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10 Life Hacks to Improve Your Writing AND Mental Health

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Last Updated on August 23, 2022 by Ben Oakley

By using simple changes to routines and lifestyle, we can improve both writing skills and mental health for the betterment of our own lives.

10 Life Hacks to Improve Your Writing AND Mental Health

Back in High School, all those years ago, we were told by the English head tutor that we MUST write in joined-up writing before a college would even consider us on their courses.

Yes, joined-up writing or cursive writing was a thing that was pushed for.

“An intellectual, writes with joined-up writing.”

“No good writer uses individual letters anymore.”

“You won’t advance in life without being able to write joined-up!”

What in the world of wackadoodle were they talking about!?

Sure, it may look good but in hindsight there was no need for anyone to ever write ‘joined-up’. In fact, the point is that we are taught so many ways to write and create that we tend to focus too much on the process and not the flow.

The process being the contractual rules of writing we force ourselves to adhere to.

The flow being the point in a writing session when words pour onto the screen as second nature, providing a natural high that pulls you back time after time.

Writer’s MUST find their own rhythm, dictated by desire, and want, not institution and restriction.

Writers should protect their mental health

What does joined-up writing have to do with the mental health of writers? Because many writers tend to focus on industry standards and external rules, imposed in a way that can impede creativity.

When we are forced into one-size-fits-all standards then we can lose sight of what we want to achieve as individuals. We lose focus and concentration, giving rise to a feeling that we are writing ourselves into a path that was never meant for us.

In the end, we might give up and perceive ourselves as failures, not realising that it’s the industry-standard prison we fell into, and not the freedom of writing we each deserve to find.

Perfectionism has been the biggest impediment to writing since time began. Aiming for the stars can be good but when we don’t hit them – it hurts.

It’s not uncommon for a fiction writer to become so involved in their own fictional worlds that they may lose track of the real one. Dissociation can be a cause and consequence of ill mental health.

How do writers look after their mental health? Luckily, it’s as easy and as hard as you might expect. There are ways to improve your writing and your mental health.

Set attainable targets

When I started writing articles for my websites and my fiction, I set myself unattainable targets. This looked something like 5 articles per day + 10,000 words of fiction.

Which IS possible and achievable with the right mindset and routine. But every day? Reign yourself in there Isaac Asimov!

Most writers would find that difficult, I know I did, I think I lasted three days hitting that before, you guessed it – burn out!

And not just burn out – exhaustion. Non-writers always wonder why writers get so tired. Try maintaining those targets longer than a week and they will see why.

It’s important to know when to end for the day. Set attainable targets and don’t punish yourself if you don’t hit them.

You can still be a writer and have non-writing days.

Many non-writing days are taken up with marketing, advertising, cover design, blogging, incidental writing, planning, publishing, interaction, networking, and the list gets bigger the more you write.

Full-time writing target examples:

Fiction

  • 5,000 words per day

Non-fiction/articles

  • 2,500 words per day
  • Or 2 articles

Spare time writing target examples:

Fiction

  • 500 words per day

Non-fiction/articles

  • 300 words per day
  • Or a short/micro blog post.
  • Or one-third of an article.

It looks easy, right? But easy targets can become more difficult over time.

If you achieve more than the targets you’ve set, then you can increase them to the betterment of your writing and your mental health.

Life/work balance

We hear it all the time, the great and mysterious work and life balance, that it becomes noise in the background of our lives.

What does it really mean?

It doesn’t mean to set strict rules that you must live by. So, you write for an extra half hour when you really should be washing the dishes? It doesn’t matter, not really, just get to the dishes when the flow of writing subsides.

A life and work balance means to be able to separate living from working.

We are awake for approximately 16 hours a day and it is impossible to remain 100% productive for the entire 16 hours. It’s not physically possible and it’s certainly not mentally possible – at least not on a regular basis.

Ideal life/work balance:

  • 8 hours sleep – though optimum sleep for an individual can vary between 7 and 9 hours.
  • 8 hours writing – as a full-time writer and 1-hour for spare-time writers.
  • 8 hours life – everything that isn’t work and sleep; exercise, eating, hygiene, health, socialisation, and anything else that takes your mind off work.

It’s not to say you should completely switch your brain off, as let’s face it, we are writers! I still take notes that pop into my head while watching films, cooking, exercising – and other writing.

Remember, incidental writing and idea processing is vastly different from sitting down to work.

Using the right tools for the job

Back in the old days, it was as simple as a pen and a few sheets of paper. My, oh my, has that changed.

Now we need multiple productivity tools, the right environment for the job, better screens, better keyboards, and Office suites that are only ever 10% utilised.

A writer with the best tools to hand is more productive than a writer without them. Not only can it improve your routine, writing, and output, it can help with your mental health too.

Using your own list of productivity tools is an easy life hack for writing that writers really should have at their disposal.

10 Life Hacks to Improve Your Writing AND Mental Health

Use mindfulness

Mindfulness is a mental health and wellbeing self-help tool to help people cope with and manage mental health. It can help ground you in the moment, distract you from negative emotion, and help you be at one with the world around you.

It’s also a writing tool that I wholeheartedly recommend to any writer to help improve their skills and life. Take time out to practice mindfulness and I guarantee you won’t regret it.

Create a sustainable routine

Sustainable being the most important word there. It’s easy to create a routine but it’s difficult to keep it up – the routine, that is.

The best life hack to remember in relation to sustainable writing is simple – allow yourself to adapt to changes.

A good routine can be turned upside down if you miss an article, miss your word-count target, or feel yourself getting behind. It’s good to have word-count targets but if they are not attainable over longer periods then you might feel yourself getting down.

A writer should embed attainability and sustainability into their work routines. You should be able to attain the standards you’ve set for yourself and sustain them over time.

Push yourself but don’t push yourself so hard that it damages your mental health and work/life ratio.

Turn off the computer and get outside

Easier said than done but there’s something relieving about the simple act of switching off the computer.

“What’s a computer?” they’ll say, just a few years from now.

See that little icon on the bottom left-hand corner of your screen? Hover over it and shut down the computer.

But WAIT, not before you save your documents, and not before you finish this article, you’ve made it this far and you’re over two-thirds through already!

I know, it’s easier said than done but shutting off your computer instead of putting it to sleep provides a sense of finality and freedom that can push you to stand up and move away.

It’s not going anywhere; it’ll still be there when you come back.

When you switch it off, take yourself outside, get some fresh air and rejuvenate your senses.

Need some ideas?

  • Go to the shops.
  • Visit a friend.
  • Take a walk on the shoreline.
  • Walk the dog.
  • Walk in the forest.
  • Relax in public spaces.
  • Go around the block.
  • Exercise outside.
  • Walk to town.
  • Stand outside in the garden.

Whatever you do and wherever you go, being able to take in fresh air is one easy life hack that can help with productivity and your mental health.

Work on more than one project at a time.

Hear me out, for I can sense the writing community throwing their keyboards to the floor and stomping off. YES, it’s perfectly fine to work on multiple projects at the same time.

Be patient with your writing and yourself. You don’t have to rush through a project to get it out into the open. Readers are not going to care if you put your book out now or in six months.

You have the biggest hand in creating your own pressure than anyone else. Pressure is the mind-killer, the inhibitor of creativity, it can lead to stress and negative emotions.

Would you rather put out a shoddy piece of work or the best work you can create? I would hope that most opt for the latter.

Patience is something learned, not embedded into us from birth. You wouldn’t be able to lift the heavy weights in the gym without having practiced with the lighter ones first.

Take exercise and lots of it!

Exercise contributes to your overall wellbeing which in turn can help maintain or improve your mental health.

One of the hardest things I’ve found as a full-time writer, is finding the time to exercise. When the flow dictates that I should continue, my mind tells me to get away from the computer and move.

In this instance, my mind would be right.

Writing shouldn’t be a chore, at least not to someone who writes in their spare time, and especially someone who does so full time.

Writing and mental health are linked

By using simple changes to routines and lifestyle, we can improve both writing skills and mental health for the betterment of our own lives.

If someone tells you that you must write in joined-up writing, then show them this article and let them know there is another way.

You are in control.

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Ben Oakley is a bestselling author, researcher, publisher, blogger, and mental health advocate from Camden, England. Usually found on Twitter or in the bars and parks of Camden. Agathokakological is his favourite word!