Writers are sensitive creatures. Despite the stigma attached to the word, it’s true. From a text conversation gone wrong to the way a storm strikes, mood is a delicate thing to balance. When I write, I’m aware of all the factors which may contribute to my art and am careful to protect my bubble during the hours I’m at work. I need to type away and fix my plot holes, remove those pesky “just” words from my manuscript and polish character arcs. So how do I know what to avoid in order to be efficient when I write? Because I’ve been in too many situations when I have the laptop in front of me, but I didn’t accomplish what I set out to do when I sat down. Or I sat down with a notebook and Pepsi only to find myself scribbling a chapter of garbage, because I was too distracted by my finances or the kids’ laundry. Now, I know better. It’s still difficult to balance though. I can’t create a story in a vacuum and am not one of those people who requires silence, but juggling the line between white noise and stressful screams in the background is attainable.
Talking about myself is boring, though. There are a thousand things I need to get absolutely right in order to finish a book. I want to help you now! Here are a few things that might be affecting your writing.
I hate talking about the weather, but I’ve found that when it’s snowing I love to write with a cup of hot chocolate on the table near me. Meanwhile, if it’s too sunny outside, and I’m blinded with the light pouring through the Panera window, I may get too sleepy. Others get pain in their joints if it’s too cold outside. And there’s seasonal depression for areas where sunlight only comes around for a few hours a day. Therefore, if you know weather will affect your mood, and therefore your writing, choose a block of the day which will suit you perfectly. Or travel somewhere if you’re able! I use an Edison lightbulb in my lamp, because the soft lighting relaxes me and allows me to tap into my creative side in a way harsh fluorescent lights cannot.
I don’t like having tiffs with friends or family members for obvious reasons, which is why I tend to stay off my phone these days. There’s too much room for misinterpreted tone and hurt feelings. However, no one is perfect and sometimes I’m not on the best terms with my mom or siblings and the weight of a conversation can linger for days, affecting my ability to brainstorm ideas for the story I’m writing. Try to resolve any pending lovers’ quarrels before you sit down to write lest they sneak up on you while you’re trying to get your masterpiece on paper! Or, if you’re in a beautiful romance, use that inspiration. Fights can also be used as good material for your book if you’re able to let it fuel you instead of destroy you and stop you from writing at all.
Your Reading Habits
Agents will be the first to tell you if you’re not reading widely within your genre, you’re doing something wrong. There’s no way you can know what sells, or even who your competitors are, if you aren’t an active reader. Not only this, but if you aren’t constantly reading, you aren’t growing as a writer. Each time I read a book, whether it’s self-help to improve my craft or a thriller for fun, I’m paying attention to the way the author forms their sentences, how they capture my attention, and move from scene to scene. As a writer, my reading lens is much more critical because I want to take advantage of my reading experiences and make them double as writing lessons. You should be doing the same if you want to get ahead! How much you or don’t read reflects greatly in your writing. Maybe you can’t tell, but agents will definitely be able to tell the difference.
How You Receive Writing Feedback
No matter where you go, there will be the guy/girl who can’t stand being criticized. They can do no wrong, and God forbid you point out that comma they missed in their three-line sentence. I may be exaggerating but I have met plenty of people in my life who refuse to improve, because they don’t want anyone to identify their flaws–even when they ask for it! The same is true of writers. Some don’t appreciate being called out on their mistakes, taking it as a personal attack on their soul, even if it’s helpful feedback. And that’s just the thing. When you receive writing feedback, it’s not personal. Feedback is supposed to be constructive, usually pointing out a weakness and suggestions for ways to strengthen an area. At work, people are so scared of giving and receiving feedback because it’s considered a negative thing, but I love it. It’s free advice; an opportunity to become a better version of myself by improving my WORK or WRITING. If given properly, no one will be giving feedback in a writing group pertaining to your attitude or taste in music, it will be relating to your writing style, and while it may seem personal, it’s not. Try to separate your craft from your heart. These are people who may have lots of experience in the field/industry and want to give you pointers based on their training, so take it! If you are unwilling to learn from them, you’ll be stuck for a long time, and your stagnant writing will not thank you.
As always, sometimes you have to take feedback with a grain of salt, but as Paula Munier said this past weekend…if more than one person says it to you, you should probably listen.