Practical tips from 30 years in this biz (Brenda Hiatt)
This month we’re sharing practical tips about writing, writing careers and life, so I’ll try to share with you the best nuggets wisdom I’ve gleaned from 30 years in this biz (not counting my years of writing before I was published).
Put your health first. You can’t write or market effectively if you’re sick or always feeling rundown, so do what’s necessary to keep your body functioning properly. My top tips:
-Take time to move every day. Easiest way I’ve found to do this? Writing at a treadmill desk.
-Get enough sleep. Most people need at least seven hours a night (or day, if you’re a night writer). I’ve noticed sleep tends to be vastly underrated by writers, but it’s vitally important.
-Pay attention to what you put into your body. Just drinking more water and cutting out as much “fake” food as possible can boost your health dramatically.
-Manage stress. Whenever you start feeling overwhelmed (it happens a lot in this biz!) step back and take a few deep breaths or even meditate. I find it helps a lot to occasionally remind myself that missing a deadline or the latest promo opportunity or even publishing a book that’s not my best won’t kill or maim anyone. This isn’t brain surgery. No lives will be lost if I screw up as a writer.
Keep going back to the page.
We all need to take breaks occasionally, but unless you’ve decided you no longer want to be a writer, it’s important to keep coming back to the page. When a book is being particularly difficult, I find it helps to at least open the manuscript every day, even if all I do is write a couple of sentences or edit the last scene I wrote. This keeps my head in the story and greatly increases the chance that inspiration will strike.
We all have a tendency to compare ourselves to others: others’ earnings, others’ writing speed, others’ promo efforts, others’ rankings at the vendors, others’ reviews, etc. While analyzing someone else’s success and how they achieved it can be helpful, feeling like you’re lacking because your journey doesn’t look like someone else’s is self-defeating and can become toxic. Every career, just like every book and every writer, is different. Chart your own path.
Invite input from others.
At some point, we all benefit from different perspectives. A critique group can offer this, and so, obviously, can a professional editor. But sometimes it’s also useful to seek others’ advice on writing-adjacent stuff like your blurbs, covers, ad campaigns, etc. Writer organization and even Facebook groups are a great place to ask questions and get answers about whatever aspect of this crazy biz is baffling you at the moment. Not to mention the joy of interacting with other people who “get it!” And speaking of joy…
Nurture your love of writing.
As I painfully discovered, it’s all too easy, once your writing hobby becomes a business, to lose sight of why you started writing to begin with. When you become so focused on your next deadline or your sales numbers that the actual writing starts to feel like just one more chore, recalibrate. Step back and remember why you’re doing this in the first place. Trust me, once your joy in writing escapes, it can be pretty darned hard to get it back, so feed that joy however you need to, to keep it alive. Your books and your life will be better for it!
Brenda Hiatt is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the award-winning Starstruck series. Her first book, a sweet Regency romance, was published by Harlequin more than thirty years ago and she’s been a fulltime author ever since. Challenging as the writing life can be, she wouldn’t trade it for any other line of work!