At the time of writing this I’m having a bad writing day. I’ve only written about 1,300 words on book 6 of my Hemlock Wolf Pack Saga. I’ve written a few blogs to save for later. (I’ll likely save this one for later too.) Today, I’ve realized something, though. I’ve fallen into a self-worth pitfall about word count goals.
My writing days usually end one of three ways.
- Met my goal: Meh. That’s pretty good. I did my job anyway.
- Beat my goal: Go me! You’re getting ahead.
- Didn’t reach my goal: You are the worst writer on the face of the earth. You’ll never get this book written or published. You should never write again.
I have some ongoing external conflicts in my life at the moment that are definitely affecting my mood, but this is my pattern all the time. And let me just say I thought I was the only one until I sent out some text messages to some writer friends. I’m not the only one. That made me feel better for maybe two minutes. Then I realized how mean we are to ourselves. Yes, word counts and plot point goals are uber important to our chosen careers. They’re like 50% of our job. (Rewriting, plotting, marketing, etc. take up the other 50%.) But at the end of the day they don’t define us as people. A bad writing day doesn’t make someone lazy or horrible or a complete failure. It’s one day. One writing session. Sure, if it’s an ongoing problem we should examine what’s going on and see what the best way to work through it would be. I’m not giving all of us free reign to never pursue a writing goal again. What would we read if we all quit writing? What would you read, person who’s reading this?
So, what am I saying?
Simply that when we get caught up in creating other people and worlds and epic plot lines and romances we shouldn’t forget about ourselves. Sure, we maybe people with universes of stories living inside of us, but we’re still people. Besides, if we don’t take care of ourselves where will all the stories live until they’re born into books?
So, for all of my fellow writers and creative spirits out there here are some self-care tips to help you birth new worlds into existence.
- Be realistic about your goals and leave room for slower writing days.
Not everyday needs to be a writing day. Even if you’re a full time writer. I don’t know where this myth came from but I wish I could summon a dragon to eat it. Think about the other professionals of the world. Sure, some brain surgeons are on call at all hours, but they do have down time. So, sure, if your main character wakes you up at 2am to finish a scene. Go for it, but that doesn’t mean you don’t deserve days off.
Using a word count tracker and planner. I use PaceMaker. When I’m planning out how long it’ll take my to write a novel I make sure to include every upcoming appointment date that will hinder me. I take into account everything from errands to meal prep. Then I add three days to the end of when I think I’ll finish it.
2. Kill the negative self talk before it kills your story.
This just isn’t about word count. It can be about any part of the writing/editing/publishing/marketing process. Tons of information exists out there on how to do this. The same method won’t work for everyone. As I said at the beginning of this blog I still struggle with this.
3. Don’t forget to celebrate victories.
If you totally kick butt on your word goal it’s okay to celebrate. When you finish a first draft (even if you’re behind on your timeline) you should still celebrate. Do something nice for yourself.
4. Make your work area comfy and nice to look at.
If your chair is hurting your back replace is ASAP. If every chair hurts your back talk to your doctor or other medical professional. Hang up inspirational quotes and photos. I like redecorating my wall space with each new novel. Yeah, I pin up a lot of notes about things to remember for the rewriting process, but I add things that remind me of the setting or my main characters. I also have a longstanding love affair with scent candles. Aromatherapy for the win!
5. Get up an move!
As tempting as it may be to sit and stare at a blank screen when you’re having a bad writing day don’t punish yourself like that. Get up and move. Take the dog for a walk. Go for a bike ride. Do a yoga workout video. Do something to get your blood moving and get out of your own head for a minute.
6.Remember writers are always working.
A lot of my friends lift a brow at this one, but it’s true. When we’re planning or writing a book we’re always thinking about it and that’s okay. Today, while having a horrible writing day I figured out a major plot point for the middle of Claiming the Shaman. My brain needed time away from the keyboard and screen to say “HEY! I KNOW WHAT HAPPENED!”
7. Alternating word sprints with other activities is a life saver!
Some days I wouldn’t get a thing on the page if it wasn’t for this method. Most writers will be familiar with the concept of a word sprint. If not, it’s basically setting a timer for a per-determined amount of time and writing your heart out until the timer goes off.
On bad writing days I’ll try alternating this with doing household chores or playing quick little games on my phone. This one has really turned around some of my bad writing days.
8.Relax your shoulders or treat yourself to a massage.
Sitting at a desk all day writing can be hell on your neck and shoulders. Remember not to scrunch your shoulders up like a turtle trying to hide in her shell while typing. I’m 100% guilty of this one.
Also, if you have the time, cash, and inclination treat yourself to a massage! Maybe you could do a massage swap with your SO!
9.Chat with other writers.
If you’re new to publishing speaking with other writers can be down right scary! But if you can make a few good writer friends you’ll have someone to shoot weird questions to. Most of which will include “Is X normal?” or “Do you do X too?” It’s a great way to feel a little more connected despite working in a career of solitude.