Positive Writer

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

The 3 Essentials That Determine Your Writing Success

Note: This is a guest post by Marcy McKay. If you’ve ever struggled with your writing, you can download her new and totally FREE book, Writing Naked: One Writer Dares to Bare All. Find her on Facebook.

Let’s face it, questions constantly haunt us about our writing: Is my work any good? – Will others like it? – Will I find a literary agent or editor?

There are so many outcomes beyond our control, but all that stinkin’-thinkin’ leads to…

Writing with your mind, body, and soul.

Self-Doubt

Positive Writer’s own Bryan Hutchison has a great book on this very subject to help you: Writer’s Doubt: How You Can Overcome Doubt and Create Work That Matters. For a mere $4.99 you can really examine your fears and move forward with your writing. (A cup of coffee can be more expensive.)

And in today’s post let’s continue to work on overcoming your self-doubt by addressing the 3 essentials that determine your writing success.

In order to succeed, writing requires your mind, body and spirit. If you’re struggling to create, that may be your problem. You might just be using only 1/3 of yourself to write and it could be killing your craft.

Maybe you should give another area more attention to become a whole writer and more successful. Let’s explore each of these a little closer.

1 – Mind

This tends to the inner part of ourselves. Try these suggestions to help your mind improve your writing:

  • Write – You’d think this is obvious, but I know countless people who want to write, talk about it, but don’t do the work. It’s simple. Writing is a habit. It takes practice. The more you write, the better you become. Every day is best, but do what you can.
  • Read – Writers write, but they also read. Fiction. Nonfiction. Read books in your genre, read for enjoyment, then if you really love the book, read it again as a student of the craft.
  • Pay attention to Your Thoughts – This isn’t woo-woo nonsense. It works. Our actions follow our thoughts. The next time you’re having a bad day, I’ll bet you’re having negative thoughts. Negative thoughts = negative actions. Positive thoughts = positive actions. Think you can’t be a New York Times Best-Selling Author? You’re right, you can’t. Think you can? Now, you have a shot…

2 – Body

This tends to the outer part of ourselves. Try these suggestions to help your body improve your writing:

  • Get Enough Sleep – I mean 8 hours of continuous sleep. I failed with this years ago. When my kids were little (ages three and a newborn), I’d go to sleep every night by 9 pm (that was easy, I was exhausted). I dragged myself out of bed every day by 3 am and wrote until 6 or 7 am when my kids woke up. I did that for years. Bad idea. I would’ve accomplished so much more if I’d slept two more hours and wrote from 5 to 6/7 am. Strive for a bare minimum of 6 hours of consecutive sleep.
  • Eat Junk, Feel like Junk – If most of your meals come from to-go bags or cardboard boxes, then you’re eating crap. Stay away from sugar, too (alcohol is sugar). Eat fresh vegetables, fruits and lean protein. Everything healthful you eat is brain fuel. Use it.
  • Exercise – Calm down, you don’t have to get a gym membership, but think of all those hours you log in front of a computer? Take breaks every hour or so. Get up and move around. Even better, take a walk outside or move your body in some way daily.

3 – Spirit

This is our inner and outer parts combined and makes up the essence of YOU. Try these suggestions to help your spirit improve your writing:

  • Unplug – Technology is great, but it also kills our creativity. Just like your cell phone needs to recharge every day, so do our minds/bodies. At least once a week (more is even better), try to be “technology free” for at least five hours.
  • Get Still – Everyday, be still for 10 minutes, doing nothing. You don’t have to pretzel your legs together or chant “ohhhhmmm,” just sit or lie down somewhere comfortable. Your mind will wander. That’s okay. Watch your thoughts like a movie. I do it in bed each morning when I wake up. It’s a great way to start the day.
  • Surround Yourself With Positive People – Life is hard: financial struggles, divorce, addiction and illness. Still, try to be around people who believe in you and your dream. If you can’t get away from the Nay-sayers, try to tune them out. Remember, you’re above anyone trying to bring you down. (Go ahead, tweet that if you like.)

Bottom-line: Writers write.

We cannot control every outcome with our writing, but I’ve found when I actively focused on what I COULD control, my writing improved as well.

Good luck.

What steps should you take to improve your mind, body or spirit and strengthen your writing?

We’d love it if you share in the comments.

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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  • Krithika Rangarajan

    Hey Marcy

    Thank you for another informative article! I love ya 😉 (Friends, if you have not read Marcy’s “Writing Naked: One Writer Dares To Bare All”, you are totally missing out on one of the BEST EVER reads on how to plow through as a writer even during your worst times!)

    As someone who is still struggling with a very negative body image, my body is clearly not healed. I am addicted to lower-calorie foods, regardless of whether they are laden with with those lovely chemicals! LOL – but one day at a time with this one, eh?

    My friend recently told me, “Kitty! You don’t have a mean bone in your body. But your mind is extremely mean to you!” Her words resonated so deeply with me because I struggle with HORRIBLY MEAN and negative thoughts about others AND myself every day. Surrounding myself with positive people helps, but, these days, I just sit with my discomfort, experience couple of breakdowns and then move on! LOL

    Clearly, I have a long way to go 😉

    But I write daily, so that’s a start!

    Thanks again for an honest article #HUGSSSS

    Much love
    Kitto

    • Hi, Kitty, what your friend said is so wise, “You don’t have a mean bone in your body. But your mind is extremely mean to you!”

      Sometimes, I’m the same way. I’m much better, but it’s still a struggle. We both need to try to talk to ourselves like we do our best friends — positive, encouraging and sincere.

      And you’re right! Is is one day at a time. When that’s too much, I downshift to one minute at a time. Thanks!

  • Laurie Goodman

    Great post, Marcy. Over the years I’ve worked hard to focus on how my thinking affects my behavior, and though I have made a lot of progress, it’s amazing how easy it is to fall back in to old patterns. A reminder that positive outcomes stem from positive thoughts is always welcome.

    • Me, too. Laurie. I’ve come a lonnnnnng way, baby, but sometimes, I can get into bad place. That’s a downhill spiral fast.

      Fortunately, the online writing community is made up of VERY generous souls. We all seem willing to help each other.

  • Nice sweet and short post. Body is indeed an important element to take care of. Aaargh- a struggle i have to win!

    • Hey, Rob. wareness leads to ACTION. With exercise, the KEY is to make it fun…go shoot hoops, crank up your stereo at home and dance, go walk with a good friend. If it’s no fun, I don’t want to do it….no matter how GOOD the exercise is for me.

      Stop struggling, Rob and HAVE FUN! You can win this!

  • Phoebe (Makeup Your Marketing)

    Really great tips for us all to remember. Thank you very much. Very well written and looking forward to more from you 🙂

    • Thank you, Phoebe. The key is small steps. Small steps lead to BIG change. Try to take just one of these tips and apply to your life. It will benefit you overall, especially your writing. Good luck on your journey!

  • Loved the post! I never have a problem motivating to write, but exercise has sometimes taken a back seat. Now I’m on the road (literally biking) to getting back into it.

    • Good for you, Susie, for climbing back on that bike. Even as much of a WILD RIDE as your life is — the exercise will help even more. Thanks for stopping by PW today!

  • AnnM

    Thanks Marcy, I thought about “watch your thoughts like a movie” and it reminded me of a scene in a movie: the Holiday..
    Arthur:in the movies we have leading ladies and we have the best friend. You, I can tell, are a leading lady, but for some reason you are behaving like the best friend.
    Iris: You’re so right. You’re supposed to be the leading lady of your own life.

    We are often more supportive and positive for other peoples goals and dreams than our own. Lack of Positive thoughts seem to be a problem for many of us. Must remember to be the leading lady! 🙂

    • Terrific, Ann! I needed to hear this most of all, “We are often more supportive and positive for other peoples goals and dreams than our own.”

      I said almost the same thing to my writing group last night, “I would never talk to my friends the way sometimes I berate myself.”

      Thanks for sharing with us about the Leading Lady!

  • Sidney G Fox

    Great article – I kind of almost do all of these things but the reminder should help keep me from slipping. Another thing I find incredibly important for my well-being is to spend time outdoors… even if only for ten minutes, it can make such a difference to my day.

    • Hi, Sidney. I’m 100% with you on the outdoors. It just lifts my spirits and do whatever I need to to that day….stay focus…solve a problem (sometimes, a plotting problem)….lift my spirits. Keep up the good work!

  • Thanks for this, Marcy! Helpful, concise and very, very true. Haven’t written today, now I feel motivated! Off to write I go…

    • Yea! I’m so glad this motivated you. It’s interesting how it’s all interconnected: our mind, body and spirit. Help one and you help the other. Hope your writing went well!

  • Carolynne Melnyk

    Marcy,
    Thanks for this reminder. I am doing fine in all areas except taking care of my body as in exercising. I let it slip for a while back and getting back on track so thanks for the added nudge. The reminder to get up every hour and walk is one I can use besides a couple days a week in yoga.

    • I’m glad you’re getting back on track. It truly does help with your writing and sometimes, i need ALL the help I can get to stay positive. I love walking and yoga, too. Here’s to us for taking care of our bodies!

  • This was great and I really enjoyed it, thanks for the tips.

    • Thanks so much, Lauren for stopping by and saying hello. Best wishes in all your writing endeavors!

  • Stephen Reid

    Great advice, Marcy. These days I think a lot of people neglect one or more of these things, especially spirit. Unplugging and getting some brain space sounds like pure magic in a world powered by technology. I think the least used button is the off button.

    • Ooooh, Stephen, I LIKE that: the least used button is the off button, and I might add…it’s the most important button. Excellent. Thanks for pointing that out!

  • Kitty Bucholtz

    Great article! I have a GymBoss timer that goes off every 25 minutes, then 5 minutes, then 25 min, etc. If I don’t ignore it (haha!), I get up and move around twice an hour. Good for my body and my mind. 🙂

    • Fantastic, Kitty. I haven’t tried GymBoss myself, but have a friend who loves it. I’ll have to check it out myself. Thanks for the great tip!

  • Melodie

    I particularly found #2, the Body, so true. Sleep, exercise, and eating.
    I have found that when I don’t eat right or am hungry, my grumpiness is
    worse than when I am tired. Not everyone is the same and one needs to
    figure out their stress triggers. Thank you for a great post.

    • Thanks for pointing that out about our grumpiness. Just yesterday, I attended the funeral of an elderly neighbor. I was already sad when I got home and wanted to go straight to the computer to write and catch up on that lost time — but, I was hungry and needed to eat.

      I almost decided to power through and write some first, then eat, but I remembered, “No, I’ll get more done if I get some healthy inside me.”

  • Lynnette Jalufka

    Good article. I especially liked the part about our actions following our thought.

    • That’s 100% true about our thoughts following our actions. It shocked me when I started tracking it, but if I’m mess that day — it’s because I’m trapped in stinkin’ thinkin’.

      Positive thoughts = positive actions. Good luck!

  • Hi Marcy
    Great straightforward no-nonsense advice. Not just from writing but for having an enjoyable and creative life in general.

    I write frequently enough, in spurts, and it’s all over the place. In my notebook, on the iPad, on my lap-top, at work.

    I need to spend some time getting it all in one place with a reasonable filing system. And then pick something, a solid project, to write for. FOCUS and COMMITMENT. These are my next challenges.

    After many years of playing around the edges of creative writing I’ve decide to step it up a bit and submitting to competitions, awards etc. Actually due to the nudge you offered at TWP, I submitted my first novel today. So off it has fluttered in the post -hard copy. Wow the challenges that came up actually doing the prep: printing, binding, cover sheet, synopsis, creative bio. I felt sick. In the end I told myself that all I needed to do was print, collate, post. No expectations or doubts beyond those 3 steps. Doing that was a BIG step for me. Not attached to the outcome for now. Just thrilled that I made the effort and contradicted all my little ‘ego’ conflicts and contradictions.

    Thanks to you and others who have encouraged me I have moved a little bit forward.

    Love Dawn

    • Wow, wow, WOW, Dawn. That’s terrific. Congratulations on submitting your first novel.That’s HUGE. Clearly, you are a VERY creative being, from head to toe. You definitely need to take care of your mind, body, spirit to keep your imagination in tip-top shape.

      What you said at the end of your comment is the most important reminder for us all, “I have moved a LITTLE bit forward.”

      We think writing has to be BIG, SWEEPING MOTION.

      No. Small steps. Tiny, baby steps. Otherwise, it scares us to death.

      Keep going!

  • Anita

    Great post! What works best for me is roller blading or gardening. Gardening seems to be especially helpful. I think maybe because it’s kind of a creative outlet, just like writing is, so I’m still using the artistic side of my brain while I’m being physically active.

    • Wow, Anita, I love both side of your creativity –the thrill and danger of rollerblading, and the earth mama-ness of gardening. And you’re right to compare those to your writing — both are creative, but physical as well.

      COO! Thanks!

  • Jennifer Archer

    This article really spoke to me. After many successive life dramas paralyzed then unraveled me, to the point that I could no longer write, I finally learned much of this the hard way. Though all the advice mentioned here rings true, 3 things really stood out as the things that had the greatest effect on getting me back in the writing groove: (1) I began paying attention to my thoughts (2) I stopped eating junk (3) I got still by learning how to meditate and then incorporating it into my life as a routine practice.

    • Congratulations, Jennifer. You’ve really made positive changes in your life that improved your writing — and those are biggies, too (food, your thoughts and meditation?) Yowza!

      You also mentioned something important — we learn many of our lessons the hard way. Sounds like you’ve really taken charge of your life. Good for you and best of luck!

  • Hannah Spencer

    I agree that it’s good to have some time out each day. Your mind keeps working on problems when you’re not aware of it, and if you have a break and let it get on with it, the solution will suddenly appear. I work on a farm where I milk sheep and I find this works wonders.
    I always try to achieve something each day, even if it is a bad day and I feel like giving up on everything. That way there is less to do on the good days.

    • Hannah Spencer — you are 100% on the right track! Our minds do need a “time out” each day, and that’s fantastic that you try to achieve something daily.

      I read about a NYT Bestselling author who talked about having good/bad writing days with his novels. In said, in the end — when his books were published and he read through the final product that he couldn’t tell the difference between the good/bad writing days. He’d polished it all enough that it just flowed.

      Lesson learned: just do the work. Thanks for stopping by, Hannah!

  • April Myers Redmon

    These are great bits of advice any one of us would do well to follow. I think it’s going to help me to reflect on some priorities and clean out the cobwebs so I can get back to my love of writing.

    • Wonderful, April. My only advice while you sit down to prioritize is to think SMALL. Just pick ONE item in ONE area, and start with that. Doing too much, too soon is a recipe for failure and that just makes us hate ourselves worse.

      Small steps leads to BIG change. Good luck!

  • Great advice about getting up and exercising. It really helps in clearing your head and being more productive. Some of my best ideas have come to me while running.

    • Exactly, Kent. You’re left brain is engaged in one thing — running, not falling (if you’re me), while the right side of your brain can open and create. GREAT! Thanks for your comment!

  • Jake Parent

    Life is all this balance. Keep those aspects of my life healthy and I can trust in the process.

  • Renee Phillips

    Thank you Marcy for offering great advice for everyone who wants to live a healthier balanced life. Because I write several hours a day I now set a timer to remind me to get up periodically from my computer to stretch, dance, or take a nature walk, and eat something healthy.

    • I love every one of your suggestions: stretch, dance, take a nature walk, or eat something healthy. You’re definitely on the right track. Keep up the good work!

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