When the world is screaming for your attention it's hard to focus on writing. I had a recent bout of chest pain that landed me in the hospital for a week and forced me to re-examine some priorities. I'm fine now, and the event helped me find something wrong and fix it, but I also discovered a life lesson. Focusing on the important (versus the mundane) is something I had to do. So, I'm sharing thirteen tips with you. I hope they help.
1. Say no to what is not important. How hard is this? Very, if you can not figure out what's important. As a writer, time to write is the top priority. Are you a writer if you don't write? I'm thinking not. Bears some thinking about, doesn't it? When you write, write. When you do other things, do them with all your strength, but don't try to do both at the same time. It will add stress and you won't do either one as well as you could if you focused.
2. Ask for help. You can't do everything. Your kids know this, your spouse knows this, your editor knows this. Why don't you know it? Could it be a little bit of a stubborn streak? The superman/woman complex? Break down and delegate or ask. Get help to do the things that need doing.
3. Do something difficult first thing every day. If you face the hard thing first, the rest of the day will be downhill.
4. Spend some time outside. Sure, you need the BICHOK rule to write (butt in chair, hands on keyboard), but sunshine does wonders for your body. It's a natural source of vitamin D, which is good for bones. Your body can't make it on its own.
5. Don't squint at your screen. Get your eyes tested. You may find you need glasses, or better ones. You'll have fewer headaches and less wrinkles. That's always a good thing.
6. Don't let dust bother you. No one needs a house that's as sanitary as a hospital. Families (and single people, and couples) need a house that's enjoyed and filled with laughter and love. So what if there's dust? Break out the dustcloth half as much, and write twice as much, and see which makes you feel better.
7. Have a girl's night out (or a guy's night out). Hang with your buds once in awhile and blow off steam. You'll feel better and you'll reconnect with your friends. Good writing doesn't always come from sorrow, you know. Sometimes it comes from having inner joy.
8. Have a plan for when things go wrong. This is something I learned recently. If you suddenly end up in the hospital, does your family know who to call? Is there a friend or family member who can be counted on to bring over a hot meal? Pair up with a friend and plan to do this for one another. It can provide a lot of calm in a crisis, if everyone knows someone is there to help.
9. Exercise in a way you enjoy. If you like walking, walk. If you enjoy aerobics, do those. If you like tai chi, practice it. Go bowling. Play ball with the kids. Throw a toy for your dog. But find something you can do and enjoy and then do it on a regular basis. Hopefully, at least three days a week. Five is better.
10. Decide what things you need for your own "self care." A manicure is nice, a pedicure is wonderful. But what about doctor visits and check ups? That's part of taking care of yourself as well. Check your blood pressure and get tested for diabetes. You'd be surprised how many are at risk but don't know it.
11. On a weeknight, set the table with your best china, set out the pretty napkins, and then serve take out. Your family will think you've flipped -- but tell them this is part of the way you can show them how much you care. You are giving them the finest in your home, and taking time to be with them rather than slaving away in the kitchen. Over dinner, tell each person something about them that you admire. They won't soon forget this night.
12. Set a limit for yourself about how much you'll do, and then stick with it. Rather than keep pushing and pushing... stop. When it's time for bed, go to bed. Don't keep going "just a little more" because you will soon forget what the boundaries are. Once that happens, being a workaholic is right around the corner. No, it's not something to be proud of. It's a problem. Deal with it. (Talking to myself here too.)
13. Final tip -- Don't bottle the emotions. If you have a bad day, let your characters express it in your writing. I saw a button once that said "Writing is cheaper than therapy." Ya know what? There's a lot of truth in that. ;)
Here's to a stressfree life with plenty of joy and laughter. Oh... and more time writing.
Kayelle Allen is an award-winning, multi-published author. Her heroes and heroines include badass immortals, warriors who purr, and agents who find the unfindable--or hide it forever. She is known for unstoppable heroes, uncompromising love, and unforgettable passion.