A Writer’s Life: Joy

Writer, what makes you joyful? Like, singing-at-the-top-of-your-lungs joyful? So joyful that you just want to put on some crazy music and dance in your kitchen?

Do you know?

I actually had to think pretty hard to figure out what it was that made me that joyful. Spending quality time with people I love, flowers, music, moments when I am working on something I know is part of my soul and my purpose, fixing a plot hole, discovering a character; all of these are things that spark that kind of joy for me. And that kind of joy feeds my creativity and gives me the energy to do what I love with my whole heart.

So what about the moments when joy is hard to find and nothing seems to be going right?

Joy

Embracing joy is a necessary part of life. Without it, daily chores, schedules, and meetings become a drudge and nothing is life-giving anymore.

But it has taken me a long time to understand the rather nebulous idea of ‘joy’.

Because we’re supposed to have joy in every circumstance and season of our life, right? But for me, it’s always been hard to feel joyful when I am sucked down with too much work, broke, and struggling to find a job to add more onto my workload just so I can pay bills. It was hard to be joyful in the midst of a nasty breakup. It was hard to be joyful in the midst of a creative desert and a toxic workplace.

Joy sparks creativity. Without it, you may find your ideas withering to ash and your brilliant brain switching from explorer to autopilot.

If joy is so important, especially to creativity, how are we supposed to write when joy seems unattainable?

How To Make It Happen

Unfortunately, if joy is connected to circumstances and is, in fact, that fuzzy happy feeling curled just beneath your heart, it’s going to come and go, and more often than not, it’s going to go.

A little discouraging, right?

Unless you step back and realize that joy is not always going to be a feeling. Sometimes, yes, joy is a feeling and a very nice one. But sometimes—the bad times—joy is and will always be a choice. A choice to see the good where the bad is trying to blot it out. A choice to love what you do when you only have an hour or two a day—or week—to do it. A choice to focus on what is good in your life and to walk through the bad without drowning in it.

And yes, I realize that it’s very hard to do. I am still learning myself, and there are days that I crash and burn.

But somehow, I have always managed to pick myself up again. I do it with two truths, three tricks, and one spark of gratitude.

Truth #1

When life is rough, schedules are overloaded, and you are overwhelmed, joy becomes more of a choice than a feeling. And sometimes, that choice means smiling with gritted teeth and snapping a list of all the things you are thankful for instead of everything wrong in your life.

It’s not pretty. It’s not flowers and roses. Sometimes it’s crying on the bathroom floor until you’re ready to breathe again, smiling, and find five things to be grateful for amidst the mess—even if those five things are toilet paper, food in your fridge, that you have space to cry, books, and a story that you still love despite the way it’s driving you crazy.

Truth #2

You can’t find joy when you’re living on autopilot. I am the worst at this. When things are rough, I hit autopilot hard, and the goals I have consist solely of getting through the day and moving on to tomorrow.

And sometimes, that’s just life.

In the midst of a breakup, a bad situation at work, or a period of grief, sometimes autopilot is the best we can do, and—for a time—it’s the best thing for us.

But it’s hard to find joy on autopilot, and it’s even harder to be creative and embrace your stories there. Eventually, you’ve got to flick off the autopilot and start living again.

Three Tricks

  1. Find what you love. Find something that soothes your soul when everything else is going haywire. When I was struggling in a job environment that zapped my joy and energy and left me crying on the drive home, I did yoga. Obsessively. That hour before I went to work became the time when I chose joy and filled myself up for the day ahead. It centered me, reminded me that I had a life outside of this job and that I had some control over myself. Getting up that much earlier was hard, of course, but it helped me choose joy instead of discouragement.
  2. Appreciate what you have. Practice gratitude. Yes, there are hard things, and yes, your time is limited for what you love, but there will always be things to be grateful for. Make a list. Have a journal with pages of pages that begin with simply, ‘tell me something good.’ Choose gratitude instead of complaining.
  3. Get out of the rut. If a job is toxic, start looking for something else. If a relationship is destroying you, seek counseling and considering ending it. If things just need to be the way they are right now, then switch up your other routines a bit. Go for a walk after dinner. Meet a friend for lunch. Get up a little early to write or do yoga. 

One Spark Of Gratitude

Writer, you are alive. You have the world ahead of you, your life at your feet, and you are not alone.

So be thankful. Make lists, come up with something to be thankful for every time you have a cup of coffee or start your car, or just tell someone in your life how much their support and love mean to you.

Find something. Something that you love, something that is beautiful and meaningful about today. Something that you can be thankful for and find joy in. Embrace it. Pause for just a minute to enjoy it.

Then pause again, in the midst of your rushed writing session. Take a minute to appreciate that you, you, get to write this story. You have the opportunity to expand your imagination and put it to good use. You are a writer.

Be thankful for that.

Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.

What is joyful in your life right now? What are you struggling to find joy in? Tell me about it in the comments, and stay tuned for next week, when we will be discussing discouragement and how it affects a writer’s ability to actually write.

A Writer’s Life: Comparison

Have you ever heard the saying, “Comparison is the thief of joy”?

If so, you’re not the only one. I’ve heard that saying a hundred different places, and it always rings true. However, I would like to take it a step further and say that comparison is the thief of creativity.

Our stories are very special pieces of our hearts. When we’re focused and happy, they flow right from our souls, and they occupy their own spot in our hearts. But, if we’re more focused on someone else’s story and whether it’s better—or worse—than our own, we’re neglecting the story we’ve been entrusted with—and the characters that belong to us are the ones to suffer for it.

Comparison

Comparison is hard to catch in the beginning. I mean, who hasn’t read an amazing book—published or unpublished—and thought, “Wow! I wish I could write like that.”

In some ways, this thought—if directed properly—can be a good thing. It can be an inspiration to work harder, to develop our stories and take them to a new level.

The trouble comes when we let it grow past that point.

Comparison happens when you’re focused on competing instead of collaborating.

Once it becomes a competition—a desire to do better than the other person or the crushing realization that you’ll never ‘write like they do’—it becomes toxic. The kind of toxic that will kill your story, drain your creativity, and leave you defeated and jealous. Never a good state to find yourself in.

How To Make It Happen

Fortunately, as with all the other thoughts in our head, we can choose not to let comparison or jealousy take root. Once it has taken root, it’s much harder to get rid of, of course, but we still have the power to dig it out of our minds and choose another approach.

When I have trouble with this, I root it out with two truths, three tricks, and a moment of humility.

Truth #1

You are not in competition. Writing doesn’t work like that. As many writers as there are in the world, there are more readers. And readers who are looking for new material. A book can only be read so many times before its readers start searching for a new adventure that is similar to the one they loved so much—maybe yours.

Truth #2

You’re not supposed to ‘write like they do’. Why should you? You’re not them!

Writer, you have your own unique style. A story no one else is going to tell. A way of communicating that is only yours. Why would you damage that and risk marring it by trying to be someone else? We already have one of them. Now we need one of you.

Three Tricks

  1. Worry less about the results and more about being the best you can be. Growing as a person and a writer takes time. You can’t rush it, and you can’t skip past it. The only way to grow is by solid hard work and dedication to your craft. Comparing yourself to someone else won’t help you grow—it may even hold you back—and your journey is long enough. Dump what doesn’t drive you forward, and you’ll find the journey much easier.
  2. Embrace your story—without undermining someone else’s. Find what you love about your own characters, your plot, and your dialogue. Embrace it. Revel in it. Then learn to appreciate what others have without holding it up besides your own work to see how they compare.
  3. Find what’s beautiful in your story—and what needs a little watering. We all have places we can grow, and if you’re busy working on your own weaknesses and strengthening your own story, you won’t have time to worry about what someone else is writing—and you’ll also find a lot of joy in your own work at the same time!

A Moment Of Humility

It took me years to realize that having humility didn’t mean thinking less of myself. It didn’t mean believing that everyone was better than I was or that I had much less chance of succeeding than they did.

What I should have realized all along was that humility meant being able to rejoice in their success and to applaud their beauty without questioning my own.

Maybe their story does blow you away. Maybe their characters do enchant you. Maybe their grasp of ambiance or prose takes your breath away. Rejoice in that. Tell them. Believe me, everyone is struggling in their own way and everyone needs the boost of an honest compliment now and then.

Then take a step back and realize that you have your own gifts to offer, your own stories to craft. Their success does not threaten your own. So stay in your lane, keep your stories close to your heart, and don’t be afraid to celebrate with someone else. It costs nothing to rejoice with someone who needs it.

Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.

How do you block our comparison in your own writing journey? Tell me about it in the comments! And stay tuned for next week, when we will be discussing joy and how to find it in the midst of a crushing schedule.

A Writer’s Life: Doubt

Have you ever questioned whether you were a real writer or not?

I have.

I think every true writer has at one time or another. Poor reviews, harsh critiques, and even harsher rejections take their toll, but beyond these, I think there is an innate whisper is every writer’s mind that suggests—just suggests mind—that we have no right to the title that we claim. As if there were a warden at the door, waiting to turn us away, or a master craftsman somewhere who’s going to look at our work, shake his head, and send us off.

How ridiculous.

Doubt

Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how ridiculous these fantasies are—we all struggle with them. I would venture to guess that even the most seasoned among us, the writers who have been working for years, still pause with these kinds of thoughts at one time or another.

Doubt will kill your story faster than anything else. If you let it.

The trouble is, these thoughts aren’t innocent, and they aren’t easy to ignore. I couldn’t begin to guess—nor do I want to—how many books doubt has killed over the years. It becomes an obsession and sucks the life out of even the most steadfast writer’s creativity.

Writers, it is time for this to stop.

How To Make It Happen

I have fallen into this pit too many times to count—enough that I’ve learned to be proactive in my battle against it. I don’t laugh or make disparaging comments about my writing, for instance. I’ve seen many writers do this, and who knows, maybe for them it’s harmless.

For me, it never is. I may not feel it at the moment, but it’ll sting me later. And I’m just not willing to take it anymore, especially not from myself.

Since doubt has been something I’ve struggled with so much, it’s now something that I know how to counter quickly and—most of the time—effectively.

I do it with two truths, three tricks, and one reckless bit of optimism.

Truth #1

No one is a master in this craft. No one.

Not Stephen King, not J.K. Rowling, not even Tolkien himself reached that fabled level of mastery. We are all apprentices with more to learn, more to explore and discover, and places in our craft where we’re weak.

Writer, that should be encouraging.

We’re all on our own journey, all learning, and all developing the skills necessary for this craft. Rejections, bad reviews, and failures are only steps on the way, and if you learn to see them like that, you’ll struggle so much less with self-doubt.

Truth #2

There is no test to pass. No interview. No doorkeeper.

I think that’s what I love about this job the most. No man in a suit and expensive tie gets to tell me that I’m ‘not good enough’ to keep going, and there’s no committee to tell me that I didn’t flesh out this character properly, so thus I am hopeless and won’t be allowed to come back.

I decide how proficient I am by how much I practice and strive to learn. And there is no mistake so awful that I can’t decide to pick myself back up and try again.

Three Tricks

  1. Practice telling people that you’re a writer—without adding a modifier at the end. No one needs an explanation about how you’ve never been published and the book you’re writing isn’t that good and you just started because you like it . . . No. You’re a writer. You don’t have to explain your journey to anyone or justify it to anyone. Especially yourself.
  2. Be too busy writing to question whether you’re actually a writer. Seriously. Who cares about whether you measure up to an imagined set of standards? Why waste the energy trying to decide if ‘you’re a writer’? Go write.
  3. Quit the comparison game. I’m going to be talking about this one a bit more extensively next week, but it bears talking about here too. Someone else’s success does not damage yours. Someone else’s finished manuscript does not threaten your growth or diminish it. Stay in your lane, celebrate with other writers and rejoice in their success, then go back to working toward your own.

One Reckless Bit Of Optimism

Can you imagine the things you could accomplish in your life if you had no doubts—none at all—that you would succeed?

You would make mistakes, you would make a mess, and you would fail so, so many times.

But you would be unstoppable. And for every failure, there would be a success. Never once would you have to tell someone, “I gave up.”

So take a deep breath and allow yourself one reckless bit of optimism. Allow yourself to believe that, no matter the obstacles, no matter the amount of work it will take, you will make it. And not only will you make it, but you’ll grow beyond what you ever thought possible. Allow yourself to dream, to be so confident that it’s almost ridiculous. Then hold onto that hope, cultivate it, and keep it close.

You’ll be glad to have it down the road, I promise.

Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.

Have you struggled with doubt as a writer? Are there ways you’ve been fighting against it, or has it been getting you down lately? Tell me about it in the comments! And stay tuned for next week, when we will be going deeper into comparison and how quickly it can steal the joy out of writing.

A Writer’s Life: Perfectionism

Have you ever fixed—and deleted—the same sentence a twenty different times and still felt like you just . . . didn’t get it?

Me too.

It happens to me all the time. So does staring at one word for so long that it ceases to look like a real word and becomes an abomination against humanity and therefore must be destroyed.

Yeah.

Those are bad days.

Perfectionism

The frustrating thing about perfectionism is that is stems from a legitimate source. We want our stories to be the best that they can be, to catch the vision in our heads and portray it perfectly for the reader. We have so much detail, beauty, and downright cool stuff in our stories that doesn’t always make it onto the page on the first try, so why not edit until you get it right?

The trouble is, perfectionism, especially in your first chapter and your first draft, is so much more toxic than people admit.

In its toxic state, it fixates on the problem in a single chapter, or sentence, and immobilizes the writer from moving forward until that particular place is ‘perfect’.

Meanwhile, the remainder of the book molders away, untouched and unwritten.

How To Make It Happen

Writers, we’ve all been there. Whether you’re a seasoned writer or a beginner with a lot of vision and hope ahead of you, we all get caught in this trap from time to time. I did just recently and delayed the progress of my sixth book by at least a month because of it.

Ouch.

But, thankfully, I’ve gotten past it. Again. And I will continue to get past it in the future because I’m determined to be a writer who finishes my projects, not who gets trapped by perfectionism.

I do it with two truths, three tricks, and one wild moment of freedom.

Truth #1

You will never get it exactly right.

It took me so long to be okay with this. The vision in my head of my stories is full of glorious detail, heart-rending emotion, and background music for the full effect.

I cannot get that onto the page. Unfortunately.

What I can get onto the page is enough to guide the reader’s imagination. To let them fill in the blanks and see the story through their own eyes. All too often, writers don’t put enough faith in a reader’s imagination, and the result is panic and perfectionism because they can’t get that perfect vision onto the page.

Truth #2

No one is going to look at that sentence as long as you will.

Have you ever paused to really realize this? Writers obsess over their sentences, but readers flash through them with barely a pause.

Yes, a poorly written sentence will jerk the reader out of the story, but more often than not, a reader isn’t going to notice whether you used said or muttered—or cringe half as much as you do about the word ‘walked’. (Yes, that word makes me cringe. Don’t laugh.)

So let it go.

Three Tricks

  1. Don’t edit along the way. Let your story flow, and worry about the edits later. The most important thing—especially in the first stages of a draft—is to get the story on paper. To let your characters breathe. Worry about the rest later.
  2. Have a catchphrase. Something to chant to yourself when a less-than-perfect chapter is behind you and you’re being tempted to go back and change everything. When I start having intrusive thoughts and struggling with perfectionism, I either tell myself that it’s fine and I’ll fix it later, or I simply say, “Sorry, I can’t actually hear you.” Don’t laugh. It totally works.
  3. Plan for a second draft. Know that you’re going to come back later and fix the mess you’ve left behind—and that you’ll be able to do that then because of the work you’re doing now. Writing takes persistence, it takes time, and it definitely, definitely takes a lot of rewrites. Save it for later and keep going now.

One Wild Moment Of Freedom

Perfectionism is a trap, and it still makes me cringe to think of how many beautiful stories and brilliant, thought-provoking books that it has swallowed completely.

Don’t let that be you.

Allow yourself to be wrong. Allow imperfection. Allow mistakes. Allow the mess. Without these, your creativity will shrivel and die.

So grit your teeth, allow the chapter you’ve been editing obsessively to be ‘good enough’, and move past it. Allow yourself one wild moment of freedom and see what comes of it. You never know . . . the result may be a completed book.

Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.

Have you struggled with perfectionism in the past? How did you work through it? Tell me about it in the comments! And stay tuned for next week, when we will be discussing doubt and how it can drain the life from your story.

A Writer’s Life: Details

A writer’s life is in the details.

Have you ever noticed this? Of course, our stories are about grand adventures, life-changing events, and worlds and people that only belong in our minds.

But where the story really catches a reader—where it connects, where it makes them pause and linger because in that sentence they were there, in the story—those moments are in the details.

In the hitch of breath. In the smell of crushed grass and blood. In the silver gleam of a dragon’s scales, or the glint of moonlight on a soldier’s musket in the midst of the Civil War.

Those are the moments that catch a reader. Not the dates, not statistics, not the entire history and structure of the Paris sewers. (Looking at you, Victor Hugo.) The reader wants to see the world through the eyes of your character, and the best way to make it happen is in the details.

Details

Still, that’s hard, right? How do you know which details to write about? Because I can guarantee, if you toss every single detail in a battle scene at the reader, your scene will be ten pages long and the reader will give up in exasperation.

It’s just as bad to overwhelm your readers as it is to starve them.

Thankfully, most of us are writers because we aren’t content with the world through the eyes of a nine-to-five job.

We know what we want to see. We know what snatches us into the scene, what makes us pause.

Except when we don’t.

Sometimes it feels like some kind of witch’s brew that we forgot to get the recipe for. A little lighting, a little sound, maybe the creak of an old oak in the wind. Oaks creak, right? Or an owl. We could stick an owl in there—if owls live in that sort of environment

After a while, it gets a little desperate, and the details we throw in end up taking away rather than adding to our scene.

How To Make It Happen

So how do we know what belongs and what doesn’t? How do we find the details that matter, that catch a reader, and avoid our characters talking in white space, or worse, spending ten pages describing the Paris sewers instead of telling the story?

So how do we find life in the details?

Because you can. I do. The details are my favorite part of a story, and when I find them as a reader it always, always catches me into the story.

As a writer, I revel in them. I’ve made my mistakes (too many to count, actually), and I’ve found my rhythm.

I do it with two truths, three tricks, and one breath.

Truth #1

Magic is everywhere . . . especially in the mundane. Everything around us is moving, shaping, telling stories that will probably never be written down. Everything is story fodder, everything has the details you’re searching for.

And you won’t find them in front of a blank screen and a blinking cursor.

Writers need to live. They need to go for walks, sit in coffee shops, go to plays and movies, walk through crowded rooms. The more you notice the details—especially the ones that catch your eye and feel important—the more you’ll be able to project that into your writing.

Truth #2

If you haven’t made a mistake lately, you aren’t growing.

My delete key is my best friend. I have deleted probably ten times as many words as I’ve ever kept and never felt bad about one of them. If a scene is going wrong, and I feel like I’ve missed the details that matter, I’ll start over.

It drives my sister nuts.

Every word I write is teaching me, whether I keep it or not. The mistakes you make in pursuit of the details are your apprenticeship. What you delete will teach you more than what you keep.

Three Tricks

  1. Notice everything. When you’re out walking, when you’re at the mall, and especially when you’re traveling. Keep a journal just for the things you see and smell and taste and touch. The more you immerse yourself in the details, the more you’ll understand which ones are important and which can be tossed aside.
  2. Find what you love and write about that. The rain. Wind. Coffee shops, sunshine, pine forests. If you love what you’re describing, it will come out that much more vivid. My stories always include rainy nights—because I love rain, and I can immediately capture the details that matter to me.
  3. Take special care of the small things. The larger something is, the more time it will take to describe and the quicker you will lose your reader. So describe your huge cities and palaces that reach to the sky as briefly as possible, then show the reader the swinging sign above your character’s apothecary, the cat lounging in the window, and the steam rising above a bubbling beaker. Those are the details that will matter.

One Breath

As I’m writing this, I’m sitting on a picnic blanket in a neighborhood park with a view of Pikes Peak stretching out in front of me.

And I’ll be honest, it’s far easier to focus on the kids that are chasing each other around the park or the clutter of things we brought with us or even the work I’m struggling to get done rather than enjoying the fact that the peaks are gray and blue today and crowned with snow, that I’m sitting under the most beautiful spruce tree, or that the wind smells like spring at last.

That needs a pause. One breath. A moment of mindfulness. That’s where the details are found.

Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.

What are your favorite kinds of details to use in a story? Tell me about them in the comments! And stay tuned for next week, when we will be discussing perfectionism and toxic effect it can have on a work-in-progress.

A Gathering Of Souls

I went to a writing conference this weekend.

The Young Women’s Writing Workshop, if we’re going to be technical about it. I’m just going to call it a gathering of souls.

It was the best thing I’ve done for my writing and my soul all year.

I think. I’ve done a lot of things for my soul this year. But this one was particularly relaxing and inspiring, so we’re going to say it was the best thing.

Or one of the best.

I’m going to shut up now.

Seriously, though, this conference was the most invigorating, inspiring thing I’ve done for a long time. When writers gather together, especially in small, tightly knit groups, things happen, man. Things. Happen. Ideas flow, people cry, books are built, fears are overcome, and dreams are realized.

I am not exaggerating.

The conference is held every year in Glen Eyrie, Colorado. And every year, I tell myself that I can’t afford it this time. Then I book a last minute room because I can’t bear to be left out when all my friends are gathering together. Oh, and the venue is a castle.

Like, a real castle.

I think it’s the only castle in Colorado. Certainly, it’s the most beautiful castle in Colorado.

So who can resist that?

The conference lasted for three days, Friday to Sunday, and the weekend was a kaleidoscope of classes, conversations with some of the most interesting people you will ever meet, and ideas. Our mentor, Nancy Rue, is one of the most brilliant and beautiful women you’ll find out there, and her love for her craft and zest for life is catching. When she gets excited about something, it’s impossible not to get excited about it too. More than that, she is committed to speaking God’s heart and bringing his spirit into the room while she teaches. Which accounts for how powerful this weekend was for all of us.

So, Nancy, I thank you for being your own wonderful self. We all needed it this weekend.

If I had to detail out everything that happened this weekend, I could probably ramble on for a few hours and never get to the point of it all. Instead, let’s just say it was a weekend of good food, beautiful scenery, tears, ideas, play-dough, dreams, books, tea, and good people. So, the best kind of weekend.

I can’t wait to go back next year.

(And, yes, I did say play-dough. I’d explain, but . . . I think I’ll just let you wonder.)

Have you ever been to a writing conference? Would you like to? We’d love to see you next year and include you in our gathering!

 

 

A Writer’s Life: Routines

Writing is hard.

And not just because I’m typing this with one hand because I’m cuddling a child in the other. I’m actually remarkably good at typing with one hand. I’m versatile like that.

No, writing is hard for a whole different set of reasons. Time constraints, previous commitments, and life tend to get in the way of creativity and our stories, and when—magically—everything lines up for us to sit down for an hour or two to smash out a thousand words, we suddenly hit a block.

Who else hates that blinking cursor?

I do. When I’m stuck, I feel like it’s mocking me.

I resent that.

My solution?

Routines

Writing is hard. It’s harder when you’re not ‘inspired’. But, writer, no one is inspired every time they sit down to write. If you wait for inspiration, you will get three chapters in six months, and a book that will never be finished.

Writing is a discipline, and you won’t always feel like it.

Working through that reluctance and learning to write anyway is what distinguishes the authors from the hobby writers. If you can write when you don’t want to, you will finish more manuscripts than most people will finish chapters.

And believe me, that’s a good feeling.

The trouble is, how do you get your creativity flowing on a day that feels drier than dust? Because writing isn’t like crunching numbers, stocking shelves, or painting a wall. Sometimes, you’re staring at the blinking cursor, determined to write, and you just . . . can’t.

How To Make It Happen

Here’s the thing.

Your brain is incredibly complex. It’s brilliant and limitless and incredibly, incredibly powerful. Day or night, there is no time when you can’t access the skills you’ve built or the stories you’ve planned.

Writer, it’s your mind you have to convince. (And yes, your mind and your brain are two different things.)

And, if you can’t convince your mind that you are totally capable of writing at any given time, in any given place, then it might just be time to resort to a little trickery.

Yep. I trick my mind. All the time. I’ve learned to snap myself from a slump into high gear and to write like the wind on the days when I am completely stuck.

I do it with two truths, three tricks, and one moment of intentional discomfort.

Truth #1

Writing is magic—and it’s not.

The magic is in you, writer. In your head, in the stories, in the effort you put into your work. There’s no mystical time of day that you have to ‘catch your muse’, no sacrifices to burn, no secret formula.

There is only you. What works for you, what tricks your mind into putting words on the page. What brings joy into the process for you.

Truth #2

There is no wrong way to get yourself moving.

Need a twenty-minute power nap before you start? A half hour of reading? A cup of coffee? Maybe you like to run to get your mind moving or have a favorite snack that triggers your writing mood. Or maybe you like to listen to the same song on repeat for an entire session—or have your space completely silent.

The only wrong routine is the one that doesn’t work for you.

Three Tricks

  1. Have a routine. A thing—or series of things—that you do before and while you’re writing that tells your mind it’s time to focus and get things done. A song, a cup of tea, rereading what you wrote the last session. Something that you do every time you write to trigger your writing muscle and get you going.
  2. Tailor it to you. Writer, you are unique. Looking up writing routines on Pinterest and choosing the best one is great—as long as you tailor it to fit. Your mind is not like anyone else’s. What will get it in gear is completely unique. So take some time to find what works best for you . . . and give it a while to start working. Habits aren’t made in a day.
  3. Know your limits. I try to write six days a week, every week. It keeps me in the zone, keeps me productive, and gets things done. For me, it works. One of my writer chums lasts about three weeks in that routine before she hits burnout and crashes—a totally unhealthy thing to have happen. What works for someone else may not work for you. Find your own routine, your own limits and what keeps you productive, joyful, and healthy, and run with that.

One Moment of Intentional Discomfort

I did not want to write this morning.

I’m going to be honest about that. It happens to me a lot. I would rather read, or listen to an audiobook and do Sudoku puzzles. Or clean my house. Or play chess with the kids. Just about anything really, because writing is hard, it taxes my brain, and as much as I love it, sometimes it’s just—work.

And yet, I set aside the things I would rather be doing, dumped my excuses in the trash, and went to it. Because even the best things in life are uncomfortable at one time or another. They force us to stretch and grow and keep us honest.

But I’ll you something. After that moment of intentional discomfort—that uncomfortable realization that I was going to do this whether I liked it or not—the words started to flow, and I started to enjoy myself.

Sometimes, a moment of intentional discomfort is all it takes.

Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.

What kind of routines do you have for your writing? I’d love to hear about them, or answer any questions you might have about developing a routine. And stay tuned for next week, when we will be discussing details, and the impact they have on a writer’s work.