I’m a big fan of motivational reading. Over the years I’ve used books, talks, podcasts, and more, to get me over humps and out of slumps. Now I’d like to share all that has resonated with me, in the hope that, wherever you are on your writing journey, the things I’ve learned might inspire you too.
Each of my Author’s Mindset series has four topics. I suggest you pick one topic and spend some time (at least a week, or as long as you need) mulling over the suggestions, and implementing any new habits you need to propel your writing forward.
Have you heard the one about the miserable writer whose obsession with their craft takes a terrible toll on their health?
I’m sure we all have. And, what’s more, I’ve seen it in play during my twenty years of editing and writing, working in and out of publishing houses. I’ve certainly fallen down the well myself a few times. Having kids has been great for me, as they’ve stopped my single-minded drive for storytelling, and reminded me how important it is to rest and play.
When I got my first publishing contract I wasn’t thinking long-term, I was just elated that my book was being published. But being in the writing game for the long haul requires a whole new set of skills: forward-planning, staying on track with deadlines, multitasking, dealing with all the different aspects of the writing business, and much more. Amidst all this, it’s easy to neglect selfcare and balance. However, I don’t just want to write, I want to enjoy it! I’m happiest when I am creating stories, thinking up ideas, and in the thick of an exciting plot. But because life can get so busy, balance can be a tricky thing to negotiate.
Balance might seem impossible because of your life circumstances. If external events are preventing you from getting to your writing, it’s a matter of hanging on, doing what you can, when you can, and being kind to yourself about your frustrated ambitions. For others, balance might mean taking time away from your writing. It can be all too easy to become consumed by the efforts of storytelling, but this will ultimately result in mental and physical fatigue. Never underestimate the importance of thinking time either – which is much easier to come by in small snatches. In times when you need to move away from the physical act of writing, keep mulling your story over and jotting down your ideas. That way you’re continually adding depth and detail to your story. Sometimes, moving your focus away from the book also allows for spontaneous creativity: which is why I get all my best ideas in the shower or driving home from a work session!
ACTION STEPS/THINGS TO CONSIDER
Check in with your deadlines. Deadlines are a reality for any publishing contract, but healthy deadlines should make you feel focused not pressured. If you’re feeling the pain of a deadline, whether it’s self-imposed or external, take a look at your plan. Could you create any more time in your day by removing or outsourcing other demands? Or could you readjust your goals – because life happens, and immovable deadlines can quickly erode the health and happiness of even the hardiest of writers. It’s vital that you don’t let deadline pressure kill your joy of writing.
Mindless tech-checking can kill the balance in any day. Nowadays, tech is so pervasive that if you don’t have a strategy it can quickly control and consume you. I have specific times of day assigned for emails and anything else online. Give yourself permission NOT to be available every minute of the day.
Know that it’s okay to stop, and sometimes it’s vital. It’s easy to push on with writing when it’s going well, and in those truly rare moments of flow, if there’s a clear day ahead, then why not! However, stopping when you have reached a mini goal is okay too. Often, taking a break will mean you return refreshed and reinspired. My mini-goals of daily writing are usually around 750-1000 words of writing or editing a day. I find this is enough and my creativity begins to waver after that.
Try writing using a timed Pomodoro technique, where you work hard for 25 minutes then take a 5-minute break. In that 5 minutes, make sure you move and stretch, and take longer breaks as you need (the idea is that you take an extended break after 4 Pomodoro sessions). You can download Pomodoro timer apps onto your phone to help you stay on track.
HELPFUL RESOURCES FOR BALANCE:
Books by Carl Honore (http://www.carlhonore.com/books/), or his TED talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/carl_honore_praises_slowness
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