Friday, December 15, 2017

Lessons and Good Habits for Writing (and Living) Well

This year mental and physical health has become a big priority for me, so I was very happy that Sara let me steal these interview questions from her blog which she subsequently got from Leanne Sowul's “Be Well, Write Well” interview series on DIY MFA! You can check out her original post on her blog here. Let's get started!

Question #1: What is your keystone habit (the habit that makes all other habits possible)?
Scheduling definitely. Organizing my time has taken so much pressure off of my life and I feel like I have more time yet still manage to get tasks done and done in a timely manner.

Question #2: Is there one wellness priority you never skimp on?
Making time for relaxation in my day. I take at least an hour out of my day just to sit and relax. This has done wonders for my mental health.

Question #3: What’s your daily writing routine?
It honestly depends on what stage I am in writing, but it usually consists of me writing at my desk between 10pm and 1am listening to movie scores with a cup of tea, a S'well bottle full of cold water, and some snacks.

Question #4: What are your essential writing “tools”?

  • Go Teen Writers: How to Turn Your First Draft into a Published Novel by Stephanie Morrill and Jill Williamson - This book is so handy for plotting and the planning stages for novels. I recommend it for any age.
  • Scrivener - This program is life. Best $20 I've spent. It's so great to keep all of my book ideas in one place that I can find them easily. I could go on and on about this program.
  • Microsoft Word - An essential writing tool. I usually edit in Microsoft Word.
  • The Emotion Thesaurus by Angel Ackerman Becca Puglisi - Super handy for rewriting and finding unique ways to express emotions.
  • Natural Reader - I use this program for the editing stages to catch errors that only hearing it read back to me let me pick up.
  • Listen on Repeat - Good for any stage of writing. Just replace "youtube" in any YouTube URL with "listenonrepeat" and you can listen to the song over and over!
  • Grammarly - This program is great for picking up an pesky grammatical and spelling errors that Microsoft Word can't pick up. It's also just an awesome app for your browser. It checks my emails, my blog posts, my social media posts. It's wonderful. One day I'll get premium but for now I'm sticking with the free version.

Question #5: Where do you write?
Usually at the desk in my room, though during NaNo I did break out of that habit and write in a few of my favorite cafes such as Sweet Hut and Tiny Bubbles.

Question #6: What’s one aspect of your process that you learned the hard way?
Patience in publishing. I've been writing seriously for almost five years now and I only just got published recently in a magazine last year and still no novels published. But I'll be published when I'm ready and when I find the right agent and publisher and the right debut novel. I've just gotta be patient. 

Question #7: Do you have different routines for different parts of the writing process (drafting versus editing, for example)? Do you have a “crop rotation” schedule, or work differently during different seasons of the year?
Yes. Depending on what stage I'm at in writing determines my routine a lot.

  • Planning - This is my most flexible stage. I try to fill out lots of sheets, outlines, and write blurbs. The time it takes to do all of this varies. Sometimes I'll work on it for a half hour or another night three hours.
  • First drafting - I want to get as much written as possible, so it depends on how much I can pound out in a night. So I'm typing away at my keyboard from an hour to three hours a day trying to just word vomit my first draft out. XD
  • Macro Editing - After I've let my first draft sit for six weeks, I read over the entire thing with a notebook and pencil in hand taking notes by chapter of the big things that need to be fixed like what needs to be researched, massive plot holes, inconsistent worldbuilding, etc. 
  • Researching - I do my major researching after my first draft because I often find a lot of stuff I need to research while writing. This usually takes me an hour or two a night to work on.
  • Rewriting - This usually goes faster than my first draft because I have the skeleton of the first draft to go by. I use the handy dandy split screen feature on Scrivener to look at the old chapter while I'm writing the new one. I usually do this for one to three hours a night.
  • Micro Editing - This takes me the longest out of all of my stages because I want to catch every little thing. I read over the page, then I read the page out to myself, then I listen to it through Natural Reader, then I check it with Grammarly. As you can imagine this takes a while but it's effective. 
  • Reading Over Beta Feedback - This stage usually doesn't take too long. I put my beta feedback on one side of the screen and my original manuscript of the others and then apply feedback as I read while listening to lots of tunes.
  • Applying Larger Beta Feedback - This really varies. It depends on how large of a fix needs to be done.

Question #8: What’s the biggest thing that gets in the way of your writing?
Mental health definitely. Depression and anxiety can be debilitating. 

Question #9: Which would you give up first – writing, sleep, or breakfast?
Breakfast. I don't really care for breakfast.

Question #10: How do you maintain mental health during tough times?
Taking, even more, care to make sure I have time to relax, drinking lots of water and tea with calming herbs like lavender and chamomile, taking daily walks (it boosts seratonin which uplifts your mood), and talking to friends. 

Question #11: How do you get into a creative mental space that fosters new ideas?
Honestly, I get a lot of ideas when I spend time with my good friends. We always end up getting into story conversations and new ideas burst forth.

Question #12: Since NaNoWriMo [happened just this past month], have you ever done a marathon writing session? What did you learn from that process?
Yes. I've done NaNoWriMo for the past four years now. It's definitely taught me about discipline and prioritizing. 

Question #13: What books, blogs, or podcasts would you recommend to writers who want to develop strong writing and wellness habits?
Well I listed some already, but to list another one Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain. I normally don't read this sort of book but this revolutionized how I think of myself as an introvert and made me aware that I need to take time for solitude and reenergizing. It also taught me that being an introvert isn't something bad, but just a part of who I am.

What are some of your answers for these questions? What are some good writing and life habits you implement?

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