I’ve been a professional writer for almost 6 months. In my best Jonathan Van Ness voice, can you believe? Now that I’m more settled in my writing habits, here’s what I’d tell others who are just getting started.
Tea not Coffee
This one may be controversial, but bear with me.
When you work from home, alone, keeping a regular schedule with healthy sleep hygiene gets a lot tougher. If you find yourself staying up later because you’re not tired, I suggest switching over to black tea.
Coffee increases writing anxiety. If you’re struggling with writers block or you’re overly fixated on what others will think about your writing, try giving up the coffee for a week and switching to tea. This may take longer if you’re consuming a lot of coffee. Caffine withdrawal is a beast.
Get a Pre-Writing Ritual
This doesn’t have to be elaborate or time-consuming. In fact, it should be as easy as possible because it will become most useful when you have zero momentum. It should also be something that you can do at different times of day and multiple times a day if necessary.
It should also be enjoyable. You should look forward to doing it, but it shouldn’t be addicting or overstimulating. Don’t use checking Twitter as your pre-writing ritual, trust me.
For me, the warm cozy feeling of tea is my thing. If I’m in bed and need to convince myself to get up and start writing, I bribe myself with tea. And once I start drinking it, for some reason I crave writing. Doesn’t matter if I’m at my desk or sitting on the couch staring out the window.
Find your thing. It can be a quick nap, reading a couple pages out of a book (this one helps me too), a walk outside, washing the dishes, etc.
You’ll Get Better at Recognizing Why You’re Stuck
When you can’t write, it’s not always as severe as writers block. Sometimes we just get a little stuck. When this happens, pause, take some deep breaths and take a moment to ask that noggin of yours, “hey, what’s the hold up?”
A lot of the time, you’re not blocked, you’re just fearful and holding yourself back. The best thing to do is define exactly what it is that is making your nervous so you can surmount the obstacle.
- Do you not know enough about the topic and are afraid people will leave negative feedback? Then spend some time researching.
- Are you overwhelmed by information and feel like you can’t get a grip on the topic? Then you need to take some of the noise in your notes away or write a clearer outline.
- Are you afraid that you can’t do this and that writing it too difficult? Then you need to reconnect to your purpose. For me, I think about all the people that WordPress empowers and how I get to help others along on the journey. I want to be there to support them, so it gives me the courage to write.
Sometimes though, we really do get stuck in the gunky swamp of our thoughts. Oh boy. When that happens, it’s going to take more than some deep breaths to get out. It’s going to take a crow bar.
There may be one of two things happening. Either you’re empty and spent and you need to spend some time collecting nectar to make more honey -or- you’re deep in the pit of self-criticism and all your gems are covered in shit. Let’s begin with the latter, out of the pit, pun intended.
Funny how this process works a lot like household decluttering. When there’s so much going on in your mind and it all sounds like rubbish, you need to get it all out in a great big pile so you can sort it.
Get a notebook or disconnect from the internet if you insist on typing it out, and just write whatever comes into your mind. Anything. Todo items, the ugly self-criticism, the half baked ideas that are probably already spoiled. Write it as it comes to you as a stream of consciousness. Dictate it if you want.
Sometimes just staring at the pile is enough. You’ll be able to spot the gems and pluck them right off the top, just look for the sparkles. Other times, you may have to sift through the pile with a highlighter to pry the good stuff free.
When you’re empty and spent and sad, that’s another matter entirely. When this happens, you need to roll your sleeves up and get right into that life of yours. Pull those weeds. Get your home in order. Go do those things and person you love. Read the books. Play outside.
To find the nectar, you need to go where the flowers are. Find the beautiful blooming things and fill your soul with them.
And above all else, remember: there is room for you in this crazy uncertain world. What you have to say matters, so write it and share it.