Why you should never feel guilty about taking time to write

stressAs a freelance writer and an author with 20 books outlined and only one published, I always feel guilty when I do literally anything other than write, but I know the opposite is true for many writers. They–and probably you–have day jobs, families, and friends vying for their limited time, not to mention all the things that need to happen to keep their homes and bodies running properly. They feel guilty taking time away from these things to write, and when they do get their butt into the chair, there’s always a voice nagging them with all the other things they could be doing.

Once upon a time, I struggled with this type of guilt too. Then I realized how much it weighed me down, how it made it difficult to get into the flow when I finally did get to work, and how it was generally ruining my life. So every time the guilt reared its ugly head, I reminded myself why this writing thing I do is so important, and why it’s worth the time.

If you’re struggling, these reminders might just help you too.

When you feel like the world is about to end

explosion-123690_640If you pay any attention to the news, you’ll know that the developed world seems to be on a catastrophic and awfully fast-moving downward spiral. The UK is run by an extremely conservative party bent on leaving the EU, no matter how much it screws up their country. America is run by a tyrant with the temper of a four year old boy, and even though both parties spoke openly about what a bigoted asshole he is during the election, the vast majority of American politicians are meekly bowing their heads and accepting the destruction of the democracy they claim to love so much.

Here in Canada, things are marginally better. Our government doesn’t resemble a dumpster fire. Our prime minister isn’t trying to turn this country into a dictatorship. Funding for the arts has actually increased, and the free press remains free.

Unfortunately we’ve reached a point where global politics are so awful that Trudeau, who in all reality is a very average politician, is being treated like a bloody saint. When you’re standing next to Trump, you can do no wrong. But Trudeau has failed to keep many of his promises–most importantly the promise of election reform, which is the best way to keep our country from following in America’s footsteps–and I’m not confident that he has the courage to stand up to Darth Orange.

To be honest, I’m not confident about much right now. When the last leader of the Soviet Union says it looks like we’re on the brink of another world war, and I am intimately familiar with the number of nuclear bombs available, it’s hard to believe in much. Some days it’s hard to believe we’ll even reach the end of 2017 without causing a nuclear winter.

This reminds me of something an older relative said to me a few years ago: “we laugh at those old bomb drills now, but in the 60’s, we really thought the bombs could drop on our head at any moment–it’s no wonder we fell in love with drugs and rock and roll”.

Now, I’ve been in love with rock and roll as long as I can remember(not so much the drugs though), but only in the past few months have I really believed the end is nigh. I try to keep hope, to tell myself humanity will survive this challenging time, that this downward spiral is a temporary backslide on the road to progress. Some days I even manage to believe it. Most days, though, I end up thinking humanity will probably destroy itself–and being angry that it’s happening now, when my career is finally taking off.

Staying the course when everything is awful

I’ve struggled through a lot in the past. I kept writing when my parents split up, when my dad grew sick with cancer and died, when we moved out of the neighbourhood I grew up in, when I went through a series of messy relationships with even worse break ups. Through all of it I held on to my dream, and bit by bit, I grew closer to achieving it. My first novella, Keeper of the Dawn, got signed last year and is supposed to come out this April.

But I am struggling now. My depression is no longer primarily about my own circumstance; the entire world is aggravating my depression and giving me the most intense anxiety I’ve ever suffered from. Everything feels pointless now. Some days I consider giving up all the hard work, getting some terrible minimum wage job, and spending all my free time partying instead. Other than Keeper of the Dawn and another novella I wrote last year, I’m not sure any of my projects will be publishable before world war three breaks out.

Staying the course has never been so difficult, even though I know sharing my stories has never been as important as it is right now. After all, my stories–both the personal and the fictional–are about strong women changing the world, and right now we need to be those women, fighting for what we believe in. So I am pushing through the dread, one sentence at a time, and filling every spare hour with self care activities to give me strength. And I will keep telling my stories, no matter how much it hurts.

Have you struggled with your creativity in recent weeks? Tell me about it–and how you’re getting through the struggle–in the comments below or on Twitter @DiannaLGunn!

Understanding resistance

DIYMFA-Book-CoverOver the last few days I’ve been reading the DIY MFA book, a writing book by one of my favourite bloggers and writing teachers, Gabriela Pereira. I’m going to post a review of the entire book next week, but today I wanted to examine a specific concept in closer detail: the idea of using resistance as a guide.

This idea–the idea that resistance is a good thing because it forces you to grow into a stronger writer–is one I’ve heard stated in many different ways over the years(or, more accurately, read stated many different ways on different blogs). It’s one that resonates with me strongly, but to me it doesn’t necessarily mean forcing yourself through the piece anyway. Sometimes it means you need to stop and develop your characters or your world more thoroughly. Other times the resistance is a sign that you need to completely change the direction your story is going in.

Resistance can also mean that you need to stop and take care of yourself. This is particularly true for those of us who live with trauma and/or mental illness. Using our experiences in our writing gives it depth and can be an incredibly cathartic experience, but it can also put us back in those painful places, those painful memories. It’s the most painful when we’re writing about the traumatic experiences directly, but even writing a similar story in a completely fantastical world can drudge up the old hurt.

Here’s the thing: we absolutely must tell the painful stories, but you must not hurt yourself. Our stories have the power to reach people who are still living in the struggle, to remind them that they are not alone. They also have the power to educate people, to show the world what it is really like to live with trauma and mental illness. But we want our stories to be hopeful tales, not cautionary ones, and taking care of your mental health is crucial.

So if you’re struggling with a piece, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you stuck because of a problem with the story itself or is the story weighing you down mentally because it reminds you of something from your own past?
  • Is there a different angle you can approach the story from?
  • Can you psych yourself up for tough writing sessions with the promise of a treat afterwards?
  • Is there somebody you can call mid-writing session and vent to if you find yourself being highly triggered?

Usually I know before I even start a piece whether or not it’s going to be tough on my health, so I always schedule extra social outings and reading time when I’m working on something that’s going to drudge up hard feelings. On the first draft I often only skim the surface of these dark feelings and I take many breaks, but I know the painful stories have the most power, so I always come back to them. In fact, I’ve been working on several painful stories I’ll hopefully be sharing with the world quite soon.

How do you take care of yourself when you’re writing about things that bring up bad memories? Let me know in the comments section below!

Self Confidence For Writers Part 6: Final Thoughts

Self Confidence For Writers_ A When you’ve been writing for five, ten, fifteen years and have yet to see more than a little extra pocket money from your effort, it’s easy to feel like you’ve accomplished nothing. And it’s completely natural to think about giving up once in a while. It would certainly be easier to do just about anything else.

Over the past few weeks I’ve discussed how various factors impact your self confidence, how to deal with different situations and what routines you can build to permanently improve your self confidence.

These strategies are all useful, but the best way to build your self confidence is to make consistent progress towards your life goals.

We all have issues, things we want to change about ourselves. Many of us also have big career dreams that aren’t currently being met. Nobody’s perfect and nobody ever will be, but we can all move closer to being the person we want to become. And what better way to improve your self confidence than to change into someone you like more?

If the life you’re living isn’t currently anything like the life you want to have–or you’re feeling discouraged by another rejection–follow these three steps to start changing your life today:

1. Be realistic about where you are. This is twofold. First, you need to realize that every written page, every completed chapter, every blog post that gets even a single comment is a step in the right directions. Some days writing five chapters of your manuscript is no big deal. Other days it’s difficult to get through more than a page. Same goes with edits.

Every time you finish something, you should give yourself a pat on the back. A lot of people daydream about becoming creative professionals, but only so many actually work towards it. A lot of people talk about writing a book, but only so many do–and even fewer edit their work.

I think some writers fall into the trap of thinking the only way to measure success is by looking at your list of publishing credits. If that really is you, maybe you should try your hand at non-fiction. You’ll probably get at least a dozen articles published before your first novel is up for sale.

The other aspect of this particular step towards self confidence is that you need to realize that every writer’s journey is different. Some writers get their first novel published at seventeen. Others don’t even start their first draft until they’ve already lived a different life and retired. It’s all valid. Your journey is yours alone, and when you realize that you can only move at your own pace you’ll be a lot happier.

2. Write down specific steps you can take each day to move forward in your life. It’s easier to know whether or not you’re making progress–and how quickly you’re progressing towards your goals–if you know what that looks like. Obviously a finished manuscript, a completed edit or a column in a local magazine is a victory, but do you really know how to build the writing career you want?

If you’re here, you probably already have a good idea what the steps are, but writing them down is extremely powerful. Even better, this can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be–anything from “write daily, edit everything, submit regularly” to detailed information about how much time you want to spend on each social network.

You might not be able to finish your WIP tomorrow or land a publishing contract next week, but there are plenty of things you can do every day to move your writing career forward. Even better, quite a few take less than half an hour.

3. Add at least one of these activities to your daily schedule for the next two weeks. You don’t have to turn every free moment into writing time, but you do have to up your game. Even adding an extra 15-20 minutes to the amount of time you spend writing or spending half an hour on social media can make a big difference if you do it every day.

If you want results sooner rather than later, you have to put the work in now. We all have a limited supply of time. If you want to build a successful writing career and you want to do it quickly, you’ll make the time to write, edit, submit and market your work. You’ll find spare moments in your day, write in line, spend hours each week developing relationships with influential people online.

And if you’re willing to put in the work, you can do it. Novels are hard to sell and it might take you a long time, but with enough determination, eventually you’ll find yourself among the ranks of published authors.

Oh, and don’t forget to celebrate successes! Keep track of every day you achieve all your goals, and reward yourself on a weekly or monthly basis. Writing is hard work, and you deserve to celebrate your successes, however small they may seem.

Related Posts:

Self Confidence For Writers Part 1

Self Confidence For Writers Part 2: The Benefits of Daily Practice

Self Confidence For Writers Part 3: Nurturing Relationships

Self Confidence For Writers Part 4: Coping with Criticism

Self Confidence For Writers Part 5: Daily Exercises to Build Confidence

Self Confidence For Writers Part 5: Daily Exercises to Build Confidence

Self Confidence For Writers_ AYou probably know that increased confidence can improve every aspect of your life. It will help you smile in the face of rejection, get the promotion you want, sell your books. Most people will even tell you that confidence is one of the biggest factors that makes someone an attractive date.

So how do you boost your confidence?

For most people, it takes concentrated effort on a daily basis. It’s about erasing negative thought patterns and learning to trust yourself. And no matter how hard you work, sooner or later something’s going to deliver a blow to your confidence. How much of a blow–and how quickly you recover–depends on your discipline.

Simple daily routines can help you build self confidence:

1. Stretch.

A brisk walk or run might also be a good idea, but even doing a few daily stretches can make you happier and more confident. Oh, and stretching your arms and wrists out two or three times a day can help you prevent the development of carpal tunnel or repetitive strain injury.

Even half an hour of yoga a day can make you more flexible while also building your strength and your confidence. In a few months you might even be just as flexible as you were when you were a kid.

2. Learn or practice a skill.

Learning new facts and skills or mastering a skill you’ve already learned is one of the best ways to boost your confidence. The more you can do, the more competent you’ll feel, especially if you remind yourself how many people around you can’t do what you can.

Building confidence isn’t about thinking you can do everything when you can’t. It’s about becoming confident in what you can do, and one of the best ways to do that is to master the skills you’ve learned.

3. Write a list of accomplishments each day.

Often when you miss a couple items on your to do list you end up berating yourself when there’s really no need. When you’ve already written down a to do list and you’re staring it in the face, it’s easy to forget why those things got missed. Sometimes life gets in the way. You have to clean up something you spilled. Traffic takes longer than expected. You get a paid rush project and have to ignore something on your to do list.

I do this all the time. I miss something on my to do list and I get angry at myself, but then I start thinking about all the other things I’ve done that day. This has been particularly true lately, since I’ve been running around a lot, looking for a place to live.

When you start doing this, stop and write down everything you did do on that day. You might be surprised when you realize how much you accomplished. Do it every day for a month, and you’ll quickly realize that you get a lot done, even when it doesn’t feel like it.

Confidence may not come easily to you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t become confident. It may take a little bit of hard work or it may take a lot. You may struggle with your confidence for the rest of your life–I certainly struggle with mine all the time, and I doubt that’s going to change any time soon–but it will get better, however minutely, if you work at it.

Here’s one thing I do know: there are enough jobs, enough publishers, enough avid readers out there for all of us to someday make a living. It may be a small one or it may be massive, but with some ingenuity and a lot of hard work, each and every one of us can make it.

What do you do to bolster your confidence when you’re feeling down? Share your thoughts and tips in the comments below!

Self Confidence For Writers Part 3: Nurturing Relationships

Self Confidence For Writers_ A The right community can provide a massive boost of self confidence to any writer. Writers have a tendency to be more introverted than extroverted, but in the end we all need people.

More specifically, we need the right people in our lives. Nobody can go through life completely on their own. Everybody needs help sometimes. Once in a while we all need a shoulder to cry on, a few encouraging words, even somebody to just listen while we rant and rave about how some days we can’t stand anyone.

Our relationships with non-writers matter just as much as our relationships with writers.

I’ve already talked at length about the benefits of joining a great writing community and if you follow any author blogs, sooner or later you see a great many of them thanking their writing communities for something. There are many great writing communities online and there might also be one or more in your are, where you’ll find an incredible level of support and people willing to give honest feedback on your work.

These relationships are obviously important, but so are your relationships with all the other people in your life. You need to spend quality time with your family and make an effort to maintain friendships. Most people aren’t writers, but that doesn’t make your relationships with them less important. A person doesn’t need to be a writer to make a huge impact on your life.

When you make an effort to keep in contact with old friends and spend time with your family, your relationships become stronger. People are more likely to help you out. They’re more interested in what you do when you’re not around them, because you’ve shown an interest in knowing them and becoming their friend. And everybody has an inspiring story to tell, a great joke or a useful piece of advice. You just have to listen long enough.

The best part is that you don’t usually have to do anything massive. Just calling somebody up once in a while or giving them a small birthday present can make a huge difference in your relationship with that person. Having some fun together is always a great way to bond with other people too.

In modern society a lot of importance is placed on our social life. If you don’t have friends, you’re called a “loner”, and that quickly turns to “loser”. People look down on you if you don’t date. They also make assumptions based on who you do–or don’t–hang out with.

All in all, who your friends and family are and what kind of relationship you have on them can have a huge impact on your self confidence. While you shouldn’t be bending over backwards to help everyone all the time or spending every spare moment with friends or family–you need alone time to read and write, after all–you do need to maintain strong relationships with at least a few people who you know will support you.

Cutting toxic people out of your life is difficult, but always worth it.

I think this is the caveat that really needs to be added to any conversation about developing relationships with people, growing your network or building a community. Some people are flat out toxic. They will always find something negative to say, some way to bring you down. They’re quick to come up with an insult and slow to come up with a solution. You’ve probably already met at least one person like this.

When you’re on the path to becoming any kind of creative professional you need to be particularly wary of this. Lots of people like to tell creative people that they can’t accomplish their dreams, that they’ll never be successful. Some of them are saying it because they’re genuinely concerned and they know being an artist, writer, musician or actor is difficult. Others are saying it because they never pursued their own creative dreams and they’re bitter that you’re doing what they don’t have the courage for. And there are at least half a dozen other reasons why people will say that you’re never going to be a successful writer.

If it’s your mother or your sister, you might not want to cut these people out of your life completely, but there’s no good reason to have friends who don’t think you can actually be successful doing what you love. If somebody repeatedly insults you or tries to discourage you from pursuing your dreams, you need to either minimize the amount of time you spend with them or stop talking to them altogether.

The more time you spend around people who don’t believe you can be successful, the more you’ll internalize their negative talk. When you’re constantly being insulted and told you can’t make it, it’s hard not to start believing it to some extent. Get rid of those people and you’ll probably notice a difference within just a few days.

Maintaining healthy relationships isn’t always the easiest thing in the world, but in the end that’s part of why it feels so awesome. And while the journey to self confidence is difficult for most writers, it’s a lot easier when you have great people by your side who truly believe you can be successful. One of the biggest reasons why I love the Nanowrimo community is because it feels like having my own personal cheer leading squad.

If you don’t have some personal cheerleaders of your own, it’s time to go out and find some. You’ll be amazed how much they boost your self confidence.

How much energy do you usually put into your relationships with people? Do your interactions with people usually have a major impact on your mental health? Please share your thoughts, comments and questions in the comments section below.

Other posts in this series:
Self Confidence For Writers Part 1
Self Confidence For Writers Part 2: The Benefits of Daily Practice

Self Confidence For Writers Part 1

Self Confidence For Writers_ A Do you sometimes wonder if everything you’re writing is complete garbage? Are you afraid to submit your work because you don’t think it’s good enough? Afraid that you’ll never find an editor willing to give you a chance? Not confident you have the stamina for self publishing?

Every writer struggles with these feelings, and there’s a pretty good chance you struggle with self confidence in more than one area of your life. You might not believe you can ever get a promotion at your day job, or that you’re not the kind of person who can attract a good romantic partner, or that you’re not smart enough to understand physics or learn a new language.

Discovering who you are and what you are capable of is part of the human experience. We all struggle with our self confidence at some point. When you mess something up it’s easy to slip into the belief that you’re a failure. The bigger your mistake, the easier it gets.

For writers, this is even easier. As writers we are constantly exposed to rejection. At some point we all have to face it. Most writers go through dozens or even hundreds of rejections before even getting their first publication. With all of that rejection going around, it’s easy to start believing your work is worthless.

So how do you build the self confidence necessary to keep going? How do you foster the belief that someday you will be successful? How do you convince yourself that all this work is worth it, that it will lead you somewhere great in the end?

Start by realizing that the path to self confidence will likely be a lifelong journey.

Every setback, no matter how minor, has the potential to completely derail your self confidence. Every rejection has the power to make you question whether or not you should continue writing at all. And that doesn’t just apply to setbacks in your writing career. A bad break up, lost job or even just being passed over for promotion can seriously damage your self confidence.

For those of us who struggle with actual mental illness, this is often even more difficult. I can now comfortably say I make a living through a combination of online writing and marketing–last week I got a new job I’ll hopefully be able to gloat about in public soon–but just the other day I had a bit of a meltdown because I’m stuck on a short story and I started to wonder if I’ll ever get any fiction published.

Of course I’m still trying to work through the story because I love it and I’m confident I can make it something magnificent–even if I have to rewrite the last bit five times–but I also know I’ll have more meltdowns when writing gets tough in the future. Even when my first short story is published, even when my first novel is published, I will always fear rejection for future stories. Editing will probably always be a struggle, but I know in the end it will be worth it.

If you truly want to make a career out of writing, you can do it. You might never be famous, but you can make a living writing. In fact, if you’re willing to write different things, there are dozens of ways to make a living writing.

The key thing you have to remember is that it isn’t easy to be a professional writer. It’s particularly difficult to be a professional fiction writer. You will struggle. There is a reason why the starving writer stereotype exists. It’s because every writer struggles at some point, whether it’s for two months or for ten years or their entire life. J.K. Rowling once lived on welfare. Stephen King lived in a trailer park.

Professional authors struggle with their self confidence too.

Have you ever heard of “imposter syndrome”? It’s when successful authors who are making a good living doing what they love feel like imposters talking about their success. They feel like they haven’t really done anything special, that there’s no reason for anybody to admire them.

Often imposter syndrome comes with the fear that their next project will be a failure. Many writers who are enormously successful with one book freeze up writing the next out of fear that nobody will like it. A fair number of them have discussed it publicly, whether in speeches or in articles, but the author whose description of this feeling impacted me most powerfully was Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love. If you need some powerful inspiration, you can check it out here.

When you get published, you will be afraid of poor sales. You’ll be afraid that you won’t get a second contract. If you’re extremely successful, you might not be too worried about getting the contract, but you will be worried that fans of your first novel will hate your second.

If you want to enjoy a long, successful writing career you need to treat rejection and setbacks as learning experiences. Realize that as painful as the hundredth edit might be, every edit really does make your work better. Consider rejection a chance to find a better place to publish your work.

Are you struggling with your self confidence right now? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below–and don’t forget to come back next week for some practical advice on boosting your self confidence.

Other Posts in This Series:

Self Confidence For Writers Part 2: The Benefits of Daily Practice
Self Confidence For Writers Part 3: Nurturing Relationships

13 Ways to improve your day — and your life

beach-17441_640For many writers, life is a constant struggle. Those of us whose books remain unpublished after years of work doubt our ability to write and wonder why we started. Those who have found success fear with each book that their chain of success will be broken.

Many of us also struggle with depression. Many writers don’t make a living on their work and instead have jobs they hate–or at least jobs that don’t fulfill them but are necessary to pay the bills.

While I’m lucky enough to be working from home as a freelance writer, I’ve struggled with depression for years and I may not ever fully conquer it. But now I spend most of my time happy and enjoying life.

You may need something more drastic than anything on this list to change your life and bring you out of depression completely, but small, every day actions can make a huge impact on your life and how you feel on a day to day basis.

Before I start with the list, let me just say that you can conquer depression and you can be successful as a writer. Whatever challenges are in your way, with enough persistence and hard work, you can be successful. You may not be the next J.K. Rowling or Suzanne Collins, but you can be successful.

Until then, here are thirteen ways to improve your day — and your life:

1. Make time for movement. I’ve recently talked a little bit about how I’m building yoga into my daily routine. You can do yoga, martial arts, dance or just go for a brisk walk every day. Get your blood flowing and feel good about yourself.

2. Build meditation into your routine. Taking a few minutes every day to relax and completely let go of all life’s worries can make a huge impact on your mental health. You might also find that when you’re trying to clear your mind of everything is when you have the best novel ideas. I don’t meditate every single day, but I do meditate sometimes and I’m trying to make it part of my routine.

3. Stop comparing yourself to others. There will always be somebody richer, more beautiful, stronger, and more successful than you. There will also always be somebody poorer, less attractive, weaker, and less successful than you. Comparing yourself to others is a waste of time. Everybody has their own journey, and you’re better off focusing on yours than drawing comparisons.

4. Connect with other writers. You might love your normal friends and your family, but nobody will understand your writing woes better than other writers. They’ll often also be the ones cheering loudest when you find success.

5. Prioritize what makes you happy. If you spend a lot of time doing things to please others, it’s time to take time back for yourself. If you’re in a job you don’t really enjoy, you need to take steps to change that. If you’ve dreamed of being a professional writer since you were a child, you need to write regularly and submit often. Make sure you’re always working towards your goals and you’ll be much happier–even if you’re only working on them for half an hour every day.

6. Cut toxic people out of your life. The people around you have a huge influence on how you feel, whether you like to admit it or not. If somebody makes you unhappy almost every time you see them, it’s time to stop talking to that person. You don’t have to cut them off forever if they’re relatives you do care about, but taking a few months away to live your own life can be a huge relief.

7. Keep the space around you clean. Not perfect, of course, because nothing’s ever perfect and you should spend a lot more time writing than you do cleaning. But your desk shouldn’t be covered in garbage and the rooms you spend the most time in should be comfortable. You shouldn’t feel the nagging need to clean every time you’re writing or watching a movie.

8. Focus on your successes. It’s always important to examine failures and learn from them, but when you’re down it’s important to remember your success. When you hear about a writer who hasn’t written for half as long as you have who’s already famous, remember that you’ve accomplished a lot in your time, and that you have a number of stories all ready to be released when you do make it big. When you think about cousins who are working better jobs and making great money, remember the job you do have and the money you have made.

9. Read about amazing transformations. Reading about what other people have gone through often makes your own journey easier. It’s always good to know other people have been through similar struggles and have come out better for it. It’s especially good to know how many writers have gone from rock bottom to incredibly famous.

10. Get dressed every morning. Even if you work from home, you shouldn’t be working in your PJ’s all day. Taking a few minutes to get dressed and make sure you look good will build your confidence and make you happier throughout the day.

11. Schedule social time. As writers, especially writers with day jobs or school, it’s easy for us to become completely isolated. Your characters might be great company, but it’s not good for you in the long run. Make sure you get out at least every couple of weeks to socialize with people and maintain the friendships that are important to your life. Friends are everything — especially when you’re published and they’re buying your book.

12. Limit how much time you spend working. In the same vein as the last one, you don’t want to spend all your spare time writing novels. You still need time to read books you love, watch the occasional movie, go out for walks, and spend time with the people you care about. Odds are you have a couple other hobbies too. Don’t neglect them because you feel the need to be writing all the time.

13. Explore new creative mediums. Learn to paint, work with clay, play the drums, dance — whatever art you’ve always wanted to get into but felt you never had the time for. Take a class or learn on your own with the help of creative supplies and maybe a few Youtube tutorials. Exploring new mediums is a great way to overcome writer’s block. You might even discover a talent you didn’t know you had, and there’s nothing better for your self esteem than newfound talent.

Whether you struggle with depression or not, doing any or all of these things can drastically improve not just your day but your entire life. Many of these things are also best done on a daily basis but can still be immensely useful when only done on occasion. And if you’ve been paying much attention, there are some common themes.

What it all boils down to, at least for me, is exploring my creativity, controlling my time, and bettering myself. Make sure that your life is flowing in the right direction and your life will become significantly better.

What do you do when you’re having a bad day? What routines have you built that have improved your life? Please leave your answers in the comments below.

Keeping Your Writing Space Clean

workstation-336369_640 Your bedroom’s a little messy and you’re totally fine with that. There are probably some nooks and crannies you almost always ignore when cleaning up. I’ll admit, I don’t keep my home in perfect condition all the time either. Life gets in the way and there are many worse things than a couple pairs of dirty socks on the floor.

Still, no matter how messy you let the rest of the house become, it’s important to keep your writing space clean. You need some kind of organization. Everything you’re likely to need in a given day should be within easy reach. All the things you need should have designated homes where they return when you’re done with them. Even a small work area can seem spacious if it’s well organized and kept clean.

Scheduling time to regularly clean your work space is as crucial to your success as scheduling time for self care. A clean, organized workspace reminds you that you’re dedicated to becoming a professional writer.

If you spend most or all of your writing time in one spot–especially if you’re a full time writer–the cleanliness of your work area will make a huge impact on your mindset. Your writing space should be a place where you feel comfortable. It should be a place you’re excited to get back to because you associate it with creativity and the work you love.

How exactly you choose to clean and organize your writing space is entirely up to you. Every writer is different and every workspace comes with its own unique advantages and disadvantages. If you tend to take on numerous short projects, you might want to re-organize your space more often than if you know you’ll be working on the same projects for several months. You might decide to do a deep clean–scrubbing the surrounding floors and walls–once a week or once a month.

Do whatever works for you, but make sure you do it regularly. Build it into your schedule. Create a checklist of things you must do to properly clean your writing space. Your list should include organizing loose papers, wiping the surface of your desk–or the kitchen table, whatever you’re using–and sweeping the room you work in. Regularly cleaning your keyboard and scrubbing any spots off the walls and floors is important too.

If you’re serious about this writing thing it means you’re going to end up skipping a lot of social events to write and spending a lot of time indoors. Keeping your workspace clean and organized is one way to make sure you want to return to your story.

If you’ve been working in a messy office for ages and don’t believe cleaning it up will truly impact your productivity and happiness, try keeping it clean for an entire month. See how you feel. Odds are, you’ll find it was one of your most productive months yet. Better still, you’ll be more excited to continue writing because your writing space feels more comfortable.

Finding time to do a thorough cleaning job may be difficult, but I assure you it will be well worth your time–especially if you’re trying to make do in a small space.

Do you have a cleaning routine for your writing area? What does it look like?

How to Harness Creative Energy When You’re Exhausted

Pixabay -- http://thedabbler.ca/3-great-dystopian-novels/ Insomnia has long been a common ailment among writers. Most people will probably go through a few bouts of insomnia during their lifetime. There’s a good chance you’ve already been through several–and that you’ll experience several more.

Many writers–at least among those I’ve met–do the bulk of their work late at night. I tend to get quite a few ideas at 4AM, and while not all are good, the sheer number means some always are. Still, a person can only go so many days without sleeping properly in a row. Sooner or later you’re going to feel the effects.

Over the years I’ve learned a number of tricks to help myself sleep, but much like my wrist problems, I know sleep problems will eventually return. So I’ve also developed a number of strategies to do the best possible work when I haven’t gotten enough sleep.

Creative energy doesn’t disappear. It may wane, but there are ways to make it grow–and to maximize the energy you have. When you rely on creativity for your livelihood, it’s important to know these ways.

Creativity Boosters

There are as many ways to boost your creativity as there are writers. Here are a few things that have worked for me:

1. Yoga/Meditation — I lumped these two together because I do both in the same hour. A few stretches and even 5-10 minutes of meditation gives me a huge boost when I’m running low on sleep. There is energy all around you, giving life to everything on this earth. Meditation is a great way to tap into it. It can’t completely replace sleep but it helps.

2. Read books — when I haven’t slept much I don’t want to do much walking. Or much that requires physical energy. So I curl up with a good book, usually in the backyard if it’s a nice day. Most of the time I end up itching to get back to my writing. When I don’t, I spend a day with a good book–something every writer should do once in a while.

3. Clean — cleaning is a good way to let your mind relax. When I’m worn down from a few days without proper sleep, I don’t want to go out, but I do want to clean house. Getting up to sweep will give your body some energy and having a clean workspace will make you more eager to stay there.

4. Study other writers’ careers — studying the great writers of your genre, or any genre, comes with all kinds of perks. You can base a blog post–or an entire series of blog posts–on your research. Certain authors are household names, but how much does the average person know about them? Help them expand that knowledge. There’s also something about reading numbers like “600 short stories published” that makes you want to get back to work.

Creativity boosters are great, but they can only go so far, especially near the end of a long bout of insomnia. It’s also essential to use your energy the most efficient way possible. You want to produce as much as you can without writing absolute garbage or burning out.

Keeping the creative torch lit

Time management is always important, but it’s most important when your creativity levels are low.

Here are a few ways to make that energy last:

1. Set a minimum activity goal. It might be a page on your current project each day. Maybe it’s only 50 words each day when you’re particularly exhausted. Choose a minimum amount of work you’ll be satisfied with, and don’t force yourself to work past it. Producing quality work is more important than the quantity(unless it’s Nanowrimo).

2. Focus on shorter projects. When you’re tired, it’s difficult to face a novel. Writing–or rewriting–a book is daunting. Focus on shorter projects like blog posts and you’ll feel much less overwhelmed. When I’m tired I’ll often commit to just a brainstorm or an outline and end up drafting three blog posts. By the way, did you notice how I said drafting? I don’t publish anything I’ve written in this state without intense editing.

3. Write on paper. If you haven’t been sleeping well for more than a couple days, computer glare can be quite painful. Writing on paper is easier on the eyes and seems to use different parts of the brain. At least, making the switch to paper always gives me fresh ideas–and saves me from posting garbage. After all, I have to type it up before it can be published, which means the editing process is built right in.

4. Research markets. You don’t need much creative energy to research writing markets. This is also a good time to do any other research you’re interested in or might have to do for an upcoming project. Taking notes is easy, feels productive and often leads to new ideas.

Sleep is crucial to your health and creativity, but getting the right amount can be a challenge. Get the sleep whenever you can, but learn how to stay productive when you can’t.