6 Things That Will Make You a Happier, Healthier, More Accomplished Writer

Hint: they’re all free, but they’ll still take some work to master.


Is it possible to be a writer, AND be happy, AND be healthy, AND be successful? Actually, yes. You’ve heard a lot of complaining from other writers, I’m sure, about everything wrong with the profession. We’re all human; venting is healthy. There are specific ‘traits,’ let’s call them, that make it possible to do what you like to do, get pretty good at it, get paid to do it and actually enjoy it.

It’s not a fairytale. There are happy, healthy and highly accomplished writers out there, and you could soon be one of them. How? Read on.

Need a hint? You won’t find any of these things in a store or on Amazon. But their value is far greater than anything you could purchase in an attempt to improve your writing life.

1. Motivation

What is it?

It doesn’t mean what you think it means, for starters. Motivation is not some abstract thing you lack when you’re trying to convince yourself to sit down and write something. You know you’ve used it as an excuse to go do something else instead at least once or twice (be honest). Motivation, for the writer, is more like purpose. It’s the writer’s reason for doing what they do. But it runs just a little deeper than that. It ends up being the thing that drives you. Your motivation to write is the only thing that prompts you to wake up in the morning and write something down.

How to get it:

  • List out all the reasons why you feel like you need to write
  • Then list out all the reasons you actually WANT to write
  • Narrow down your focus to just one of those reasons – your reason IS your motivation.

When I was first starting my journey as an aspiring writer, I didn’t really have anyone to turn to or anywhere to go for good writing advice. So I started to blog about writing, sharing writing tips and inspiration, the kinds of things I wished I’d had to read when I was just starting out. That is my motivation for blogging for you every single day.

2. Energy

What is it?

We’re talking mental and physical energy here. A writer cannot create without both kinds of energy stored away. Possibly the writer’s greatest weakness is not being able to figure out how much is too much and how little is too little. You might be the type of person to put your work (e.g., writing) before everything else, but if you do not maintain your own energy levels, well, good luck trying to keep up with the often overwhelming demands of the industry.

How to get it:

  • Take more breaks than you think you need
  • Sleep – go to bed when you’re tired and wake up when you feel rested; this can still be done on a schedule if you take the time to figure one out
  • Work out and eat right – carbs are a writer’s best friend (seriously)
  • Don’t overwork yourself – set limits and don’t write more than you have to.

I have this ongoing problem where I work myself straight into burnout mode, try to recover, get too anxious about not doing enough and dive straight into working too much again. I’m getting better at managing it. Lacking mental and physical energy honestly makes writing virtually impossible. Without adequate energy, the rest of the things on this list become unachievable.

3. Discipline

What is it? 

In terms of writing, discipline involves training yourself to establish, stick to and follow through with goals, schedules and deadlines. The writer, the successful writer, has learned to say yes to productivity and no to priorities that stand in the way of that productivity. To be disciplined means to put great effort into your craft, even if it means the occasional sacrifice.

How to get it:

  • Make writing your main focus for a large part of your day (but not the whole day!)
  • Set specific daily goals and meet them one at a time
  • When you feel low on energy, take a five minute break – then get back in and get it done

Every once in a while I accidentally on purpose procrastinate on a writing project, and end up having to write anywhere between 5,000-10,000 words in one day for just one assignment. Not recommended, and trust me, I’m working on that (GOALS). But I always somehow manage to get it done, because I have trained myself over the years to, honestly, just do it. I have one goal in mind and I chip away at it until that goal is met, no matter what it takes. With time and a lot of practice, you can learn to do the same.

4. Focus

What is it?

Focus means staying on task. You have to start getting out of bad habits like stopping to answer a text message or posting on social media when you’re ‘supposed’ to be writing. Once you stop doing something, your brain can’t just refocus back to that thing right away. Breaking your concentration can completely mess up your productivity for the rest of the day, if you aren’t careful. You have focus on that thing you sat down to do, or it won’t ever get done.

How to get it:

  • Figure out what sidetracks you; block it out
  • Set ‘office hours’ – tell your friends not to bug you between time x and time y
  • If you feel yourself losing focus, it’s okay to move on to a different activity for a little while and come back to that one – we’re not meant to pay attention to only one thing for extended periods of time.

A few months ago I deleted the majority of the apps from my phone. I love apps, but they were becoming distracting enough that they were actually preventing me from getting done what I needed to get done throughout the day. I was able to identify that they were the main culprit in my inability to stay focused and downsize to only the essentials.

5. Resilience

What is it? 

Resilience is the writer’s ability to bear and overcome the struggle and write, despite rejection, distraction, lack of energy, negative feedback and/or failure. Writers, like many other professionals, deal with a lot of not-so-fun stuff. You might spend a few hours or more hard at work on a piece that never gets approved. Early on, freelancers struggle to find decent work at decent rates. Novelists send dozens upon dozens of query letters, the majority of which go unanswered for all eternity (sigh). It’s rough. Resilience is what will get you through it – all of it – and push you toward better, less sucky times.

How to get it:

  • Don’t let other people’s opinions or criticisms knock you off course
  • Stop using distractions as an excuse; block them out no matter the cost
  • Treat failure as a learning experience – it is a cliche, but it is so true it sometimes physically hurts.

I’m stubborn and allergic to failure (ha), which is probably why I ended up writing professionally. It gets tough, sometimes. People don’t always respect writers. My work has gotten ripped apart and trashed. Most of it gets ignored. A ton of it doesn’t even get published under my name (yeah, get used to that, trust me). I just keep going. That’s what you have to do. You have to develop a refusal to stop, and act on that.

6. Balance

What is it?

Writers eventually become experts at balancing their commitments. You can’t just write all day, every day, and expect that pattern to go on for long. Writing, whether it feels like it to you or not, is still work. It exhausts you, if not right away, than eventually. And those who write for a living very rarely just write – they have other commitments and responsibilities, too. Writing itself isn’t boring, but it can be if that’s all you ever do. You have to learn to balance your writing with other work; volunteer opportunities; fun things with people you like and who like you back. And so on.

How to get it:

  • Separate your writing (“work”) time from your “relaxing” time
  • Schedule it out – don’t write when you’re supposed to be chilling out or get caught in a Netflix vortex when you’re supposed to be writing
  • Set limits for yourself so you stay productive without burning out
  • Make writing a priority, but please, take care of yourself, and your relationships

It’s still sometimes hard for me to balance my writing with other sections of my life. I catch myself accidentally going days without talking to a friend I usually talk to on a daily basis because I get too caught up in my writing. You feel like you have to do that, when you’re ‘in the zone,’ but the zone is the zone because it’s not supposed to be a constant thing. You have to step away from it in order for it to continue to have any value to your productivity.

All these things, combined, will give your writing life a little bit of structure and purpose. We all need some of that. Without it, we fall into this confusing cycle of feeling guilty for not writing, but not feeling like writing, trying to write and not doing it well, and so on. If you’re serious about writing, consider focusing on one or several of these traits. There’s more to writing than just writing. It’s a creative process that can get pretty overwhelming if you don’t manage it.

Be happy. Stay healthy. Work toward those goals. Most importantly, write. Have fun. Don’t give up.

Which of the above traits do you struggle with the most? What do you think might be the biggest hurdle would have to jump over? How can I help? :)

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

12 thoughts on “6 Things That Will Make You a Happier, Healthier, More Accomplished Writer

  1. Great blog post! I need a lot of those things =( Mostly, I need resilience. I don’t think you can help me with that one. Somehow, I need to get over thinking my writing is so horrible. Compared to other writers, it feels like I lack something :/

  2. Focus, discipline, balance. I’m good at getting things done… If I can do it in a week. After that, I bounce around and (usually) come back to it within a few months or a year…! I just have lots of little projects on the periphery that I come back to now and again. Is that a good thing or bad thing? I haven’t decided yet ;)

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