Whether you are writing a book, a white paper, or a research report for grad school, there are 6 things every writer should do to start the day off right.
As a writer, your job is to interact with the world, to be acutely aware, and to communicate. Begin your day by waking up your mind so that you may clearly and vividly put ideas to words. Be brilliant.
You only need 6 simple actions to do this. They are not complicated actions and they can help a writer maintain a conscious method of writing—rather than perpetuating a rushed and panicked approach that leads to sloppiness and work that does not measure up to your own standards.
1. Sleep 7-9 hours and wake up on schedule. Build the habit of getting out of bed at the same time every day.
According to Harvard Medical School, a lack of sleep has a negative impact on our capacity to focus and to access higher-level thinking processes—precisely the abilities we need to write articulately when we are communicating complex ideas.
Additionally, deep and restorative sleep—not a bunch of naps!—improves memory for fact-based information that is “complex and emotionally-charged.” Let’s also not forget the effect sleep has on our abilities to coordinate ideas, make good decisions, and be alert and energetic during the day, thus improving productivity.
Why 7-9 hours? This is the average range recommended by the National Sleep Foundation. They even have a guide to help you figure out how much sleep you need. Maybe you need 10… or 5.
2. Exercise. Writing means a lot of sitting. This obviously can lead to obesity and back pain—two good reasons on their own to get exercising, but there are mental benefits, too.
Walking or running can be meditative and help you process your ideas during a 40-60 minute trek, but some high intensity intervals can give your mind a break while also waking you up and getting your workout in with a short spurt of activity. Gardening brings you connection with a more natural world than your computer, and may bring you moments of clarity.
The American Psychological Association emphasizes that evidence shows physical activity improves moods, and reduces anxiety, depression, and stress.
3. Eat well. When you are writing and you get into the zone or the dream state or whatever you get into, it is so easy to forget to eat. Then you find yourself starving at 4pm. (I used to do this a lot.) You are not bound to eat well or in moderation if you neglect eating all day.
After you exercise, take the time to make a solid breakfast. It might be your only meal for the day—and it’s easier to burn off the calories and fat when you eat it at the beginning of the day. Make an omelet. Taste your food. Savor your coffee.
4. Read. You’ve exercised. You’re fed. Once you have your coffee, take the time to slowly drink it. Now is the time to calm yourself and start to focus your mind. Read something that inspires you. Read a chapter of a great book. Read an article that makes you think. Read whatever you aspire to. Take 20 or 30 minutes and let it continue to drive you forward.
5. Contextualize. Take a few minutes, at the end of your reading and contemplation to think about your long-term and short-term goals. How does the project you are working on today fit into your goals? Are you getting ahead of yourself when there is something else you need to do first? What is your timeline for this project and what steps do you need to take to complete it on time? (Write your answers to this every day. You will be progressing each day so the map to completion is likely to change.) What do you get to look forward to doing after this project?
If you recalibrate and think about your long- and short-term goals each day, you’ll find you feel the progress of your writing. You’re also less likely to stray from the path to reaching your writing goals.
6. Write. Yeah, you knew it was coming. Writers write. We neglect a lot of other things, but we write no matter what. Often we neglect ourselves when we are working intensely on a project, but to get the work done with a lower stress-level and to maintain the habit of writing, following these 6 simple rules can keep writers writing.
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