1. Be kind to yourself and your kitten co-workers.
We need to more kind to ourselves as writers. I always tend to feel guilty when my husband heads off for work and I’m still in my pajamas making coffee and feeding my co-workers (cats and dog). My co-workers can get super judgy about the work I do in a day if they haven’t been properly plied with food in the morning.
My husband and I work different hours, and I sometimes feel as though my work isn’t as valuable as it because I don’t put on a power suit and head out of house to dominate whatever plan set forth for me by my job. Just because you don’t fit into the mold of what our society seems to think of as a “real” job that doesn’t mean that you are any less valuable. I should really take my own advice, and have that last sentence tattooed on my forehead.
2. You don’t have to be a hermit crab
Writing is a lonely profession. In my case I’m home for 14+ hours a day by myself. For some people that would be entirely maddening. The fact of the matter is writing is not a group effort. Sure, you have the people who read your drafts, the people who offer you suggestions on this plot hole or that, but at the end of the day the person who has to sit down and put those words on a page is you.
That said, I truly believe that there is a time and a place for the seclusion of writing. I don’t know how someone could come up with an idea for a book without being out in the world and experiencing it. Honest question: how many story concepts have come to you by sitting in a room without any stimulation? We need ideas to feed off of. We need other people’s stories to give us the inspiration to tell that story that only we can tell.
There’s a difference between sitting down to write, and living a life that allows you to generate those ideas that just need to be put down on the page.
3. Work it, baby!
This one is simple, but probably one of the hardest. When you have your idea, and when you sit down to write, you need to actually write. Don’t Facebook stalk your ex. Don’t look at cat videos (guilty). And really try and resist the urge to go online shopping (so guilty it hurts).
The things is, just like an athlete, we need to train ourselves to focus. It might a bit unrealistic to think you’re going to sit down and write for eight hours straight without getting distracted by food, the bathroom, or the black hole that is the Internet. If you have done that, please tell me how because I’d love to get on that train.
I don’t care if it’s an hour, two hours, or thirty minutes while the laundry is running through the wash cycle. If you have that time to write, make sure you do it. Don’t let anything distract you, sit your butt in a chair and scribble something down. It may not be great, but I can tell you that I always, always feel better when I’ve done an hour of really focused work versus five hours of lazy work.
4. Be a pirate
Now, you might be thinking, “this crazy lady just told me to show up for the work, and now she’s tell me to take a break?!” Yes. Yes, I am. Because those two bits of advice are not mutually exclusive. Ever heard the saying ‘Work like a captain. Party like a pirate’? There are variations of this saying, but I hope you get the idea. Do the the work when you plan on writing, but let yourself relax, too. I tend to work an hour to an hour and half, but then I always give myself five or so minutes to refill my coffee, take a bathroom break, or let the dog outside. I always take a larger break through lunch. I used to try and work through lunch, but I found that I was more refreshed if I ignored work while I ate. Now I have time to watch those cat videos!
This also applies on a larger scale. If you’re like me, I’ve made my own work schedule that I have to stick to down to the minute or else I don’t get any work done. But give your brain time to relax. If we have to train ourselves to show up for the work, then we need to give our mind a chance to relax. Even Olympic swimmers have to eat and sleep and go home for holidays.
5. P stands for Passion
At the end of the day, you have to remember why you started. For most, writing starts out as a passion, and I think that sometimes we can get caught up in the monotony of the day to day and forget the joy that writing brings. I know that I’ve gone through those slumps, and I still struggle with feeling that maybe I’ve lost the joy of it. But it’s still there, I know it is. Even though I may not be jumping for joy every time I sit down to write, I know that the reason I keep going is because I don’t want to be doing anything else. We get to play with words and new worlds everyday. How greater could our job get?