blogger: Cynthia Ruchti
What are six unexpected essentials every writer needs?
Let’s start with an unessential but wildly helpful tool. The serious writer may notice that one of the bits of fallout from working hard at the craft is that the letters rub off of their Mac or PC keyboard. The first to go are the expected: N, M, E, A…
A friend advised me to at least try a silicone keyboard overlay, which I thought I wouldn’t appreciate because of the different “feel” to the keys. Friend was right. I quickly got used to it and now prefer that touch. The keyboard overlay protects the internal workings of the keyboard from crumbs. Not that any of us drop any while writing, especially on deadline. And from spills. Not that any of us would keep beverages close at hand while writing, especially on deadline. The pack I ordered came in a variety of colors. I score high on the “appreciates tradition but likes to shake things up occasionally” spectrum. You may want to split an order with a friend who likes the opposite colors to the ones you prefer.
Note: The protectors don’t last forever either. Hence, the multipack. And yes, they do come in black, gray, and translucent. You can explore the variety of options available, but be sure to purchase the one that fits your make and model. Of keyboard, not fingers. (I get no kickback from sales of these. Hmm. Probably should have looked into that before mentioning it. No. We’re here to serve.)
A recent TV drama episode included a suspect with a gambling addiction. A single dad, the man had left his preteen daughter at home alone for three days, because his addition had kept in him the game, even against his otherwise good parenting instincts.
It’s easy for a writer to become one with the chair. We know what physical ramifications that can have. Chairs are girth-spreaders, bottom-wideners, leg-enlargers, and keep us from the kind of deep breathing that feeds oxygen to the brain, which writers desperately need.
Some low-cost/no-cost ejection buttons include:
- Set a timer at least one room away from where you write. Set it on its most annoying mode (like my stove timer that’s out of tune) so it’s impossible to ignore it. Allow yourself to write steadily for fifty minutes, then get up at least to turn off the annoying sound. Or do something else for ten minutes, then repeat the process. Or, if you must, go back to the fascinating article you were writing, but reset the timer first.
- Schedule mandated break times for your employees. You are the self-employee. Schedule a fifteen minute break mid-morning and mid-afternoon and at least a half hour for lunch. Helpful hint. Don’t get up and move around for your break at a scene or chapter end. Write one more sentence, so when you return to the chair, you already know where you’re headed.
- Yes, yes, standing desks. A great option, but keep your body moving so your brain doesn’t pool in your ankles.
- Allow yourself to move or “dance” for the length of one song. Depending on your physical health, you may want to choose an intentional groove-walk routine that gets your blood pumping despite the low-impact actions.
- Stay hydrated. Without spending any money on special equipment, staying well hydrated will get you up and out of that chair periodically, if you know what I mean.
A Clear Why
What’s another of six unexpected essentials every writer needs? If you’ve allowed yourself to think through WHY you write, you’ll adjust your sails more effectively when the winds of adversity blow. They will. Few writers have or even CAN write without the winds of adversity. What’s your why? Consider carefully. It will help you and your agent determine where to try to place your book. It’ll aid you in figuring out your target audience. It will inform the writing. If your intention is to preach or teach, but you only entertain, you and your readers will walk away from the book unfulfilled. Intending to entertain, you lapse into instruction? You’ll find the same sense of unfulfilled promises results. If your WHY is to tell stories, then you’ll tell them whether they reach one reader or many. You will write better and weather the winds if you’re clear on the WHY.
NEW ADDITION MID-DAY: I noted a relevant connection in author Jane Kirkpatrick’s newsletter and asked her permission to share an excerpt. She said:
A few years ago, I was privileged to be on a stage with two National Book Award winners, Barry Lopez and Ivan Doig…I recently read an interview by David Jaspar of the Bend Bulletin with Mr. Lopez. In the article, the nature writer talks about storytelling and how exploring that activity with indigenous people has been such a huge part of his travels and writing. (Horizon is his latest).
He spoke of an elder who responded that there is a social part of storytelling. ‘The story has to help…if you say that you are the storyteller and the stories that you tell don’t help, then you’re not the storyteller, even if you say you are.’ I love that concept! Stories ought to help us heal rather than tear us apart. He goes on to write about wisdom and a storyteller’s role in ‘creating a pattern in language that induces wisdom to come forth.'”
Are you accumulating excuses or shredding them? Excuses are of no nutritional value for a writer and quickly rot. Sometimes a valid reason will usurp your writing goals–mother in hospice, your own health crisis, labor pains five minutes apart… But reasons and excuses are different animals. Yes, life is busy. This is hard. You’ve been working for a long time and haven’t received the contract you hoped for. Write anyway. If you’re accumulating excuses, shred them before they pile up. It may, for you, be one of those six unexpected essentials every writer needs.
Empathy for Your Reader
Mentioned earlier, empathy for your reader changes your writing. Stories are told to be heard or read. Books and articles are written to be read, no matter the delivery method. Developing a heart for the reader is essential in a writer’s or speaker’s successful communication. If you don’t genuinely care about the person reading your published or yet-to-be published work, it will fail to connect. It will show. It might not be the first thought as you write, but it’s one of the six unexpected essentials every writer needs if they want to make a difference.
A Healthy Supply of Salt
You’ll need a grain of it every time you read a negative review, or a marketing effort misses its deadline, or an editor or agent asks you do consider a rewrite, or your royalty statement still has parentheses in it (meaning sales have not bypassed the advance yet). You’ll need a generous sprinkling of salt to preserve your reasons for sitting down to the keyboard a few days after a major rejection. Salt will come in handy when you need to have a difficult conversation with a writer friend, your agent, your editor. Ancient wisdom tells us to let our conversations be seasoned with salt, or as one version of Colossians 4:6 TPT says, “Let every word you speak be drenched with grace and tempered with truth and clarity.”
Unexpected? Essentials? They are for many of us. What other “unexpected” essential would you add to the list?