First Aid Kit for Writers

I hope you have a regular first aid kit somewhere near your usual place of writing, and know how to use it, but that’s not what I am discussing here. I’m talking about a mental first aid kit, and help with simple problems kit.

There are basic rules for writers that impact your mental well-being. Most importantly, don’t compare yourself with any other writer. Sure, I’d give anything to be Diana Gabaldon or Mary Balogh, but I’m not. And that doesn’t mean my stories aren’t going to entertain someone. The audience for novels is increasing, and the demand will grow too. If you have the chance, find a copy of the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. The book has a nice way of saying that practice makes perfect. You have to put in your 1000 hours at something to get the shine you need. If you compare yourself as a new author to someone who has been writing for a few decades, you’ll only open the door to depression. Stay focused and keep writing.

Another basic rule is to know your story and your voice. Don’t be trying to write like other folks. Now, I have said that you can improve your writing by copying out the writing of one of your favorite authors. But what that does is teach you the rhythm, the pacing, and the word usage. This is really helpful when a sex scene sneaks up on you and you can’t think of a good word for vagina. (Wild and crazy idea, use vagina!) The exercise is not meant to imply that you can just copy someone else’s work and you’re done.

So let’s get to the helpful mental part. You wrote out all that you had in you, and now you are at Chapter 2. You can’t think of what comes next. I would hope this isn’t really the case, because if you are a pantser (a writer who doesn’t plot ahead of time, just lets the story flow) or a plotter (does outlines, graphs, has pictures, maps, floor plans), you would have had more idea of what was going on than this. Perhaps you got to Chapter 8, and you realize the heroine could never love the hero. She has made it clear to you this is not the man of her dreams.

Stop writing, walk away. In fact, go for a walk or a bike ride. Do something that will use your physical energy and leave your mind free to work its way out of this corner. Or go to a movie, or watch one at home. Put together a jigsaw puzzle.

If inspiration still doesn’t stream in when needed, go find like-minded writers. I recommend Scribophile.com for community and help whenever you need it. One of the groups I belong to there plays Mad Libs Monday through Friday. I find it a great bit of word play, a fun time hanging out with good friends, and a distraction from anything going on that I really would rather not have to deal with. Also I suggest joining Romance Writers of America, and finding a local chapter. They almost always have an email “loop” where you can throw out a problem and get excellent advice in return.

Writing prompts also abound at Scribophile, and just about any group will throw some out for you. A prompt is just a quick set-up for a short short story, usually under 3000 words. Everyone takes the same information and writes what comes up for them. I love the challenge and the short-term commitment.

Another good thing to do is to start a blog. I put off starting this one because I didn’t think I had much to say about writing. I admit to that error. I wrote a blog about my birds, because I knew I had a lot to say about them. Pretty much I can write a few paragraphs on just about anything. In fact, my writing abilities are used in my workplace by my coworkers. Sometimes they just run something past me to punch up, sometimes they ask for input, whatever. Doing that is one of the things that has improved my enjoyment of my job.

So I started this blog and I’m not out of ideas yet. And I have a couple novels in the works, and so many more ideas that I hope I get to at least outline some day. But I like to have an idea of what my characters look like, and I use Pinterest for that. Here’s a link to a selection of inspirations just for writers: http://www.pinterest.com/namelymarly/inspiration-for-writers/

And here’s a blog called Write to Done, a collection of great articles by people passionate about helping writers improve and get published: http://writetodone.com/31-ways-to-find-inspiration-for-your-writing/

If all else fails, treat yourself to a food item you love. This is not permission to eat a gallon of ice cream. But a scoop or two might help, or a few good quality chocolate. Perhaps you only have apples to hand. Well, many authors have used apples for inspiration, it says here: http://guardianlv.com/2013/11/writers-and-food-a-love-story/

However you handle your situation, keep at it. Your words are important, your story unique, and your voice is like no other. Take a deep breath, and write to your heart’s content.

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