Last year I wrote a post about the word 'No' and the value of turning down obligations that get in the way of writing. I'm as guilty as anyone of filling up the calendar, chipping away at the time I could spend writing. But I've also discovered a few things which lift me up when my writing life doesn't feel in sync.
- Connecting with other book people in person. Sure we're online all the time, blogging, interacting on listserves, tweeting and commenting on Facebook, but how often do we get face time with our critique partners, librarians, or maybe writers/poets at live readings? We are so often alone while we write that meeting people, especially like-minded people, gives us an encouraging boost. If you live in an area far from opportunities to meet people in-person, set up a Skype/Facetime date with a critique partner. And do take advantage of one-day workshops and writing conferences. If you've never attended an event with dozens or hundreds of book-loving people, you don't know what you're missing!
- Try a new activity. Even when you're not actively writing — surprise! — you actually are. Okay, so taking an extended weekend to shop the outlet mall in the next state over is not the best use of your non-writing time. And I'm not suggesting signing up for a month of community ed classes on creating with paper mache. But if it interests you, go for it, especially if one of your characters runs a homemade pinata business. Being serious now: the point is, new experiences open up the world for your characters, too, helping you to make them three-dimensional with passions and interests all their own.
- Exercise. A healthy body equals a healthy mind. 'A sound mind in a sound body is a short but full description of a happy state in this world.' - John Locke, English philosopher.
- Set Weekly and Monthly Goals. Are you making steady progress on your writing? Do you have off days (like everyone else)? By making weekly and monthly goals, you can see at a glance what you've accomplished. I set goals in three areas each month: reading (number of books), writing (by tracking word count), and business/social media (blog posting, contests, etc.). Then I break these goals down even further into weekly goals. If I don't make a mini-goal during the week, so what? I have three more weeks to pull it off. The pressure is minimal and tracking your accomplishments help keep the morale up.
- Help Someone Else. Remember when you were a beginning writer? You had endless questions about craft, goals, the industry? Guess what, someone else is at that point right this very minute. There's been several people who've helped me from the beginning. Early on, I promised myself that I'd return the favor to someone else someday. The pluses of mentoring someone is two-fold: someone benefits from your expertise nd helping someone else can lift your spirits.