If you’re a writer who’s been a part of any online writing community for ANY length of time, you’ve probably stumbled across posts that you found just a tad bit disheartening. For example, posts with titles like: 450 REASONS WHY YOU’RE NOT BEING PUBLISHED or 900 WRITING RULES YOU SHOULDN’T BREAK. We have a hard enough time just finding time to write, now we have to worry about pleasing cynics, critics, and elitists alike? Searching online for quick answers to nagging questions bread by writing anxiety can be majorly stressful for even the most seasoned writer. So, while bloggers and writers from all over the world are telling you the “do’s and don’ts” of being a sucessful writer, here are SEVEN tips on how to be a HAPPIER writer. Let the other guys worry about the technical aspects and leave your mental health and well-being to me!
1: Daydreaming is Pre-Writing!
If you’re anything like me, you love to fantasize about your characters. In fact, it probably comes quite natural to you. When you were a kid way before you caught the writing bug, chances are you used to dream up all kinds of fantastical characters and play out scenes between them in your head. Or, maybe you were a fan of role-playing games like The Sims or Dungeons and Dragons. Regardless of how you got your fix of characters and storylines, you probably spent more than one night laying in bed losing sleep while your creations run amuck and your parents wondered why you were giggling to yourself. Just because your childhood is over and you have bills to pay doesn’t mean you can’t take a little “cat nap” and hash out that scene that’s been bothering you before actually sitting down to write.
Relax in a comfortable position, preferably not in bed unless you really do need to catch up on sleep, and close your eyes. Visualize the scene. Where are your characters? Are they in an urban setting? The middle of the wilderness? What do they look like? What do they feel like? Smell like? Sound like? Become so use to seeing your own characters walking and talking that every time you close your eyes for more than a few seconds it becomes the silver screen. After you have a pretty good foundation of where the scene is going, get up and write it!
2: Write While You’re Laying Down!
This one may be a little tricky if you’re as sleep deprived as the rest of the world. Pick up your laptop, iPad or generally anything with a keyboard, and get some typing done while you’re cozy in bed. If you can adjust the angle so you’re laying on your back or if you’re more comfortable laying on your stomach, prop your writing instrument up on a pillow and get to work. Laying prone will trick your brain into thinking you’re resting, easing the anxiety of sitting upright at a desk and forcing it to remember what words are and which preposition goes where. Just like accountants need chairs with lumbar support and athletes need special shoes, comfort is crucial to a writer’s success and their general happiness. Besides, your back will thank you for it later. Just don’t fall asleep!
3: Writing Challenges Don’t Have to be Challenging!
Not every trick in your writers toolbox has to be used for keeping your mind and skills sharp. Gather up a few friends and your favorite writing challenge and prompt and challenge each other to a friendly game or two! See who can spin a prompt into the weirdest flash fiction story in the shortest amount of time. Have a friend that writes erotica but you specialize in Sci-Fi? Swap genres! Have fun with your writing period and soon you’ll start to see that it’s less of a chore and more of something you can’t wait to do when you wake up in the morning.
4: Find Friends Who Love to Write!
I’ve been extremely lucky to stumble upon a plethora of online writing workshops and Facebook groups where I’ve met a ton of amazing authors, readers, designers and everyday people who’ve pulled me out of a writing funk on more than one occasion. Search your Twitter mentions, Facebook, online forums, Google+ and even Instagram tags for other writers to join and form a community with. Books are our children, and like raising them it often takes a village of support. Support being the keyword here. For starters, here are a few groups I’ve found to be particularly supportive and friendly.
And don’t forget to hit up your #amwriting tags on major social media networks. Those hardworking writers can be lifesavers!
5: The Ultimate Taboo – Put The Caffeine DOWN!
I know, I know, every writer has to have their cup of coffee and their chocolate if they’re going to make it through their 1AM mad dash to finish their manuscript. But coffee and especially caffeine isn’t always the best option when it comes to your writing or your mental well-being.
- More than 4 cups of coffee linked to early death. A Mayo Clinic partnered study found that men who drank more than four 8 fl.oz. cups of coffee had a 21% increase in all-cause mortality. However, those that reported that they consumed excessive amounts of caffeine were also likely to smoke and have poor fitness.
- Caffeine may cause insomnia. Caffeine in a person’s system at bedtime can mimic the symptoms of insomnia.
- Increased risk of heart attacks among young adults. A study conducted by Dr. Lucio Mos found that young adults who were diagnosed with mild hypertension had 4 times the risk of having a heart attack if they consumed the amount of caffeine equivalent to 4 cups of coffee [Caffeine Informer]
Let’s face it, writing is an extremely sedentary job. Writers, in general, don’t tend to get out much. Ask yourself, do you absolutely need that last cup of coffee? Or do you really need to just go to sleep, count your losses, and start fresh in the morning? Physical health and mental health are closely tied. I’m not saying you need to go get a gym membership, but small lifestyle changes could go a long way.
6: Whose Face is it Anyway? Why You Need Fan Casting in Your Life!
As a writer, finding “face claims” for my characters has become my favorite pastime. When I’m not writing I’m often crawling through Google Images and Pinterest looking for pictures of my favorite actors, musicians and models who best resemble certain characters. And when I’m not doing that, I’m ogling said models and daydreaming about my characters actually doing what I tell them for once and actually getting their book finished. Even better, if you have had the opportunity to build a community of fans or followers, why not leave the task up to them? Ask them to find the perfect actors to fill your imaginary cast and reward them when they do. Maybe give them a shoutout on your Facebook page? If they created an image with their fan-cast, share it around the web! There’s nothing more fun than seeing your brain babies through the eyes of others!
7: Put the Pencil DOWN!
That’s right. Put the pencil down. Don’t write anything at all, not even a grocery list. And I don’t mean that in a permanent sense. Everyone needs a break now and again, heck, billionaire CEO’s take vacations every other week and no one bats an eyelash. Writing is a job, whether it pays well or not, and just like with any other job your lack of progress may just mean you need a little time away. Don’t feel bad about stepping away from your writing for a few weeks. Just remember to always come back! Your characters miss you!
If all else fails in your search for the writer-happies, why not just sit back and read? You can find my latest Novelette Blood Fantasy as well as others at most major retailers and on Amazon.