Blogger: Cynthia Ruchti
Healthy writer habits?
No, this isn’t a blog post about walking away from the computer at the top of every hour, although that’s a good idea. It’s not about finding healthy snack alternatives for deadline week. Also a good idea. We’re not looking at the health benefits of standing desks or wrist-rests or UV-canceling computer glasses.
It’s not even about the wisdom of increasing oxygen flow to the brain before a marathon session of synopsis-writing.
These habits relate to a writer’s emotional, relational, and reputation health.
Proofread your emails before hitting OOPS!
Can’t locate the OOPS! button on your keyboard? That’s because it disappears the moment you need it. Like when you discover that you forgot to change the greeting in your email from the name of the other agent to whom you sent your query. Dear Bob. No. That’s the other guy.
While we’re on the subject, take special care to proofread every part of your proposal, too, before hitting SEND. Read it aloud. Did you miss something important, like the word not in the sentence “We will go far in our writing careers if we fail to pay attention to spelling and punctuation”?
Spread gratitude like butter…
…as if it has no calories and is necessary for good word- and relationship-digestion. False gratitude is easy to spot. Margarine has never been able to adequately pretend it is the butter it intended to replace. But stay alert for healthy, genuine opportunities to make gratitude a habit. Maintain an attitude of gratitude throughout your writing life. It will make every appointment a gift, every request a reason to celebrate, every reader a blessing. In this publishing economy, a contract is both earned and cause for rejoicing. If you haven’t found a spot to spread a little gratitude yet today, there’s still time.
A writing career isn’t for sissies. It’s hard work, long hours, little pay (per hour), and often unappreciated. (See previous point.) Those who brace themselves–who prepare for the inevitable rejections and rewrites–are still standing when the wave of disappointment subsides. And those still on their feet can then use their standing desks to start their rewrites. See how handy that is?
Steer clear of doubt-triggers.
Writers who establish healthy habits figure out how to keep a wide berth between their hearts and doubt-triggers–bad reviews (don’t read them), low sales figures (sigh and move on), unsupportive comments from family members and friends (distract with bits of trivia about the Hubble telescope’s long and storied history).
Healthy-habit writers dodge doubt-triggers by having a ready answer to the question, “Aren’t you published yet?” “How’s that book coming?” “You’ve been writing forever? Isn’t it time to pick another career?” Sample answers include, “I’m farther down the road toward publication than I was a year ago.” “I’m working my way through the most demanding sections of the book/book proposal now and appreciate your prayers for me.” “I’m in research mode.” “You’ve been working on that piece of meat stuck between your teeth for a long time now? Aren’t you ready for a toothpick?” (Okay. Looking for the OOPS! button for that last suggestion.)
Step away from the pride and no one will get hurt.
Is it possible to develop a habit of non-pride? Humility? Writers who do avoid the pitfall of pride find themselves better able to weather coming in second in contests, celebrating with those who won, applauding other authors’ successes, reading bestseller lists and not finding their name or book listed. Wounded pride is an injury that starts to stink within minutes. Natural? Sure. So is poison ivy. All-organic poison ivy. Natural doesn’t make it healthy.
Assume you don’t know it all.
If “I’m a published author” or “I graduated summa cum laude” or “I have a PhD” is equal to a learning stop sign or a growth endpoint, two days after the announcement, you’re already running behind in new discoveries. A writer who is establishing healthy habits is always learning, always studying, always improving. The most accomplished of authors are among those sitting in classrooms at writers’ conferences, listening to podcasts, reading books on the craft of writing because they’re convinced they don’t know it all and never will.
Understand the value of sleeping on it.
Angered by the remarks an editor made about your “thinly drawn character”? Ticked at the author whose book is poorly written but whose sales numbers have rocketed past yours? On the verge of a hissy fit about platform? Crushed by yet another rejection for the book project you thought was a sure-thing? Sleep on it. More than one night, if necessary. Our knee-jerk reactions are rarely healthy for our knees or our reputation.
What healthy habits for writers can you add to the list? Which of these habits used to be good intentions, but have now become part of your writing routine? What kind of difference have they made?