Let’s face it. Sometimes writing can be a lonely hobby (or task as the case may be). We somehow become impassioned with a topic or subject. Then we pour our heart and soul into it because we might well burst if we did otherwise.
But doing so often means we aren’t out and about in the world on the regular. We aren’t connecting or engaging with others consistently because we are, simply put, isolated. This is often because we must seclude ourselves more often than not in order to concentrate on said torrid “assignment.”
This conundrum is quite common among writers, however. We do want to be “part of the world.” But there is a burning within to writing what lays so heavy on our hearts. And trying to strike a balance between these two opposing forces can sometimes make us feel like we’re going crazy!
So then, how do we stay both engaged with humanity and centered as we passionately pursue our calling as writers and authors? (Read more about the power of staying centered here.)
How do we connect with (for our own sanity) but also disconnect from (for our own clarity) a world that is often blinded to deeper thought or alternative perspectives?
How do we stay sound as we interact with others while all these thoughts and ideas and dialogs and scenes are constantly running through our minds?
And how in the world do we bring ourselves back to “reality” after staring at a computer screen all day creating fictitious characters with whom we have developed a fake relationship?
I want to share three things that have helped me stay centered and conscious and connected during my writing journey. There was a time, back in my teens, when writing was all I thought about. It was my life. I lived it, I slept with it, and I dreamed of it.
I was still living at home and had few responsibilities, so pouring every ounce of myself into writing was pretty feasible. Once I became an adult and took on greater responsibilities, writing became a compartmentalized part of my life.
For several years I managed to weave in time to write among my other adult-ish duties like getting groceries, social outings, business networking, the gym, etc.
Years later, after I officially began my freelance writing and editing business, writing became more and more part of my daily life and I had to shift my focus. And my energy. And my strategy for staying well-balanced. Because the more I wrote, the less connected I felt to the world. And the more discombobulated I felt every day.
Feeling a lack of connection to the world because you’re a writer is pretty normal, I’d say. It’s just a characteristic of the rare breed we are, ya?
But the difference I want to discuss in this blog is working to stay centered in that reality versus constantly feeling out of sorts or even guilty for doing what we do.
Okay, so … number 1.
- Mindfulness. The first time I heard about practicing mindfulness I thought it was a little whacky. Actually, a lot whacky.
Why would I sit alone with myself and listen to a guided exercise when there were many other more “important” things I needed to do?
It sounded a lot like meditating (which I’d never done but always believed to be a bunch of hog wash) and that just seemed weird. Like, am I supposed to be connecting to some spiritual being or tap into the “power” of the universe or something?
I’m good thanks.
(Side note: I have since tried meditation and now practice it on a regular basis. And it has been super helpful in keeping myself aware, centered, and calm in the midst of the chaos of life.)
Anyway. So, after reading more about mindfulness exercises and trying them a few times, I learned a lot of cool things (p.s. www.mindful.org is a great resource for learning about this practice).
Practicing mindfulness is not meditation.
It is not hogwash.
Mindfulness is not welcoming in some spirit being or hokey pokey aspect of the universe.
Practicing mindfulness is about becoming more aware of yourself.
Becoming more aware of your thoughts, your emotions, your energy (positive or negative) helps you navigate various situations (including writing) enlightens you to what you need to adjust or shift.
And learning how to shift or channel those things in a way that actually serves you will improve everything you experience and do.
(Cool fact: pushing negative emotions down, or “ignoring” them—however you want to look at it—can absolutely negatively impact our physical health which can in turn negatively impact our emotions and even our brainpower—aka writing productivity.)
So, the more self-aware we become through practicing mindfulness, the more self-aware we will naturally become in other areas of our lives. It will become second nature to pause, notice, shift. Try it2. Journaling. This may sound goofy or hooey but it’s actually really helpful. I once had a writing coach suggest I incorporate journaling into my writing routine and I was honestly blown away.
- Journaling. This may sound goofy or hooey but it’s actually really helpful. I once had a writing coach suggest I incorporate journaling into my writing routine and I was honestly blown away. I mean, isn’t that something pre-teens do when they go to summer camp? Pshhh, I don’t need to journal.
But, you know, I gave it a try just for kicks and WOW it was life-changing. Like, literally life-changing. My task from my writing coach was to journal prior to writing and then journal again after my writing session.
It was so enlightening because when I went back and read what I’d written prior to my writing session, my words were often wrought with worry, concern, doubt, and self-sabotage.
When I went back and read what I’d written after my writing session, my words were filled with confidence, focus, passion, and clarity. What?
Journaling, aka free writing, enlightens us to many things about ourselves and about our writing that few other things do.
Things journaling/free writing can bring to our awareness can include where we think our focus should be vs where it actually is. Or how much progress we think we haven’t made vs the progress we have made.
And, the most important of all, journaling/free writing can bring to light what subconscious hang-ups we might have that are keeping us from being the most authentic in our writing.
So, journal! Just get a paper or notebook out (or open a new document on your computer) and free write. Ramble. Rant. Don’t worry about sentence structure or punctuation … just write. Get it out.
Journaling is simply a way to give your inner self a voice so you two can connect and thereby allow you to be your most authentic self when you’re both in front of the computer and when you’re away from it.
- Networking. Yes, get out and get connected (even if “out” means joining a virtual meeting!). This might seem unrelated to staying centered but it’s actually very tightly intertwined.
Networking sparks new ideas and inspires our inner writing nerd. Sometimes just interacting with other writers can spark an idea or insight we might not have otherwise found.
Getting out and observing people, settings, exchanges, body language, and verbal intonations can be huge for our writing goals. And it gets us away from our computers and out in a part of the world that complements and strengthens our writing goals.
When I first tried this, it felt very awkward to me—I was a secluded write-a-holic who hadn’t interacted with the world in months—but networking on a more regular basis helped me see the importance of creating a balance between focusing on my writing and interacting with others.
Humans are social creatures, and we can’t be authentic writers when we completely separate ourselves from others (especially other writers and authors). Our writing will seem fake or even out of touch with what’s going on around us.
Networking keeps us sane, to an extent, because it gets us out of the office while also allowing us to interact in a “safe” environment.
One where we don’t feel silly or geeky zoning out accidentally in the middle of a conversation because we just had a thought about a scene or dialog we’ve been working on.
Or one where we aren’t gawked at if we pull out a notebook and say, “Sorry, I just had a thought about my newest character. Let me write this down really fast.”
And one happy final note, networking with those “like us” minimizes at least some of the tension from situations in which we often find ourselves where we are the odd one out.
Where we are the geek. Where no one else in the group reads or writes or wants to talk about words.
So, embrace your like-minded pals and find comfort in that when you’re stuck in those other weird social situations where no one “gets you.”
Okay, let’s recap:
- Practice mindfulness to become more aware of what’s going on in your head, heart, and body.
- Journal before and after writing sessions to track how your mindset changes as your project progresses.
- Network to stay connected with the world in a way that strengthens your passion for writing.
- Bonus reminder: our writing ebbs and flows just like the rest of life. We can stay motivated and inspired by realizing that a challenging day in front of the computer does not define us.
Staying centered as writers and authors is key to staying authentic in what we do. Your mind will thank you, your heart will thank you, your body will thank you, and your audience will thank you!
Do you practice any of these centering facilitators, or anything different? Email me with what helps you stay centered or with any questions on how to improve your writing life. I’d love to hear from you!