30 Days of Stay-at-Home Learning, Business,
and Self-Care Activities for Writers
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We have come to the end of the project! Don’t worry about not keeping up: I didn’t! Writing and posting this did help me keep my spirits up during a difficult time, but I had more to do than I could handle, to both write and follow my own advice. I’ll be working on these things during the coming month, however, because a lot of them I wrote with myself in mind: things I wanted to accomplish for my business, what I wanted to study, sore spots I wanted to journal about, and more.
I’m one of those people that find it easier to do things for other people than for myself. I’m working on taking care of myself on a more regular basis, but it’s rough. So thank you for helping me on this project. I hoped it helped.
What I hope you get out of this:
Sometimes, the business tasks related to writing seem overwhelming. There are so many possibilities to follow, but following all of them kills your creativity and stalls your career. If you spend ten minutes a day doing one small business task, you will never get done with your business tasks. But you will be much further ahead than you were before, used to breaking down bigger tasks into smaller chunks, used to saying “no” to tasks that don’t fit your #1 priority, and much more able to cope with the big tasks when they suddenly strike.
Remember, if you’ve never run a business before, it’s a huge attitude shift to becoming your own employer. Treat yourself with all the care and respect that you would want from any boss!
Short Study Project
Ideally, you should be typing in work that was created by people having the type of long-term careers that you want for yourself. Type in their work and let your own curiosity suggest things to highlight. I wouldn’t worry too much about highlighting the “wrong” things.
Later, you can expand to typing in other things that openings. Don’t type in much more than a thousand words at a time, though, and if you can’t find anything to highlight, it may just be that the writer’s techniques are beyond you at the moment. Experiment gently, and circle back around to that author later!
Journaling in a vomit-words-onto-the-page way is generally a good idea. But the main thing I’d like you to take away from journaling as a writer is that the thoughts, emotions, and attitudes that you carry can be mined for all kinds of writerly inspiration. Your insights don’t have to be nice, fair, uplifting, or wholesome. They just need to be interesting, and if you change a few details in your fiction, nobody will ever know.
Write what you know…but lie a little about it.
Short Writing Topic
Writing doesn’t have to be disciplined or dedicated or challenging or well-planned or even well-written. It just has to seem amusing at the time.
I highly recommend giving yourself permission to be a terrible writer, and to make someone else judge whether or not your writing is worth reading.
Are you any good as a writer? Not your problem!
You should work to get better as a writer, of course, but you should work to get better as a writer, not to tear yourself down in an abusive fashion that would get the ASPCA called on you if you were doing it to a house pet.
The next time you start beating yourself up, write 3 sentences where your inner editor is happens to be the person you hate most on the planet, tied up by their ankles over a pit of boiling lava that is swimming with crocodiles and demon-possessed habanero peppers (or some other suitably torturous situation), and they’re still screaming their “very important criticism” at you just as you’re about to pull the level to let them drop to their deaths.
It might take more than 3 sentences.
Be prepared not to get it right the first time…
Staying human, especially in times of stress, is harder than it looks. If you’re in a bad way, start with physical things first before you try to delve deeper or start examining your emotions (and accusing yourself of being a terrible, worthless person).
Start with drinking more fluids.
I highly recommend giving (bad) meditation a shot. Resetting your nervous system is a body thing, not a spiritual thing, although sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.
Fun with Research
A couple of years ago, I promised myself that I could track down anything that caught my curiosity. It has been quite rewarding, although at first I had to stop to remind myself that no one was going to mock me for being such a nerd. High school has been left far behind! Plus, writers tend to accumulate trivia the way coral accumulates reefs. So why not pursue whatever catches your eye?
A fair number of people have asked me about my writing process. It always seems from the inside that it’s easy and straightforward: do the thing, observe how the thing went, figure out what worked and what didn’t, keep the “worked” and ditch the “didn’t.”
But I find that there’s an unspoken step there that I take for granted: “What is this thing anyway? How do you know what thing to try? And how do you even know if it worked or if it didn’t?”
Here’s the deal: I don’t consciously, analytically know what the thing is ahead of time. I show up and do the work, knowing that something interesting will eventually catch my eye.
Toward the end of the “fun with research” section in this book, I directed readers to look up Carol Dweck’s “growth mindset.” I had been meaning to read her book myself, and checked it out from the library. When I started reading her book, I went, “Aha! That’s how I see things.”
Except I don’t think of it as a growth mindset. If I asked myself, “How will this make me grow?” every time I clicked some goofy personality quiz, I’d go nuts.
Instead, I think of myself as having a curiosity mindset.
“What happens if I…”
I weed out the things I’m pretty sure are going to go badly. I’m not curious about, for example, what happens if I drive off a cliff. I can figure it out.
But I also accept that things might go badly if I try something new, and that I’ll be able to look back and laugh about it later if they do.
It has made life much more pleasant.
“What if we get lost? That’s what the GPS is for.”
“What if this stinky cheese tastes bad? Then we call it Baron von Limburger, toss it out as being a Nazi spy, and air out the house.”
“What if I try the wrong thing with writing? Then we send the story out anyway and let someone else decide whether it was the right kind of wrong, or the wrong kind of wrong.”
Often, the risk of doing something badly is less than the risk of not doing it at all.
Drink water, try new things, chip away at the banal stuff, and good luck!