Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Four Ways to Cut the Insanity out of Your Writing Life

Photo Courtesy of SXC. ©2006 Muresan113
Thanks to our technologically rich environment, it’s become increasingly easier to find information over the years, especially in terms of how to write well. No longer are we limited to books such as Strunk & White’s Elements of Style or magazines such as Writer’s Digest. Now we have libraries full of books claiming to teach the secrets of writing, blogs that offer daily tips and leads, and conferences that are bursting at the seams with all the latest How-To’s. You don’t even have to leave your office to attend the seminars anymore.

As a writer, it’s easy to get lost in all of that information and, as a result, become overwhelmed.

I, myself, have noticed I spend more of my writing time “studying” how to write than actually writing. Another large chunk of time is spent engaging in activities to “build my platform.”

In his introduction to Revising and Self-Editing, James Scott Bell shares a story of attempting to learn golf. He bought books, he listened to tapes, and nearly chucked his clubs into the dumpster. Then he met a well-respected teacher that showed him what he’d been missing all along. In putting all of his focus into technique, Jim had overlooked the feel for the game. The same, Jim writes, can be true of writers.

In focusing on doing everything “right” we forget the feel of writing. We lose sight of the joy of creating and miss what we set out to do: Write. And if we don’t enjoy our labor, why would anyone who comes up behind us and reads over our shoulder?

So how do we cut some of the insanity weve introduced into our writing lives? 

1. Trust our instincts. 

We’ve done the exercises, read the books, and sat through the seminars. We have the tools and the capability. It’s time to put them to use.

2. Be intentional. 

Our writing time needs to be about being creative and enjoying that process (and all the challenges that go along with it). If a question arises in how to handle a certain issue, make a note and move on. Use some free time later to brush up on the subject.

3. Take a Social Media break. 

We don’t have to read every article posted, nor do we need to update our feeds with witty comments, random questions, or inspirational photos every couple of hours. The world can and will survive without our constant digital input.

4. Re-read the book that first inspired you to be a writer.

By revisiting the story we can recapture some of those memories and feelings. They might not be exactly the same, but they could be enough to kick-start the enthusiasm and drive to get back to our own work in progress.

Your turn: What tips would you add to this list? Add them to the comment section below!


  1. Jennifer, you hit it right on! You inspire me. Now, I'm going to stop commenting and go write!!!

    1. That's the spirit, Vicki! Good luck to you!