Positive Writer

Writing through doubt and fear, and you can, too!

3 Super Easy Tricks to Empower Your Writing

I made an important realization recently. I couldn’t seem to focus when I tried to write. I felt anxious and worried, while my thoughts and my stomach whirled together…

the power of now

But, this made no sense.

The New Year has been great for me so far writing wise. Thanks to this Positive Writer post, The Agony of Early Drafts – Should You Keep Writing, I may have found a top-notch editor to work with me on publishing my debut novel. I led a 10-day creativity challenge for my community which was hugely successful.

Life was good, so why was I struggling to get one word onto the page?

I finally recognized my mistake. This error was hurting my writing. It was hurting my life. I had to stop before my head exploded.

Are you making the same mistake, too?

Don’t get stuck in worry mode about your writing.

Please understand, financial stress, health struggles, relationship issues – these are all real problems and do cause concern.

I’m talking about when life is okay overall, but you still find you’re fretting over your writing.

Every day, you have a thousand different thoughts. They pop up from everywhere: the internet (especially social media), television, radio, reading, conversations at home or work (both happy and unhappy). Regrets or anger from the past, worrying about the future.

Sometimes when we sit down to write, our minds are anywhere, but right now.

Think Your Way to Better Writing

My brain felt like a pinball machine and I was the pinball. I mentally slammed against any and all thoughts, such as:

How will I find time to work on my novel with all my big plans for my blog?

What if my big idea for my blog fails?

How can I complete everything I want to do?

Those were just my writing worries. There was a long list of personal woes, too.

I’ve had a lot of guest posts to write lately, but it’s been extra hard with my brain stuck in worry mode all day. It was no better at night. I fell into bed exhausted, but my dreams felt just as rushed, so I woke up even more frazzled.

Do you do this, too? Do you sometimes work yourself into a frenzy?

If so, learn to get back to basics with your brain to improve your writing.

Return to ‘Now’ to Recover Your Writing

Both fiction and nonfiction are hard work. Positive Writer is committed to helping you battle self-doubt and to be good enough on the page. However, your thoughts directly affect your actions.

You cannot control what pops into your head, but you can control whether or not you hold onto that thought. Especially if it’s unwanted or negative.

Here are three, easy tricks I’m doing to reclaim your brain and recharge your writing.

Return to ‘Now’ to Recover Your Writing. (Click to Tweet)

1. Whatever you’re doing, focus on just that.

This is so much harder than it sounds, but it helps bring you back into the present moment.

When your mind is more open, you’re freer to write. I’ve been turning off the internet as I work and made myself write a full page before I go back to edit. While doing chores and my mind starts to wander, I repeated to myself whatever I’m doing, “I’m washing the dishes, I’m washing the dishes. Feel the warm, sudsy water. I’m washing the dishes.”

This helped pull me back to the present moment. Try to keep your thoughts positive and in the present. Doing so will improve your writing and you’ll enjoy your sessions more.

2. Stop-sign negative thoughts.

As you refocus on the task at hand, negative thoughts will still try to hijack your brain. When this happens, picture a giant, red stop sign to that unwelcomed thought, then return to the task at hand: “I’m washing the dishes, I’m washing the dishes…”

3. Take a 60-second vacation.

This one is my favorite because it’s fun. Take one minute to close your eyes and try to relax. Imagine a wonderful vacation (real or imagined), think about someone you love or what you feel grateful for in your life. This gives your mind a much needed break.

Try to do this at least six times a day. It’s easier than you think. When you first wake up, then go to sleep (there’s two); at meals: breakfast, lunch and dinner (that makes five); then, you can squeeze in one more: in between meetings, stuck in traffic, waiting in the checkout line. Treat yourself to these mini-getaways.

Use ‘Now’ to Empower Your Writing

Since freeing all this mental space, my writing has flowed more. I’ve encountered less anxiety during the day and my life feels calmer. Happier.

That’s the point of writing. To write more and stress less. Don’t you agree?

Are you ready to commit to writing more and stressing less? Share in the comments.

This post is written by Positive Writer regular contributor, Marcy McKay.

About Marcy McKay

Marcy McKay wanted to write stories ever since she read about Oompa Loompas in fourth grades. She's the Amazon best-selling author of Pennies from Burger Heaven. Join her on Facebook. Marcy is also a contributing author to The Audacity to be a Writer.

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Like a good friend, Bryan guides you through the process of facing your inner demons, conquering the craft, and creating work that matters. ―Jeff Goins
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  • Rashydy

    Such a good info content. Thank You so much for sharing!

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  • This is a great post Marcy! I find this happens to me too. Your pinball brain metaphor is very apt 🙂 and I love your suggestions. Sometimes when we let our worried thoughts run wild, they take over like weeds. Being in the present, and returning to the “the warm sudsy water” can be a much needed respite. We don’t *always* need to think about our writing and goals and our growing to-do lists. Sometimes that does more harm than good.

    Taking a social media break can help, too. I find that when I browse Twitter too often, I see SO many ideas and articles and successes, and instead of inspired, I begin to feel competitive and behind

    Thanks for these great ideas, and congrats on your debut novel!

    • Hi Dana,

      I really like you comparing our wild thoughts taking over our brains like weeds. That’s a fantastic metaphor. A shift in attitude and focus can make our mind either a gorgeous rose garden, or a field of weeds. What a great visual.

      I’m with 100% about taking breaks from social media. Too much of a good thing is still too much.

      Good luck to you and your writing!

  • LOVE the idea of a 60-second vacation! 🙂 Whenever I can’t fall asleep, I insert myself into one of my favorite fictional worlds and let my imagination go wild. It usually makes me sleepy as well as providing interesting dreams!

    • Hey, Magic Violinist – GREAT to see you here.
      I love, love, love the idea of inserting yourself into fictional worlds! Same concept as the mini-vaca, but flexes your imagination in new ways. Awesome. I’m absolutely going to try that and appreciate the great tip. Thanks!

  • I can relate to this as I’ve been arriving at the same realisation in my
    current novel. I keep getting bogged down in detail and having doubts
    about the story. Once I return to the now, ignore negative thoughts,
    focus, and just do it, everything begins to fall back into place. The
    flow comes back 🙂 I can see the value of the 60 second vacation, I’ll
    give that a try!
    Thanks for sharing Marcy 🙂

    • Hi Robert,

      Please do try the 60-second vacation because it’s fast and user-friendly. No matter how busy we are, we all squeeze out 60-second to get our minds in a better place. Good luck!

      • Thanks Marcy I will, I practice meditation but a 60 second ‘check in’ is a great idea 🙂

  • Phil Turner

    Hey Marcy
    Thanks again for another superb post that is grounded in the reality of writing. I love the Pinball machine analogy. I have days like that that I call Short-Thought Days, but the pinball machine works well.
    Sometimes I think I am the only writer suffering from short thoughts, reassuring to know I am not and I love your solutions too.

    • Hi there, Phil.

      Short-Though Days. That’s terrific, Phil. Same thing as a pinball machine.

      Nope. It seems we all love/suffer with our writing and I think it’s important to pull back the curtain of mystery with creativity and talk about it, so we can find solutions that work to do more of what we want — WRITE.

  • Hi Macy,

    This is a great post for those who are struggling with writing. I have also faced a similar difficulty in the past. Focusing on one thing is the key. Whenever I started writing something, I would not be able to concentrate. But with practice, you would be able to focus on one thing.

    Thanks for sharing these tips.

    • You got it, Brian. Focus on one positive thing to shift your energy away from your struggle and into a better mind frame to write.

      I really like your profile pic, by the way. Thanks for stopping by.

      • Thanks, i use it sometimes it’s the logo for my website 🙂

  • Krithika Rangarajan

    I am tasked with penning a Press Release that is due this evening. And I am worried – worried that I won’t be able to do justice to this writing form. I have never written Press Releases before, which puts me squarely in the discomfort zone!

    My mind – already throbbing with migraines – feels heavy and STUCK. But, as always, you come to my rescue, my lovely ‘Writer’ in Shining Armor 😉 #HUGSSS

    I am acquainted with the ability of negative thoughts to create tumors in my brain! 🙁 I spent an hour this morning trying to weed out the same – lol

    So thank you for reminding us about the power of NOW.

    LOVE you
    Kitt

    • It’s so scary to do something new — even if it’s something you do a lot (write), but in a new format (a press release).

      Take a deep breath because you can do this. With Press Releases, just remember to include the 5 W’s and LOTS of white space. You want to make it as EASY as possible for them to get the information they need to share with the public.

      Of course, google: How to write a press release, but it’s sort of like this (I’m pretending it’s about an event):

      FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

      WHAT: Tell what the event is.

      WHO: Tell who’s in charge of the event.

      WHEN/WHERE: Date/Time/Place

      WHY: This one is super important, but keep it SHORT. Your whole press release should be LESS THAN one page.

      FOR MORE INFO, CONTACT: Name/email address/web address (if applicable) and phone #.

      • Krithika Rangarajan

        Marcy – thank you, my love! #HUGSS The Non-Profit liked my Press Release – I am sure there were mistakes, but I am happy to have at least plowed through despite my fears. It helps to know that I CAN do this again, if need be 😀

        Assisting NPOs – even in the tiniest way – makes me feel great! #HUGS

        • Congrats, Kitto. I knew you could do it. I worked in the NPO arena for over 14 years, so I know that they depend on the kindness of folks like you to help them. Somehow…some way…you will be paid back for you generosity. xo – m3

  • Love the pinball analogy. I’ve SO been there. I could have used this post last week. I felt like I was trudging through mud to get words on the page. Your suggestions are great. I think my 60-second vacation will be on a deck chair of a cruise ship feeling the soft sea breeze. Ahhh. I’m already relaxing. Thanks, Marcy.

    • Hi Sabra,

      It’s DUMPING snow right now where I am in Texas, so I just might join you mentally in playing cards on your cruise ship.

      Sorry this post wasn’t around last week when you were struggling, but you can file it away for future reference.

  • Katie Andraski

    These are wonderful suggestions for living life too. It seems to be a message coming through to me. Geneen Roth talks about how important it is to be present and mindful while eating, which is a great insight. And you’re talking about being present just in plain living. I like the idea of taking a mental vacation several times a day. That sounds very wise to me. I will be posting this for my students too.

    • You know, Katie, the longer I write, the more I discover that writing is life and life is writing (if that makes sense). I’m trying to nicer to myself on and off the page. I’m trying to treat myself the gracious way I treat others.

      • Katie Andraski

        I too am trying to be nicer to myself as well. Lent is here and our pastor encouraged self examination, but for me that can turn into a nasty pit, so I’m going to hear this message of being present and mindful and thankful as that too is a message coming through. Thank you for your good work.

        • GOOD FOR YOU for following your intuition, Katie. Your preacher has an important message for you, but if it could be damaging to you — steer clear.

          • Katie Andraski

            Thanks for that support and wisdom.

  • “I’m washing dishes! Washing the dishes.” I really needed that one. It’s so difficult to just be in the now. Thank you for this encouragment! 🙂

    • Yes, Chelsea, the power of now is always the best place for us to be. It’s so simple in concept, but sometimes so difficult to do. I hope these tips help. Thanks for stopping by the Write Practice.

  • Great post Marcy!

    I absolutely love every point and tip that you have made here. In fact, its quite hard to pick my favorite, and that doesn’t usually happen. 😉

    But if I have to choose one of the tips you have given my favorite it would be the one about taking 60 second vacations.

    I am going to start this one NOW! 🙂

    • You have wonderful taste, William. The 60-sec vaca is ALWAYS the biggest hit. Good luck with it and your writing.

  • Miriam Bradley

    Absolutely timely! I will be putting each of these into action starting now! Thank you.

    • Fantastic, Miriam. I hope these help you, and if not — keep trying different tricks until you find what does work.

    • Miriam N

      😀 another Miriam? AWESOME! Thank you for commenting made my day. Never seen another person with my name comment on one of these.

  • Jack Strandburg

    Today I changed my approach and it seems to be working so far. On my current writing project list is a 24 chapter mystery novel rewrite and a short story. Being a person of “lists” (I fill out a task list on what I want to accomplish each day which includes non-writing and writing tasks – okay – so I’m OCD – so what). I listed each chapter of the novel and each scene (18) of the short story and decided I would tackle it piecemeal and concentrate on one piece at a time. The magnitude of the novel and short story alike was trapping me into looking at each project as one insurmountable task rather than paring it down to multiple single tasks accomplished in a day or two. So far, so good.

    • Good for you, Jack. What’s the old saying, “How do you eat an elephant?”

      One bite at a time.

      I’m glad that breaking down your projects into more manageable pieces helped. Good luck!

  • Hi Marcy, I’m surprised no one has pointed this out yet but your suggestion to focus only on what you are doing strongly reflects Buddhist thinking.

    When I was in graduate school back in the 1990s, my thoughts ran rampant. I didn’t even realize this was happening and didn’t realize my problems falling asleep had to do with an inability to stop thinking. I was getting bounced around like the pinball machine you mentioned.

    Then, when I went to live in Sri Lanka for a year, I was fortunate enough to learn, through some Buddhist training, how to become aware of your thinking. When I realized you could somehow still your mind through such awareness, focus became easier. You could be aware of all the random thoughts trying to clutter your brain but not “let them in”. When you mentioned the mantra, I am washing the dishes, I am washing the dishes, etc., that is exactly what Buddhist philosophy encourages.

    I have used this strategy many times when I write. I do have external pressures, like everyone, but figuring out good methods to improve focused thinking, as you generously describe here, can really help you succeed at writing and in so many other areas in life.

    Thanks for posting, Joe

    • Ah, yes, Joe. Thank you so much for bringing up our “monkey minds”, screaming while jumping from branch to branch — never holding on to any thought too long, but CONSTANTLY in motion.

      I had that in my post at one point, but couldn’t make it seamless enough to keep it and felt the pinball machine covered that sentiment (without going into details).

      How COOL that you lived in Sri Lanka for a year?! I’m sure that was life changing. It is sort of miraculous when we realize, “I can CONTROL my mind.”

      WOW. Thank you!

  • Robert Ranck

    Marcie, I certainly enjoyed reading this post. You have struck a point that is central to a lot of my time problems. I’d love to sit and share a Texas-sized Dr. Pepper with you sometime to discuss life and writing. You are so very close to the mark as I see it.

    I have often heard the thought that the mind is a stage. It will always be occupied with one act or another, for good or evil, for production or demolition. Nature abhors a vacuum, so the stage will always be occupied. It up to us, as the Writer/Producer/Director to control what goes on on that stage by our own choices. Let us fill it with crazy imagination, happy creativity, and successful editing. (“As a man thinketh, so is he”)

    And, as you suggest, it is also necessary to draw the curtain for intermission, if only sixty sweet seconds at a time.

    My introduction to your inspiration and to your site was the Monster Challenge. It opened new possibilities to my mind, and I am impressed. What will you do to top this?

    • Hi Robert,

      What wonderful insights you have. Thanks for sharing them with the rest of us. For me, I find I have to keep changing up my bag o’ tricks to help me focus and to get words on the page. Something will work for awhile, until it doesn’t….

      EEEK! Don’t put that kind of pressure on me (ha). I actually have to top our Creative Monsters Challenge?!
      For me, 2015 is finally getting two of my books published. Everything else is secondary.

      Thanks for your great comment.

  • This is really a helpful article. Great work!

    • Thanks, Michael. I hope you’ll try out my suggestions and see how they work for you, too. I forget who said, “If you do what you’ve always done, then you’ll get what you’ve always got.”

  • Alice at writingheals.com

    Your words are like a healing salve. Thank you. Simple is always so powerful.

    • You bring up an excellent point, Alice. Simple is always best, so WHY do we make life so much more difficult.

      I guess it’s just our humanness, but you said, “Simple is always so powerful.” Thank you for that lovely reminder.

  • Marcy, this is spot on. I’ve been tense the last couple of days doing the outline of a new book, and focusing on what I’m doing is exactly the right advice. I realized this last night and went so far as to clear my calendar for a couple of days to REALLY focus on the outline. I’ll pick up the other projects again when I’m a little more grounded in the new book.

    • That sounds like an awesome plan, Angie. Giving yourself the time and space you need to outline this book. What can wait — let it wait.

      Good luck to you in making your dream come true, serving others and getting it DONE! 🙂

      • Well, I probably wouldn’t be writing it if you hadn’t…well, pushed is a strong word, but let’s say “encouraged” me to do so, so thanks for that. The first level of the outline came together yesterday, the chapter titles. Monday night I showed my outline to my husband. It said, “Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3…” I said that I had no idea what I was thinking when I decided to write it or what I was going to say for tens of thousands of words. He pointed out that I’ve said that dozens of times, and approximately 50 times I’ve proven myself wrong, so maybe I should just do what I did then. So I did 🙂 Thanks for this post.

        • Ha, Angie, I think what you MEANT to say is I “encouraged you with love.”

          Right? Didn’t you feel the love? Your husband is awesome. Listen to him and to the negative voice in your head less, then just keep on writing!

          • I did mean with love. And I do appreciate it. I was honestly joking on Facebook about writing it; it hadn’t occurred to me to actually do it. And now I see exactly how it fits into my larger dream, my other books, written and unwritten, and all that. So thanks for the love 🙂

          • Glad to help, Miss Angie. Write on, sister!

  • Hi Marcy – the biggest struggle for me is focus. This post reminds me to stay in the present, which is sometimes difficult. Thanks for the great post.

    • I appreciate your comment, Laura. It is sometimes difficult to stay in the now, but I find that WHEN I do I’m much happier and accomplish so much more. Best of luck to both of us as we strive to make changes! 🙂

  • Miriam N

    Wonderfully written Marcy!(yes i’m back to commenting or attempting to comment on blog posts but ya know life gets busy) I can testify to this. it is very hard to concentrate on what your doing, lets say with me on the computer, when you have all those different things open. EX. Facebook on one tag, gmail on the other, a tab where you are trying to figure out how to make something or a simple Google to figure out something. Piled all on top of each other it makes it incredibly difficult to focus. No matter how much we think it can, our mind cannot multi-task as well as we think it should. If you want to be able to focus on something then focus on that something. don’t open all those other tabs open your writing project and go from there. Thanks for the post Marcy!

    • Well, hello, there, Miriam. It’s WONDERFUL to see you out and about again. You’re so right about all those internet tabs open, calling to us as we’re trying to write (or do anything else) — especially that sound it makes when you receive a new message?! It’s so tempting to stop what I’m doing and focus.
      Take care.

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