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?
Great post! I think your comment, “A writing career isn’t for sissies” sums it up nicely 😉 For me, I thought about soliciting a formal prayer team for years, but never did until recently. By God’s Grace, people were praying for me all along, but sporadically and without much direction on my part. Now I have a formal prayer team of about 70. I schedule a prayer meeting at my home each month and send out pre- and post-meeting updates to everyone via email. Those who are local and available attend physically, but all commit to pray. I cannot describe how wonderful this has been. It forces me to really zero in on prayer needs (not just tangible needs like meeting deadlines, but heart needs as well, such as courage, humility, etc). It also helps remind me of all I am thankful for as I serve God (the souls God touches through my words, etc) and for these things, we can praise God together, which is such a huge encouragement! So for me, establishing a prayer team to support me, has been a huge blessing. Prayer was happening all along, but writers live rather isolated lives and the enemy knows that being alone is when we are vulnerable. My only regret is that I didn’t start it sooner! 🙂
Another great habit!
Oh my, that is wonderful, Shadia! Prayer makes such a difference in all parts of our lives. I am so glad you have that.
I am always glad for others when they achieve a goal. It brings me joy because I’m happy it can be done. I celebrate with them because I am truly happy for them. ( My mother and father taught me and my siblings the virtue and value of being a good sport. We all practice it still today.) It is also an example of what can happen if perseverance is practiced, and that gives me hope. I love to celebrate and encourage. It’s not to say I haven’t had some “wish that was me” moments, but those too spur me on. Also, I am in the midst of a calling, and no one knows me like the One calling me. I trust Him in all things, pray for gracious words, and press on.
Thanks for the post Cynthia. I’m a sponge, and love soaking up new info. I will always be learning.
Good habit=good sport. Good thoughts, Elizabeth.
At the end of a weekend in which yet another fatal symptom crept out, making dear Barbara go ghostly-pale beneath her Cherokee complexion, I can only add this:
* Your life isn’t about you, and it never was. Out of curiosity, I looked at my total blog hits a few minutes ago…just a bit more than 247,000
* That’s nearly a quarter of a million chances to give someone hope, to say, “Life may suck, and tomorrow is going to be worse, yeah, but you still have this moment to make a difference. You still have this moment to make the world a better and brighter place.”
* You reach out for the brass ring, and your hand doesn’t close around the FedEx envelope containing a contract. You feel the weak and fluttery touch of someone who’s about to drop away in despair, and you find it within yourself to say, “I’ve got you. Hold on. I AM NOT LETTING GO.”
* One for all, all for one, and we die among friends.
And if you’ll indulge me, dear Cynthia, a poem:
I run before the scudding gale,
dismasted and bereft
of hope save makeshift sail,
all the strength I have left;
but in this night of cold travail
a refuge remains, the sure cleft
‘twixt strong Arms and iron mail
underlain by muscle, yes, and heft.
By God’s Mighty Grace, I will be shown
my wordly shore, or, gloriously, His Own.
Even though your blog shows a quarter of a million visits, you have touched so many more lives than that number will ever show, Andrew. Despite all you’ve shared and gone through, it has been a light to others. I am sorry and wish your life wasn’t being used to display His glory in this manner, but I am so glad that you have chosen to glorify Him and encourage others through it. Heaven will resound with the thunder of voices that have been touched by your faithfulness. Praying for you and Barbara.
Truly lovely. Achingly so.
Congratulations on your quarter-mil, Andrew. I’m not surprised.
* But it brings me to another habit, Cynthia: Expect God to use you in unexpected ways (I’m pretty sure Andrew never expected God to turn his warrior writing skills into “Your Dying Spouse”).
Thank you for this Cynthia!! (Needed to hear this so much, right now)–and Andrew used it to bring us a precious message as well…thank you both!
Thank YOU, Pat. You made my day!
This is such a great post, Cynthia! Our hearts and attitudes are so much more important than we realize at times, I think. I love your suggestions for steering clear of doubt-triggers.
One healthy habit I’m learning to live out is to give myself grace when life goes crazy. When I hold myself to writing expectations but real life is making a ton of demands on me, I need to adjust my expectations on what I can accomplish writing-wise in a day. Otherwise, I’m living under condemnation which is never productive.
What podcasts can you recommend for writers?
I love that bit of wisdom, Jeanne. Life certainly does like to interrupt. I’m not a podcast girl for the most part, so I’m sorry I can’t recommend one. Books I can do, I’m just not much of an auditory learner.
True! Living under condemnation is NEVER productive! 🙂 Podcasts for writers? Sounds like a great subject for a future blog post.
Another very important thing I believe can help writers is to be balanced in life. That is always have other things that you enjoy doing outside of writing. No matter if it is a job you enjoy, volunteering, hosting neighborhood or family events, creating in another media, special ministry to others, it is healthy emotionally that as the saying goes, your eggs aren’t all in one basket. If that basket falls or tips and your eggs crack, spilling out in a slimy mess, your entire personhood is not tied to that. If it is, great will be your woe. But if you have other passions that fill you heart and time, you may tip and maybe even crack a little like the eggs, BUT the pull and love for the other will tend to balance you back to a healthy and hopeful place.
Also, great is the One who is sees to it that there is always things to do if we look up from the broken eggs and take notice.
And yes, I know is should be are in my last sentence. ?
You’re point about humility is spot on, Cynthia. The prize you win this year will go to another next year. The plaques that hung on your wall at work end up in a box on a shelf in the garage when you retire. (No one would buy them at a garage sale.) The adulation fades as the sales numbers drop, and even the best writers end up with their works on the discount table (if they’re lucky enough to have them for sale at all). It will trigger joy, not pride, when we meet people in heaven who give us a hug and tell us what our books meant in their lives.
“The prize you win this year will go to another next year.” So much truth there.
“The plaques that hung on your wall at work end up in a box on a shelf in the garage when you retire.” This is so true! It happened to me last year. I have to admit I even put 20 years worth of “certificates of appreciation” in the recycle bin. They seemed so important at the time, but now I just want to concentrate on what I’m supposed to be doing today.
These are really great tips. Thank you, Cynthia. I love the humor in the verbage as well. Good job.
Cythina, I spit my tea out when I read “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?” That laugh was much needed. 🙂
Thanks for the post. Very informative and helpful. As far as healthy habits go, starting your day/writing with God to recenter yourself on what matters. I have found when I get focused on other things and let my time with God slip, it affects my writing time and attitude. Also, spend time focusing on encouraging others. That alone has helped developed relationships I could never have fathomed.
Thanks for the post, Cynthia.
Ahh, and the check spelling thing… yep. I just totally failed in that one. Sorry, Cynthia.
And thank you for your ENCOURAGEMENT!
A healthy writing habit I’ve been trying to develop is a short memory. Each day’s a new day.
Great way of looking at it. Short memory of successes will keep us working hard. Short memory of losses will keep us pursuing and hope-filled!
Love that, Katie. Thank you, Cynthia.
Thank you for the great reminders.
Oh, my. I was so enthralled with your post, I missed the interesting question you asked at the end. ” How does butter fit with healthy writer habits?
Here goes. Butter is the real deal, and maragarine is a poor, not to mention unhealthy, imitation of butter. Margarine can end your life with its vessel clogging hydrogenated fat. Not being real in who you are as a person and writer, along with filling your writing with grammatical errors and extraneous words, will clog your career possibly causing its death.
Take it from a nurse. Eat the butter. Be the butter on the bread of every readers toast.
We all need the t-shirts that say, “Be the butter on the bread of every reader’s toast!”
That would be so delicious!
Wendy L Macdonald
Great list, dear Cynthia. I learned long time ago to pray for other bowlers in my league. That way when they got a strike, I could truly rejoice with them. I’m applying this prayer habit to my writing life. Many of the writers who comment here are already on my prayer list. 🙂 Including this agency family.
Blessings ~ Wendy Mac