The Writing Life; Enhancing Endurance and Creativity
This blog post contains advice that helped me become a better writer.
Writing is an amazing hobby. We create entire worlds and compelling characters with just words. It can also be challenging and frustrating. I’ve compiled a list of ideas that may make it easier to get into the flow, that state of losing ourselves and being immersed in our writing. We’re all at various stages, and you may be familiar with all or most of these tips, but I hope that you’ll still find something in this post that will be helpful. Sometimes just being reminded of a tip can help get us out of a rut.
Your day-to-day thoughts play a large role in your writing progress. A big part of being creative is simply believing you are. For example, if you believe you’ll always have enough ideas when you brainstorm, outline, or write, then it’s likely your creativity will be alive and well most of the time (except for when you’re exhausted, under stress, etc.).
Self-doubt and worrying about what others will think of our work makes generating ideas harder and everything starts to feel forced. Confidence can be a fickle thing, depending on each person and their life experiences. Some days I have a lot of self-confidence, and some days I don’t, because things happen that wear me down or lift me up. If you’re struggling with this in a bad way, there are many good books out there on how to improve confidence. One of the best ones is The Feeling Good Handbook by David D. Burns, M. D. Also, check out Brian Tracy's books on goal setting. Having goals and a sense of direction can give us more confidence.
Writing requires we be able to feel a full range of emotions to create tone in a story, so we won't be able to stay in a good mood all the time. The process is a lot like being an actor. This being said, it's helpful to have a few ways to improve your mood after writing something sad. I watch a lot of comedy movies and shows after writing tragic scenes. Find something that works for you.
Usually, one idea leads to more. We can end up with a story outline or a finished chapter if our brainstorming session goes well. If ideas fizzle out, and you find yourself stuck, it's helpful to do something else for a while. William Kenower mentioned this tip in the book Everyone Has What It Takes and it's one of my favourites.
The inner voice that sometimes says we can’t write anything good
The only way to quiet this voice is to be more aware of our thoughts and ask ourselves what we would say to a friend who's struggling with the same negative self-talk. Chances are you'd be supportive of them. It helps to write what you’d say to your friend and read it to yourself whenever doubt creeps in. We should be our own best friend.
Meditations I recommend for more awareness of our thoughts are: being aware of the breath for several minutes. Five to ten minutes a day is good to start with. Just follow it in and out. Bring the mind back when it wanders to a thought. Another good meditation is to count backwards from 100 to 0, visualizing each number. Gently bring the mind back to the count when it wanders. Don’t judge yourself as incompetent if you get distracted—this is the hardest part.
Reading other people’s novels is a valuable way of gaining knowledge and skill. A bit of comparison to other people’s writing can help us feel more inspired to achieve a higher level, but too much can make us feel bad. We should remember to give ourselves credit when we write a great paragraph or chapter, or when we finish the first draft of a short story or novel. Again, meditation can help chase away negative self-talk. Be careful what thoughts you follow down the rabbit hole. Redirect the mind to your where you want to be.
Sometimes we can be worried that if we feel too good about an event or achievement, the fall from getting knocked down again will be too painful to tolerate. We perceive the fall to be less painful if we’re already down in the dumps, so it's easy to stay in a down mood. I say fight this dangerous state of mind and embrace the good feelings anyway. Life is too short to be fearful of falling.
Writing regularly is helpful in developing confidence. With years of it, we can get so used to a hobby that we have little doubt that we'll be able to throw something together. Though, when we're first starting out, sometimes we need confidence in order to start our stories (the whole chicken and egg issue!). The best advice I have for this is just to begin writing and not expect fantastic results too quickly. It’s better to make small efforts daily than get overwhelmed with trying to do something perfectly. Small steps add up over time (The book Atomic Habits by James Clear explains this well).
Maintaining good energy levels
Having enough energy makes everything easier. It’s easier to take criticism, reach our daily writing goals, and study how-to-write books when we’re feeling well. The following tips are commonly recommended, but I’ll cover them again just to hammer it in: we can gain more energy by getting enough sleep, exercise, healthy food and by taking time to relax (by listening to music, spending time in nature, meditating, etc.). Not everyone has the luxury of doing all these things at all times. Maybe you’re so busy you can’t even do one. Life interferes. Health problems happen. Survival can become more important than enjoyment. Still, we deserve to live our best lives, and these things should be a priority.
Knowing our limits
Sometimes the only way to find out our limits is to try something and see how it goes. Earlier this year, I found out I couldn’t return as many critiques as I wanted, even though I had done a lot in the years before without problems. Life events change, and so do energy levels. Next time, I’ll work differently so I don’t run out of energy. It's possible that one day I'll have more energy to return a lot more crits.
Also, I used to do the NaNoWriMo event (National Novel Writing Month) in November, for three years in a row, but I gained 5 lbs every time I did this. I discovered that writing a novel over three months was better for my health than doing it in thirty consecutive days. Writing is a great hobby, but, as I've said, we need to remember to take care of our health too.
Everyone should have time for themselves. So, take time for your writing, even if it’s just one hour every weekend. You deserve to enjoy your hobbies!
Photo credit: photo by Kristine Cinate from Unsplash
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