Reading time: About 5 mins (faster if scanning)
Here are my 10 favourite articles or posts from last month, focusing on the most useful, helpful and entertaining pieces for writers.
I love blue, cloudless skies, but I don’t much like heat, unless I can park myself beside a big pool — under an umbrella for shade — with an ice-cold drink and a good book in hand.
But even if I don’t have a good book on the go, I’m happy to grab my laptop and read a really great blog post. Here are my 10 favourites from the last month.
Be aware of how weather affects your writing
Speaking of summer, writer Chris Angelis has a terrific post on the Craft Your Content Website. (@craftcontent) Running under the headline, “How Weather Affects Your Writing and How To Control It,” Angelis describes how different weather systems can help — or hurt — our writing. Here’s how he puts it:
“Generally speaking, you should then aim to plan your writing schedule creating a context where the weather would be compatible with your mental responses. To put it simply, if you like sunshine and the forecast promises clear skies for next week, try to create opportunities for you to write right then. Ideally, you would want to do it in a way that actually allows you to experience the weather—no point aiming for sunshine if you’re stuck in a windowless study, right?”
For more of his thoughts, check out the entire post.
Learn how to manage a difficult boss
I have worked for some particularly demeaning, nasty bosses during my 40-year working life. For that reason, I appreciated an insightful post by Elena Cain (@ecainwrites) What If I Hate My Boss? What to Do When Quitting Isn’t an Option Yet.
Her tips (which appear in escalating order of urgency) include:
- Figure out why you hate your boss
- Try to be empathetic
- Consider the criticism you are receiving
- Offer solutions to improve your relationship
- Minimize contact with your boss
- Try to switch jobs internally
- Leave your work at work
- Look for another job
- Focus on what you want to pursue, not what you want to escape
- Start a side hustle
Understand how (little) authors usually earn
People often ask me how much money authors can make. (When I hear this question I imagine the questioner thinking wistfully of the bank account of Stephen King.)
In a recent post on her website, Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) does a deep dive into how much authors really earn. The bad news is that the majority of writers don’t make a living from book sales alone. Like me, they teach, they consult, and they do a myriad of other tasks that put a paycheque in their pocket.
So, before deciding you’re going to quit your job and become a full-time author, be sure to educate yourself on the realities of the book business.
Stop checking your phone!
Are you spending too much time glued to your cellphone? Check out a terrific post by Josh Spector (@jspector) running under the headline, “How I Stopped Checking My Phone And Started Using It With Intention.”
Here were his 10 steps:
- He stopped checking the phone in his car (while at stoplights)
- He stopped checking during TV commercials
- He kept his phone across the room when not using it
- He turned off all notifications
- He chose an end point for each random surfing session
- He stopped checking his phone while standing in line
- He put phone ‘buffers’ at the beginning and end of each day
- He put his phone away after posting something on social media
- He stopped repeating the cycle of checking things
- He recognized that phone detoxing is a work in progress
If any of these ideas provoke worries about boredom in you, understand that boredom is a precursor for creativity.
Don’t let yourself burn out
Burnout is the result of too much chronic stress. And, unlike acute stress, which is a one-off thing, chronic stress feels like it’s never going to end. In a recent post on the Life of Productivity blog, Chris Bailey (@Chris_Bailey) addresses the “Six Burnout Triggers.”
These triggers are:
- Workload. How sustainable is your level of work?
- Control. How much autonomy do you have? The less control, the more likely you are to burn out.
- Reward. Are you being properly rewarded for the work you do?
- Community. Do you have good, supportive relationships at work?
- Fairness. Is your workplace fair to everyone?
- Values. Do you connect with your work at a deeper level?
As Bailey puts it: “We can’t always control these six areas of our work. But by bringing some awareness to them, we can figure out what we do have the power to change, where our stress is coming from, and how to improve our work for the better.”
Manage your ADHD
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) doesn’t just affect children, it also affects adults — roughly 2.5 percent of them. I suspect the number might even be a little higher for writers. When I worked in a newsroom I knew that many of my reporter colleagues had the disorder. Why? They were self-medicating by drinking coffee and smoking.
Interestingly, people with ADHD can often focus intensely on something. In fact, they tend to be good with short deadlines rather than long ones (hence the appeal of being a daily newspaper reporter.)
In a recent post on the Craft Your Content website, writer Jules Schulman (@JulesSchulman) provided some useful advice. Under the headline, “A time management survival guide for ADHD writers,” she gave some useful tips including:
- Finding an accountability buddy
- Using a physical calendar
- Getting advice from your doctor
- Creating a no-contact time
She wrapped up by saying, “It’s important to acknowledge that despite certain challenges, ADHD can be a gift for a writer. My writing buddy is able to create fictional scenarios with unusual outcomes. When I’m in the zone, I can write a clean and effortless piece in hours. Writers with ADHD are extremely creative, resilient, and adaptive despite inherent challenges.”
Figure out how to get through a mid-week slump
Do you ever find your motivation lagging, particularly when you get toward the middle of the week? Henrik Edberg (@positivityblog) has some useful suggestions in a blog post running under the headline, “Wednesday Motivation: 10 Tips to Help You Through The Midweek Slump.”
Here are his tips:
- Start small
- Play music that boosts your energy
- Compete in a friendly way (with others or yourself)
- Remind yourself of what you are working towards
- Let the motivation flow from other people
- Declutter your workspace
- Tap into gratitude for what you do have
- Mix things up
- Take a two-minute meditation break
- Just get started
Start each chapter of your novel with four essential elements
Writer and former agent Nathan Bransford (@NathanBransford) often provides great advice in his blog posts. A recent one focused on the protagonist’s arc was no exception. Instead of sorting out the bare bones of the plot before beginning the next chapter of your novel, he suggests you concentrate on four key points:
- The protagonist’s mindset
- The protagonist’s motivation
- The protagonist’s plan
- The stakes
As he puts it: “With these four elements in place, the reader will feel well-oriented within the scene and will care much more about whether the protagonist will succeed or fail.” Read the whole post for more detail.
Are you the type of person who overthinks? Many writers are. We spend so much time in our heads it becomes our only way of relating to the world. But the downside is that overthinking can help lead to depression or anxiety — not a pleasant way to live.
Writing under the headline, “How to stop over-thinking,” therapist Pia Callesen (@MetaPiaC) proposes metacognitive thinking, which focuses on letting go of thoughts.
Different from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which I believe is often very successful for writers, metacognitive thinking works to retrain your brain so it’s not so obsessive.
If depression or anxiety makes writing difficult for you, check out Callesen’s advice under the “What to do” section and pay particular attention to the “windowpane exercise” toward the end.
Use healthier coping strategies
In an 11-minute TED Talk, writer and podcaster Julia Galef (@juliagalef) describes how to deal with setbacks. While ineffective strategies — such as denying a problem or blaming it on a scapegoat — might be the first ones we turn towards, other approaches are far more likely to succeed. These might include: making a plan, noticing silver linings and learning to focus on different goals.
Galef likes to quote Charles Darwin who said, “Whenever I have found out that I have blundered, or that my work has been imperfect, and when I have been contemptuously criticized, and even when I have been overpraised, so that I have felt mortified, it has been my greatest comfort to say hundreds of times to myself that ‘I have worked as hard and as well as I could, and no man can do more than this.’ ”
Need some help developing a sustainable writing routine? Learn more about my Get It Done program. The group is now full but there is turn-over each month, and priority will go to those who have applied first. You can go directly to the application form and you’ll hear back from me within 24 hours.
My video podcast last week addressed how to improve undergrad writing. Or, see the transcript, and consider subscribing to my YouTube channel. If you have a question about writing you’d like me to address, be sure to send it to me by email, Twitter or Skype and I’ll try to answer it in the podcast.
What are the best blog posts you’ve seen in the last month? We can all learn from each other so, please, share your thoughts with my readers and me in the “comments” section below. Anyone who comments on today’s post (or any others) by June 30/21 will be put in a draw for a digital copy of my first book, 8 1/2 Steps to Writing Faster, Better. Please, scroll down to the comments, directly underneath the “related posts” links, below. Note that you don’t have to join Disqus to post. See here to learn how to post as a guest. It’s easy!