Welcome to First Monday Mentoring when I answer questions about the reality of being a writer. This time of year it’s easy to get lost in the fantasy of Santa bringing you a new contract or published book, a bit like dreaming of what you’ll do when you win the lottery.
Fantasizing about seeing that new book on the shelves or on your device is harmless and pleasant. Unless the fantasy takes the place of writing actual words and making your book a reality.
I’ll bet you didn’t know that Santa keeps Naughty and Nice lists just for writers. Which list your writing is on will most likely determine where you’ll be this time next year.
By Naughty and Nice, I don’t mean the content of your books. How nice (sweet) or naughty (sexy) you write is up to you, and there are readers for both kinds plus all stops in between.
Here are some of what might be on Santa’s lists:
Naughty – beating yourself up for not meeting your deadlines
Nice – writing at a pace that’s comfortable and doable for you
Unless you’re committed to someone else’s deadline, you choose how much writing fits into your everyday life. There’s a lot of misinformation around the Internet, such as how you “must” write every day, and “must” produce a book every three months to be successful.
I wish I knew who makes these rules. The truth is, you get to decide how much writing you can do and how often. Some writers produce a book every one or two years. Others produce one every two or three months. Quality will usually win out over quantity in the long run.
Naughty – never reading other writers’ books or craft books because you know all that stuff.
Nice – educating yourself through attending workshops and conferences off or online and reading the latest craft information out there.
Even at this stage in my career, I still read how-to books. If I find one new piece of information, my time is well invested. If a speaker is less than satisfying, I use the time to analyze my reactions as well as their performance. Are they ill-prepared? Is their message badly presented but otherwise interesting? Sometimes I learn more from poor workshops than from those I enjoy.
Naughty – killing your back and wrists by typing non-stop until your eyes glaze over and you can hardly move.
Nice – making self-care a priority, getting up from the desk regularly, doing appropriate exercise and having a meditation practice to handle the stress of giving so much of yourself to the writing.
Being nice to yourself also means taking time away from the writing to refill the well. Last month I looked at gifts writers can give themselves – time to write without interruption, space where you can write, and comfort in the form of a suitable chair, desk, keyboard and whatever else you need to ensure that your writing supports your health and well-being.
Naughty – seeing other writers as competitors you must “beat” to stay ahead.
Nice – reaching out to others, finding mentors and writing buddies to share the journey and remind you that you’re not alone.
Writing is a solitary activity. Taking time to attend local groups, chat online or otherwise connect with your tribe is time well spent. Writing buddies can also keep you accountable. Say you want to write 1,000 words in the next hour, you can go on Twitter and use the hashtag #amwriting to find people with similar goals, a bit like having someone pace an athlete. It’s an honour system and it’s fun. You may not know the other writer, but it doesn’t matter. You’re helping each other along the road.
Looking at this list, do you find you lean more toward naughty or nice? I suggest using the list not to make resolutions – few of us keep those for very long – but as guidelines to a healthy and enjoyable writing practice.What’s on your naughty or nice writing list? Share your thoughts in the space below. Posts are moderated to avoid spam but your comment can appear right away if you click on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.
Happy holidays, however you choose to celebrate!
I’ll answer your responses here, then in the interests of self-care
I’m taking a break from blogging until February 4
but you can find me on Twitter @valerieparv
and Facebook www.valerieparv.com
For more like this check out Valerie’s online course, www.valerieparv.com/course.html