Is writing fiction making you happier? If not, and that's one of the reasons you write, you may want to make a few changes.
I love writing, yet last year it started to feel like a grind. Or a day job. I decided to shift my approach to writing and life. I wanted to make life and writing simpler, happier, and healthier.
If you're feeling overwhelmed or burnt out, you may be trying to do too much at once.
As one example from my life, rather than trying to write or edit a non-fiction book while I first draft a novel, I've shifted so I focus on one book at a time.
Once I finish a draft or rewrite, I let it sit and work on the other book.
I meant to do that before, but often found myself switching between the two in the same day. All that did was make me feel more stressed. I didn't finish either book any faster because my brain needed downtime.
Also, I plan to edit and release one or two more Buffy and the Art of Story books before I write another new non-fiction book. The Buffy books are based on my podcast of the same name.
It takes work to shape them into book form. But it's less work, and far simpler, than creating a brand new book. And a lot of readers have asked for those books. So why not get those done rather than start from scratch on something different?
(Don't worry, there will be more Writing As A Second Career books. The next one will likely be about writing fascinating exposition.)
Happier Life, Happier Writing
What do you enjoy doing? If you're working a day-to-day job, caring for others, and writing (or 2 of those 3), you may forget what it's like to do something just for fun.
I made a simple change for myself on that front. Each morning, I open the blinds, then write 2 pages in a journal before I do anything else. The view out my bedroom windows is an east view. While I can't see Lake Michigan (I live about 2 miles from it in Chicago), I do see lovely parts of the skyline with the sunrise in the background.
Since I started this in January I've seen more sunrises than I did in the last few years. (I had a habit of leaving the blinds down until an hour or so after I got up.) I discovered each one is both beautiful and different from the day before.
And seeing the light so early puts me in a great mood.
I also I made a list of other things I enjoy and want to do more of. Some are as simple as seeing a movie at the theater. And reading more fiction for the sheer fun of it, not to study a particular genre or writing style.
If your health suffers, it's hard to keep writing.
I started thinking more about this after I got Covid toward the end of last year. And after I watched the Sex and the City follow up series And Just Like That.
One of the characters is younger than me, has no obvious health issues, yet is written as if they've got one foot in the nursing home. This shocked me. I found it vastly unrealistic based on my own life experience and that of most people I know. (I keep wondering if the writers are in their 30s and think anyone older than 40 is elderly.)
But it brought home to me how lucky I've been health-wise. And while not everything is in our control, there are things I can do to give myself better odds.
As a result, I ordered a food processor and two new cookbooks on whole foods and vegetarian recipes. I'm not giving up meat or cheese, as I love both. (In my view, life is barely worth living without cheese.) But I have made them a much smaller part of my weekly eating. And have been eating fewer processed foods.
As a side benefit, cooking a meal at lunch time is a great way for me to break up my day of working at home.
I also walk each day outside. (Today in the snow, though it's nearly spring.) It elevates my mood. And I've seen lots of statistics on how much it helps blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar regardless of weight.
Plus, often my best fiction ideas come to me when I'm taking a walk. And if I increase my daily walking from half an hour to forty-five minutes (one of the goals I haven't quite met yet) who knows? Maybe I'll discover more and more great ideas for books.
That's it for now. Hope you're writing's going well.
L. M. Lilly
P.S. Is one of your goals this year to write a novel? You might find my course How To Plot Your Novel: From Idea To First Draft helpful. Learn more by clicking here.