Interview with copy editor & storytelling coach Jae Hermann
If you’re here, you’re probably a freelance writer or other creative professional with a whole heckuva lot on your plate. And while self-employed folks tend to experience more work satisfaction than the average 9-to-5’er, they also feel disproportionately more stressed.
That’s where self-care can be a game changer. But with all the hype that surrounds that word, it can be tough to know if you’re actually taking care of yourself, versus procrastinating, indulging or piling even more pressure onto your plate.
But the first thing to know about self-care is there is no right or wrong way to “self care”.
“I love self-care. I don’t do it everyday…but I love it,” says Jae Hermann with a laugh.
The multi-passionate entrepreneur and storytelling coach has a somewhat different definition of self-care. “I think for a lot of people it’s still, let’s do yoga…but real self-care doesn’t require you to have to go out and do something. It should start within first — before you go get that massage, before you go to yoga.”
These days, Jae plays an active role in a grassroots movement to advance compassionate storytelling. And obviously, self-care is a big part of how that works.
We sat down with her to find out how busy freelance writers and creatives can bypass the buzz and discover the self-care routines that will bring them back to their creativity — even on the most chaotic days.
Psst! Rather listen than read? Hear our full interview with Jae below!
Jae’s badassery backstory
Jae started writing in 2002 for her jewelry design business and like most people who stumble into this profession, it wasn’t long before she realized writing was the best part of the job. It wasn’t long before she made the move to writing and editing full time, managing a team of writers at a digital publication, before eventually creating her own media production company.
You could say, she’s pretty much done it all.
“The common theme through all of that for me was storytelling. As a jewelry designer, I was telling the story of other designers I was working with, especially the ones where I was getting my materials. Whether I’m helping a client tell their story for their business or themself, it’s still the same — you’re telling a story.”
But as someone who is both extremely driven and extremely creative, Jae definitely keeps herself busy. So, I had to know, was there ever a time in her life when the burnout was just bad?
“Uh, yesterday?” She laughs.
For Jae, the first myth about self-care is that the creative burnout that makes self-care necessary, never actually disappears.
“It’s not necessarily something that goes away,” she says. But just because burnout is a given, doesn’t mean Jae’s stressed about it. The way she sees it, self-care is like everything else in the business.
The more you learn and change, the more your self-care practice evolves, too.
“There is no such thing as a work/life balance. Work/life balance is basically you making a choice about what will have your focus and what will get your attention on any given day — and you kind of weave with that. Some days, I’m led to sit on my couch and watch Netflix and eat chips and oreos.”
(Jae loves oreos.)
“I’ve learned to trust my creative intuition and where it leads me,” she says.
The trick, according to Jae, is to figure out how to coax yourself out of overwhelm and back into your creative intuition when things get hairy.
And that’s exactly where self-care enters the picture.
Why every copywriter needs a ‘self-care toolbox’.
Although she’s careful not to get caught up in the self-care catch-22 that actually makes you feel worse, Jae can remember one time in her entrepreneurial journey where — despite the chaos — she felt utterly content.
“It was because I had created a schedule for myself and I was sticking to my schedule so that I didn’t feel overwhelmed like, ‘Oh my God, I gotta rush. What do I gotta do next?” and you know, that type of angst.”
Oh, we know that type of angst.
“Now it’s sort of like, when my brain is so overwhelmed and I’m not sticking to my schedule and I’m not looking at my plug-and-play system, and I’m not doing the things that I know help me to be harmonic, my brain just checks out.”
Peace out, brain. ✌🏻
But in all seriousness, Jae has noticed that that’s usually the moment when something serious can happen, like getting physically ill. “That’s the extreme. At that point, the decision has been taken away from you,” she says.
And with two in three US citizens sleeping either more or less than they wanted to since the pandemic started, the battle for consistent self-care is absolutely in swing.
“Most people know. We know. We just don’t pay close attention. We see the red flag and we turn away from it. And I’m saying, be true to yourself and pay attention to that sign when you see it.”
Ok. But what do you actually do in that moment?
Jae’s advice: “Just breathe.”
Make sure you’re really breathing
It is perhaps the most commonly given yet painfully underrated self-care tip out there — but the truth is, if you’re in business for yourself, your standard way of breathing is probably somewhat shallow.
“Unless you’re in the practice of doing some kind of yoga or meditation, you probably don’t breathe properly,” explains Jae.
By going back to the complete basics — your breath — you’re finally able to clear the mental clutter and put first things first. Think: “What’s the one thing I could do right now? Then do that one thing.”
For Jae, that’s the foundation. Taking time to stop and breathe, really breathe, is the one thing every entrepreneur should do for themself.
But ultimately, if this advice doesn’t vibe with you, that’s fine too.
“You gotta check in. You gotta own your truth, whatever that means for you,” says Jae.
She keeps it simple. A hand on the chest and some deep breaths will usually get her back to a place where she can put her focus into the one thing that deserves it today.
She’ll even ask herself a set of questions like:
- How do I feel about a project, task or even person?
- How do I feel about this contract?
- How does that feel for me?
“That’s not taking someone’s advice,” says Jae. “That’s not following someone’s systems. That’s you following your own creative system. What speaks for you?”
Curious what else works for Jae? So were we.
Here are a few other things she does to help regain clarity and creativity when things get hectic.
Positive (and pragmatic) self-affirmations
Yes, really. This type of self-care tip often gets a lot of flack but the way Jae sees it:
“It doesn’t have to be this formulaic, over-the-top thing. One sentence for yourself, something that’s positive. Something you can refer to.”
One of our favorites is: Show up and write.
And if you don’t feel like it?
Give yourself something that you can physically look to, to help tap yourself back into your creativity.
Jae keeps visual inspo all around her apartment as a way to help her feel focused and supported, even on the busiest days. She calls these notes, photos, signs and images her ‘belief beacons’.
“It’s kinda like that rubber band thing. It can kind of snap you back in,” she explains.
Here are a few of her faves:
- I am a badass.
- I am fiercely talented.
- I am loyal and dedicated.
- I am beautiful and gracious.
- I am successful.
And as a major bonus, these things also help get you out of your head. “It takes the burden of trying to figure out what comes next away from you. We need to relinquish control before we can move back into our creativity.”
But even with these visual cues in place, Jae says it’s important to be real about where you are each day.
“I have a sign on my desk that says ‘You better slay’ but there are days when I’m like ‘I don’t wanna slay’,” she laughs. “Even with those systems, follow where you are led.”
Because according to Jae, it might not even be about you. You could be led in a direction that benefits someone else.
Set clear boundaries (and don’t sweat the people who don’t get it)
As someone who’s been working from home since 2002, Jae’s not surprised when the people around her don’t understand her work, or her boundaries.
In fact, her own dad has been known to ring her up in the middle of the day just to check in and see what she’s doing.
“We can’t assume and so we have to explain and set those boundaries.”
For freelancers living with office-working partners, that can be especially tough. But unless it impacts your bottom line, there’s absolutely no reason to conform to anyone else’s idea of what work looks like.
Carefully select which “distractions” to follow
But what about big distractions? You know, like 2020?
“I have learned over the years that those things happen for a reason. Most of my work these days with writers, bloggers and people who want to get things out into the world is to learn how to follow your creative intuition — whatever’s pulling you.”
Every time Jae follows that call, she ends up writing something important. An essay, article or missive that resonates with someone so much, they send her a message or email just to say thanks.
For her, that’s what makes self-care practical.
“The thing I’m led to…I’m led to it for a reason,” she says firmly.
Jae has also learned to adopt a “Yes and” mentality about her creative goals, contracts and projects. It’s a tip she picked up doing improv (did we mention she’s multi-talented?).
“There could be a whole other opportunity in that direction that I might miss out on whether it’s something that’s gonna further my career or help someone else.”
Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to go all in on every creative impulse. But you do need to check-in and make a clear decision about what deserves your energy and what doesn’t.
When it comes to choosing contracts and creative projects, one major game changer for Jae was shifting the question from ‘What’s the worst thing that could happen?’ to ‘What’s the best thing that could happen?’
“Reframing to the best case scenario and the energy that comes with that has been a game-changer for me, both personally and in my business,” she says.
And when you feel like you’re not keeping up with the things you’ve already committed to?
“Take judgment off the table.”
The way Jae sees it, even if you’re led to veg out, it’s for a reason. Sometimes your creative essence just needs to sit a day out.
Just be sure to pay close attention to your mental health so that you can take action and seek support if one day turns into multiple days or weeks.
Communicate delays and setbacks with your clients and team
There will be moments when you have to choose between self-care and a project deadline. In those scenarios, Jae recommends revisiting your expectations and boundaries, and simply communicating those things to your clients or project partners.
“Be straight up,” she advises. Look at your deadlines and see if there’s any flexibility, so you know which changes you can confidently suggest. Then, go ahead and tell them what’s happening on your end.
“Given the climate that we’re in with the pandemic, people are so much more understanding because we’re all going through similar stuff. I’m at the point where I say to my clients, ‘I need a mental health day.”
Transparency is the name of the game in the world after 2020. It’s totally fine to let folks know you’ve got another big project and need to shift things a day or two. It might feel painful at first, but it’s a lot less damaging than showing up the day of the deadline and having to say, “I don’t have it.”
For Jae, it’s also helpful to have an accountability buddy to help you check-in and vent, or even help prioritize projects and deadlines from an outside perspective. (A word of caution: Make sure you let the person know if you just need to vent vs. want their advice.)
Because at the end of the day, we’re all in this together. When you can surround yourself with a few supportive people from your vibe tribe, it becomes much easier to ‘hear’ your inner creative voice and have way more ‘Aha!’ moments.
And for compassionate creatives like Jae, that’s what it’s all about.
Brittany is the Founder and Content Chief at Pointed Copywriting. She’s also a copywriter, expat entrepreneur, and ‘90s pop culture addict based in Nicosia, Cyprus. Brittany and the team at Pointed Copywriting are proud to serve quality copy and content strategy to groundbreaking SaaS, B2B and enterprise brands in over three countries and countless industry niches.