by Karen Ball
I’m a list person. In part, that’s because said lists serve to bump my memory when it gets…um…lost. But I also just love lists—especially lists of things you should (or shouldn’t) do. So here, for your perusal, are my top ten things every writer should do every day:
- Stretch your word muscles. Learn a new word. Read a new writer. Do a crossword puzzle. Flip through the dictionary. Do the Reader’s Digest Word Power test. Something to test and strengthen your word skills.
- Spend at least 15 minutes in silence. No words, no music. Just…be still. It’s hard to hear the Master’s voice in all the chaos that fills our days. Purpose to spend at least a little bit of time—other than when you’re asleep—in silence.
- Read Scripture. Now, I’m not talking about your devotions. I’m talking reading them as a writer. See how the stories are told. Savor the beauty of the songs. Study the heroes and villains. There’s a wealth of gold to be gleaned in them thar pages.
- Learn something new about writing. Okay, how many books on writing do you have? And how many of them have you read? If you’re like I am, the percentage is woefully low. So purpose, every day, to read from a book on the craft of writing. Doesn’t have to be a lot. Even if you only read one page, you’re making headway. Of course, if you’ve read all of the craft books you have, CONGRATS. Now, go back and read them again. Just a little each day.
- Keep a Beautiful Words journal. Whether you hand write these or use a computer document, keep a journal of the phrases in books that capture or delight you. Bits of writing that you find wonderful. Add something new every day. Be sure to credit where it came from.
- At least once a week, add something from your writing to the Beautiful Writing journal. It’s there, whether you believe it or not. A perfect word or sentence, a bit of dialogue. Add that to your Beautiful Words journal. Then, when you’re feeling discouraged you can go back and read them to remind yourself you’re not a hack.
- Just DON’T do it! C’mon now, you know what I mean. Playing Angry Birds, wandering on Facebook, browsing sales…all those things we do instead of writing. If we spent half of the time we waste writing, we’d finish our books in record time. So stop it. Now.
- Step Away from the keyboard. I get that sometimes we’re on deadline and so we’re chained to the keyboard. But even on those days—maybe especially on those days—you need to take a break. Even if it’s only for 5 minutes. Set a timer for the time you will allow yourself, and walk away. Go outside. Play with the dog. Hug your child. Garden. Make a bouquet of flowers. Shoot at cans. Change the oil in your car. Whatever. Just give your mind a break. Every. Day. Trust me, your writing will benefit.
- Learn to release tension. We’re so good at tensing up, at letting deadlines and word quotas and plot issues and edits and staying on top of social media and blah blah blah get to us. Happens to me all the time. Happened as I was getting ready for one of my trips last week. I was editing and wham! Anxiety over how much I had to do just slammed into me. So here is one tip for dealing with this kind of thing.
- Stop. Whatever you’re doing, whatever you’re thinking. Just stop.
- If you’re standing, sit down.
- Close your eyes.
- Put your hands in your lap and your feet flat on the floor.
- Recite your favorite Scripture to yourself. As you do so…
- Breath in, through the nose, nice and slow. Fill your lungs. Hold it for a second. And then
- Breath out, through your mouth, nice and slow.
- Repeat. At least five times.
- Remind Yourself Who is in control. Do you best at every aspect of this task, but remember, you’re not in control. Your job is obedience. The outcome is up to Someone far wiser. Remind yourself of that every day. Don’t let yourself forget it.
Okay, your turn. What do you consider one Must-Do for every writer?