Tuesday, March 31, 2020

How to Be a Productive, Healthy Writer During Mentally Draining Times

By Dave Chesson, @DaveChesson

Part of The Writer's Life Series 

JH: As quarantine continues, it puts more and more of a drain on us mentally and emotionally. Dave Chesson shares five steps for managing these troubling times. 

Dave Chesson is the founder of Kindlepreneur.com and creator of Publisher Rocket, a software that helps authors market their books more effectively.

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Take it away Dave…

If you've been keeping up with current events, you probably feel mentally drained. And there's nothing wrong with that. Everyone is going through a rough time at the moment. We're all unsure of the future and what it holds, and let's face it, that's not a great state of mind to be in when you're a writer.

Being creative is a great way to escape some of the stress and stay productive. But how do you do that in such a strange time? How do you get past creative blocks when that’s all there seems to be nowadays?

This article will go through some ways you can stay focused when it's just so tempting to pick up your phone and constantly check updates and social media.

Step 1: Keep Fit and Healthy

It will be no surprise to you that physical and mental health are heavily linked. The link works both ways--poor mental health leads to unhealthy physical habits and poor physical health can contribute to poor mental health.

Being a writer, while totally awesome, usually means spending a lot of time sitting at a desk. And as it turns out, sitting in front of a computer screen typing all day isn’t good for you. In her book, The Healthy Writer, Joanna Penn mentions some of the following ailments that are common for writers:
  • Weight gain
  • Back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Eyestrain
  • Sleep problems
  • Digestive issues
  • Stress-related injuries
  • Loneliness
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Do any of these sound familiar to you? I know I’ve dealt with a few of these in my time as a writer.

A lot of the health problems are related to sitting all day at a desk. So, to try and overcome these potential issues, you need to remain active. You’ll also gain some clarity in your mentally draining times. Exercise can improve mood, focus, and memory. What writer wouldn’t want that?

Your daily exercise doesn’t have to be anything too crazy. You can actually achieve a lot in only thirty minutes of exercise a day--and there's plenty that you can do at home, like bodyweight exercises.

Step 2: Practice Positive Self-Talk

A great way to keep productive and optimistic is positive self-talk. Or, if you want to use the technical term, affirmations. An affirmation is a positive phrase you tell yourself on a regular basis in the expectation that, over time, it’ll become a part of your inner monologue.

The popular productivity book, The Miracle Morning, has a focus on affirmations. They even have a great resource page on the book’s site that has a list of affirmations you can do at home. Or, you can use some from these lists:
Great affirmations you might use in times of stress include things like:

“Everything will be okay.” 

“I'm doing my part.” 

“I have everything I need.” 

“We will get through this.” 

Step 3: Change Your Work Habits

Did you know that your Circadian Rhythm plays a huge part in your daily productivity?

Simply, you can get more done by working on your book at particular parts of the day.

If you’re like most people, your biggest drop in daily energy is between 2 and 4 pm, or around seven or eight hours after you wake up. In his book When, Dan Pink calls this two-hour window your daily “Bermuda Triangle”. You’ll be more forgetful and most likely make poor decisions.

So, make sure you plan easy tasks like reading emails during that time, or you can even have a short nap. If you need to take on important tasks in the mid-afternoon, make sure you have a checklist or written procedure to limit any avoidable mistakes.

Step 4: Connect with Other Writers

You aren’t the only person feeling discouraged and distracted right now. Lots of writers are. By connecting with each other, you can give and receive encouragement in these challenging times.

Here are a few ways to do that:
  • Mastermind Groups: Having a group of people to talk to will do wonders for your business and mindset--and in times of trouble, they’re a great group to confide in.
  • Discussions With Other Authors: If a mastermind with a set schedule is too crazy for you, then you can simply reach out to another author-friend of yours and have a chat. There’s no shame in asking for help.
  • Reading Blogs: Reading author blogs will help, despite what you may feel. By reading the right blogs you’ll find tips that work for those particular authors. And maybe you can relate.
  • Podcasts and YouTube: In the same way as blogs, looking for YouTube channels or podcasts created for authors will give you some good advice, along with stories of people who are facing similar situations.

But a word of caution, try to focus your attention not just on this, but on writing as well. And be careful which blogs, groups and people you talk to. Try to cut out negativity.

Step 5: Put the Laptop Down!

Feeling mentally drained? Want to stop writing?

Nobody is making you spend all day sitting at your laptop. You’re allowed to read a book, watch Netflix--or do anything that takes your mind off your work for a few hours. If you're not feeling it, step away and gain some clarity. And by clarity, I don't mean obsess over corona virus. Sit on your porch, or in a sunny room, and relax. Practice breathing. Relax your muscles.

Do you know what will happen when you step away from your work for a few hours? Nothing! Your manuscript will still be waiting for you to continue when you’re ready. But the balance you get by taking some time off can re-energize your efforts in the long-term. Sure, you can work 90-hour weeks, but it doesn’t mean that you’ll get 90 hours of work done! I find that taking a break makes me more productive when I return.

It’s like a road trip. Sure, you may not be covering extra miles in the five minutes it takes to fill your car with gas, but doing so will make sure you can travel for plenty more miles as opposed to breaking down on the side of the road.

Final Thoughts

Being a writer can be a mentally draining career at the best of times. It’s even harder than usual right now. When you’re feeling down, try one of the steps listed in this article to bounce back and get working again. Now, more than ever, the world needs your art to entertain and inspire us.


Photo by Mitchell Orr on Unsplash

1 comment:

  1. Kind and reassuring to many. Thank you, Dave ❤️