that you have a physical body.

You are a physical human, not just a brain.

Because sometimes we’re just brains online. I mean, you and I right now, we’re not looking at each other. So we’re two brains connecting over the internet.

Toby: Isn’t that a wild thought?

Joanna: It is a totally wild thought.

When we write books, it’s a brain connecting with another brain through the medium of a book.

So we overemphasize that because that’s our strength, but yeah, we need to remember we’re a physical body, and therefore keep the physical body healthy by exercising and healthy eating and meeting other people in a body. So yeah, I think that’s really important.

But we’re almost out of time. I do want to ask you a question. I can’t go an episode without mentioning AI.

And one of the biggest issues right now in the community is people are very afraid. They’re already burnt out, overwhelmed, too much to learn. Now, there’s an anxiety about the author career and all of this changing technology.

How are you navigating the challenges? What is the career going to look like for the next decade? And I mean, you’re not retired, you’re still writing, you have an author business.

How can we think about the future and acknowledge the fear, but also move through it?

Toby: I think it’s really key to get to know the thing that you’re afraid of. So for me, I am exploring AI actively. I have been fooling around with Sudowrite and got a membership with that. And I’m getting to know what does it do, what doesn’t it do. And then again, there’s the ChatGPT, which also has a learning curve to it.

So I think the key to the fear around AI is to get to know the tool before you judge because when we’re afraid, we’re reactive, we’re defensive, our minds are closed, and we become prickly, and anxiety builds. So that’s one aspect.

The second aspect is look at what has happened in other creative areas, such as the music industry, it’s all accelerating. And you can sort of see where things might go. There’s streaming constantly, there’s tons and tons of material available for pennies. All of that is very fearful for authors. What you can do instead is dig into your niche.

So for me, that has meant moving to web-based sales, and a reader subscription plan on Substack where I’m writing to my audience who are paying direct. I know you use Patreon, I’ve chosen not to use Patreon, I’m using Substack and my website.

What I’m doing is digging deeper into my loyal fan base because that is going to weatherize me to the cheapening of everything.

Right now, if you are an author whose main income is coming from Kindle Unlimited and that kind of subscription model, I would be nervous about it because there’s going to be even more schlock added to the mix. It’s going to be even harder to get that visibility that’s all important.

So now is a time to connect with your readers in a personal way and give them opportunities to support you.

Create ways that they can give you money direct. They can buy from you direct, they can support you with a subscription, that kind of thing, because readers want to do that. Just like they support the musicians that they love, they will support writers that they love too.

So that’s my two-pronged approach. Get to know it and dig deeper into direct sales and direct contact with my reader base.

Joanna: That’s fantastic. That’s multiple streams of income, which we love.

Tell us a bit more about your books, and where people can find you and your Substack, and connect around coaching if they’re interested.

Toby: Definitely, it’s all on And if you’re interested in talking with me about setting up your own hypnosis, recording or talking about coaching in any form, or coaching plus mental health, look for the author coaching tab on my website.

I write police procedural mysteries, thrillers, memoir, romance, and an ongoing travel and life blog on Substack called Passages. So you can look up Passages and follow along and see in real-time as I’m writing a third memoir, which will be crafted from these travel experiences and life experiences.

So again, has it all. And that’s my tip is weatherize your business by focusing everything on what you can capture. Your newsletter, your email address list, and your website for direct sales because those are the ways that you can weatherproof your writing business going forward.

Joanna: Fantastic. Well, thanks so much for your time, Toby. That was great.

Toby: Thank you.

The post Making Art From Life. Mental Health For Writers With Toby Neal first appeared on The Creative Penn.

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Author: Joanna Penn

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  • May 22, 2023