By Olivia Schmid | | Layout Assistant
Amy Morin is a psychotherapist, psychology lecturer, clinical social worker, and international bestselling author. She’s also the editor-in-chief of Verywell Mind, the biggest mental health website, as well as the host of The Verywell Mind Podcast. Her powerful take on mental strength has been covered on Oprah.com, Good Morning America, Tedx Talk, Time, the Hallmark Channel, Today, Fox News, and CNN.
Morin has written a plethora of self-help books, including 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do, and 13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do. The College Reporter sat down with her to discuss her work and her experience as a writer.
Schmid: What made you decide to start writing?
Morin: My original goal in writing was honestly to earn some extra money and to have a side hustle. Free-lance writing gave me that opportunity because I could write in the evenings or on the weekends, really anytime around my work schedule as a therapist. I could earn extra income at my own pace. Writing definitely began as a need over a desire.
It wasn’t therapeutic at first; I wrote for content mills where I made $15 an article, and I wrote about anything from shipping containers in Duluth, Minnesota to listing off fun activities to do in New York City, really random things.
Schmid: What was one of the most surprising things you learned about yourself while writing your books?
Morin: As I was writing about mental strength, it definitely raised my awareness of my weaknesses. I had a lot of self-doubts when writing my first book, which was ironic considering some of my advice in that book is to not doubt yourself. I was able to practice a lot of my advice that I was giving in real-time.
Schmid: Since you’re a therapist and a psychology lecturer, did writing about this content come easy to you?
Morin: When I was going through my own journey with grief that no one really knew about, I published an article, 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, that was literally just the list with a tiny bit of context.
The first time I shared my story was when my first book came out. And as a therapist, I’m used to listening to people’s problems and not sharing my own, so it was downright terrifying! I wasn’t planning on telling anyone all about my backstory, but I didn’t learn everything I talk about [in the book] as a therapist, so I decided [it was necessary] to share my story after all.
Schmid: Your 13 Things series has focused on people, parents, women, and now kids. It seems like you would say that self-help books are for people of all ages, could you speak on that?
Morin: So many self-help books are focused on adults, but I’m thinking that if we start teaching these skills to kids, they’ll learn them so much sooner. We use TV shows and other mediums to teach kids, so why not help them pick up a book?
When my first book came out, I had a lot of people tell me, “I wish I had read this sooner” or ask me, “How do I teach this to my kids?” so that’s what led to my parenting book. And since then, I’ve had so many readers reach out about their kids that I thought I should write a book just for them, in which I use kid-friendly language and stories that they can relate to.
Schmid: Where do you draw the content from your books from?
Morin: Most of it was drawn directly from my therapy office: case studies, exercises that I used with people that I knew worked, stories that they would share with me, etc. Of course, I had to de-identify people for confidentiality reasons, but that’s where most of my content came from. A lot [were] my own stories as well.
Schmid: What are you hoping that your readers get out of reading your work?
Morin: I really hope that they walk away with newfound knowledge about how to build mental strength. I feel like so many people just don’t know how or think some are just born mentally strong or gifted, but I want people to come away learning more and talking about it more. If we talked about mental health and mental strength the same way we talk about physical health and physical strength, it would reduce a lot of the stigma. So that’s my hope for people, that my books will inspire them and give them the courage and freedom to speak more openly about these issues.
Schmid: As you just mentioned earlier, a huge theme that you preach in your books is centered around mental strength. What relevance does mental strength hold during the coronavirus pandemic?
Morin: Oh, it definitely holds a lot of relevance right now! A lot of people’s normal coping strategies aren’t options right now; you can’t go to the gym or see friends and family. Simply put, you can’t always do the things you enjoy right now. People have had to dig deep and figure out how to deal with loneliness, sadness, anger, and frustration in new ways when they can’t go to their normal things. I know that a lot of people are struggling with alcohol, eating disorders, or binge-watching TV to the point that they feel unmotivated.
It’s [the pandemic] presented so many new challenges to people and taken away so many coping skills, and I think it’s honestly helped reduce the stigma of mental health a lot. We’re realizing how our environment affects our mood and our mental health. [When] we lose some of those things that we depend on, we have to figure out an alternative.
Schmid: What would you say is the most difficult part of the writing process for you?
Morin: I would say that the most difficult part is being done at some point; I think I could edit my books forever! It helps to have deadlines, so I know I can’t edit it past a certain point. If it were up to me, I might spend six more months editing it, and I’d struggle to get it done.
Schmid: Are you planning on writing any other books, and what audience would you aim to reach?
I sure hope to write more books! I get a lot of my ideas from the readers themselves. Like the parents wanted a book, so I wrote one for them. The women wanted a book, so I wrote one for them. A lot of it depends on that, and a question I’ve been getting a lot is about teenagers.
My next book is for kids in the 8-12 age market, but I get tons of questions about how to help teens. While my first book isn’t inappropriate for teens, it’s definitely more geared towards adults with workplace issues and relationship issues, so it’d be good to write a book for the teen audience, specifically.
Schmid: Do you have any personal favorite self-help books that you would recommend to readers who love your books?
Morin: A good one I’ve read recently is Detox Your Thoughts by Andrea Bonior, and I’m also a big fan of Lori Gottlieb’s Maybe You Should Talk to Someone.
Schmid: What’s one piece of advice you’d offer to aspiring writers?
Morin: I would say to treat yourself with self-compassion, and remind yourself that there’s going to be days when you think it’s all awful and that no one will read it. Talk to yourself the same way you talk to a friend. Be encouraging, and be kind to yourself. When you get feedback that isn’t the best, know it’s okay and that we all get rejected sometimes.
First-year Olivia Schmid is a Layout Assistant and Columnist. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.