Five Tips for Maintaining Sanity as a Writer (may be taken with a grain of salt)
1. You don’t have a deadline(assuming you are unpublished, of course.) I hear a lot of advice about not wasting your time, not procrastinating. For me, the opposite is true. I am constantly pushing myself to meet self-imposed deadlines that mean nothing to anyone but myself. Don’t get me wrong, goals are good. But I also work full time. And have a family. Sometimes I come to and realize that I’ve been chipping away at my project so furiously that I’ve got nothing left- I’m at the absolute end of my endurance. I have to tell myself that it’s okay to rest. I actually forced myself to play a computer game last night rather than try to add to my word count. You can’t get blood from a stone. Repeat after me: IT’S OKAY TO REST.
2. Feedback is only so useful. That’s right. I said it. I love feedback from… well, anyone who is interested, whether they are writers, or friends, or some guy off the street wearing a hotdog suit. But sometimes feedback is contradictory. Sometimes it is demoralizing. Sometimes … sometimes it just isn’t that useful. I’m slowly learning that there are times when it’s okay to ignore 90% of the feedback you get. (Depending on the source, etc.)
3. Most of my favorite books don’t follow the exulted rules which some people are fond of using to beat you over the head like a lead pipe. I’ve read the rules. I’ve tried to adhere to the rules. I’ve become confused by the rules. I’ve taken down a Kim Harrison book (and a Patricia Briggs book, and about five other authors that I adore) and read the first chapter. Then I’ve done a small, albeit crazy, “I told you so” dance. I try to adhere to the rules, but I don’t always succeed. That’s okay. Many sources will tell you that you have to at least KNOW the rules before you can break them. Noted. Now, I’m not saying that I think I’m so bad ass that I don’t have to, you know, have a basic grasp of the English language, etc. But it’s no use having a freak out I-can-never-do-this-and-I-might-as-well-die-and-be-eaten-by-stray-dogs panic attack over something as irrelevant as non-said dialogue tags, or how many times you use the letter Z on each page (okay, so I made that one up) when you are trying to get your novel finished. I vow to write the story first, and worry about the rest of that stuff (at an appropriate level) later. Mostly because for every “never do X” there is another person saying “always do X,” and a third person saying “well…only do X when this happens.” It’s straight up maddening, yo! (Yes, I did just say that.)
4. In all honesty, you can do whatever the hell you want to do. That’s right, you heard me. It’s your book. Your life. Go for it. (Repeating this to myself like a mantra.) For most of the hours in my life I have to adhere to things like, say, social norms. Not when I write. It’s a free-for-all. Embrace the freedom.
5. You are amazing. Sat down and outlined an entire story? Finished a rough draft? Finished a final draft? Finished five of those mothers? Good job! I’m proud of you. Even if you never accomplish another thing in your life, you’ve done something that not many people ever have the guts, creativity, tenacity (or sheer crazy disregard for their mental health) to do. You rock, writer. You rock!